When I started at OCW, I noticed that the OCW folks often pronounced course names differently than students do, and I set about to codify the pronunciation rules that are generally understood and followed by most members of the MIT community. Of course, I didn’t blog about it because my intent was to go about asking people about the exceptions to the rule, and do a little informal study of the course numbers where the rules seem to break down (e.g. 21L.011 versus 6.011), and I didn’t want my sample pool to be tainted.
Since I delayed, of course someone else has gone and blogged about it: Hippo is apparently studying this independently of me, inspired by frosh who are just getting the hang of it, instead of by staff.
For posterity, I’ll put down the rules that I came up with, which, on a quick perusal, seem to match up with Hippo’s (unsurprisingly, I suppose — we are talking about tacitly understood cultural conventions here).
The number before the dot is always pronounced in full. Zeroes after the dot effect changes in post-dot pronunciation. Eleven may pose a special case. Examples will illustrate:
.00 will be pronounced “hundred.”
.0X will be pronounced singly, as “oh-X.”
.X0 will be pronounced as a number, together. For example, if X=5, this will be pronounced “fifty.”
.XY will be pronounced as a number, together. For example, if X=3 and Y=5, this will be pronounced “thirty-five.”
.00X will be pronounced “double-oh-X.”
.0XY will usually be pronounced singly, as “oh-X-Y.” There appears to be a special case when XY=11: sometimes this is pronounced “oh-eleven,” as in the case of 21L.011, and other times pronounced “oh-one-one,” as in 6.011. There may be a more complex rule here, perhaps having to do with letters in the course number preceding the dot (e.g. 21L), or a syllabic rule (pre-dot numbers of more than one syllable).
.X0Y will be pronounced singly, as “X-oh-Y.” For example, if X=2 and Y=3, this will be “two-oh-three.”
.XY0 will be pronounced as a single number followed by a compound number. For example, if X=3 and Y=1, this will be “three ten.”
.X00 will be pronounced “X-hundred.” For example if X=1, this will be “one hundred.”
These rules should be cross-checked against a massive set of examples to verify their accuracy, to isolate any new special cases, and to determine the more complex rules underlying the apparent exceptions.
So, yeah, if anyone has any thoughts, counterexamples, or ideas, lemme know.
I find this a really interesting problem linguistically. It’s just the sort of thing that would be a great project for a phonology class here: the determination of pronunciation rules the students might not be aware of, writing down conventions as principles. It’s also interesting from an acquisiton standpoint: after being at MIT for a while, you simply pick this up without ever learning the rules — it just becomes second nature, and pronunciations that don’t fit the rules simply sound weird. It’s exactly like learning language, on a smaller scale.
Anyway, neat stuff.