I am somewhat confused about the proper British pronunciation of words like "ordinarily", "temporarily", and "momentarily".

As I understand it, in British pronunciation the adjectives "ordinary", "temporary", and "momentary" all have a silent "a", whereas Americans not only pronounce the "a", but have a secondary stress on that letter.
But what happens when you turn the adjectives into adverbs? According to my dictionary, the proper British pronunciation is still to have a silent "a" in "ordinarily", "temporarily", and "momentarily" and pronounce them all with the stress on the first syllable. However, my feeling is that many British speakers use the American pronunciation and stress the "a" in these words.
What is common and what is considered correct British?

Claus
1 2
I am somewhat confused about the proper British pronunciation of words like "ordinarily", "temporarily", and "momentarily". As I understand it, ... use the American pronunciation and stress the "a" in these words. What is common and what is considered correct British?

The first thing to state is that the British are amazingly (and probably excessively) tolerant of Americans and American pronunciation. If they ever affect not to understand, they are making a point about cultural imperialism -)
It is not so much that the "a" is silent in "ordinary", "temporary", and "momentary" as that it is so unstressed as to be practically a schwa. (The preceding vowel is also unstressed.) So, in "ordinarily", "temporarily", and "momentarily", it is the "i" that is silent in the correct British pronunciation. The preceding vowel is often unstressed as well: "ord'n'r'ly". But you also hear all vowels pronounced: "ordin-arilly".
John Briggs
I am somewhat confused about the proper British pronunciation of words like "ordinarily", "temporarily", and "momentarily". As I understand it, ... use the American pronunciation and stress the "a" in these words. What is common and what is considered correct British?

I think the concept of 'proper British pronunciation' died a long time ago, and it seems that nowadays anything goes. That said, your three examples are not exactly parallel. I pronounce the first adjective with three syllables, the second with four and the third with something in between depending on the context; the word doesn't sound the same in "a momentary lapse" and "the lapse was momentary." The accent is on the first syllable in every case. So I can't agree with your understanding. On the other hand, I pronounce all the adverbs with stress on the 'a'. I find it very uncomfortable trying to say 'temporarily' without pronouncing the 'a'.

Noel
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word doesn't sound the same in "a momentary lapse" and "the lapse was momentary."

I wonder if leftpondians use "momentary" differently to we Brits? The one that always grates with me is "momentarily" being used to mean "in a short time from now" rather than "for a brief duration": "Please fasten your seatbelts, we will be landing momentarily." But I want to land and stay landed! :-)
Cheers
Tony

Tony Mountifield
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I am somewhat confused about the proper British pronunciation of words like "ordinarily", "temporarily", and "momentarily". As I understand it, ... all have a silent "a", whereas Americans not only pronounce the "a", but have a secondary stress on that letter.

Well this English speaker usually pronounces the 'a' in the adjectives, but without emphasis on it.
But I think it should always be pronounced in the adverbs, simply because it is almost impossible to pronounce it otherwise.

Charles H. Lindsey At Home, doing my own thing Tel: +44 161 436 6131 Fax: +44 161 436 6133 Web: http://www.cs.man.ac.uk/~chl Email: (Email Removed) Snail: 5 Clerewood Ave, CHEADLE, SK8 3JU, U.K. PGP: 2C15F1A9 Fingerprint: 73 6D C2 51 93 A0 01 E7 65 E8 64 7E 14 A4 AB A5
word doesn't sound the same in "a momentary lapse" and "the lapse was momentary."

I wonder if leftpondians use "momentary" differently to we Brits? The one that always grates with me is "momentarily" being ... brief duration": "Please fasten your seatbelts, we will be landing momentarily." But I want to land and stay landed! :-)

The adverb, yes:
OED (Draft revision June 2008):
momentarily, adv.

1. For a moment; for a very short time, fleetingly.
2. At the moment; instantly. /Now rare./
3. At every moment; moment by moment. /Now rare./
4. Chiefly /N. Amer./ At any moment; in a moment, soon.

The American usage makes me stop and think, too. I'm glad the OED gives it lowest priority.
I won't comment on your first sentence Emotion: wink

Noel
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I am somewhat confused about the proper British pronunciation of words like "ordinarily", "temporarily", and "momentarily". As I understand it, ... American pronunciation and stress the "a" in these words. What is common and what is considered correct British? Claus[/nq]I do not think either the Brits or those in the U.S. omit any vowel sound in these words completely. In other words, there are no silent syllables in these words.Theoretically, every syllable in a word is uttered with a 'stress level' different from that of the other syllables in the same word. But for practical considerations, we could say, a word with four syllables or more probably has a syllable with a primary stress and another with a secondary stress.The syllable that is stressed the most, naturally, is the one that takes the primary stress, and the one that is uttered with the second highest degree of stress (force of utterance) is the one that takes the secondary stress.

When a particular syllable takes a primary stress, chances are that the vowel in the syllable is pronounced with a longer time duration than the vowels in the other syllables. This is what you might perhaps have mistaken as the 'silencing' of a vowel. In 'or-di- na-ri-ly', the third syllable 'na' takes the primary stress, the first syllable 'or', the secondary. In 'tem-po-ra-ri-ly' the third syllable 'ra' takes the primary stress and first syllable 'tem', the secondary.

In 'mo-men-ta-ri-ly' too the third syllable takes the primary stress and the first syllable, the third. This pattern does seem repetitive, but watch out for the pitfalls of phonetics if you are not a native speaker of English because you are likely to come across exceptions to this pattern in words commonly used as adjectives.
I do not think either the Brits or those in the U.S. omit any vowel sound in these words completely. ... speaker of English because you are likely to come across exceptions to this pattern in words commonly used as adjectives.

No! No! No!
You have got your primary and secondary enphases exactly back-to-front in all three of those examples, which clearly marks you out as a Leftpondian.

No speaker of British English would ever emphasize them that way round, and I think that is what the OP was really enquiring about.

Charles H. Lindsey At Home, doing my own thing Tel: +44 161 436 6131 Fax: +44 161 436 6133 Web: http://www.cs.man.ac.uk/~chl Email: (Email Removed) Snail: 5 Clerewood Ave, CHEADLE, SK8 3JU, U.K. PGP: 2C15F1A9 Fingerprint: 73 6D C2 51 93 A0 01 E7 65 E8 64 7E 14 A4 AB A5
I do not think either the Brits or those in ... exceptions to this pattern in words commonly used as adjectives.

No! No! No! You have got your primary and secondary enphases exactly back-to-front in all three of those examples, which ... English would ever emphasize them that way round, and I think that is what the OP was really enquiring about.

Whatever about standard Received Pronunciation, it is nevertheless the case that many speakers of English resident in Britain do use this pronunciation.
Regards, Einde O'Callaghan
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