Why do words that begin with the letters "DE" have different ways of pronouncing?

Example: decide(dɪˈsaɪd) and decoy(diː.kɔɪ)

Does the english language has some sort of rule to help with this?

  • There are some rules that work most of the time for not only de-, but also for re- and pre-, which are summarized in a blog post by the linguist John Wells that I cited to in my answer to the linked question about re-. Stress is relevant: de- can only be pronounced as when it is unstressed. But these rules only work for words that start with the prefixes, not for all words that start with the letters DE, RE and PRE, and the rules have some exceptions.
    – herisson
    Commented Sep 9, 2019 at 7:38
  • For some words, such as decoy (which has an uncertain etymology that might not involve the prefix de-), there isn't an easy way to figure out the stress pattern or the pronunciation just from the spelling.
    – herisson
    Commented Sep 9, 2019 at 7:42
  • Porque tienen diferentes énfasis. La palabra "decoy" tiene énfasis en la primera sílaba, pero "decide" tiene énfasis en la segunda. Se dice "DEcoy," y se dice "deCIDE." Piense en la diferencia entre el "de" la palabra española "paredes" y el "de" en la palabra española "moderno". No suenan igual porque tienene difrerentes énfasis. Se dice "paREdes" (el "de" no tiene énfasis), y se dice "moDErno (el "de" tiene énfasis). Commented Sep 9, 2019 at 8:33


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