Watch a unicyclist and learn what the uni- prefix means and how to pronounce it.
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In this American English pronunciation video, we’re going to go over how to pronounce ‘unicycle’.
I happened to come across this young man who has the unique skill of being able to ride a unicycle.
Uni means ‘one’ or ‘single’.
Unique comes originally from the Latin word ‘unicus’ — meaning “only, single, alone of its kind”. Riding a unicycle is a pretty unique skill. Not many people can do it.
Unicycle. Unlike a bicycle, bi-, which has two wheels, or a tricycle, tri-, which has three whiles, this has just one!
Let’s listen to these two words again.
…who has the unique skill of being able to ride a unicycle. [3x]
Unique, unicycle. They both start with the EW as in FEW diphthong. This sounds just like the word ‘you’. You, you. Unique, unicycle. Then we have the N consonant. The next sound depends on the word. In ‘unique’, it’s a stressed syllable, and here it’s the EE as in SHE vowel, -ni-, -ni-. In ‘unicycle’, -ni-, -ni-, uni-, it’s unstressed, and it’s the IH as in SIT vowel. Uni-, unicycle.
Unique, unicycle. In the interview I’m stressing the first syllable of ‘unique’ a little too much because I’m excited to teach the uni- prefix. Unique, unique.
I happened to come across this young man who has the unique skill of being able to ride a unicycle. How long did it take you to learn how to ride this?
>> Um, so far a year. But it’s…I was able to ride pretty well about a month after I started.
>> Okay. So, did you practice everyday?
Bonus tip: did you, did you. Since we’re studying the EW diphthong in the word UNIQUE, let’s also study it in the word YOU after a D sound. You’ll often hear native speakers make a J sound when the word ‘you’ follows a D. We mix the D and the Y sound together — Di-jew, did you, di-jew, did you? Other common occurrences: could you, could you, and would you, would you.
Did you do it? did you, did you
Could you help? could you, could you,
Would you mind? would you, would you.
>> Did you practice everyday? [3x]
>> Pretty much, yeah.
>> I’ve heard it’s very, very hard.
>> It’s hard learning, but we set up a rope in my garage, and it was really fun. Though it took a while, yeah, I was able to do it.
>> And, I heard that you actually use it for transportation now. You go to the library, and you take it to school. Is that right?
>> Sometimes, yes.
>> So, do you get weird looks? What’s the deal with this?
>> Mostly people honk at me and yell out the window.
>> Has it made you the most popular kid at school?
>> Has it made you the least popular kid at school?
We have this word part in other words too. Like in ‘united’ of United States. Unity. Anything that means coming together in this case.
United. Here the letter I represents the AI as in BUY diphthong. This is the stressed syllable. U-ni-ted. United.
Unity. Here the letter I is in an unstressed syllable, and it’s the IH as in SIT vowel. U-ni-ty.
Uniform, University. Again the letter I is in an unstressed syllable, and it’s the IH as in SIT vowel.
In all of these cases, it’s the EW as in FEW diphthong in that first sound. Now, every time you see U-N-I starting a word, is it this? Is it pronounced this way? No, unfortunately not. Take for example the word ‘uninsured’ or ‘uninterested’. Here, un- is the prefix. Not –uni. And, it’s pronounced with the UH as in BUTTER vowel.
Let’s look at two words that are very similar: uninformed, uniformed. The only difference in spelling is this N. But one word breaks down with the prefix un-, and the other with the prefix uni-, so the first syllable of these words will not be pronounced the same. Uninformed, uniformed.
As you learn more vocabulary, and you learn how to break down the words, you’ll be able to see this kind of thing a little more easily.
That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.
>> Oh yes! Why don’t you try that. That’ll be funny.
>> How do you? … Think I’ll just leave it there.