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Since "mine" sounds like: https://translate.google.com/#en/en/mine

Then "examine" should sound like: https://translate.google.com/#en/en/exhamyne

But it does not, why?

To hear the pronunciations click the "Listen" button as you follow the links:

enter image description here

closed as too broad by Drew, Phil Sweet, NVZ, Skooba, David Jan 11 '18 at 20:34

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Questions asking why a word is not pronounced the way the OP thinks it should be are likely to be closed as off-topic. Several comments here in EL&U have explained that English pronunciation is "catastrophic" and follows no rules. – Centaurus Jan 8 '18 at 13:56
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    Words aren't pronounced like they're spelled, it's the other way around. Spellings are (often bad) attempts at reflecting the pronunciation. – Mark Beadles Jan 8 '18 at 14:00
  • I mean English ortography, not pronunciation. – Centaurus Jan 8 '18 at 14:37
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    This question is a massive duplicate. Because English SPELLING no more represents English PRONUNCIATION than does English PRONUNCIATION represent English SPELLING. Each has had its own history for five hundred to a thousand years or more. – tchrist Jan 8 '18 at 15:19
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    @EdwinAshworth Not to mention kniggits. – Mick Jan 8 '18 at 15:33
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As said, etymology can help:

Examine derives from French “examiner” while pronounciation in English has remanined close to the original French term:

c. 1300, "put (someone) to question in regard to knowledge, competence, or skill, inquire into qualifications or capabilities;" mid-14c., "inspect or survey ....."from Old French examiner "

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    Don’t stop there: there’s also Minerva, undermine, carmine, ermine, dopamine, calamine, luminescent, gloominess, domineer, eminence, famine, nominee, jasmine, histamine, ketamine, landmine — just for starters. Now you have to explain all those too. :) – tchrist Jan 8 '18 at 16:47
  • 'Pronounciation' is bothering me but I resisted the urge to edit as it may be a particular bee which buzzes in the writer's bonnet.But 'whise' would point in the direction of just a spelling error. – Nigel J Jan 8 '18 at 17:28
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The "silent e indicates a long vowel before a preceding single consonant letter" rule of thumb is much more reliable (although not exceptionless*) for vowels in monosyllabic words, or in syllables with primary stress, than it is for vowels in non-primary-stressed syllables of words of more than one syllable.

  • The word "mine" is a monosyllable, like "pine", "wine", "dine".

  • The word "divine" has two syllables, but the last syllable takes the primary stress, so it rhymes with the monosyllables listed above.*

  • The word "examine" is three syllables, and the primary stressed syllable is in the middle, on the syllable containing the vowel "a". The final syllable does not have the primary stress.

When a word's spelling ends in "-ine" and the word does not have the primary stress on the last syllable, we see a variety of pronunciations.

  • It is possible for the word to be pronounced with a "long i" sound in the last syllable (IPA /aɪn/);

  • but it is also possible for the vowel to be "reduced" to a "short i" sound (IPA /ɪn/; in most American accents, this may merge with the "schwa + n" or "syllabic n" sound to become /ən/ or /n̩/, which makes "examine" rhyme with "salmon").

  • In a few words, we may even hear a "long e" sound (IPA /iːn/), probably due to influence from French pronunciation (e.g. "alexandrine", "guanine").*

Many words ending in non-primary-stressed "-ine" actually have variable pronunciations.

Other words where "-ine" is pronounced like in "imagine" are examine, famine, medecine, urine, masculine, feminine, Katherine/Catherine, margarine, jasmine. This is not a comprehensive list; it's just meant to show that this is not rare.


*Actually, even in stressed syllables, there are a few words where "-ine" is pronounced with a "long e" sound (IPA /iːn/) rather than a "long i" sound; for example, "marine".

  • Examine, famine urine act. are all from French and as such originally used in formal contexts, possible at court, and not by ordinary people. That, in my opinion, may have played a role in preserving the original pronounciation. – user067531 Jan 8 '18 at 21:36
  • @user159691: well, it's not exactly the original pronunciation. In French words ending in "ine" are pronounced with a vowel more like the Englis "long e" sound, and the French pronunciation sounds to English ears like it has stress on the syllable containing "i" (French speakers themselves don't have much of a conscious concept of stress, because unlike English, French doesn't have words that contrast only in stress placement). – sumelic Jan 8 '18 at 21:40
  • Yes, by “original” I mean, close to the French one as in “examiner”and not as in “mine” the possessive pronoun. – user067531 Jan 8 '18 at 21:43
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    Compare examine with exabyte. ;-) – tchrist Jan 9 '18 at 16:45
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The pronunciation of English words often depends on their etymology (i.e. the root language that they derive from). Spellings may also be derived from root languages, but they may also be due to clumsy attempts by early lexicographers to impose standardised spellings, and they have simply stuck through common usage. Before dictionaries were invented, spellings of words differed wildly, and writers just used spellings that they liked, or were taught when they learned to read and write.

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