Hot answers tagged

205

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 names like Chloe, Zoe and Phoebe.


52

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 "strike" (except for when it does—apparently, there are some speakers who don't use the "official", disyllabic pronunciation for the brand). "...


38

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 a remnant of the initial pronunciation intended to preserve the French ([aʀkaik]); in the French pronunciation /ai/ is not a diphthong, but two separate ...


26

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 constraint against having vowels of different classes in a word. You can see examples of vowel harmony processes in Turkish on e.g. this web page: Vowel Harmony (some ...


22

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 minimal pairs differing only in that the first word has the /ʌɪ/ phoneme but the second word has the /ɑɪ/ phoneme: writer–rider hire–higher shire–shyer lyre–...


21

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 distribution of phonemes vary across accents, it's often not enough to say e.g. "What is phoneme X in Received Pronunciation is realized as Y in this accent" ...


19

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 the etymology, is the proper pronunciation deduced. That is why Spelling Bees are so entrancing in English, and yet absurd in nearly every other language.


19

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 vowel sound in "lot" in British English can be written as [ɒ] or [ɔ] The vowel sound in "fleece" can be written as [i], [iː], [ij] or [ɪj] The vowel sound in "...


19

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) because the Attic Greek alphabet did not have a distinct character for it—the character ‹H› was used for eta ('long e', contrasting with epsilon, 'short e'...


18

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, but English sources routinely use this sign for any standard pronunciation of r. In this recording from the late 1920s of John Gielgud delivering a speech ...


18

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" or, more properly, "not Anglo-Saxon"; the Welsh called their country something else, and do to this day. In the Welsh language it's not Wales but Cymru. ...


16

Rule: Use a Dictionary Yes, there is a rule, and that rule is that you must look them up in a dictionary if you are not a native speaker. That’s because words beginning with re- in English can, depending on the word, be pronounced with any of eight different vowels: /ra/ /rɑ̃/ /rɒ/ /re/ /rə/ /rɛ/ /ri/ /rɪ/ The last three or four at the end of that list ...


16

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 "face". However, linguists have different views on how to transcribe this sound. It's often pronounced as a diphthong, so some people write it as /eɪ/, /...


14

Voiceless vowels are quite possible, and occur in one way or another in many languages. After all, all vowels and all consonants that are whispered are ipso facto voiceless. Whisper [a] and you have pronounced a voiceless vowel. However, the overwhelming majority of vowel sounds in speech are voiced, since vowel formants are modifications of a voiced ...


12

TL;DR: When it is at the start of a syllable, not when it is at the end of a syllable. First, do not confuse letters with sounds. It is pointless to talk about letters. Semivowels are glides like /w/ and /j/ that act as part of a diphthong, so in conjunction with a vowel sound. In practice, only those semivowels that precede the vowel count as a consonant,...


12

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 the development of any monosyllabic contracted forms—“Englsh” is not exactly a validly formed syllable in English. Alongside Welsh we have French and Dutch (...


11

English vowels have a large amount of variation between accents and individual speakers. Even among speakers who pronounce cot and caught differently, gone and on may be pronounced either way. Gone and on do not belong to any lexical set, but the closest one for me is cloth. So it’s generally pronounced /gɑn/, and that’s the pronunciation I would prefer if ...


11

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 effect, since Latin vowel length affected the placement of stress, and the placement of stress affects how we pronounce vowels in English.) The following Wikipedia ...


10

The traditional RP pronunciation of ate is /ɛt/. The second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary agrees: /ɛt/, occasionally /eɪt/. I believe Charivarius also has /ɛt/. From his famous poem about the inconsistent spelling of English, The Chaos: Reefer does not rhyme with deafer, Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer. Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ...


10

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 General American English (GenAmE) (possibly with a very common variant that is not dialectical). What you are seeing is a difference in phonetic encoding. ...


9

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 lived in Yosemite Valley. Yosemite means literally “those who kill” (Yos, “to kill,” the modifier e, “one who,” and the plural suffix -meti). It was used by the ...


9

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 to the position of stress in a word in English (which unfortunately is not written). All English words with more than one syllable have a syllable with "primary ...


9

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 could probably swap each sound when speaking and get away with it" for a couple of reasons: the contrast has a low "functional load": in standard English, /ʊ/ is a rare ...


8

British English doesn't use the spelling centering; it’s always centring. As to pronunciation, it’s two syllables, or maybe two-and-a-half with the hint of a schwa, /ˈsɛntriŋ/ /ˈsɛntᵊriŋ/. Spelling the word with a third syllable looks odd because we don’t spell it that way and we don’t say it that way either. Spelling and pronunciation are linked, but it’s ...


8

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 sound. This happened before the Great Vowel Shift, so that isn't directly relevant. Rather, the "Great Vowel Shift" is the explanation for why English &...


8

/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 complex and thorough as the Great Vowel Shift that moved all the long vowels in English but left the short ones in the same place, thus producing Early Modern ...


8

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 consonant (not including x) and two unstressed vowels. In most cases, the first unstressed vowel was i, as it is here, but it could also be e, as ocean. In other words,...


8

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 the vowels change in English while they don't change in, say, Italian? English has enough vowels that they keep jostling each other to get more personal space, ...


8

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 "General American". These are artificial standards and as Nardog says, Accents of English was written several decades ago, so this is not exactly ...


7

Something funny happens to short i in some California accents; what most of us pronounce as short i (as in sit or king) turns into long e (as in seat or keen) when it's before an "nk" or an "ng". So ink would be pronounced eenk in these accents. But this is a regional thing, established in California, Michigan, and probably several other ...


Only top voted, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible