Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The wrong hypo + thesis

In last week's seminar one of my young professionals pronounced the word hypothesis as /ˌhaɪpəʊˈθiːsɪs/. Nice try and I'm shore everyone will have understood her, but it's pronounced /haɪˈpɒθəsɪs/.

Here are some words with their main stress on the 1st syllable - /ˈhaɪpə(ʊ)-/:
  • hypocaust
  • hyponym
  • hypostyle
  • hypotaxis
Next, words with the stress pattern /haɪˈpɒ-/:
  • hyponymy
  • hypostasis
  • hypotenuse
  • hypothecate
  • hypothesise
  • hypothesis
  • hypoxia
Some words have a secondary (or no) stress on the 1st syllable -  haɪpə(ʊ)-/:
  • hypochondria(c)
  • hypodermic
  • hypogeal
  • hypotension
  • hypothermal
  • hypothetic(al)
Then, we encounter /ˈhɪpə-/ as in
  • hypocrite
Or  /ˌhɪpə-/ with secondary or no stress in
  • hypocritical
And, last but not least (and with thanks to Alex), {hypo-} in GB and GA is pronounced /hɪˈpɒ-/ and  /hɪˈpɑː-/ respectively in
  • hypocrisy
  • hypobole
The combining form (also called neo-classical prefix) {hypo-} is Greek in origin: ὑπο-. Its senses are according to the OED: "under, beneath, down, from below; underhand, secretly; in a subordinate degree, slightly". The prefix was handed down to the English language via Latin and French. There are about 200 words with this combining form most of which start with /haɪpə-/, sometimes against etymology and historical development.

Update: There's now another blog post on <hypo-> by John Maidment to be found here (the blog post, not John). 


  1. Some notes:

    1) "hypogeal" normally has main stress on the third syllable when it's pronounced in isolation;

    2) "hypotaxis" can also have main stress on the penultimate syllable;

    3) "hypocrisy" normally has /hɪ-/ in GB, not /haɪ-/.

  2. Petr, Alex,

    With your permission I will soon pinch your observations for a EPTip. I will of course acknowledge you both.

    1. John, sorry for poaching on your preserves.

    2. Petr,

      As they used to say where I grew up (and maybe still do): dʊnə bi daft jɒθ. Translation available on request. They are certainly not my preserves and no apology is necessary.

  3. Some more notes:

    1) /hɪˈpɒ-/ in "hypocrisy" is GB, not GA. GA is normally transcribed as /hɪˈpɑː-/.

    2) "hypobole" ? = Do you mean "hyperbole", /haɪˈpɜːb(ə)li/, also sometimes /ˈhaɪpəbɒʊl/?

    1. Some more comments:
      1) You're right: As I mention GA I should have added the GA pron as well. Now corrected.
      2) No, I mean the rhetorical figure by which a person refutes objections that might be raised by an opponent.