3

I've read every word starting with "SA" in my dictionary out loud. It's driving me crazy thinking there is only a single English word starting with what appears to be such a common syllable.

Is it my Midwestern American accent? What makes "saga" special?

  • 3
    Try Soggy or somnolent. The spelling doesn't necessarily determine the pronunciation. – Jason Bassford Jan 16 at 2:11
  • There are several minor variations of the pronunciation of the "sa" sound in that context. I would say that "sagacious" comes close, but others would likely pronounce it slightly differently. – Hot Licks Jan 16 at 2:11
  • 2
    There is more than one pronunciation of "saga". According to Merriam-Webster, it can have the vowel of "father" or the vowel of "sag". – sumelic Jan 16 at 2:11
  • 1
    I don't pronounce the "r" in sardonic, so the two words start with the same sound for me. I'm blown away at the other pronunciation of "saga" - sounds quite bizarre to me! I'd love to know what countries or regions pronounce it that way: is it just AmE? – Chappo Jan 16 at 2:35
  • 2
    @Chappo: I tried looking at the pronunciation of "saga" on Youglish. Based on the clips I saw so far, the "sag" pronunciation seems pretty uncommon, and I did only hear it from American English speakers. – sumelic Jan 16 at 2:43
4

The phonetic translation of the word 'saga' is sɑːɡə.

There exist a many number of words that share the same sound of "sa", or in other words, the sɑː sound.

A few such words include:

  1. Cryosar
  2. Sardonic
  3. Quasar
  4. Sarcophagus
  5. Arkansas (although proper, it still has the same sɑː pronunciation)
  6. Sardines

Similarly many more exist.

  • 5
    ...if the speaker is non-rhotic. – Mitch Jan 16 at 3:02
  • 3
    @Chappo I may not have much rep on this site, but my dad grew up in Arkansas and I’m a Texan, and I have to say we both pronounce the sas in Arkansas identically to the sa in saga. – Chase Ryan Taylor Jan 16 at 6:34
  • 1
    @Chappo: As a speaker with the cot-caught merger, I pronounce the last syllable of "Arkansas" as /sɑ/. – sumelic Jan 16 at 11:33
  • 1
    Perfect! I'm from Wisconsin for what it's worth. Sardine is the winner for me, starts with the same 'sa' and is a word everyone knows. Thanks! – JP Duffy Jan 16 at 13:01
  • 1
    @Chappo: In almost all American English accents, /ɒ/ does not exist as a sound distinct from /ɑ/ and /ɔ/. The vowel in words like "lot" has merged with the vowel of the word "father", and the merged vowel is typically transcribed as /ɑ/. (In a few other words, like "cloth", the vowel instead merged with the "thought" vowel /ɔ/, which Merriam-Webster writes as "ȯ"--MW does not use IPA transcription.) For speakers with the cot-caught merger like me, /ɑ/ has additionally replaced the "thought"/"cloth" vowel. So I have /sɑ/ in all of saga, soccer, sausage, sought, Arkansas. – sumelic Jan 16 at 13:59
4

There are a number of words that start with the "sah" sound. They're typically words we've adopted from another language, but are now accepted English words. The following are from Merriam-Webster, starting with the comparison word; note that MW provides an audio clip on each page so you can get an idea of how each is pronounced.

saga

\ ˈsä-gə \

sadhu

\ ˈsä-(ˌ)dü \
: a usually Hindu mendicant ascetic

sahib

\ ˈsä-ˌ(h)ib \
: SIR, MASTER —used especially among the native inhabitants of colonial India when addressing or speaking of a European of some social or official status

sake (2)

\ ˈsä-kē \
: a Japanese alcoholic beverage of fermented rice often served hot

Certain words starting with sar- that are either monosyllabic or have the stress on the first syllable may have the same pronunciation as the first syllable of saga, depending on whether the speaker is non-rhotic. Candidates include sarcasm, sarcous, sard, sarge, sari, sark, sarmentose, saros and sarsen. One of these is sufficient as an example (again relying on MW's dictionary entry):

sard

\ ˈsärd \
: a reddish-brown variety of chalcedony sometimes classified as a variety of carnelian

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.