The logo for Wikimedia's Wiktionary project features a narrow transcription IPA of the term:enter image description here

Adding English syllabification produces [ˈwɪk.ʃənˌrɪ] (WICK-shun-rih), which I find strange. I personally pronounce it as [ˈwɪk.ʃən.ɛːɹˌi] (WICK-shun-air-ee).

I am aware that some dialects allow dropping syllables in fluent speech.

My question is about the last syllable. The ending feels quite wrong; in particular, I remember learning about a specific preclusion against lax vowels word-finally.

Is there a problem here? Is there a dialect that pronounces this word in this way? If so, what is it?

  • Check the UK pronunciation for dictionary
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 22, 2014 at 11:32
  • For the last syllable there is quite a choice for both the "r" and the "i". Some with use a tap/flap symbol or a retroflex symbol for the "r". For the "i" some will use the "short" ɪ, some will use the "normal" one with length mark i:, and some will use that symbol without the length mark due to final -y varying between the other two sounds depending on dialect and idiolect. Also when American English is transcribed in IPA it's usual to not use length marks for any vowels. Nov 22, 2014 at 14:54
  • @hippietrail silly questions: I'm doing a narrow surface transcription ([...]). Is not marking length marks obligatory? Relatedly, in the current answer, why is the poster using lexical transcription (/.../)?
    – imallett
    Nov 22, 2014 at 20:13
  • 1
    I'd hardly call that a 'narrow' transcription of 'wiktionary', it seems pretty phonemic to me. And it's got a word-final lax vowel, surely that's incorrect? Nov 22, 2014 at 22:13
  • @GastonÜmlaut: hence my question. My transcription is, I believe/hope, more "correct" in the sense of being properly narrow.
    – imallett
    Nov 22, 2014 at 22:35

2 Answers 2


Lax vowels generally cannot end words, but there are exceptions. A more complete rule would be that English has no stressed word-final lax vowels. The unstressed vowel /ə/ can come at the end of words like "comma" and, in non-rhotic accents such as Received Pronunciation (the traditional "posh" British accent), "letter". Another unstressed final vowel that is lax in Received Pronunciation is /ɪ/, which in this position corresponds to the sound pronounced /i/ in other varieties of English. I understand that the lax pronunciation is one of the more old-fashioned features of RP, and it isn't widely used in modern British pronunciation (the change from [ɪ] to [i] is referred to as "happy-tensing").

  • Wow, thanks, I'll have to listen more carefully in future for this word-final [ɪ] in RP... I've never been aware of it before (I speak Oz English). Nov 23, 2014 at 3:57

The transcription /ˈdɪkʃ(ə)n(ə)ɹɪ/ is not very good either. In British “received pronunciation” you can say either /ˈdɪkʃənɹɪ/ or /ˈdɪkʃənəɹɪ/, but you cannot say */ˈdɪkʃnɹɪ/ or */ˈdɪkʃnəɹɪ/. The twice bracketed /(ə)/ is misleading.

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