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Pronunciation - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Okay, so I was reading TWoP Buffy summaries last night, and the recapper took an opportunity in the "Some Assembly Required" one to complain about a character pronouncing the word "experiment" as "ex-PEER-uh-ment." Now, at first I thought that was the only way I'd ever said it (though of course, with WNY slurring, it would be "ex-spearmint," with the accent on the "r," kind of like green gum that's lost all of its flavor), but I realized I have both said and heard "ex-PAYR-uh-ment" as well. Curious, I decided to check the dictionary, and to my surprise, neither pronunciation is listed there. I double-checked how each of the other sounds is represented symbolically, and the "PEER" pronunciation is depicted as "pîr" (the sound in "experience," which is the same root as "experiment"), while the "PAYR" pronunciation (I looked up "pair" for reference) is depicted as "pâr." The pronunciation given for "experiment" is a short "e," the same sound as in "net" or "ten." (And for which there is apparently no alt-code, so I'll just spell it as "eh.")

I've discovered the first sound I can't seem to get around my accent. Try as I might, putting that "r" in there in anything like my normal accent always turns it into "pîr" or "pâr." I can get either of those two depending on how hard I'm thinking about it, though "pîr" comes out more often because of the "experience" connection, but I absolutely can't get "pehr" without pulling most of the "r" off, kind of "expeh-hruh-ment," which is more or less "doing an accent" for me. I feel like I'm studying some foreign language and trying to wrap my mouth around a non-native consonant! That Great Lakes "r" just pulls the "e" into a longer sound, one way or another, and I seem to either have the hard Great Lakes "r" or no "r" at all... slipping into down-east "gotta kwahtah?" r-less-ness.

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From: (Anonymous) Date: November 27th, 2005 07:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't know about that. I'm a biologist and I always say ex purr a ment. But, I'm from Philly and I hear from others that we say a lot of words differently :)

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 27th, 2005 08:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh, I hadn't tried that one!
toastedcheese From: toastedcheese Date: November 27th, 2005 07:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ex-spearmint. Teehee.

But I definitely pronounce the "-per-" in "experiment" like "pear." Which is one of the pronunciations that m-w.com gives, listening to their .wav files. I think your dictionary is lying to you, or not being clear enough about pronunciations.

I also think that all dictionaries should offer a spelling in the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) because things are much less confusing that way.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 27th, 2005 08:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
Of course, it comes down to which regionalism they're going to include anyway... ;)
lauraflute From: lauraflute Date: November 27th, 2005 07:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's all regional. I say "ex-PEER-uh-ment." I've also heard "ex-PUR-munt," a purely Southern pronunciation (and sometimes used to mock the uneducated or those who don't believe in diction) and your NY "ex-spearmint" from a Chicago native.

I've also found the longer you examine your speech patterns, the weirder you think you sound. So don't worry about it. ;)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 27th, 2005 08:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
your NY "ex-spearmint" from a Chicago native.
It's more Great Lakes than New York, I think (I was born and learned to talk in Buffalo), though I think of it as Western New York, so it doesn't surprise me. Chicago and Buffalo have very similar accents, if not entirely identical ones.

It's kind of fun to think about how weird the speech patterns are, though--I think one of the reasons I find the "had got" formation in British English difficult is that it's the t sound that tends to disappear from "gotten," so that "I'd gotten there early" comes out sort of as, "I'd ga'en there early." So putting the "t" back and cutting the "-en" is actually a bit of a mental trick!
lady_sarai From: lady_sarai Date: November 27th, 2005 08:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh boy, accents are fun. Especially when people just assume you have one if you're from a certain place... such as Maine. ::cough:: I'd have to say I tend toward "ex-payr-uh-ment" myself. But there's probably more "h" to that "r" than I like to admit.

Apparently I say "orange" strangely and I emphasis the wrong syllable in "whoopie pie" and "ballet" but I think everyone else is saying them wrong.

Actually, on reflection, I can identify how I pronounce orange... "are-ange." Which is apparently a source of great amusement to my friends who try to trick me into saying it so they can laugh. Bah.

Everyone's got their language issues. ;)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 27th, 2005 08:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
I hear are-ange a lot even as far down as Boston. I guess it's supposed to be "oh-range." Of course, I'm an "ornj" person... I've also heard "BALL-et" and "ball-ET." I'm trying to figure out whoopie pie, though--is it a question of the "whoop" or the "pie"?

Everyone's got their language issues. ;)

Yeah. It was just moderately embarrassing to have my inborn accent mocked as "too distracting" to a snarky recapper! Being a mid-country sort of accent, I've never heard it really snarked on before! It was a new experience. Or maybe I should say ex-PAIR-i-uhnce... ;)
lannamichaels From: lannamichaels Date: November 27th, 2005 08:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Accents are so interesting. I've always pronounced it as "ex-per-i-ment", yes, with the "per" like "net". Never occured to me to pronounce it another way.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 27th, 2005 08:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really like accents, actually. I loved the conversation we all had last year (or maybe early this year) about whether or not "Ravenclaw" and "Gryffindor" rhymed. It never even occurred to me that they were supposed to!

I've practiced, and I can now do the "eh," but only if I'm really, really thinking hard about it.
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arclevel From: arclevel Date: November 27th, 2005 08:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ooh, this is interesting. I definitely agree w/the commenter above who said that listening carefully to your own speech patterns makes everything sound very, very strange. Trying to decipher my own, I'm finding the same things you are, with the most common pronunciation being closest to "ek-SPEER-munt". If I focus on making the word four syllables instead of three, I'm more likely to get "eks-PAYR-uh-mint". I can do "ek-SPEH-ruh-mint" if I really try it, but I feel like I'm either faking an accent, like you said, or else lisping, oddly.

I'm another Great Lakes regional (raised in Southeast Michigan), but when I was in high school, I had a couple entirely separate people ask where I was originally from, because they couldn't place my accent - despite the fact that I'd lived in that school district since before Kindergarten.
trinity_clare From: trinity_clare Date: November 27th, 2005 09:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hi from Wisconsin!

I'm trying it out now and I seem to be alternating between exPIRiment and exPEARiment. ExPIRiment has a short "i" instead of a long "ee". And I say "pair" and "pear" differently. For me "pear" has more of the eh sound the dictionary is looking for.

Linguistics yay!
barbara_the_w From: barbara_the_w Date: November 27th, 2005 09:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah, yes, expatriate Cheesehead here and, me, too!

I exPIRiment with a new hairstyle but the exPEARiment was shocking.

The verb form versus the noun form.

Eastern Wisconsin, Manitowoc County.
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hermia7 From: hermia7 Date: November 27th, 2005 09:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oooh, this is such a fascinating subject. I grew up in a college town in Oregon, with a father from Michigan and a mother from Western Massachusetts, and as a result am almost entirely accentless and fairly regionally confused. (For instance, on many words that seem to have two distinct pronunciations, I alternate freely, as in Aunt Betty can be Ant Betty or Awnt Betty depending on...not sure what.) I am always fascinated by regionalisms, though as well as differences in pronunciation. Stuff like Freeway and Semi vs. Highway and Tractor-Trailer.
I took the Harvard Online Dialect Survey back when it was running—it's still very interesting to check out the results and see how your home state or adopted one tended to choose...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 27th, 2005 10:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, that is interesting. At Thanksgiving, the fam even got to talking about the "creek" issue--we're strictly "crick" people, and we were joking about being able to spot an outsider by the ability to say Tonawanda Creak instead of Tonawanda Crick. "Creak" is a sound a squeaky stair makes. ;) Though I note that, by that survey, there are a lot of outsiders in the neighborhood...
disturbed_kiwi From: disturbed_kiwi Date: November 27th, 2005 10:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
I find these comments really interesting. The way everybody is saying they pronounce their words doesn't corresond to any spoken words I've ever heard in New Zealand. Seriously, if this wasn't writing I'd assume I wouldn't understand you.

The Kiwi accent apparantly gets confused for British or Australian quite often which is strange to us. We don't feel like we sound anything like that!

Australians say feesh and cheeps for fish and chips. We say fush and chups (although neither are really thast extreme).

I'd say ex-pair-a-mint I guess.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 27th, 2005 10:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
I grew up less than 20 miles from you, but on the other side of the river and I definetly pronounce it ex'-pehr-i-ment.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 28th, 2005 04:47 am (UTC) (Link)
The other side of the Niagara? Yeah, I bet you pronounce "out and about" differently than I do, too. ;) Weird how that river actually did create slight differences, though not on words you'd expect (like ones that are spelled differently!).
karit From: karit Date: November 27th, 2005 11:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yo from Ohio? *reading other people's intros with amusement*

It's more like ex-sPEER-uh-ment for me. Hard to tell, but on reflection, the x from 'ex' turns into an s sound and meshes with the second syllable. Or maybe it does that in every accent and just no one felt compelled to point it out before me?
shake_n_shimmy From: shake_n_shimmy Date: November 27th, 2005 11:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmmm. Let's see. I'm from Long Island with parents from Manhatten and the Bronx, and grandparents whose first language was Spanish and a boyfriend whose family is really Long Island (that I'm constantly around and I've noticed that I end up saying things like "motha" and all that), so my accent seems to fluctuate between all of those.

I say ex-SPAYR-eh-ment, if it adds to the confusion of it all :D
threnody From: threnody Date: November 28th, 2005 12:07 am (UTC) (Link)
I say ex-per-iment or ex-purr-iment, depending. I grew up in Canada (Montreal), and spoke French from a young age. My mother is from Philadelphia, PA. My dad is from Belgium (first language is German, second is French, third is English). How's that for messed up?

I find that a lot of the words I say are either directly from or heavily influenced by the way my father and his parents (who never learnt English until I was a baby) say them, which is usually exactly how they look. Sometimes this gets me in trouble, but I know enough words now that it's not much of an issue. :P
galaxianomiko From: galaxianomiko Date: November 28th, 2005 12:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Commenting on the Connecticut side of the accent wars...;)

Generally, "ex-pair-i-ment" is considered the snooty pronunciation, so it's the one you hear from teachers (and newscasters...) "Ex-peer-i-ment" is the one I hear from everyone else. Weirdly, I also know a lot of people who will use both pronunciations, sometimes within the same conversation.
jetamors From: jetamors Date: November 28th, 2005 02:54 am (UTC) (Link)
It might help if you pronounce it more like 'ix-spair-iment', with 'spair' rhyming with 'despair'.
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