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A question on the word "Nuclear" in English
Thread poster: Peters Trans

Peters Trans
France
Local time: 22:31
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jan 31, 2006

Hi folks,

Sorry for this question which may seem basic, but there is an on-going argument about how many syllables the word "nuclear" has in English, some say 2 others 3, and I'm starting to doubt it.
Thanks for helping me clear up this argument.


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Sara Freitas
France
Local time: 22:31
French to English
Three for me Jan 31, 2006

nu'-cle-ar

Also three for George W. Bush

nu'-kew-lur



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Kevin Kelly  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:31
Member (2005)
Russian to English
+ ...
You mean "nucular" don't you? :-) Jan 31, 2006

One of my pet peeves is the rampant mispronunciation of this word, even by nuclear engineers. The word is NUCLEAR, folks, no vowel sound between the c and l!!

Whether pronounced correctly or not, the word still contains three syllables. NOO-KLEE-ER or NOO-KYU-LER.

My not-so-humble opinion...


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Peters Trans
France
Local time: 22:31
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
3 for Bush! Jan 31, 2006

Thanks for your reply. That's how the argument actually started, talking about Bush!

So my doubt is does "clear" have 1 or 2 syllables. When there are two vowels together in a syllable are we not supposed to delete the second one thus making it a single syllable!???? I'm forgetting all these basics a learned a school, quite some years ago now.


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Peters Trans
France
Local time: 22:31
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
ok so 3 is winning so far... Jan 31, 2006

Kevin Kelly wrote:

One of my pet peeves is the rampant mispronunciation of this word, even by nuclear engineers. The word is NUCLEAR, folks, no vowel sound between the c and l!!

Whether pronounced correctly or not, the word still contains three syllables. NOO-KLEE-ER or NOO-KYU-LER.

My not-so-humble opinion...


Ok Kevin, maybe you're convincing me now. I did a bit of research on the internet and actually came accross varios sites regarding mispronunciation of English words by Americans (sorry!) and this was one of them... but we can argue, incorrect for who?


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Alfredo Tutino  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:31
English to Italian
+ ...
correct / incorrect... Jan 31, 2006

[quote]Peter's Trans. wrote:

but we can argue, incorrect for who?



well, there might be at least a reason to say that the 3-syllabe pronuciation is "more correct": it highlight its derivation from "nucleus" - not from "nuke"


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Fiona Gonçalves  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 21:31
Member
Portuguese to English
+ ...
(il)logical English Jan 31, 2006

Peter's Trans. wrote:

Thanks for your reply. That's how the argument actually started, talking about Bush!

So my doubt is does "clear" have 1 or 2 syllables. When there are two vowels together in a syllable are we not supposed to delete the second one thus making it a single syllable!???? I'm forgetting all these basics a learned a school, quite some years ago now.


Even if you do remember the basics (I can't either!) there's always at least one exception to every rule. How about the word "period", for example? That's got 2 vowels together, but (I reckon) 3 syllables. I vote for 3 in nuclear, but for me the first one is "nyu" not "noo". (Where I come from "noo" means "now"!)


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Daniel Bird  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:31
German to English
Three syllables... Jan 31, 2006

...unless you've misinterpreted the meaning of the -clear portion in which case you might believe nuclear to have only two syllables.
Nucle- clearly two syllables (cf. nucleus), one semantic element
-ar one syllable, another semantic element
DB
"New clear" - what could be further from the truth..?


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Michele Johnson  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:31
German to English
+ ...
not "nu" + "clear" but adjective form of nucleus/nuclei (definitely 3 syllables) Jan 31, 2006

Peter's Trans. wrote:
...
So my doubt is does "clear" have 1 or 2 syllables. When there are two vowels together in a syllable are we not supposed to delete the second one thus making it a single syllable!???? I'm forgetting all these basics a learned a school, quite some years ago now.



Yes, of course "clear" alone has one syllable ("a clear day"), but we're not talking about "nu" + "clear", rather a derivative of "nucleus" or "nuclei", i.e. an adjective form of a word by adding "-ar", like circle/circular, spectacle/spectacular, specula/specular, molecule/molecular, vasculum/vascular, etc.


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Peters Trans
France
Local time: 22:31
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Jan 31, 2006

Thanks to all for your responses, I'm really enjoying reading them and learning a bit at the same time.

I'd say the concensus is 3 syllables, so I can go back to where this original discussion is and use the expert info given by fellow proz members to back up my arguments.


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 23:31
Turkish to English
+ ...
Sorry to disagree but Jan 31, 2006

Sorry to disagree with the consensus view, but at least the way I pronounce this word in normal rapid speech the vowel in the
'-clear' part of the word is a dipthong that rhymes with the vowel in 'ear', so I only use two syllables. None of the dictionaries I have referred to backs me up, but I know what I say and have a good grounding in phonetics.


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Sebaylias
English
In reality Feb 21, 2006

The pronunciation (n´ky-lr), which is strongly objected to by many usage writers and others of their ilk, is an example of how a familiar phonological pattern can influence an unfamiliar one. The usual pronunciation of the final two syllables of this word is (-kl-r), but this sequence of sounds is rare in English. Much more common is the similar sequence (-ky-lr), which occurs in words like particular, circular, spectacular, and in many scientific words like molecular, ocular, and vascular. You may want to avoid this pronunciation despite the fact that it has been used in the recent past by some prominent speakers including Presidents Eisenhower and Carter. Note that the stigmatized variant can also occur in the word nucleus.

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