How many syllables in "mathematical"?

In my school years up the my first undergraduate "run," I never heard the word mathematical pronounced with 5 syllables: it was always said "math-ma-ti-cal."''Now, I hear it said with 5 syllables all the time. I don't know how that got going, but I imagine the people who do this think it is "correct": "Just look at the spelling!" they might say.

But I have never heard the word said with 5 syllables as it is spelled. Instead, people who say it with 5 syllables always say "math-the-ma-ti-cal": they double the 'th' sound.


  1. Gene, I think you're just hearing it wrong. I've always heard people say "Ma-the-ma-ti-cal." They don't say the th sound twice.

    1. I was watching a video by a math-the-ma-ti-cian when I wrote this post, so I was able to replay it to make sure. Definitely two th sounds.

    2. That might be an idiosyncratic pronounciation. I've always heard people say "ma-the-ma-ti-cal".

      Tell me this: did the guy make two distinct "th" sounds, like did he take his tongue off of his teeth and put it back on, or did he just keep his tongue on his teeth for a long time?

    3. Keshav, I just listened to another lecturer saying it this way, again on a DVD where I could slow it down and make sure.
      It is more likely that you think people are saying it "how it's spelled" and thus mis-hearing the two "th"s than that I am incorrectly filling in the two "th"s. And Ken confirms he has heard that also.

  2. Math e mat i cal is how I say it (I think!), but I have often heard it with the thorn either doubled or at least elongated, as Gene says. I think the elided vowel is more of a British thing, and I have heard it that way too.


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