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My English teacher often corrects me on the correct pronunciation of these suffixes. She says these should be pronounced with the stress on the first O.

I have heard many educated folks pronounce it with no stress at all.

I have also heard that the O should be pronounced as "au" rather than "o".

What is the actual pronunciation of these suffixes, both in British and American English?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

In both American and British English, there is an emphasis on the first O, but not too much. For example, "astronomy" is pronounced:

  • "as" like "us" (or sometimes "ass" from "class")
  • "tr" from "trim"
  • "on" from "marathon"
  • "om" like "um"
  • "y" like "ee" from "tree", but shorter

However, in Indian English, I have heard many people pronouncing it astrOHnomy, basically giving the O in "astro" the same emphasis as the O in "micro" and tacking on the "nomy" (rhymes with "mommy"). This is completely different from the pronounciation above, and is wrong in American/British English.

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I'd suggest the last two syllables would be pronounced 'o', 'me', not 'om' 'ee' –  mcalex Jan 24 '13 at 13:29
    
@mcalex: Maybe that's British English? I'm sure I've heard astronomy pronounced the same in both, but I may be wrong... –  Manishearth Jan 24 '13 at 13:38
    
I guess I should mention that Australian English is my native tongue, but I don't remember hearing it that way in my Hollywood sponsored US English language classes. I should've paid more attention. :-) –  mcalex Jan 24 '13 at 14:37

I can't think of a single prefix that works for all three suffixes so I'll give two examples (in Standard American English).

  • 'geology' and 'geography' both have the accent on the first 'o'. gee AH gruh fee, gee AH luh gee (in IPA, /dʒiy 'ɑ lə dʒiy/, /dʒiy 'ɑ grə fiy/

  • 'astrology' and 'astronomy' also both have the accent on the first 'o'. uh STRAH luh gee, uh STRAH nuh mee. In IPA, /ə 'strɑ lə dʒiy/, /ə 'strɑ nə miy/

So your teacher is right, stress the first 'o'. I don't see any difference for educated speakers.

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These suffixes all have three syllables; the vowels are what's important here. The stress in all cases is on the first vowel.

In US English, this is the vowel pattern:

  • "o" pronounced "ah", stressed

  • "o" or "a" pronounced more or less as "uh", unstressed

  • "y" pronounced as "ee", unstressed

Another suffix following this pattern is "-opathy".

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In British English, they would be pronounced:

-ology: ollow gee

-onomy: onnow mee

-ography: ogg rah fee

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1  
I would pronounce onnow like honour rather than giving it a round ow sound. Ditto with ollow. –  Lunivore Jan 24 '13 at 10:57
    
@Lunivore perhaps my pronunication is more received than yours! –  spiceyokooko Jan 24 '13 at 10:59

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