coopWords which non-natives rarely pronounce natively include cooperate, cooperative, cooperation and coop (also written co-operation, co-operate, co-operative and co-op).

In native pronunciation, coop- is two syllables, and the transition between them is a w type sound. We could write this in various ways depending on the accent: kəwɔp, kowɑp, etc. Dictionaries don’t generally write the w, but I think it would probably help the non-native speaker if they did. Here are native cooperate, cooperative and cooperation, each word followed by its beginning:

Non-natives typically pronounce coop- as it’s written, with a single o quality and no w. Unfortunately, this is likely to sound like corp- as pronounced in England and Wales. As a result, non-native cooperation can sound rather like native corporation:

  how much cooperation helps (non-native)

  adviser to a corporation (native)

And non-native cooperate can sound rather like native corporate:

  they could cooperate for a number of very different reasons (non-native)

  corporate interest (native)

To highlight the difference, here is Russell Brand using both corporate and cooperate, followed by corp- and coop- (slightly slowed down):

  take away corporate power, don’t cooperate (non-native)

The two syllables of kəwop or kowop can weaken towards one-syllable kwop. This means that the beginning of coop- can sound rather like the beginning of quality:

Further notes

An unrelated one-syllable word coop, rhyming with scoop, loop and troop, refers to an enclosure in which chickens or other poultry are kept.

4 replies
  1. Stella Maris Palavecino
    Stella Maris Palavecino says:

    This article is of great help, specially if readers are non-native speakers of English. It raises awareness on how communication flow can be disrupted, if speakers disregard this important feature of English pronunciation. I love it.


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