AE pronunciation of "semi", "either", "missile" etc.

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Budspok

Senior Member
Russian-Lübertsy
A while ago I was looking for a birthday gift for my wife. I called in on a jewelry store in New Jersey. Two ladies working there were ready to help me. While we were discussing the items I noticed they pronounced the same words differently. One pronounced “semi-precious”, “either” like semai-preshus and aither, the other did so like semee-preshus and eether. Obviously both of them live not far away from the place they work at, so how come they speak differently?
Is there any distinction by state or region in the U.S. the way people pronounce that sort of words?
 
  • Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Thank you ewie. The references you gave are interesting. They don't shed light on the geographical aspect though.
    People in the US often live rather far away from where they work. Even if they live nearby, people in the US move around a lot. You should not assume that they grew up nearby. They may have gone to different schools with different curricula. They may watch different TV shows. And so on...
     

    pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    As an example of what Myridon says: I grew up less than two hundred miles from where I live now, but the accents are distinctly different, and we even sometimes use different words (soda vs. pop, for example).

    I once had a discussion with someone who grew up ten miles from me about how to pronounce "multi." I don't think it's really a regional thing in this case; just a case of two available pronunciations and different families saying it different ways.

    Edit: I very, very rarely hear anyone in the US with the "miss-aisle" pronunciation of "missile."
     

    Budspok

    Senior Member
    Russian-Lübertsy
    In general, can one say that the “eye” sound is being gradually superceded by the”ee” sound? For example a decade or so ago you could hear on the BBC World Service Argentina, Argrntine pronounced like “arjent-eye-na”, “arjent-eye-n”, now it’s only “arjent-ee-na”, “arjent-ee-n”. (And BBC language is considered by many of those who study English the highest norm of English.)
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    (And BBC language is considered by many of those who study English the highest norm of English.)
    I don't think you should consider the BBC's decision on how to pronounce non-English words (like the names of foreign countries) as reflective of their decisions on how to pronounce English words.
    The language of the BBC is considered to be artificially neutral rather than "the norm" (a learned accent rather than a natural accent much like the "Mid-Atlantic English" that you will hear in old films).
     
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