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I once pronounced binoculars as

/baɪˈnɒk.jʊ.ləz/

and my friend told me that it is supposed to be pronounced as

/bɪˈnɒk.jʊ.ləz/

I didn't believe him as I was very sure that the prefix bi- is pronounced as

/baɪ-/

instead of

/bɪ-/

and so should the word binoculars

until I checked with the Cambridge dictionary, the Oxford dictionary, the MacMillan dictionary, the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and the Collins Cobuild dictionary. It turned out that my friend was correct.

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  • 1
    Binocular, pronounced as /baɪˈnɒk.jʊ.ləz/, coined in 1738, is an adjective used to describe something relating to, used by, or involving both eyes at the same time. <binocular vision> It is an entirely different word. Thanks for informing me that! Interesting. So /baɪˈnɒk.jʊ.ləz/ does exist.
    – user19341
    Apr 2 '12 at 10:21
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    Personally, I pronounce it baɪ, and so does everyone I know. This is very interesting +1
    – Bidella
    Apr 2 '12 at 10:46
9

It comes down to the prefix. It isn't bi- but bin-.

Bi-ocular would be pronounced /baɪ-/ but binocular forces the harder /bɪ-/ sound

Updated to articulate what @Reg said below - it's around where the stress is - Bin is the stressed element of this word.

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    Binary comes from the same Latin bini, and yet is pronounced with an /aɪ/. This has nothing to do with the prefix, and everything to do with stress, as /aɪ/ very rarely occurs in unstressed syllables.
    – RegDwigнt
    Apr 2 '12 at 9:01
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    In general, only central vowels like shwa and some lax vowels may appear in unstressed English syllables. No diphthongs, no tense vowels; they require a stressed syllable. The proportion of central vowels, dropped consonants, and vocalic resonants increases the faster one speaks. Apr 2 '12 at 16:56

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