Pronunciation: COMparable v comPArable

andrzejewskil

Member
Polish
Just a quick one:

I believe that COMparable is a British pronunciation (the capital letters symbolize stress), while both COMparable and comPArable could be heard in the USA.

My question is: can the variant comParable be found in the UK, and if so, where?

Thank you
 
  • Welshie

    Senior Member
    England, English
    I don't think I have heard the "COMparable" pronounciation in the UK. Except maybe in the word "incomparable", I'm not sure.. I would say comPArable.
     

    gentlegreen

    Member
    Bristolian English, Franglais
    I always say comPARable and I have a vaguely "middle class / suburban" south west UK accent - nurtured on BBC radio 4.
    Mind you, I've watched a lot of American TV too.
     

    andrzejewskil

    Member
    Polish
    It's good to hear, since I've never used COMparable either; I myself lived 5 years in the UK. Today I and was greatly surprised to find in Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictinary the only option of COMparable, for both Br and Am. I looked it up in my favourite Pronouncing Dictionary (Cambridge, Daniel Jones, ed. by Roach and Hartman, 15th edition) and it turned out they also give COMparable as a British pronunciation, but provide two options for the American counterpart (COMparable and comPArable). So I followed the thread: dictionary.com lists COMparable as a main pronunciation and comPArable is preceded by a note "sometimes".

    ???
     

    andrzejewskil

    Member
    Polish
    Hi Ewie,

    You've helped with a number of questions, as far as I remember. The answer to this one seems regionally determined. Would you say that Estuary English, South East or whateveryoucallit favours comPArable?
     

    magicaltrevor

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    I'm 27 - so it seems unlikely to be a generational thing

    I think it most likely that there are 2 valid pronunciations (at least in terms of usage)
    and the distribution of the two is fairly random.
     

    andrzejewskil

    Member
    Polish
    Well, at least we have a person with a vaguely "middle class / suburban" south west UK accent - nurtured on BBC radio 4 with an influence of American movies who says comPArable. And a Welshman?
     

    Tegs

    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    I would say comPARable, and I'm 25. So, I think it must be a regional thing, rather than an age thing :)
     

    Tegs

    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    (Although now that I've said that word to myself about ten times in my head, I'm no longer sure. Both seem ok once you say them several times in a row) :D
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Yes, they both sound okay to me too, Tegs. But having tried both out several times I decided the COM- version is the one my mouth's most comfortable with.

    (ewie, distinctly middle class / suburban, northwest England accent, occasionally nurtured on Radio 4, heavy American movie influence, aged 44, etc.)
     

    Tegs

    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    Interesting! I started off thinking the same, but then I thought that comPARable was a lot easier to say than the other. Now I have no idea what I used to say before I read this thread... :D
     

    thoroughlyconfused

    Member
    English - Canada
    I vary my pronunciation according to my mood and according to the sentence (its meaning and the need for euphony):

    These inCOMparable things are....
    These things are incomPARable. [if their incomparability is particular strong or important]
    These things are inCOMparable, but.... [if their incomparability is a side issue]

    (So, to me, "incomPARable" is stronger and draws more attention to itself than "inCOMparable".)
     

    magicaltrevor

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    I vary my pronunciation according to my mood and according to the sentence (its meaning and the need for euphony):

    These inCOMparable things are....
    These things are incomPARable. [if their incomparability is particular strong or important]
    These things are inCOMparable, but.... [if their incomparability is a side issue]

    (So, to me, "incomPARable" is stronger and draws more attention to itself than "inCOMparable".)

    Good points, thoroughlyconfused. I have a feeling I do the same :)
     

    CapnPrep

    Senior Member
    AmE
    I don't get it… if the incomparability is a side issue, why would you ever say "These things are incomparable"?

    I have heard it claimed (and I thought it had already come up before here on WRF, but apparently not) that some people make a distinction between "comPARable" (= "able to be compared", transparently derived from the verb "compare") and "COMparable" (= "similar").
     

    thoroughlyconfused

    Member
    English - Canada
    I don't get it… if the incomparability is a side issue, why would you ever say "These things are incomparable"?

    Probably because I might then be tempted to make a comparison anyway -- as in, "These things in inCOMparable, but nonetheless have many things in common.". (Not exactly fine rhetoric, but people -- including me, I suppose -- do such things all the time. This has the same structure as "No offense, but [something incredibly offensive].".)

    I have heard it claimed (and I thought it had already come up before here on WRF, but apparently not) that some people make a distinction between "comPARable" (= "able to be compared", transparently derived from the verb "compare") and "COMparable" (= "similar").

    I was about to say that, for "similar" I nearly always say "COMparable". But then I wrote a sentence which in my mind disproved that theory completely. So I'll stick to my original theory about strength versus weakness. (I claim that "(in)COMparable" is almost necessarily said quickly and without emphasis (at slowest, "(in-)COM-parable"). However, you can read the syllables of "(in-)com-PAR-able" out as slowly and with as much emphasis as you want ... with the exception of the "able" part.)
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    Hello, Get A Grip! Welcome to the forum!

    I may be mistaken but I believe the older generations use \ ˈkäm-p(ə-)rə-bəl \ while the new generation uses \ kəm-ˈpa-rə-bəl , -ˈper-ə- \.

    By the way, I'm talking about American English.

    You may be right. Note that the Random House Unabridged AE dictionary says both are correct.

    I had an idea. What do you think of this? I think it depends on the use: does it mean "able to be compared" (compare-able) or does it mean "similar"? I would use different pronunciations for the two. For example:

    1. I found the software bug. On line 430 you wrote "if (A>B)". But A and B aren't comparable: they are different data types.

    2. The store won't give you a refund. But you can exchange it for a comparable item.
     

    Delvo

    Senior Member
    American English
    Neither would surprise me, from anywhere. One or the other might be more associated with one country or another, but the two switch back & forth so easily in my own mind that I wouldn't have noticed the pattern. I've always been sure that people do say "cómparable", but unable to recall whether they also say "compárable" because I've always had that in my mind as at least something that seemed like people could say.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I had an idea. What do you think of this? I think it depends on the use: does it mean "able to be compared" (compare-able) or does it mean "similar"? I would use different pronunciations for the two. For example:

    1. I found the software bug. On line 430 you wrote "if (A>B)". But A and B aren't comparable: they are different data types.

    2. The store won't give you a refund. But you can exchange it for a comparable item.
    Thanks, doji. I think I might make the same kind of distinction. Before reading this thread, I would have said firmly that I was a COMparable person, but find that I probably won't be able to use that pronunciation for your first sentence.
     

    avidsuper

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    I notice that when the part of speech of a certian English word changes, very often its pronunciation also changes. The verb "compare", for example, when changed into an adj. "comparable", the vowel "a" (as in "cat" when used as a verb) is changed into "a" (as in "the" when used as a adj.), and the stress shifts to the first syllable. But I've heard in an audiobook recently that a native speaker reads "comparable" without changing the "a" sound, and the stress remains on the "a" sound like in the verb form. So my question is whether both pronunciations are acceptable.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I say COMparable, but I have the feeling that I'm hearing the comPARable pronunciation more and more.
     
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