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210 votes
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Why is Nike pronounced "naikee" and not "naik"?

Because Nike was the Greek goddess of victory (see Wikipedia) and final 'e's are not silent in Greek. Similarly, the final 'e' should be pronounced in the name Irene, as it is in other Greek-derived ...
Kate Bunting's user avatar
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59 votes

Do "map" and "cat" rhyme?

Map and cat do not rhyme but they have assonance. assonance n. 2.a. Prosody. The correspondence or rhyming of one word with another in the accented vowel and those which follow, but not in the ...
Greybeard's user avatar
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54 votes

Why is Nike pronounced "naikee" and not "naik"?

English spelling does not have a one-to-one relationship with English pronunciation, so it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that "Nike" does not rhyme with "bike" and "...
herisson's user avatar
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38 votes
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Why is "archaic" pronounced uniquely? Is the sequence -ɪɪ- only found in this word?

The standard pronunciation in British English is really /ɑːˈkeɪ ik/ (Longman Pronunciation Dictionary), and there is no alternative. The splitting of the digraph into two phonemes is understandable as ...
LPH's user avatar
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29 votes
Accepted

Do "map" and "cat" rhyme?

It depends what meaning of rhyme you choose. The OED has a note attached to its definition of "rhyme": Rhyme, strictly speaking, is regarded as extending to the last stressed vowel and any ...
Colin Fine's user avatar
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27 votes

Doesn't English have vowel harmony?

English doesn't have vowel harmony. "Vowel harmony" refers to situations where there is some process that changes vowels to be in the same class as other vowels in the word, and/or there is a ...
herisson's user avatar
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23 votes
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Why did John Wells need three lexical sets--NORTH, FORCE and THOUGHT--for the same vowel /ɔː/?

Because they differ in (Wells's model of) General American. The whole point of lexical sets is to make it easier to describe differences between accents. Since not only phonetic values but the ...
Nardog's user avatar
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22 votes
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What is the difference between /ʌɪ/ and /aɪ/ in English?

The notations /ʌɪ/ and /ɑɪ/ represent a contrastive phonemic difference that some native speakers of English produce and perceive between certain minimal pairs. For those speakers, the following are ...
tchrist's user avatar
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20 votes

Scottish, English, why not *Walish?

It actually used to be some form of "Walish" that has since been contracted: Welsh Old English Wielisc, Wylisc (West Saxon), Welisc, Wælisc (Anglian and Kentish); but it actually meant "foreign" ...
Robusto's user avatar
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20 votes
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Why doesn't English employ an H in front of Ares?

Hermes and Ares are reasonable representations in the Latin alphabet of the sounds of the Greek names. The /h/ sound is absent from classical Greek spellings of words which contained it (like Hermes) ...
StoneyB on hiatus's user avatar
19 votes

Why is Nike pronounced "naikee" and not "naik"?

It is important to remember that English spelling, traditionally, has no intention of describing pronunciation - its intent is rather to describe etymology (ie word origin). Only incidentally, through ...
Pieter Geerkens's user avatar
19 votes

Why are there 4 ambiguous phonetic symbols in IPA representations of English?

Actually, it's "worse" than that. Nearly all the vowels of English have more than one possible representation in IPA. For example: The vowel sound of the word "kit" can be written as [ɪ] or [i] The ...
herisson's user avatar
  • 81.7k
18 votes

Why are there 4 ambiguous phonetic symbols in IPA representations of English?

Within one language community, the IPA may be simplified for dictionary entries. The /r/ is a classic example. In strict IPA usage, it is the sign for an r sound with a short trill, as in Italian Roma,...
KarlG's user avatar
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16 votes

Why is "archaic" pronounced uniquely? Is the sequence -ɪɪ- only found in this word?

In English, there's a phoneme commonly called "long A" (because it evolved from what used to be a lengthened /a:/). This part's pretty uncontroversial: it's the phoneme in the middle of &...
Draconis's user avatar
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15 votes
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Syndrome: older pronunciation?

There is an old pronunciation of "syndrome" with three syllables (stress on the first). John Walker's Critical Pronouncing Dictionary of 1791 only gives a trisyllabic pronunciation, "si²...
herisson's user avatar
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13 votes
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Scottish, English, why not *Walish?

Note that Scottish has the contracted form “Scotch” (also “Scots”, where the use of /s/ is I think a Scottish feature). I would guess that the consonant cluster in the middle of “English” inhibited ...
herisson's user avatar
  • 81.7k
12 votes

Why do we pronounce a long second vowel in "decide", but a short second vowel in "decision"?

Background info on pronunciation of Latinate words in English Latin vowel length very rarely has a direct effect on the pronunciation of English vowels in Latinate words. (It can have an indirect ...
herisson's user avatar
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11 votes
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Pronunciation of words starting with "a"

You should always look up pronunciations in a dictionary to be sure, because no rules on this subject are accurate 100% of the time. In general, the rules for pronouncing vowels are strongly linked ...
herisson's user avatar
  • 81.7k
10 votes

Why are there 4 ambiguous phonetic symbols in IPA representations of English?

What you are seeing is not variation in pronunciation by different varieties. Most all dictionaries (OED, M-W, Collins, online dictionaries) will give one pronunciation for British English (RP) or ...
Mitch's user avatar
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10 votes

What is the difference between /ʊ/ and /ʌ/ in British English?

The sounds of /ʌ/ and /ʊ/ are only moderately similar from a strictly phonetic point of view. However, in the context of phonology, you might feel like the difference is "[so] minor that you ...
herisson's user avatar
  • 81.7k
9 votes

Why is "Yosemite" spelled that way?

From Dan Anderson, "Origin of the Word Yosemite" (posted December 2004; updated July 2011): Yohhe'meti (Southern Miwok) or Yos.s.e'meti (Central Miwok) originally referred to the Indian tribe that ...
Sven Yargs's user avatar
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9 votes
Accepted

Where in the US are these vowels mispronounced? "got" -> "gat"

/a/ ⟹ /æ/ is part of the ongoing sound change now occurring in northern urban speech groups in American English called the Northern Cities Vowel Shift. This is a big change in English vowels, as ...
John Lawler's user avatar
8 votes

Why does a silent "-e" at the end of a word lengthen vowels?

The historical reason for this spelling pattern in general is most likely a process of vowel "lengthening" that applied in Middle English to certain words that previously ended in a schwa ...
herisson's user avatar
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8 votes
Accepted

Why is "salient" pronounced with a "long a" sound?

Lengthening rule for {a, e, o, u} before CiV or CeV The long vowel in salient is caused by a lengthening rule that originally applied in Middle English to stressed vowels followed by a single ...
8 votes

Why are there 4 ambiguous phonetic symbols in IPA representations of English?

Vowels change. A hundred years ago, the standard southern British pronunciations of bear, cat, code, and cut were [bɛə], [kæt], [koʊd], and [kʌt]. Now, they're [bɛ:], [kat], [kəʊd], and [kɐt]. Why do ...
Peter Shor 's user avatar
8 votes

Why did John Wells need three lexical sets--NORTH, FORCE and THOUGHT--for the same vowel /ɔː/?

A lexical set does not represent a vowel. It represents a set of words that are all pronounced with the same vowel phoneme in Wells's two reference accents of "Received Pronunciation" and &...
herisson's user avatar
  • 81.7k
7 votes
Accepted

Why is the word "bread" pronounced "bred"?

In older varieties of English bread was pronounced with a long vowel. The spelling "ea" here represents a Middle English pronunciation with/ε:/, which was shortened to /ε/ in various words; not only "...
herisson's user avatar
  • 81.7k
7 votes

Why is the pronunciation of "Exodus" different from the spelling?

Unstressed vowels in English tend to be reduced Exodus differs from exotic because exodus is stressed on the first syllable, while exotic is stressed on the second. Unfortunately, there is no single ...
herisson's user avatar
  • 81.7k
7 votes
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/ɑ/ vs /ʌ/ pronunciation

It's hard to answer this question for a few reasons: the difference between /ɑ/ and /ʌ/ is different in different accents of American English I'm not personally familar with Hebrew, so I can only go ...
herisson's user avatar
  • 81.7k
7 votes

Different /ə/ pronunciation at the end of a word; for example, in "phenomena"

On /phonemic/ vs [phonetic] Transcriptions What’s going on here is that some dictionaries are sometimes using detailed phonetics yet placing them within the slashes that should be used only for ...
tchrist's user avatar
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