How not to confuse pronunciation with accent
Pronunciation is the manner in which a word should be uttered, whereas accent refers to the stress that has to be placed on a syllable in a particular ...
Pronunciation is the manner in which a word should be uttered, whereas accent refers to the stress that has to be placed on a syllable in a particular word. In the last couple of columns, we have been looking at some commonly confused and misused words in English. This week, let us look at some commonly mispronounced words. But before we do that, here are a couple of statutory warnings. One, do not confuse pronunciation with accent. ronunciation is the manner in which a word should to be uttered for it to be understood. Accent, on the other hand, refers to the stress that has to be placed on a syllable in a particular word. What is more important in speaking is pronunciation and not accent because what you say will not be understood if your pronunciation is wrong. Two, never try to imitate or put on an artificial accent. A put-on accent is difficult to sustain and, frankly, not worth the trouble. Often, young people who need to improve their pronunciation try instead to acquire an artificial accent. Remember that it is neither possible nor necessary for us to have a native-speaker-like accent. Your accent is your identity. It is part of you and your culture and there is no need to lose it entirely. What is more important is that your spoken language should have maximum intelligibility with minimum effort�the person listening to you should be able to understand what you are saying with minimal strain. Remember that clarity is more important than accent. Coming back to commonly mispronounced words, there is no denying that the spelling of an English word is not always a reliable guide to its pronunciation. But it is amazing how many words we mispronounce simply because we don't pay attention to their spelling. For instance, we routinely hear guests at public event being invited on to the 'dias' (pronounced 'die-ass'). But if we follow the correct spelling of the word, we can also hope get its pronunciation right: 'dais' (pronounced as 'day-us'). In fact, the very word 'pronunciation' often gets misspelt and therefore mispronounced as 'pronunciation'. Similarly, words such as 'candidate' 'identity' and 'probably' often get pronounced as 'candate', 'identy' and 'probly' because we compress their spellings. On the other hand, words or parts of them which need to be compressed get mispronounced because we use their expanded form. For instance, most of us pronounce 'table' and 'cycle' correctly. But many of us mispronounce 'comfortable', 'vegetable' and 'bicycle' because we do not compress the second part of these words as 'tabl' and 'sikl'. Some words get mispronounced because we either do not utter the sound that should be uttered or utter the sound that should remain silent. 'Twenty' (tventy) is frequently mispronounced as 'tonty' and 'twelve' as 'twel' (or more often 'tuwel') completely ignoring the 'v' sound. On the other hand, words like 'heir' and 'honour' are sometimes pronounced with the initial 'h' sound intact while it should always be silent: heir�air; honour�onour. In some words, closely related sounds are interchanged leading to a mix up. The 'z' sound in words like 'zoo', 'zoology', 'crazy' often gets mispronounced as 'j' (as in 'joo', 'jualaji', 'craijee'), while the 'j' sound in words like 'Vijayawada', 'image' gets mispronounced as 'z' (as in 'Vizaywada', 'imaze'). Similarly, in words like 'women' the 'w' sound gets replaced by the softer 'u' sound�as in 'umen' instead of 'vmen'. We mispronounce some English words because they have certain sounds that either do not exist or are difficult to produce in our mother tongue. For instance, the initial sounds in words like 'author', 'omni' do not have ready equivalents in Telugu. But in words such as 'onion' and 'oven' the initial sounds also get mispronounced even when their equivalents are easily available. People sometimes pronounce some words in a particular, incorrect, way because that is considered the norm in that specific field/context. For instance, people in the film and entertainment field often use 'fillum' and 'pitcher' (for 'film' and 'picture') because that is considered the 'in-thing' in their profession. So, there are several reasons why we mispronounce some words. The reasons range from simple laziness (to consult a dictionary), to the influence of mother tongue, and to differences in cultures. But some mispronunciations are extremely creative and defy all logic and explanation. How, for instance, can one account for pronouncing 'maths' as 'max', 'Nehru' as 'Nefru'!