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As a non-native speaker of English, I am often confused about pronouncing words. Is there any standard of pronunciation in the English language? As in, if I give a completely new word to some random people in a native English speaking population, would they speak it the same way?

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    Too bad we can (easily) use emoticons here, because I'd give you a bunch of laughing ones. There is no "standard" pronunciation in English. It takes decades to learn the probable pronunciation for an unfamiliar glob of characters, and no matter how "proper" your pronunciation of a word is, you can almost always find someone who'll pronounce it differently. Such are the joys of English.
    – Hot Licks
    May 14, 2020 at 20:18
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    @SpamChop Welcome to ELU, anyhow! As soon as you can, take the tour at english.stackexchange.com/tour. Cheers!
    – Conrado
    May 14, 2020 at 20:48
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    Language is mobile and liable to change. It is a free country, and man may call a "vase" a "vawse", a "vahse", a "vaze", or a "vase", as he pleases. And why should he not? We do not all think alike, walk alike, dress alike, write alike, or dine alike; why should not we use our liberty in speech also, so long as the purpose of speech, to be intelligible, and its grace, are not interfered with? -James Murray, lexicographer and editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (7 Feb 1837-1915)
    – Hot Licks
    May 15, 2020 at 0:25
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    Use your ears rather than using your eyes — what it means is that don't look at spelling because English spelling is notoriously complicated and difficult to learn. It's inconsistent with the pronunciation. May 15, 2020 at 4:23
  • @SpamChop I can think of no major language that does not have accents and dialects. including whatever your language is.
    – Greybeard
    May 21, 2020 at 8:53

4 Answers 4

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A useful pronunciation tip that often catches even native English speakers out is the change of emphasis when a word is used as a noun vs a verb. The rule is: when used as a noun, put the emphasis on the first syllable ("That's a beautiful OBject") and when used as a verb place the emphasis on the second syllable ("I obJECT to that". There are quite a few words that this applies to (for example, attribute, insult, present, project, suspect) and I've found that it's a handy rule to know. Hope that helps, as navigating English pronunciation can be quite a minefield!

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If you ever go to the UK (British Isles), you'll quickly realize that there is no "standard" of pronunciation even there. You can travel very small distances and get a noticeable difference in accent. At one time, the BBC mandated that all of their broadcasters speak in a certain "standard" way and it became known as "BBC English". These days, it is called "Received Pronunciation" or just "RP". And even if you disregard the differences in the accents, there are the terms that they use for things that even varies around the country. For example, there might be a sign saying "No Fly Tipping" behind a building. I wondered about that when I first saw it. Was it like "Cow Tipping"? Turns out that it means to not illegally dump refuse around there.

So, "English Standard"? LMAO... Not bloody likely... :)

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English is a language greatly affected by the collision of cultures and is a language that has been spread around the world more widely than any other. Thus, there is a great degree of variation in pronunciation from region to region, with some regional dialects developing into languages in their own right (e.g. Caribbean Creole languages). There are few words which are pronounced the same among all native speakers. This concept affects all languages, but especially those in widespread use such as English, French, and Spanish.

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Congrats to you for learning the English language, and yes, it will get harder (sorry!) If you are considering a completely new word as that that has never been spoken, than no, not all English speakers will pronounce it the same. Some have accents, which results in different usage of grammar and expression (both in writing and speech.) So, especially when considering a completely different word, they would all probably try to say it completely differently. However, most of us do abide by most of the more widely known grammatical rules, which aid us when examining a new word. For example, the word elephant. Ph usually is pronounced in an f sound, which makes elephant, elefant. Then, the word ant is another animal, pronounced the same, combined with el- which is the literal pronouncation of the letter. Good luck, and have fun (whatever language you speak!)

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