Have you ever noticed that the American pronunciation of the letter i in various words is exactly "opposite" of the British way. Look at the following two word groups to understand what I mean...

Word group 1

  • Anti-
  • Semi-
  • Hemi-
  • Quasi-

Word group 2

  • Mobile
  • Fragile
  • Docile

What I would really like to know is if this is a well known pattern and can be used to derive American pronunciations from their British counterparts (and vice-versa)?

2 Answers 2


I think it's over-optimistic, and probably not very possible, to try to derive a formula to come up with the right choice in all situations. In short, I doubt the usefulness of the proposed rule.

In my (American) experience, both pronunciations for anti/semi/hemi are used interchangeably, and probably inconsistently even in an individual's lexicon.

On the other hand, I feel like "quasi" ends in "zee" more often than "zai" or "sai."

For Mobile/Fragile/Docile, I find myself using a short i sound that makes them sound like "mohbuL" "frazhuL", "DossuL". I don't doubt for a second though that there are going to be Americans who also pronounce it with the "ile" sound.

  • I agree with you in principle. There is some inconsistency in the way Americans pronounce their is but I think antai, semai, mobil, fragil are decidedly American. I haven't ever heard of anyone else using these variations. Therefore I posit the conversion rule is still useful at least in the direction from British to American.
    – Autodidact
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 12:45
  • Too many exceptions. Take the word "I". Pronounced "eye" by some people, "ah" by others, etc. I don't think you can say there's such a rule as you propose.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 19:40

Applauds OP

Other notable examples for group 1 are, of course, Iraq and Iran.

If you asked the average British person to do an 'American' accent, chances are these are the changes that they would make.

That said, I doubt the rule could be applied to create anything more authentic than a caricature. In much the same way as the American idea of a 'British' accent sounds nothing like any accent anyone in the UK could identify, the diversity of accents on both sides of the pond makes this unlikely to be useful other than for a generalisation.

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