According to the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary

-IZE /aɪz/: This suffix is unstressed (though strong) in Received Pronunciation and General American, but sometimes stressed in other varieties".

However I do not understand why the author contrasts stress and "strength" in this specific suffix.

  • -ation: This suffix bears the primary word stress. In words of four or more syllables, a further rhythmic (secondary) stress falls two syllables further back (ˌ_consoˈlation, conˌsideˈration, neˌgotiˈation, asˌsociˈation_). Words in -isation/-ization, however, have the secondary stress earlier if possible, namely in the same place as the primary stress of the corresponding -ise/-ize word (ˌorganiˈzation, ˌatomiˈzation, ˌdramatiˈzation, ˌactualiˈzation).
    – GJC
    Sep 7, 2020 at 15:29
  • It means that the suffix -ise/-ize does not bear primary stress (unstressed) but it doesn't get reduced to a weak form (like many other suffixes). For example, you cannot reduce it to /ɪz/ or /əz/. Sep 7, 2020 at 16:29
  • @DecapitatedSoul I can't think of any other (verbal ?) suffixes without primary stress but weak forms /ɪ/ or /ə/
    – GJC
    Sep 7, 2020 at 16:43
  • Or -ise/ize is strong because it has a complex nucleus? Or it has a coda? I can't think of any other reason nor can I explain. Also note that polysyllabic verbs that end with -ise are usually stressed on the antepenult. Sep 7, 2020 at 16:55
  • @DecapitatedSoul doktori.btk.elte.hu/lingv/wenszkynora/diss.pdf
    – GJC
    Sep 7, 2020 at 17:05

2 Answers 2


The strong pronunciation of "i" is as in "file" and "line" and also as in "stick", "fit", …; the weak pronunciation is as in "albeit", "audio", and also "admiral" (schwa). That is all there is to it; that is what strength means; look up the first page for i in this dictionary and you'll find the same information.

The contrast is due to the fact that there is a tendency for the strong pronunciation to bear stress, but it is just a tendency.

Here is a link where explanations can be found concerning the meaning of "weak" and "strong" in phonetics: https://multimedia-english.com/phonetics/weak-vs-strong-forms.

  • ' "ize" is stressed in all 2 syllable words ending "-ize" '? cyclize? bromize? Grecize? peptize? stylize? Sep 7, 2020 at 16:36
  • "ize" is stressed in all 2 syllable words ending "-ize" //// Do you mean strong? Sep 7, 2020 at 16:41
  • @EdwinAshworth No, evidently, I've got that wrong.
    – LPH
    Sep 7, 2020 at 16:42
  • @DecapitatedSoul No, I did mean "stressed", but I relied on incomplete information. You do not find "cyclize", "bromize", "grecize" or "peptize" in this dictionary (rare words) and "stylize" would be an exception.
    – LPH
    Sep 7, 2020 at 16:49
  • 1
    Your link discusses only the strong (=with unreduced vowels) and weak (=with reduced vowels) pronunciations of monosyllabic grammatical words like am, have, him, them, her. It does not address vocalic reduction in polysyllabic lexical words whose syllables not receiving (primary) stress may or may not experience reduction like climatic, moisturize, nitrified, diabolize, exploitation, hibernation, hydrophobia, schoolboyishness, satiation, licentiation.
    – tchrist
    Sep 7, 2020 at 18:11

John Wells, the author of the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, uses a definition of stress that treats the primary stressed syllable in a word as the rightmost stressed syllable. This means that in words like digitize and utilize, where the primary stress is on the first syllable, neither of the two following syllables has any stress: ˈdigitize and ˈutilize. (This contrasts with the tradition of American dictionaries which tend to mark the final syllables of these words with a minor stress mark: ˈdigi​ˌtize and ˈuti​ˌlize.) For more on the concept of primary stress, secondary stress and their positions, see my posts here:

However, the second and third syllables of utilize and digitize behave differently in terms of certain affects on the adjacent sounds: in many accents of American English, the "t" in utilize may be voiced and "flapped/tapped" (roughly, [ˈjuɾəlaɪz]) while the "t" in digitize may not be (roughly, [ˈdɪdʒətaɪz]).

Wells' explanation of the difference is that t is flapped in American English only before "weak" vowels, not before "strong" vowels.

Incidentally, I'm not sure that Wells is correct in his formulation of the t-flapping rule. Subjectively, flapping seems possible to me (I'm an American English speaker) in the edge case of Latin-style plurals in /aɪ/ in words where the singular ends in [ɾəs]: emeritus [əˈmerəɾəs], emeriti [əˈmerətai], ?[əˈmerəɾai] or stratus [ˈstreɾəs], strati ?[ˈstreɾai]. However, my intuition that [ɾai] is possible here is not supported by dictionaries such as Merriam Webster and the American Heritage Dictionary, which transcribe the last syllable of emeriti with a minor stress mark.

In any case, Wells uses the "strong vowel"/"weak vowel" concept not only to explain t-flapping, but also other things like a vowel's tendency to have a reduced pronunciation.

  • LPD does allow flapping in relative /-ət̬ɪv/ (compare utilize /ˈjuːt̬ əl aɪz/ phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/wells/on-line.htm
    – GJC
    Sep 7, 2020 at 18:18
  • @GJC: The first sentences of my linked answer says "in fact the "t" in "relative" can be voiced and flapped/tapped in American English." Apparently, though, there are some speakers who do not flap it, which in Wells' model means that they have a strong vowel in the final syllable (like in pragmatism).
    – herisson
    Sep 7, 2020 at 18:19
  • 1
    I find myself wondering what if any difference may be intended between [d] and [ɾ] and [t̬] notations of our English flaps.
    – tchrist
    Sep 7, 2020 at 18:28
  • @herisson LPD: -ism: ˌɪzəm (that is, secondary stress)
    – GJC
    Sep 7, 2020 at 19:44
  • @GJC: Huh! Well, I don't own LPD, so I can't figure out why it would show the transcription ˌɪzəm. Maybe you can find a key where it explains the criteria for using the ˌ mark
    – herisson
    Sep 7, 2020 at 21:09

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