In LONGMAN dictionary, the pronunciation of the word elementary is /ˌeləˈmentəri/. However, I heard some people pronounced it like /ˌeləˈmentri/. How should I pronounce the word correctly?

  • I would pronounce it as the following, eh · luh · men · tr · ee Here is the link to the video that I found it from: youtube.com/watch?v=RJ7ImmpVXWM
    – Joe Kerr
    Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 14:55
  • 2
    It depends how carefully people are speaking. Almost everybody will give it five syllables when speaking slowly and carefully; but many people elide the fourth syllable in ordinary speech. This is the case for other words where -ary follows a 't', eg secretary; and also words formed differently where an unstressed vowel follows a stop consonant, such as category and allegory.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 15:15
  • I'd say it's /ɛ/ and not /e/, though. (Also read this answer to a similar question.)
    – Void
    Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 15:28

1 Answer 1

  • /ˌeləˈmen.təri/

  • /ˌeləˈmen.tri/

Both of them are correct.

The first one has 5 syllables while the second one has 4. It depends on the dialect of English. Some British and American dialects have lost the weak syllable (second last in 'elementary'—/tə/) so they pronounce it with 4 syllables, but both are equally correct and acceptable.

In English, when a stressed syllable is followed by two (or more) unstressed syllables, the vowel immediately following the stressed syllable is usually dropped in colloquial/fast speech (not every accent/dialect and not in every individual's speech). The pronunciation varies from individual to individual. The process is called syncope. Other examples include: comfortable, camera, family, average etc.

In most dialects, the emboldened vowels have been syncopated, however, some dialects have retained them and still pronounce them.

  • 1
    In upstate New York, many people will pronounce it with initial stress and secondary stress on the penult (EL-em-en-TA-ry). Apparently this is even more common with sedimentary. In terms of speech, it is the only distinction I associate with that part of the country.
    – choster
    Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 19:01
  • @choster I've never heard the version you are discussing here. But a similar version has been brought to my attention and nagging at the back of my mind. A short while ago, a friend noted how I pronounced "elementary" two different ways, one stressing the first syllable /Ele-men-tri/, the other being the more common (ele-mEn-tri). And in my experience, the initial stress version is in the minority in AmE. I wonder if it is really a regional thing. I pronounce it exactly the same as Monica Byrne here who seems to hail from Pennsylvania.
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Apr 14, 2022 at 7:09

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