Pronunciation of "versatile"?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by catherine1999, Oct 2, 2009.

  1. catherine1999 Senior Member

    Hi everyone, I came across the word "versatile" "volatile" "hostile", I am not sure about their pronunciation. Because two versions are out there.

    One utters "...tle", the other does "...tail". I wonder how you pronounce "tile", and either version will be fine to your native's ears?
  2. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    American style uses /-təl/ although sometimes some Americans might use /-taɪl/ for certain words or certain contexts. Other speakers of English tend to use /-taɪl/. I use /-taɪl/ all the time for mobile, versatile, missile, puerile, etc.

    Your construction is a little strange here:

  3. catherine1999 Senior Member

    I mean if it sounds fine.

    Thank you.
  4. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Many English speakers will be familiar with both versions.
  5. mplsray Senior Member

    The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary identifies the /taɪl/ pronunciation of versatile and volatile as "especially British." The /taɪl/ pronunciation of hostile, by contrast, is given in the /təl/ and /taɪl/ versions with no regional label, while the /saɪl/ pronunciation of missile is identified as "chiefly British."

    This agrees with my experience. None of the words you discussed would, if I heard them pronounced with /taɪl/, surprise me if the speaker was an American, but I would be surprised to find someone speaking what sounded like American English and yet pronouncing missile with /saɪl/.
  6. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    This American has no idea what you are talking about, natkretep.

    I usually pronounce the last syllable of the word "versatile" to rhyme with style, pile, and while. I also find that other Americans most commonly pronounce the word the same way.

    Hostile, more often than not, has a last syllable that rhymes with that of versatile, although the schwa sound is also very common.

    I would say that I more often hear the schwa for the last syllable of volatile -- but the long "i" is also common.
  7. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Thanks, GWB. Yes, I know the situation is complex, and I was trying to give a quick generalisation: my point (as illustrated your examples) is that there is some variation in AmE. In BrE it is uniformly /-taɪl/, with the exception of automobile.
  8. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    I would've made the same generalization as Nat, GWB, but gone a wee bit further: "-tile is 'unusual' in the US; -tle is 'the norm'."
    This is based, as ever, on decades of watching Americans on tv and in films: I'm always surprised when I hear an American say hoss-tile rather than hostle.

    (But then, I've often wondered about 'Hollywood English' ...)
  9. Ann O'Rack Senior Member

    UK English
    Indeed. We'd probably pronounce it "car". :D
  10. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    As was pointed out in another thread a while ago, the short vowel in some versions of AE is an older pronunciation that BE has almost entirely moved away from.
  11. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish

    Although all automobiles are not cars ... (some are trucks, vans ... )

    But at least you have accepted the word "car" instead of "motor"

    Enough joking.

    What I wanted to ask you all: Any Canadians around who still pronounce the mentioned endings the way the British do? As some may remember, this was still quite common some 30 years ago.
  12. G a Senior Member

    Coahuila, Mexico
    American English, Español mexicano
    Seeing as most if not all of these words are from the French, wouldn't the "-tle" pronunciation be at least a little closer to the original "-eel" than "-ail" would be?

    And I have the impression that there actually are a few that we still pronounce "-eel."
  13. mplsray Senior Member

    The only word among versatile, volatile, and hostile which the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary identifies as unambiguously coming from French is volatile. It gives the etymology of versatile as "French or Latin" and the etymology of hostile as "Middle French or Latin." I expect these words were first used in English by scholars, and such people would likely have known Latin and would have had a strong disposition to pronounce the words with the Traditional English pronunciation of Latin--a result of the Great Vowel Shift--in which the i of an ending such as -ile would have been pronounced as /aɪ/.

    The only words which comes readily to mind which follow the French pronunciation are automobile, mentioned previously, and mobile in the sense of the decoration or art form--and the British English dictionaries I consulted about the latter word don't even show that pronunciation.
  14. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    That's definitely a mow-bile (rhymes with bile) for me, MPL:)
  15. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    And me....
  16. neal41 Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA, English
    I pronounce all of these words with schwa in the last syllable. It's the pronunciation that I generally hear.
  17. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, a child's mobile or the mobile (phone) is always pronounced with the diphthong in mile in BrE. <Mock annoyance> I know automobile is not an everyday BrE word - but aren't lots of people members of the Automobile Association (AA) or the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) in the UK?! Someone still needs to pronounce those words.
  18. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    The AA is always pronounced /e[FONT=Arial Unicode MS,code2000,lucida sans unicode]ɪ[/FONT]e[FONT=Arial Unicode MS,code2000,lucida sans unicode]ɪ[/FONT]/; and the RAC is always /[FONT=Arial Unicode MS,code2000,lucida sans unicode]ɑ:re[FONT=Arial Unicode MS,code2000,lucida sans unicode]ɪ[/FONT]s[FONT=Arial Unicode MS,code2000,lucida sans unicode]i:[/FONT]/, Nat. I imagine a lot of folk don't even know what they stand for, so very rarely are the full versions heard.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2009
  19. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Hauts-de-Seine, France
    English (Ireland)
    I'd be comfortable saying either "miss-ile" or "missel", "hos-tile" or "hostle". Indeed, I hear both every day, often in the same sentence. Volatile is also one which could go either way.
    Versatile however would always be said as /-taɪl/.

    Perhaps older pronunciation was conserved in Ireland along with the "newer" one or perhaps it's down to our television being invaded with American shows and films.
  20. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I agree, though I think 'always' should be 'almost always'. But back to the original issue: it is just about possible to find a British context where 'automobile' could need to be pronounced; so if BrE speakers read out the bottom line of the AA webpage ('© The Automobile Association Limited 2009'), they would say -beel rather than -byle, would they not?
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2009
  21. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    Yes, they we I would. Nat, you win that set.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2009
  22. Porteño Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    British English
    That's the first time I've ever heard trucks and vans classified as automobiles. I always thought the overall term was 'motor vehicles'. As regards 'motor', I guess that's rather outmoded now, but was common when I was a lot younger in the UK.
  23. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Often when two-syllable adjectives with one unstressed syllable are set in apposition, the unstressed syllable will gain emphasis.

    "He faced host'l forces all the time."
    "Do you have to be so hos-tile?"
  24. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Or perhaps AmE /aɪl/ derived from Irish /aɪl/?

    Why am I getting the irresistible urge to sing when Irish /aɪlz/ are smiling?:eek:
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2009

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