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I've always said the first part zeh. Am I saying it correctly?

Related to: What is the correct pronunciation of TeX and LaTeX?

  • Uhm... I don't know how to write or explain in English the right pronuntiation, but for me, it sounds like: SiTeH or SiLaTeH. I hope someone else could help you. – Aradnix Oct 23 '15 at 19:29
  • Oh well...I guess its into the dustbin for my "ex-ee-TeX" pronunciation. – Steven B. Segletes Oct 25 '15 at 23:13
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From a TUG interview with Jonathan Kew, the original author of XeTeX:

DW: Of course, other readers and I could look at your XeTeX web site, but perhaps you can also tell us something about it here. For starters, how should I pronounce XeTeX — like Zee TeX? And why did you call it that?

JK: I don't have a strong opinion on the “correct” pronunciation, though personally I say zee-TeX. There was some discussion of this on the mailing list recently, and it was clear that the “natural” pronunciation depends on people's native language — which is fine with me.

So for English speakers, I think that 'zee-TeX' (IPA: ['zitɛk] or ['zitɛx]) is indeed the preferred form.

Why 'z' and not some other consonant?

'z' is the natural way to pronounce other words that begin with 'X' (e.g., xenon, xylophone, Xanadu, xenophobia, Xerox, xylem, to name some that most of us may know.)

Why 'zee' and not 'zeh'?

English speakers actually vary in their pronunciation of words beginning with 'xe', using either 'zee' or 'zeh' (IPA [zi] or [zɛ]). Some of this variation may be dialectal, but some speakers may in fact have both options freely. But the 'Xe' in 'XeLaTeX' cannot have the 'zeh' pronunciation. The reason for this is linguistic. Since 'tex' and 'latex' are independent words, we interpret 'xe' as a morpheme (i.e., a piece with independent meaning; that meaning being something like "UTF-8 aware flavour"). This morpheme acts as a modifier (like an adjective) to the 'latex' or 'tex' word. Because of this, it receives the main stress of the word. Now English has a general rule of prevents words ending in a vowel to contain one of the so-called 'short' vowels (/ɛ/,/ı/,/æ/,/ʌ/,/ʊ/) So since 'xe' receives stress as a word, and is a syllable that ends in a vowel, it cannot be pronounced 'zeh' and must be pronounced 'zee'.

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  • Wait! You mean Xerox is not pronounced zeh-rocks! Great answer, and an interesting interview also. Thanks! – user530873 Oct 23 '15 at 20:35
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    @AndrewCashner Yes, I think that's right. The 'lah' pronunciation is a bit of an affectation due to the fact that the folk etymology of the 'la' is from Leslie Lamport and that 'la' is pronounced that way. But I think the intuition that 'la' is a morpheme in 'latex' is weaker than for the 'xe' in 'xelatex'. – Alan Munn Oct 23 '15 at 22:17
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    French people seem to pronounce it 'Gzeh-Lah-Tek'. Is there anyone else who pronounces it that way? – ienissei Oct 26 '15 at 0:57
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    @0fnt well, no, I'm not a native English speaker, so I know how to make the sound of χ :-) in IPA it would be something like [xetɛx]. – yo' Apr 26 at 8:07

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