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Hi,
this is a fork of a thread where Jim said:
CalifJimI'm not sure what your opportunities are where you live, but the solution, where possible, is to choose someone whose pronunciation you like and whose judgment you trust, and just pronounce everything the way they do. You can choose someone like a news anchor, but that's not practical when you need to ask about the pronunciation of a particular word. It almost has to be some native speaker you come in contact with daily, preferably someone of the same sex and age as you, that is, as much like you as possible!
So I wanted to show you what happens when I have trouble finding the pronunciation of a word.
Yeah, choosing a model to imitate is a good thing, but... I often have trouble with terms that are not so common. I can't ask someone to read everything for me. But anyway, here are a few examples of "me-getting-in-trouble". I'll refer to some dictionaries as OALD (Oxford), LDOCE (Longman), MW (Merriam-Webster), AH (American Heritage). Listed in the same order they are given.

1 - Basil. I look it up. I get:
OALD = bæzl, beɪzl
LDOCE = beɪzl
MW = bæzl, beɪzl, bæsl, beɪsl
AH = bæzl, beɪzl
Then I have to choose. I choose bæzl. One day I'll hear it, maybe. Only God knows when I'll hear it in context...

2 - Customizable, realizable. Where's the stress?
OALD = realizable
LDOCE = realizable, customizable.
MW = realizable, customizable.
AH = realizable
...and MW is confusing me.

2 - Executable, the noun. Where's the stress and how's it pronounced?
OALD = ɪg'zɛkjətəbl
LDOCE = 'ɛksɪkjutəbl
MW = same as above, but only listed as adjective
AH = same as above, but only listed as adjective
...probably no one knows. I am pronouncing it like the adjective.

4 - Underline. Stress?
OALD = underline
LDOCE = underline
MW = underline, underline
AH = underline, underline
...Wow.

5 - Hydrocarbon. Stress?
OALD = Hydrocarbon
LDOCE = Hydrocarbon
MW = Hydrocarbon
AH = Hydrocarbon
...hmm, MW is looking for trouble.

6 - Hydrocarbon again. How's that O in Hydro pronounced? Oh or Uh?
OALD = Uh
LDOCE = Uh
MW = Oh
AH = Uh
...again that damn MW. But anyway, if it's not pronounced Oh, how come it's Oh in "electromagnetism", or "thermodynamics"? Oh's and Uh's in prefixes give me trouble...

And so on. There you go, this is why I go crazy every time. Those are just a few examples, but I have trouble that way on a daily basis Emotion: smile
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Comments  
You say you are learning American English - if so, I would ignore any pronunciation in a dictionary originating in the UK and stick with the Americans - but of course MW does make it more difficult. Since it seems to be a minority, go with the others!

Basil - in the UK is is ba[as in sad]-zil [The same way that the Christian name is pronounced]
In the US it is more often bay-zil.
A lot of your phonetic symbols for vowels come out as question marks on my computer, so that's not telling me a lot.

It looks to me like M-W has the pronunciations that I, personally, use most, so that's the one I would trust most.

bay-zul (the herb)
bazz-ul (the British name)

REE-a-LIZE-a-bul
CUST-a-MIZE-a-bul

Because of the "Alternate Stress Rule" (ASR), there's often as much stress on REE or CUST as on the IZE syllable. There's no way around this "problem". It's a case of 'whatever comes out as you're speaking'.

ex-a-CUTE-a-bul
UND-er-line

HY-dro-car-bun (By the ASR, CAR also can get a lot of stress.)
In fast speech, the oh can become uh. The way I say it, it's a kind of half-tense O.
I don't think I ever hear it with a fully tense O.

CJ

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Hmmm... Aaaaargh! Looks complicated, lol.

Thanks a lot.
MW always seems to list different pronunciations, but it seems it's the most reliable now. The only one who says "hydrocarbon" with the stress on HY, etc.
And you know, about that oh vs uh, that's interesting... half-tense... could be! I hear a sound between oh and uh when I listen to the clips on MW. Things seems more complicated than I thought...

But...
Executable is ex-a-CUTE-a-bul when it's a name? (like when talking about files). Is it not pronounced like the adjective, EX-a-cute-a-bul?
And MW lists bazz-ul as the pronunciation for the herb...

Ok, this is a mess, but I see there's nothing I can do about it. Thanks Emotion: smile
Things seems more complicated
You say this to an English speaker, and you're going to come out looking like a beginner, no matter how perfect your pronunciation of hydrocarbon! Maybe it's time to rethink your priorities? Emotion: smile

CJ

<<Executable is ex-a-CUTE-a-bul when it's a name? >>

To me it's always ex-a-CUTE-a-bul, no matter what the use.

CJ
Aaaargh! Well, I often make mistakes... sometimes because I think of something while I'm actually writing someting else (ex: "things", but I think of "this", etc.). Often because my English is not good yet. What's interesting is that I might be likely to write "people seems", but I don't think I might write "people is" instead of "people are". I guess it's just a question of S's then.

Anyway...
MW-online only lists executable. I am now using MW to check the pronunciation. You said it looks more reliable... it seems more reliable to me too (for example, it's the only dictionary that shows the first vowel in numerical as a reduced OO sound).
And that reminds me of a question: MW is the only one that says external and exterior with the first EX as in SEX. All the other dictionaries use an IX like in FIX. Is MW right? Of all the most common words that start with EX, MW pronounces only external and exterior with EX, all the others with IX. Looks like those two words are kind of like exceptions...

Emotion: smile
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I wonder if the following T beginning a stressed syllable is the reason.
Nobody's going to notice if you use IX or EX on these. They'll be listening to the meaning, not the pronunciation.

CJ
Hmm...
Too many possible pronunciations, too many things to remember... I think I'd better pick a pronunciation, almost at random, and keep using that until someone tells me I sound odd... Emotion: smile

Thanks, I'll see what I can do...

Emotion: smile
Hi,

CalifJim appears to have written, "It almost has to be some native speaker you come in contact with daily, preferably someone of the same sex and age as you, that is, as much like you as possible!"

Why do you suggest non-native speakers learning English imitate a native speaker the same sex as themselves, Calif? Surely male and female speakers of English speak the same language.
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