07 January 2013

How do you pronounce that word, part 2

This post is a follow-up to a previous one I had written about the pronunciation of common words. In Justice Scalia and Bryan Garner's Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges, they argue (quite sensibly) that if you want to be taken seriously during oral arguments of a case, you need to pronounce words correctly. What's the correct pronunciation? Generally, it's the preferred pronunciation, meaning "preferred by well-educated people" (p. 145).

Here are a few other words of interest, which notes and links to their Dictionary.com definition ((follow the link, then click the speaker icon for the spoken pronunciation).

often [aw-fuh n, of-uh n; awf-tuh n, of-]. The preferred pronunciation leaves the t silent; this is one of those times when it sounds (to my ear, at least) as if leaving the t silent sounds less-educated and lazy. Either way, this isn't a big deal, as the pronunciation note suggests:
Often was pronounced with a t -sound until the 17th century, when a pronunciation without the [t] came to predominate in the speech of the educated, in both North America and Great Britain, and the earlier pronunciation fell into disfavor. Common use of a spelling pronunciation has since restored the [t] for many speakers, and today [aw-fuh n] and  [awf-tuh n] [or [of-uh n] and [of-tuh n] ] exist side by side. Although it is still sometimes criticized, often  with a [t]  is now so widely heard from educated speakers that it has become fully standard once again.
affidavit [af-i-dey-vit, not -vid]
athlete [ath-leet]. Here's another very common mispronunciation:
Athlete, athletic, and athletics, normally pronounced [ath-leet] [ath-let-ik] and [ath-let-iks] are heard frequently with an epenthetic schwa, an intrusive unstressed vowel inserted between the first and second syllables: [ath-uh-leet] [ath-uh-let-ik] and [ath-uh-let-iks]. The pronunciations containing the extra syllable are usually considered nonstandard, in spite of their widespread use on radio and television. Pronunciations with similarly intrusive vowels are also heard, though with less currency, for other words, as  [fil-uh m] for film, [el-uh m] for elm, and [ahr-thuh-rahy-tis] for arthritis, rather than the standard [film] [elm] and [ahr-thrahy-tis].
irregardless [ir-i-gahrd-lis]. Not so much a pronunciation issue, as it is not really a word:
Irregardless is considered nonstandard because of the two negative elements ir- and -less. It was probably formed on the analogy of such words as irrespective, irrelevant, and irreparable. Those who use it, including on occasion educated speakers, may do so from a desire to add emphasis.
nuclear [noo-klee-er, nyoo- or, by metathesis, -kyuh-ler].
In pronouncing nuclear, the second and third syllables are most commonly said as [-klee-er] a sequence of sounds that directly reflects the spelled sequence -cle·ar.  In recent years, a somewhat controversial pronunciation has come to public attention, with these two final syllables said as [-kyuh-ler]. Since [-klee-er] the common pronunciation of cle·ar,  might also be represented, broadly, as [-kluh-yer] the [-kyuh-ler]  pronunciation can be seen as coming from a process of metathesis, in which the [l] and the [y] change places.
pronunciation [pruh-nuhn-see-ey-shuh n, not pruh-now-n-see-ey-shuh n]. Every time I type pronunciation, I have to fight myself to avoid typing pronounciation. I don't have a problem with the actual (spoken) pronunciation, because it seems straightforward. Rather, it seems natural (from a spelling standpoint) to move from pronounce to pronounciation. Here, it seems the common mispronunciation stems from the spelling issue.
It may seem odd for the pronunciation of this very word to be an issue; the pronunciation of pronunciation should be evident from its spelling. The vowel in the second syllable is u, said as in the word up. It is not the diphthong ou, as in ouch. 
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