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TWTS: Are all pronunciations created equal?

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One of the hallmarks of our language is variation in pronunciation. There’s a lot, and we don’t judge most of it. However, there is a relatively small percentage that we do judge.

Recently, Professor Anne Curzan heard a pronunciation of “integral” that she hadn’t heard before. In fact, she had several different meetings in the same week where multiple people were using it.

The pronunciation Curzan and plenty of others use is “IN-te-gral,” with the emphasis on the first syllable. At these meetings though, people were saying “in-TEH-gral,” with the emphasis on the second syllable.

After checking multiple standard dictionaries, Curzan found that both pronunciations are considered standard. “I think that’s a really important point, the fact that we can tolerate and accept multiple pronunciations as standard,” said Curzan.

However, some words have one pronunciation that’s considered correct and one that’s highly stigmatized. To hear more about that, listen to the audio above.

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Rebecca Kruth is the host of All Things Considered at Michigan Public. She also co-hosts Michigan Public's weekly language podcast That’s What They Say with English professor Anne Curzan.
Anne Curzan is the Geneva Smitherman Collegiate Professor of English and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan. She also holds faculty appointments in the Department of Linguistics and the School of Education.