How do native speakers guess the pronunciation of a word that they've never seen before ? Is there a general rule for that ?

For example, someone said :

Words that end in -ic or -tion will be stressed on the second to last syllable. It doesn't matter how many syllables long a word is, we will count backward.
Here are some examples with -ic and -tion.
-ic: `classic, fan`tas-tic, e-co-`nom-ic, en-thu-si-`as-tic
-tion: `nation, con`di-tion, in-tu-`i-tion, spec-i-fi-`ca-tion 

I would like to know more other rules like the above one, not only how to stress the word properly but also the way to pronounce one word correctly (or nearly correct) without knowing the phonetic.

p/s : In short, my question is : "Is there a way to guess the pronunciation of a word correctly (or nearly correct) when we don't know it's phonetic code ?"

closed as not constructive by FumbleFingers, Barrie England, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者, Mitch, MetaEd Jun 22 '12 at 23:07

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  • 3
    I think this is Not Constructive. Firstly, many words have multiple "valid" pronunciations. Secondly, for any given rule, there will be exceptions. OP's rule is about as bulletproof as any, but it doesn't apply to, for example, arabic, arithmetic, catholic, or rhetoric. – FumbleFingers Jun 22 '12 at 20:46
  • Often native speakers will incorrectly guess the pronunciation of a word they've only seen written down, and may go for many years until they hear with surprise the correct or accepted way. – Hugo Jun 22 '12 at 20:47
  • Hi all, in short, my question is : "Is there a way to guess the pronunciation of a word correctly (or nearly correct) when we don't know it's phonetic code ?" – JatSing Jun 22 '12 at 20:56
  • 1
    @JatSing, yes, it is possible. Loan word phonology deals with this issue. Of course, it involves stress patterns, phonatactics, and other phonological processes. – RainDoctor Jun 24 '12 at 4:17
  • @RainDoctor, thanks, I am googling for "Loan word phonology" ... – JatSing Jun 24 '12 at 8:10

I think there are a number of Internet resources that could be consulted and I would encourage you to pursue that.

This site (for example) http://funeasyenglish.com/american-english-pronunciation-word-and-sentence-stress.htm

has some of the "rules" I think you are after.

Stress on the first syllable

• most 2-syllable nouns – china, table, export, pencil

• most 2-syllable adjectives – slender, clever, happy

Stress on the last syllable

• most 2-syllable verbs – to export, to decide, to begin

Stress on the third syllable from the end (ante-penultimate syllable)

• words ending in “cy”, “ty”, “phy” and “gy” – democracy, dependability, photography, geology, society

• words ending in “al” – critical, geological

  • +1 Thanks, seem helpful to me. Btw, as I said, I am not only looking for the rule of stressing. – JatSing Jun 22 '12 at 20:59

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