'pre' in 'precaution' [pronunciation]

skydown13

Senior Member
Mandarin
I checked the dictionary and it's [prɪ], just like the 'pre' in 'preliminary'. But I hear people pronouncing it more like [per]. Do you pronounce the 'pre' in precaution and preliminary the same?

Thanks in advance!
 
  • JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I hear the same prɪ- at the beginning of each of those two audio files, with a definite r. If you are not used to hearing an r after a p with no intervening vowel, it may be hard to hear the r.
     
    Last edited:

    skydown13

    Senior Member
    Mandarin
    I can hear the 'r' in both words but I can't hear the 'ɪ' in precaution. To me, preliminary is definitely prɪ while precaution is prcaution without the ɪ.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    The i in precaution seems to be reduced almost to a schwa - or even a schwi. Compare the same source's version of percolate and precaution to hear the (faint!) vowel in precaution after the r.
     

    skydown13

    Senior Member
    Mandarin
    I tried many other online dictionaries and I have trouble to hear the 'ɪ' in precaution. To me, they all sound like 'Per'caution rather than 'Pri'caution.
    So maybe it's like what JulianStuart said, "the i in precaution seems to be reduced." That's why I can't hear it......
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    English does not really have a sound value for the consonant cluster pr in the absence of vowels. That's why I suggested you listen to the difference between precaution and percolate where there is a vowel between the p and the r. That is the sound we think of when you write "I hear per-, I don't hear pri-". The lack of stress on the first syllable means the vowel is "reduced" but not completely eliminated. You should not expect to hear the i sound of a stressed short i as in prince or the long i: of pre-date.
     
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