Robot /ro.bit/

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sat Dec 29 04:15:13 UTC 2007

>Being a fan of cheesy sci-fi flicks from the 50's and 60's, I've noticed
>that "robot" is sometimes pronounced as /ro.bit/. Was there a real
>occurrence of this pronunciation back in the day? Is there one still?

If the second syllable has a full-fledged /i/ or /I/ with secondary
stress, I'm not familiar with it.

[although there may be a parallel in the manga/anime "Chobits" (^_^)]

If the second syllable has an unstressed vowel similar to a schwa
(like in my pronunciation of "rabbit" or [rhyming] "abbot"), then I
think this is a variant pronunciation which was once frequent. It
seems to me that I have heard it occasionally.

MW3 gives a slew of pronunciations as usual -- including ones with
second-syllable schwa.

The older MW2 gives ONLY schwa-like second syllable (choices
something like /rowb at t/, /rOb at t/) ... no /rowbat/ or /rowbOt/ choice at all.

Of course the early pronunciation may have been taken from Czech
(e.g., I think, "robotnik"), but since my ignorance of Czech
pronunciation is virtually total I cannot assess this possibility.

It also might seem reasonable to pronounce English "robot" with a
second-syllable schwa by analogy with other words such as "abbot",
"pilot", and especially the analogous "helot".

-- Doug Wilson

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