[TUHS] Unix, eunuchs?

John Cowan cowan at ccil.org
Mon Jun 5 23:49:06 AEST 2006

Andrzej Popielewicz scripsit:

> eunuch is "'yunek"
> unit is "'yunet"
> unique is "yu'nek,yu'nik"
> You can notice, that unix , more similar to unit or unique will be 
> pronounced differently(?).

English is a vowel-reduction language, like Russian or Portuguese;
vowels in unstressed syllables tend to be reduced either to schwa or to
lax short i.  Because the anglophone countries broke up politically before
language standardization could take effect, there is no single standard
pronunciation worldwide, nor any fixed hierarchy of standards.

Therefore, one must consider both dialects in which the unstressed short
i and the unstressed schwa both become schwa, and ones where they do not.
In the former dialects, "Unix" and "eunuchs" sound exactly alike; in
the latter dialects, there is a small difference.

(As Tim Bradshaw notes, "unique" is stressed on the second syllable,
so there is no vowel reduction on that syllable.)

> I suspect , that if the pronounciation were be same many people would 
> have noticed it before.

I am quite certain that many people have.  It was perfectly obvious to me
the first time I saw the word "Unix" written, and that was in 1976 or so.

> It is clear , that opinion of American/English linguistic/language 
> specialist would be neccesarry.

I am not a specialist, but I am a generalist with a good understanding
of the domain.

John Cowan  cowan at ccil.org  http://ccil.org/~cowan
Female celebrity stalker, on a hot morning in Cairo:
"Imagine, Colonel Lawrence, ninety-two already!"
El Auruns's reply:  "Many happy returns of the day!"

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