fragile: /ˈfrædʒ əl/ in the US /ˈfrædʒ aɪl/ in the UK.
Hi again, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English pronunciation podcast. My name is Mandy, and this is our 163rd episode.
We get a lot of requests for explanations of the differences between American English and British English pronunciation. Today we're going to talk about a pattern that explains American and British pronunciation of multi-syllable words that end in -ile.
The word f-r-a-g-i-l-e is pronounced fragile (ending in schwa plus l sound in the US) and fragile (ending in long i plus l sound in the UK).
Can you hear the difference: fragile (schwa) fragile (long i)?
Remember, schwa is a quick, reduced vowel sound that sounds similar to short u (short u). Schwa is a very, very quick sound, however; it's much quicker than short u.
The general pattern is that the -ile ending is pronounced -ile (schwa+l sound) in American English pronunciation and -ile (long i+l sound) in British English pronunciation. Listen to the difference again: The American schwa pronunciation (-ile), and the British long i pronunciation (-ile): fragile (schwa), fragile (long i).
There is an important detail that this pattern only works in multi-syllable words, and the final syllable can't be stressed.
This difference in accent-specific pronunciation is worth knowing about because it affects a number of similar words. These words include (in my American accent only):
Pronouncing these words using the opposite country's pronunciation probably wouldn't ever cause a miscommunication, so it isn't usually a high priority for my students to master. Sometimes, though, the change of which pronunciation you choose can be a simple change to make. The benefit is that speaking closer to the accent of the native English speakers that surround you can help you sound more fluent to them. So, if that is a goal you have, go ahead and learn these differences and choose which is most appropriate for you.
Also, I won't say that all Americans use the schwa pronunciation of these words all the time. You will hear, from time to time, the long i pronunciation; it's just that the schwa pronunciation is more common.
Since there are always exceptions to English patterns, I need to mention the words that are pronounced -ile (long i) in both English accents. These words include:
Also, I should mention that single-syllable words that end in i-l-e are usually pronounced with the long i sound. So use -ile (long i) for:
To help you remember the words I talked about today, let's do a listen-and-repeat activity. Since I speak with an American accent, I'm going to use schwa (-ile) pronunciation. I'll leave time for you to repeat after me. Here are the words that are pronounced with schwa:
Here are the words that are -ile (long i) in both accents:
I hope that helps clear up any confusion you may have had about these pronunciations! If you want to see these words written out, transcripts for all of our episodes are online. Just go to www.pronuncian.com/podcast. Then click Episode 163.
That's all for today, everyone. Thanks for listening. This has been a Seattle Learning Academy Digital publication. Seattle Learning Academy is where the world comes to learn.
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