Does ''oil'' have one syllable or two syllables?

Co   Tuesday, December 21, 2004, 00:57 GMT
Does the word ''oil'' have one syllable or two syllables? Is it [oil] or
[oi-..l]. L. Craig schoonmaker says that it's a two-syllable word
[oi-..l] and even says that it's impossible to pronounce it as a one syllable word. He says it has to be pronounced as a two-syllable word [oi-..l] and that to pronounce it [oil] is not possible. He says a similar thing about the word ''tile''. He says that ''tile'' has to be pronounce as a two-syllable word [tai-..l] and that to pronounce it as a one-syllable word [tail] is not possible.

Is he right or wrong? Are ''oil'' and ''tile'' one-syllable words or two-syllables words?
Co   Tuesday, December 21, 2004, 01:09 GMT
He suggests respelling ''oil'' and ''tile'' as ''oiyal'' and ''tieyal''.
Brennus   Tuesday, December 21, 2004, 05:52 GMT

"Oil" is officially a one syllable word since Oi is a diphthong and not two separate vowels. Its anscestor was Latin Oleum where Ol- was definitely one syllable.

Some linguists might discern a small schwa sound between the oi and the l and write it in as a small upside down e (the schwa symbol) in the International Phonetic Script. This would, in effect, make it a two syllable word.

Nevertheless, most English teachers seem to have little background in linguistics and would probably be irritated by the suggestion that 'oil' can be a two syllable word.
Brennus   Tuesday, December 21, 2004, 05:56 GMT
errata: anscestor should read ancestor
D   Tuesday, December 21, 2004, 18:24 GMT
In the U.S., oil is usually pronounced as two syllables in the Northeast.
A one-syllable version is common in the South. The m-w online
dictionary (which reflects American pronunciation)
shows an optional schwa in the pronunciation, and
the sound clip there is of the two-syllable pronunciation.

The second syllable in oil is just like the second syllable that
sometimes occurs in 'hour' amd 'towel'.
Co   Wednesday, December 22, 2004, 20:33 GMT
D, but in the South ''oil'' is pronounced the same way as ''all'' not pronounced [oil].

''towel'' is a two-syllable word because otherwise it would be spelled ''towl''.
D   Friday, December 24, 2004, 01:37 GMT

I believe that in the South the following are true of some speakers:
1) They pronounce oil as one syllable.
2) They use the same sound they do for every other oi diphthong
(boil, foil, etc).
3) The first vowel sound they use for this dipthong is different
than the one used in the north, which causes northerners to think
that the southern pronunciation of oil sounds like 'all' But the words
'all' and 'oil' do not sound the same when spoken with the Southern
accents I am familiar with.

Personally, I do not pronounce oil as one syllable. I add a schwa
between the oi diphthong and the ell.
Co   Friday, December 24, 2004, 02:13 GMT
All of these words sound this way when I hear Southerners say them,

D   Friday, December 24, 2004, 02:35 GMT
Co: If you have a southerner handy, have them say the
pairs you just posted, one word and then the other
in each pair. You ought to hear a differnece between the
southerner's 'boil' and 'ball' -- they are pronounced differently
by the speakers I am familiar with.

I do agree that, if a northerner tries to speak with this
accent, they wil say something like 'ball' for 'boil' but that's
a different story. It's similar to the problem that U.S. speakers
have imitating the Candian dipththong in 'house'. Because
the Canadians use a different vowel for the first half of this
dipthong, it has an unrecognizable strangeness to the U.S. ear.
The diphthong that some southern speakers put in 'boil' suffers
from the same problem.
Co   Friday, December 24, 2004, 02:39 GMT
I was though once told that some Southerners (a small minority of them probably) pronounce ''ball'' and ''boil'' the same way.
George   Friday, December 24, 2004, 02:44 GMT
D, It's impossible to pronounce ''boil'' with one syllable without it sounding the same as ''ball''. That's why to transcribe words like ''oil'', ''boil'', ''foil'', ''soil'', ''spoil'', ''roil'', ''toil'' etc. as one-syllable words is very inaccurate and very misleading.