Beeminder Forum

How do you pronounce "akrasia"?

I was explaining something about Beeminder to my 8yo son and realized I did not actually know how to pronounce the word “akrasia”. I had to look it up and found that according to the OED there are two pronunciations in common usage. (Incidentally, both are different from the way you would pronounce it in ancient Greek.) So I am curious to know how others around here pronounce it.

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In German it is pronounced following the usual rules of the language: [aˈkrasja]

In regards to English, I found three examples (No IPA, just audio):

  • US turning the “s” into a “sh”
  • UK #1 leaving the “s” an “s”
  • UK #2 which is labeled as Australian but it’s Allain de Botton who is a swiss-born British philosopher

How it sounded in ancient Greek however is very much impossible to say not only because we obviously don’t have voice recordings from that time but even more important is that the language was so widely used it sounded different in every place and the language changed over time in pronunciation. E.g. there was the Byzantium and the Mycenaean flavour together with many dialects and it changed roughly every 200 years.
Source (DE).

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uh-KRAY-zhuh – rhymes with Asia.

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For what it’s worth, the modern Greek equivalent word is “akratia” , but it’s main current use is in regards to lack of control of one’s bodily functions (due to old age) :smiley:
In terms of willpower, the opposite εγκρατεια word is being used.

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For what it’s worth #2 , a modern Greek pronounces this with a s-EE-uh, not a “Z” :slight_smile:

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@mary tells me that philosophers say AH-kruh-SEE-uh

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Australian here. When I first came across the word – in “print” via Beeminder, I’m guessing, and not having heard it used – my instinct was to pronounce it:
/əˈkrɑːziə/ [uh-KRAH-zee-uh]
My rationale being something like: word from European source so the “safe” option is to use pure vowels and avoid diphthongs (such as the sounds you get with AY and EYE). Even if incorrect, it will sound plausible.

I’ve since learned that, while this pronunciation is not unknown (and slight variations on it are standard among speakers of European languages such as German), among English speakers, using a diphthong on the second syllable is more common, effectively an “anglicised” pronunciation:
/əˈkreɪziə/ [uh-KRAY-zee-uh]

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Nope. I said Philosophers of history who know ancient Greek say it that way.
(Though, I’m not sure that’s how I’d phonetically spell the second syllable of what I pronounced, but to be honest, spelling something out phonetically has always been a little unintuitive to me.)

Lots of other philosophers say it the other way.

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Ah, sounds like the equivalent of an English speaker pronouncing, say, “bratwurst” as BRAHT-VOOWSHT because they happen to also speak German.

This makes me more sure that the standard English pronunciation is uh-KRAY-zhuh, rhymes with Malaysia.

Ahem.

In the UK I think most would pronounce it a-KRAY-zee-a (the 'a’s there being schwas probably, so /əˈkreɪziə/ – thanks @aurora!), not a-KRAY-zhuh which does sound like the US pronunciation I’d expect.

But judging by the recent (internet-enhanced) slew rate of UK English towards US, maybe not for long (I mostly notice word and phrase choices, but I heard “router” pronounced “rauter” by a Brit for the first time here recently – here overwhelming pronunciation is still “rooter”, unless you’re talking about the machine tool).

In my neck of the woods it’s “rowter” for both meanings. But that’s possibly less the result of a skewing towards US English and more a desire to avoid sounding offensive, given our colloquial use of the word “root” :wink:

It appears @dreev is more or less correct for US pronunciation (with the “zh” sound, but with two elided syllables at the end rather than one), while @halfplane and I are describing the British/Australian English pronunciation. These two links from Lexico draw on the Oxford Dictionary and include IPA plus recordings:
akrasia (US Dictionary)
akrasia (British)
Although, interestingly, the British entry includes a second variant that I don’t think anyone has suggested in this thread so far: with the second syllable using [a] (rhymes with cat) and the third syllable beginning with a voiceless sibilant [s] rather than voiced [z]

That second one from the British page would be the pronunciation in a lot of places in the North of England I think (though that recording doesn’t sound like a northern accent to me). As a southerner I’d better acknowledge that there very definitely isn’t just one northern accent (in fact historically I believe there have been big variations in some places almost from street to street, though much less so now I’m sure).

The first one is how I’d pronounce it (I’ve never used it in conversation!).

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I believe (when I wrote rauter and you wrote rowter) we’re both talking about the second pronunciation here:

As compared to UK pronunciation (sense 2):

(great website thanks @aurora )

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Just here for a joke reply, sorry.

But if I learned anything about speaking English as a second language, I am for sure pronouncing it wrong.

Another website you might like (although it was surprisingly unhelpful for the original question) is the crowd-sourced pronunciation website forvo.com

I love that you can (usually) choose to hear from multiple pronunciations and the speaker’s native language is identified. Great for looking at regional variations, etc. And they include proper names –which I’ve found very useful since my profession involves a lot of performing and creative artists from all around the world. Another nice feature is the option of requesting pronunciations for particular words, names or phrases if they’re not already listed. Oh, and there’s an app.

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I grew up in the north (though I’m from South Wales and don’t let anyone forget it :grin:) and this is true. There are distinct accents all over Yorkshire, and a good listener can hear the differences between Leeds, Wakefield, Batley, Barnsley, Sheffield, etc, etc.

I have a hybrid accent because I have Welsh parents who mostly speak in a received pronunciation accent, my first school was Wakefield, my second school was Batley*, and then I went to university in Wales. When I’m annoyed I sound extremely Wakefieldian, normally I sound RP, and then if I’m very excited you might hear the Welsh sing-song (think Valleys – Caerphilly-ish, not as far as Rhymney). I use Yorkshire dialect (thees and thous included) fairly commonly, but then I typically pronounce any individual word you could name in a Welsh way.

:man_shrugging: Accents.

In any case, I wouldn’t expect someone in Yorkshire to use the “əˈkrasɪə/” pronunciation, but I’ve never asked anyone either. I certainly use /əˈkreɪzɪə/.

*Addendum: I would only sound like I’m from Batley if I was speaking to someone I went to school with, but then I would also only have four letter words to say to any of them.

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“I can place any man within six miles. I can place him within two miles in London. Sometimes within two streets.”

– Henry Higgins in Shaw’s Pygmalion.

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