Is there any rule for pronouncing words beginning with “re-”?

It’s hard for me to guess how to pronounce words beginning with re- correctly.

Sometimes it is /rɛ/ as in reference, but sometimes it is /ri/ as in report.

Is there any rule about this?

Answer

Rule: Use a Dictionary

Yes, there is a rule, and that rule is that you must look them up in a dictionary if you are not a native speaker.

That’s because words beginning with re- in English can, depending on the word, be pronounced with any of eight different vowels:

  1. /ra/
  2. /rɑ̃/
  3. /rɒ/
  4. /re/
  5. /rə/
  6. /rɛ/
  7. /ri/
  8. /rɪ/

The last three or four at the end of that list tend to be for native words, while the ones at the beginning tend to be for unassimilated imports.

But in diphthongs like reindeer or reynard — let alone reiter or rearward — all bets are off.


Examples

Here’s an alphabetized sample list, with pronunciation following:

  • readable (adj.) /ˈriːdəb(ə)l/
  • ready (v.) /ˈrɛdɪ/
  • rearward (adv.) /ˈrɪɚwɚd/
  • reasonable (adj.) /ˈriːz(ə)nəb(ə)l/
  • rebel (adj.) /ˈrɛbəl/
  • rebel (v.) /rɪˈbɛl/
  • rebuff (v.) /riːˈbʌf/
  • rebuff (v.) /rɪˈbʌf/
  • recapture (v.) /riːˈkæptjʊə(r)/
  • recherché (adj.) /rəʃɛrʃe/
  • recollet (v.) /rekɔle/
  • recueillement (n.) /rəkœjmɑ̃/
  • redact (v.) /rɪˈdækt/
  • redolence (n.) /ˈrɛdələns/
  • redondilla (n.) /redonˈdiʎa/
  • redress (v.¹) /rɪˈdrɛs/
  • redress (v.²) /riːˈdrɛs/
  • refectory (n.) /rɪˈfɛktərɪ/
  • refect (v.) /rɪˈfɛkt/
  • regime (n.) /reɪˈʒiːm/
  • regiment (n.) /ˈrɛdʒɪmənt/
  • reign (n.) /reɪn/
  • reindeer (n.) /ˈreɪndɪɚ/
  • reis (n. pl.) /reɪs/
  • reis (n.) /raɪs/
  • reiter (n.) /ˈraɪtɚ/
  • relevé (n.) /rələve/
  • remake (n.) /ˈriːmeɪk/
  • remake (v.) /riːˈmeɪk/
  • remarque (n.) /rəmark/
  • remboîtage (n.) /rɑ̃bwataʒ/
  • remise (n.) /rəmiz/
  • remoulade (n.) /remulad/
  • remplaçant (n.) /rɑ̃plasɑ̃/
  • rendezvous (n.) /ˈrɒndɪvuː/, /ˈrandəvu/, /rɑ̃devu/
  • res (gen.) /reɪz/
  • resolve (n.) /rɪˈzɒlv/
  • resounding (ppl. a.) /rɪˈzaʊndɪŋ/
  • resurrect (v.) /rɛzəˈrɛkt/
  • retrieval (v.) /rɪˈtriːvəl/
  • reunion (n.) /riːˈjuːnɪən/
  • revolutionize (v.) /rɛvəˈl(j)uːʃənaɪz/
  • revisit (v.) /riːˈvɪzɪt/
  • reynard (n.) /ˈreɪnɚd/
  • rez-de-chaussée (n.) /redʃose/

And here grouped by pronunciation:

/ra/

  • reis (n.) /raɪs/
  • reiter (n.) /ˈraɪtɚ/
  • rendezvous (n.) /ˈrɒndɪvuː/, /ˈrandəvu/, /rɑ̃devu/

/rɑ̃/

  • remboîtage (n.) /rɑ̃bwataʒ/
  • remplaçant (n.) /rɑ̃plasɑ̃/
  • rendezvous (n.) /ˈrɒndɪvuː/, /ˈrandəvu/, /rɑ̃devu/

/rɒ/

  • rendezvous (n.) /ˈrɒndɪvuː/, /ˈrandəvu/, /rɑ̃devu/

/re/

  • recollet (v.) /rekɔle/
  • redondilla (n.) /redonˈdiʎa/
  • regime (n.) /reɪˈʒiːm/
  • reign (n.) /reɪn/
  • reindeer (n.) /ˈreɪndɪɚ/
  • reis (n. pl.) /reɪs/
  • remoulade (n.) /remulad/
  • res (gen.) /reɪz/
  • reynard (n.) /ˈreɪnɚd/
  • rez-de-chaussée (n.) /redʃose/

/rə/

  • recherché (adj.) /rəʃɛrʃe/
  • recueillement (n.) /rəkœjmɑ̃/
  • relevé (n.) /rələve/
  • remarque (n.) /rəmark/
  • remise (n.) /rəmiz/

/rɛ/

  • ready (v.) /ˈrɛdɪ/
  • rebel (adj.) /ˈrɛbəl/
  • redolence (n.) /ˈrɛdələns/
  • regiment (n.) /ˈrɛdʒɪmənt/
  • resurrect (v.) /rɛzəˈrɛkt/
  • revolutionize (v.) /rɛvəˈl(j)uːʃənaɪz/

/ri/

  • readable (adj.) /ˈriːdəb(ə)l/
  • reasonable (adj.) /ˈriːz(ə)nəb(ə)l/
  • rebuff (v.) /riːˈbʌf/
  • recapture (v.) /riːˈkæptjʊɚ/
  • redress (v.²) /riːˈdrɛs/
  • remake (n.) /ˈriːmeɪk/
  • remake (v.) /riːˈmeɪk/
  • reunion (n.) /riːˈjuːnɪən/
  • revisit (v.) /riːˈvɪzɪt/

/rɪ/

  • rearward (adv.) /ˈrɪɚwɚd/
  • rebel (v.) /rɪˈbɛl/
  • rebuff (v.) /rɪˈbʌf/
  • redact (v.) /rɪˈdækt/
  • redress (v.¹) /rɪˈdrɛs/
  • refect (v.) /rɪˈfɛkt/
  • refectory (n.) /rɪˈfɛktərɪ/
  • resolve (n.) /rɪˈzɒlv/
  • resounding (ppl. a.) /rɪˈzaʊndɪŋ/
  • retrieval (v.) /rɪˈtriːvəl/

Attribution
Source : Link , Question Author : CyberGuy , Answer Author : tchrist

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