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I'm an English learner, and I have had this question troubling me for a really long time.

In the word "magically", we do not pronounce the "a", so it is pronounced just "magicly," like most adverbs having the "-ally."

But in the word internationally, we pronounce it as its full form. So is there a rule for this and are there any words which are similar to "internationally"?

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    I don't think you'll find any hard and fast rules about the development of pronunciation. – marcellothearcane Jul 29 at 16:35
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    From the full OED: magically - Brit. /ˈmadʒᵻkli/, U.S. /ˈmædʒək(ə)li/, internationally - Brit. /ˌɪntəˈnaʃn̩əli/, /ˌɪntəˈnaʃn̩l̩i/, /ˌɪntəˈnaʃənl̩i/, /ˌɪntəˈnaʃ(ə)nəli/, U.S. I think what that means is both sides of the pond some people articulate the first vowel in both these -ally suffixes (for those two specific words), and some don't. – FumbleFingers Jul 29 at 16:43
  • I say that 'a' in magically, practically, tactically, etc, so your notion that "we" do not pronounce it is false. Also I have heard people omit it in 'internationally'. – Michael Harvey Jul 29 at 21:51
  • It's not just the "A"; it's any unstressed vowel, however it's spelled. Unstressed vowels can be spelled with any vowel letter, since letters don't determine sounds, or stress. And it's not just adverbs; it can happen to any word. There are a lot of rules, but one stands out -- in a long word the unstressed vowels will be reduced, centralized, and/or deleted. Listen to the way native speakers pronounce them in natural speech. – John Lawler Jul 30 at 2:14
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In a comment, John Lawler wrote:

It's not just the "A"; it's any unstressed vowel, however it's spelled. Unstressed vowels can be spelled with any vowel letter, since letters don't determine sounds, or stress. And it's not just adverbs; it can happen to any word. There are a lot of rules, but one stands out -- in a long word the unstressed vowels will be reduced, centralized, and/or deleted. Listen to the way native speakers pronounce them in natural speech.

  • This is a good description of vowel weakening, but it won't explain the OP's issue. The OP's case is one of compression. The process is: schwa + sonorant (in coda) + vowel--> syllabic sonorant + vowel --> sonorant (in onset) + vowel. – Araucaria Jul 30 at 4:58
  • @Araucaria: Your description of the process doesn't account for the distinction between magically and internationally that the OP asked about. – sumelic Jul 30 at 5:53
  • @sumelic That's cuz it wasn't an answer! However, OP is wrong in that an /nli/ ending is absolutely perfectly possible there. It may be less pervasive than with 'magically', but there's already a syllabic consonant/potential compression there preceding the /l/ or schwa. – Araucaria Jul 30 at 6:00
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It's rarely mandatory to pronounce -ally as one syllable

In the word "magically", we do not pronounce the "a"

Not necessarily. As Michael Harvey said in a comment, some speakers do have a four-syllable pronunciation of magically. The Merriam-Webster entry for magical indicates that the pronunciation of magically can be either /ˈmædʒɪkəli/ or /ˈmædʒɪkli/.

so it is pronounced just "magicly" like most adverbs having the "ally"

This generalization is a bit too broad. Magically falls into the more specific class of -ically adverbs, which commonly have pronunciations in /ɪkli/. But as you've found, there are other -ally adverbs (such as internationally) that are commonly pronounced with /əli/. In fact, I wouldn't say internationally is an outlier at all.

I think a reasonable rule to follow would be to use /ɪkli/ in -ically adverbs, /fli/ in certain -fully adverbs (such as beautifully or awfully), and /əli/ in any other adverb spelled with a vowel letter followed by -lly.

Many -ly adverbs have optional shortened pronunciations

As John Lawler said in his comment, many long words have shortened pronunciations that drop an unstressed vowel. I wrote an answer to a previous question about the pronunciation of the adverbs "personally" and "finally" that has some information about this.

As the comments beneath your question indicate, internationally may be shortened by dropping the vowel after /ʃ/. It may even be possible for some speakers to drop the vowel between the /n/ and /l/, even if that pronunciation is not listed in dictionaries.

But these kinds of optional shortenings are often variable and difficult to perceive or precisely describe, and so for a non-native speaker, it may not be very effective to try to reproduce these pronunciations. So I won't try to give a rule about where or when those kinds of reduced pronunciations are likely to occur.

  • principally, humbly, etc – Araucaria Jul 30 at 6:09
  • @Araucaria: "humbly" is not spelled with a vowel letter + -lly. "Principally" is missed by the rule that I suggested, but I didn't expect it to have perfect coverage. I wouldn't recommend aiming for /pl/ in "municipally", so I don't think I could easily modify the rule to include principally – sumelic Jul 30 at 6:25
  • It's the same loss of a schwa before an /l/ at the end of an -ly adverb. Spelling's not the issue here. – Araucaria Jul 30 at 6:31
  • @Araucaria: I disagree. For one thing, the original poster is a learner who phrased the question in terms of "not pronounc[ing] the 'a'" in magically. I don't think words that are spelled with a -bly are likely to give as much trouble for somebody in this situation. And setting that aside, I think that many -bly adverbs simply don't have any commonly used alternative form pronounced with /bəli/, so I don't think they should be explained as just resulting from the same process as optionally compressed variants of words containing the suffix -al followed by -ly. – sumelic Jul 30 at 7:09
  • @Araucaria: For comparison, adjectives ending in -ble and -al often correspond to -ity nouns with non-rhyming pronunciations (for example, invisible goes to invisibility but legal goes to legality) so I don't see why it would be implausible that they might likewise correspond to -ly adverbs with (potentially) different pronunciations. – sumelic Jul 30 at 7:14

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