Real vs. reel

Josh Lalonde   Fri Mar 02, 2007 4:19 am GMT
For me these are pronounced the same, but the OED has different pronunciations. Anyone here pronounce them differently?
Guest   Fri Mar 02, 2007 4:31 am GMT
Same in all dialects of North American English as far as I know.
Sho   Fri Mar 02, 2007 5:16 am GMT
I've heard some variations in the pronunciation of the word "real".

/ri:l/ - This is the one I use most often.
/ri:@l/ - Some people pronounce it as a bisyllabic word.
/rI@l/ - More common in non-rhotic dialects, uses the "ear" diphthong without an r sound.

If one pronounces "real" as /ri:l/ or something similar, it should be the same or very similar to "reel".
02IC   Fri Mar 02, 2007 12:47 pm GMT
The OED staff need to get out more.

To all but the most pedantic, and for all practical purposes, the words "real" and "reel" are homophonous.
Doug Pebb   Fri Mar 02, 2007 12:57 pm GMT
"real" and "reel" are different for me. "real" is /rI:l/ (that is, with the "ear" sound) while "reel" is /ri:l/.
Doug Pebb   Fri Mar 02, 2007 1:08 pm GMT
You guys pronounce them the same for reel?
mr.bemused   Fri Mar 02, 2007 1:21 pm GMT
As a non-native speaker, that's some news for me like they are homophones. I pronounce them differently as all my countrymen do. It was shocking to know that some native speakers pronounce them the same.
02IH   Fri Mar 02, 2007 1:47 pm GMT
"It was shocking to know that some native speakers pronounce them the same."


You obviously need to get out more too!
Lazar   Fri Mar 02, 2007 10:33 pm GMT
I pronounce "real" and "reel" the same, as ["r\i5].

From what I can gather, the "original" pronunciation would have been [r\i.@5], treating the adjectival suffix "-al" as a separate syllable.

In North American English, this has tended to collapse into monosyllabic ["r\i5], which is the pronunciation that Josh Lalonde and I both use.

In RP, "real" was grouped together with words like "idea" and "theater", in which historical [i.@] was smoothed into ["I@], the vowel sound used in RP "ear". So the RP pronunciation of "real" is [r\I@5], which contrasts with "reel" [r\i5]. However, I've read that many British people have merged "real" and "reel".
Andy   Fri Mar 02, 2007 10:35 pm GMT
I'm a native and I say the two words the same.

I'm a native. I wish I hadn't typed that. Now I have visions of some explorer paddling up the River Medway to see the primitive, polyester-clad natives of Chatham. Quick nurse, bring me my medication!.
Gabriel   Fri Mar 02, 2007 10:47 pm GMT
According to LPD's opinion poll:

55% of respondents in Britain (1998) prefer /rI@l/
45% prefer /ri:@l/ or /ri:l/

What's interesting is that, for BrE at least, there is a possibility (preferred by 19% of respondents) of /rE@li/ for "really".
Mxsmanic   Sat Mar 03, 2007 2:40 am GMT
/rE@li/ for "really" is substandard.