pronouncing PROB-ably proba-BLY

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Syzygy

Senior Member
German
Hello everyone,
I've come across a few instances of the word "probably" being stressed on its last syllable when used as a single-word answer. Is this considered a mistake or or is it acceptable in spoken language?
And is there a pattern that allows other words ending in -ly in particular or words in general to be stressed that way?
Thanks!
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Although I can't really say what you heard, I suggest it might have been rising intonation rather than a change of stress. This might be used to give it an effect of questioning or uncertainty - "probably, I would imagine so, but I can't be sure". The same thing could be done to 'possibly' and 'perhaps'.

    It is very unlikely that anyone would say such a word with final stress but the normal falling intonation (on the now-stressed last syllable).
     

    Syzygy

    Senior Member
    German
    Thank you,
    after some more research I've actually found the word spelled as "probablee" in several slang dictionaries. So I assume that it would be rather informal to use it.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Oddly, I haven't seen that spelling, but it does seem to be quite widespread, doesn't it? I would imagine it involves both rising tone and final stress then.
     

    Syzygy

    Senior Member
    German
    I'd describe it as unstressed "proba" as in "probability" followed by a long "blee" just like "glee". One possible (far-fetched?) reason I came up with for this peculiar pronunciation might be to give it the same "final" ring as other phrases with the same intonation, say, "I agree." or "I don't know."
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I have indeed heard that intonation, but only in certain contexts and only in a highly colloquial way.

    Let's say I'm in a restaurant and it's raining outside. I'm trying to chat up the waitress and say something stupid, like "Do you think it will rain?"

    The waitress, exasperated by my idiotic attempt at chat, might reply "prob-a-BLEEE"
     

    pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    I have indeed heard that intonation, but only in certain contexts and only in a highly colloquial way.

    Let's say I'm in a restaurant and it's raining outside. I'm trying to chat up the waitress and say something stupid, like "Do you think it will rain?"

    The waitress, exasperated by my idiotic attempt at chat, might reply "prob-a-BLEEE"
    Sdgraham's example shows exactly the way I use that intonation.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    And even then, the last syllable doesn't carry the major stress, only the secondary one. For example, compare the stress in

    probablee, stressed like acid-free and not like refugee.
     
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