how is the prefix "ex" really spoken (UNCLASSIFIED)

Geoff Nathan geoffnathan at WAYNE.EDU
Thu Apr 29 02:35:23 UTC 2010

I guess being one of the resident phonologists I'd better jump in now with some elementary phonology.

The pronunciation of the prefix spelled 'ex-' is determined in part by whether it is stressed. If it is stressed it is pronounced with the lax mid front vowel (as in 'bet'). So 'excellent, exercise, execute'. If unstressed it varies between lax mid (bet) and lax high front (as in 'bit') depending on formal/casual, dialect, and many other things. Since there is no rule for this there can be no standardized transcription. Hence the varying transcriptions for 'excite, excel, exactly...'
Note, however, that there is a rule about whether the 'x' is pronounced /ks/ or /gz/. If the syllable preceding it is stressed it's voiceless (ks) but if the following syllable is stressed it is voiced (gz). The exceptions are those words spelled with -xc- .  Hence 'excite, excel' but 'exact, exam'.
(Esoteric note for historical linguists--the latter principle is actually Verner's Law.)


Geoffrey S. Nathan
Faculty Liaison, C&IT
and Associate Professor, Linguistics Program
+1 (313) 577-1259 (C&IT)
+1 (313) 577-8621 (English/Linguistics)

----- "Tom Zurinskas" <truespel at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:

> From: "Tom Zurinskas" <truespel at HOTMAIL.COM>
> Sent: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 7:00:16 PM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
> Subject: Re: how is the prefix "ex" really spoken (UNCLASSIFIED)
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Tom Zurinskas <truespel at HOTMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: how is the prefix "ex" really spoken (UNCLASSIFIED)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> You can hear 'em at  Click on the flags for
> audio.  On second listening I hear the first "e" in excess more like
> an ~e (as in "bet") than an ~a.  Certainly it's an ~a (as in "hat")
> for "access".  Having listened to a bunch of words with "ex" prefixes
> I thought the "e" in "excess" seemed different trending toward ~a
> rather than ~e.
> Tom Zurinskas, USA - CT20, TN3, NJ33, FL7+
> see phonetic spelling
> >
> > ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> > Sender: American Dialect Society
> > Poster: "Mullins, Bill AMRDEC"
> > Subject: Re: how is the prefix "ex" really spoken (UNCLASSIFIED)
> >
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >>
> >> ~aks was the pronunciation for both USA and UK for one word,
> "excess"
> >> ~akses
> >>
> >>
> >
> > How was "access" pronounced? The same as "excess"?
> > Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
> > Caveats: NONE
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > The American Dialect Society -
> _________________________________________________________________
> Hotmail has tools for the New Busy. Search, chat and e-mail from your
> inbox.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list