Submitted by Hairy Scot on July 2, 2012

Pronouncing “mandatory”

Pet Peeve 2. People pronouncing “mandatory” as “mandaytory”. Just sounds pretentious.


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Pronouncing "mandatory".

Hairy Scott, I agree with you 100 percent! The pronunciation is MAN-di-TOR-ee.
How does anyone get any other pronunciation of this word?

Here in the United States, we have a procession of newscasters, who wish to say
"participate" as PAR-ti-ci-PATE. However, for the first 90 years, or so, of the 20th Century (and earlier), this word was pur-Ti-ci-PATE. Yes, with the emphasis on the second and last syllables.

What we have is a combination of several things:
1. Practically illiterate people who never watched and listened top the great films and TV broadcasts of 1930 - 1980.
2. People who read everything off of the Teleprompters, regardless of what the real pronunciations are, and hence they place the emphasis on the wrong syllables.

Furthermore, "par" is a term in golf that really is pronounced PAR.
"Par" is also a term that is used in accounting and finance. (The "par value" of some kind of a security such as a bond.)

Furthermore, "PAR" is an acronym from high technology with these meanings:
PAR = Perimeter Acquisition Radar
PAR = Phased Array Radar
PAR = Precision Approach Radar

Of couse, when it comes to things like radar, those people on TV have a "WTF is that?" attitude. However, if you are flying in an airliner to an airport where the weather is even moderately inclement, your life can be in the hands of the Precision Approach Radar.

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“Mandaytory” is not in the least pretentious, it is merely wrong. Presumably the error arises when people guess at the pronunciation by extrapolating from that of "mandate" (a homosexual assignation).

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Oh, yes it is pretentious, and the point of view is that some many such people think that they should do things according to their whims, rather than bothering to find out the real way. Furthermore, your idea of "mandate" is a silly slang one. Look at these from a good dictionary:

1.a command or authorization to act in a particular way on a public issue given by the electorate to its representative: The president had a clear mandate to end the war.
2. From the League of Nations, a commission given to a nation to administer the government and affairs of a former Turkish territory or German colony.

Following the defeats of Germany and Turkey during WW I, former possessions of theirs were taken over:
3. By Britain and France in Africa. (Yes, there were German possessions there such as in Cameroon and Tanganika.)
4. By Britain and France in Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan, etc.
5. By Japan in the Central Pacific Ocean.(Yes they were held by Germany from 1898 - about 1916, and by Spain before 1898.)
6. By Australia and Britain in the South Pacific (Papua New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, etc.)


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mandatory |ˈmandəˌtôrē|

I haven't heard anyone say "man day tor i" ... but "man da tor i".

My guess is that anyone saying "man day tor i" is basing it on mandate |ˈmanˌdāt|.

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@D. A. Wood

"many such people think that they should do things according to their whims, rather than bothering to find out the real way"

Well said!
You have crystallised just what is wrong with our language today and why we have so many disagreements over spelling, grammar, pronunciation, etc etc.
Too many people are more interested in expounding their own narrow views than they are about correctness or "the real way".

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@D. A. Wood

100% agreement.
You have both hit the nail on the head.

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It is pronouced man-duh-tor-e.

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This is not pretension, it is just the reasonable, but incorrect, assumption that forms of a word are all pronounced the same. Mandate is a commoner word than mandatory, so the pronunciation of the latter is assimilated to the former.

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Although I'm not sure how reg-u-LAY-tory came about.

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It is really reh-gu-la-tor-ee, with no particulatory emphasis on any syllable that I can perceive. An example of its use: The FCC is the regulatory agency for telecommunications in the United States.
Also, it sounds to me that man-duh-tor-ee does not have particular emphasis on any syllable. Perhaps this is also true for other words that came from French.

In contrast, I have heard French people (in interviews, etc.) say "economic" without any emphasis on the syllables, but in English, it is EC-o-nom-ic.
There are also people from Continental Europe who insist on writing "economy" when what they really mean is "economics".
This is difficult to fathom because of all of the other such words in English that end in "ics", such as aerodynamics, electromagnetics, hydraulics, linguistics, mathematics, mechanics, optics, physics, statics, statistics,... and economics.
So many people clearly do not learn that words in English come in families and what those families are. They must "learn" words one at a time.
German also has words that come in families, and once you learn the families, that is very helpful.

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@Percy - I agree with you about this not having anything to do with pretension. But I think it's fairly easy to see where the regulatory thing came from. In both pairs, mandate / mandatory and regulate / regulatory the first syllable is stressed in both the verb and adjective. But we also have the noun regulation, where the stress is on the third syllable, and no doubt that is affecting how people pronounce regulatory, although it doesn't explain the shift in mandatory, as mandate is stressed on the first syllable, not on the second.

@D.A.W. - Good to see you back on form! I'm not sure where you get MAN-di-TOR-ee from. English words normally only have one main stressed syllable, not two. As far as I and my dictionary are aware, all the stress is on the first syllable, as in this IPA rendering - / 'mændətəri / (note the apostrophe denoting the stress at the beginning). And as the third syllable is unstressed, we don't say TOR, but use the weak schwa sound (uh - in IPA - ə)

Similarly with regulatory: all the stress is on the first syllable. English is definitely not like French, an equal stress language, in this regard. And where I come from (and in my dictionary) economic is stressed on the third syllable, not on the first. Moreover, participate also has only one stressed syllable - the second - / pɑːˈtɪsɪpeɪt /.

Finally, I did a Google Translate of your word family into French - l'aérodynamique, l'électromagnétisme, hydraulique, de la linguistique, les mathématiques, la mécanique, l'optique, la physique, la statique, statistiques, ... et l'économie. - Perhaps it's not really so hard to fathom why they say economy when they mean economics. Their word family doesn't quite coincide with ours.

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@Warsaw Will - I agree reg- u-LAT-ory probably cons from regulation. But don't you think mandate has an equal stress on each syllable rather a stress on than the first?

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I agree that the word "mandate" usually has equal stresses on its two syllables, as unusual at that is in English.

However, it might make a difference depending on whether:
1. Mandate is a noun, or
2. Mandate is a verb.
I emphasize that I really mean "might". You think about it.

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There are many people, including foreigners and not, who do not understand how English "slides" letters from one syllable to another when forming compound words and when adding suffixes and prefixes. From my studies, I know that in German that is never done when forming compound words, and probably not in the other two cases, either.
In English, we take reg-u-late, then drop the "e", the add "ory", do a little bit of shifting, and then get "reg-u-la-tor-ee". Sometimes, a consonant even gets assigned to two different syllables, and we can even go for this: "reg-gu-la-tor-ee", though this is rather uncommon. (In Spanish, they do it all the time.)

In English, "e-lec-tric" becomes "e-lex-tri-cal", "phys-ics" becomes "phys-i-cal", and "ob-serve" becomes "ob-ser-va-tor-ee". That silent "e" disappeared, and then the "a" got glued right onto the "v".

My opinion is that if foreigners cannot manage this when they try to speak English, they they should quit and just stick to whatever their native languages are.

I figured that I would speak German with a horrid American accent. However, when I met some German tourists visiting here and I spoke their language with them, they complimented me on how well I did. It is possible that they were just being polite to me, but I will never know.

An American whom I knew majored in German in college here, but he also studied in Germany for a year. When he asked them how to express his father's occupation on his college and visa forms, they told him that "chemical engineer" was just fine with them. Given my profession, I am fond of "Elektrotecniker", but I think that "electrical engineer" or "Elektroingenieur" would be all right, too.

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In American dictionaries, in the pronunciations, there is often a primary stress marked on one syllable and then a secondary stress marked on another syllable - usually later on in the word. This is difficult to do with this kind of a simple word processor, so in American English, we type MAN-di-TOR-ee, STA-tis-TICS, AS-tro-NAU-tics, EC-o-NOM-ics, and A-pos-TRO-phee.

LOL, here is hard one for you: magnetohydrodynamics.
I count at least four stressed syllables in this one, with the rest being unstressed. Remember that in American English, and in Canadian English, too, "stressed syllables" includes strong stresses and secondary stresses, too.

I gave up on some of these discussions because of argumentative twerps there. I wrote things like "North American English", and then they made all sorts of rude comments. They could not grasp it automatically that North American English means that which is spoken in the United States and Canada, and thus it excludes the English of Belize, Jamaica, Granada, Guyana, Trinidad, the Falkland Islands, and those other places south of here, so they argued about it. As for the language of the Bahamas, is quite similar to the English of Jamaica, Granada, etc., and rather unlike that of Florida.

If you want to compare the spoken English of Ontario and Manitoba with that of Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota -- there isn't any. Our good friends the Canadians smuggled some Americans out of Tehran in 1978 - 79. They just gave the Americans Canadian passports and told everyone that they were Canadians who were going out of the country, and the Iranians were completely fooled. That's North American English!


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@Percy - In British English, I think we stress the first syllable more than the second for both noun and verb, I certainly do, and that's how they're shown in British dictionaries. But I accept that in American dictionaries, the second syllable is also given secondary stress.

I think the answer probably lies more in other comparable word pairs - participate / participation, deviate / deviation etc, where there is a shift in stress between verbs and nouns, although I don't know whether this happens with many -atory adjectives.

I did a check on words ending in -atory, ( They include celebratory, which seems to be stressed on the third syllable in BrE (and which is what I would do), but on the first syllable in AmE. And migratory, which three British dictionaries I checked say can be stressed on either the first or third syllables, although admittedly American dictionaries seem to stick firmly with the first syllable. So perhaps there's a bit of a BrE/AmE element to this.

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse, which is a good source for checking pronunciation lists only one pronunciation of mandatory.

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