Thursday, 3 December 2009

cinema

David Ekstrand wrote
about the pronunciation of the word "cinema". I'm neither a linguist nor a native English speaker, but to me, the OED pronunciation of "cinema", with a schwa at the end has always seemed the natural one. But one of my friends, born in the 1980s and grown up in Hertfordshire, consistently pronounces "cinema" with a long [ɑː] at the end. Is this pronunciation becoming more common, and is it part of some form of wider change of pronunciation (ie. does it involve more words than just "cinema")?
I replied
The ɑː at the end of "cinema" is a well-known variant. But I have no statistics about whether or not it is becoming more common. I don't think this particular alternation applies to any other words.

Carney’s list of polysyllabic words ending in postconsonantal a (Survey of English Spelling, p. 294) shows that almost all have final ə, thus for example abscissa, agenda, alfalfa, antenna etc. The only exceptions he mentions, with ɑː, are grandma, grandpa, hoopla, papa. (For some reason he seems to have overlooked mama and Panama.)
So we would certainly expect cinema to follow the majority and have -mə, all the more so since etymologically it is a shortening of cinematography, in which everyone pronounces -mə-.
The -mɑː form is therefore a bit of a mystery. I remember noticing Gimson using that pronunciation and thinking it was odd, since I myself say -mə.
There is also the special case of alleluia and its variants hallelujah, alleluja. This is normally ˌælɪˈluːjə (despite the OED’s very odd transcription ælɪˈl(j)uːɪə). But in singing, choirs sometimes strengthen the second vowel to and/or the last to ɑː. In the musical passage I reproduce below, the accenting and lengthening of those two vowels makes that more or less a must: here we sing æ ˈleɪ luː ˈjɑː.

40 comments:

  1. I've heard cinem[ɑː] often in older films &c. (I say cinem[ə], so I probably noticed this more.) It's hardly a new trend.

    Concerning the etymology, I had assumed it was from cinematograph rather than cinematography. I'm not sure this would play a role anyway; truncated words tend to be pronounced as if they were entirely new, don't they?

    (The OED1 has k[aɪˈniː]m[ə]tograph, alternatively k[ɪ]ne[ˈmæ]tograph, and in the additions c[ɪ]ne[ˈmæ]tograph only as well as the new abbreviations kinema and cinema, the former with both kinds of stress in the first syllables, but all of them with -[mə] only.

    Interestingly, Broadcast English I (1928 ed.) has sínnemaa only, but I faintly remember this quoted somewhere as an example of what they changed in later editions. Not sure.

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  2. John, do you think the fact that you say -mə could be due to Northern influence? I have said –mɑː all my life and quite early formed the impression that –mə was a Northern feature. For years this was not disconfirmed, to the best of my recollection, but then I noticed –mə was gaining ground. So I suspect the trend is the opposite of what David Ekstrand suggests. But you are older than me, and say you thought Gimson's -mɑː odd all those years ago. Somehow I don’t think you would have adopted –mə if you hadn’t always had it.

    Sir John Tavener scores alleluia as -lu-i-a, and I couldn’t agree with you more about it being odd, and unetymological to boot. I had put it down to his eccentricity, and confess I didn’t consult the OED. Perhaps he did!

    Phillip, inasmuch as cinema is from cineˈmatograph, and a truncated form ending in -æ would be a phonological impossibility, I wonder if the stress at first remained on that syllable, requiring it to have ɑː . I don’t think I have ever heard that, but the stress would soon have shifted.

    Does anyone think they have heard it? It's not all that outlandish: for JW's example Panama (Sp Panamá), The Oxford Dictionary of English has /ˈpanəmɑ:, ˌpanəˈmɑ:/ and Collins English Dictionary has [ˌpænəˈmɑː], [ˈpænəˌmɑː]. Some dictionaries even have ˈpænəmə for that.

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  3. Rum baba. Most dictionaries have ˈbɑːbɑː or equivalent. Carney's list doesn’t seem very exhaustive, does it? I don't think I'll bother thinking beyond b.

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  4. Mallamb: given that Daniel Jones preferred -mə, I don't think we can call it a northernism. Perhaps I ought to include this word in my next preference poll.

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  5. Here in the US, the exceptions pointed out don't even necessarily hold true. Both "mama" and "papa" end with the schwa - [ˈmɑmə] and [ˈpɑpə], but we also put the stress on the first syllable in both words. The OED has UK pronunciation as [pəˈpə]. It also points out that, in the 18th century, [məˈmɑ] was confined to the upper class.

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  6. ha-ha

    Maybe I ought to think about getting a life ;-)

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  7. I wonder what people still use papa [pəˈpɑ] and ma(m)ma [məˈmɑ]. Can't say I hear it very often.

    What is your impression, blogmaster and commenters? (Beyond the stereotype, please.)

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  8. Broadcast English I, 2nd and 3rd editions differ in the modified spelling, but not necessarily in the intended pronunciation - 2nd edition has sínnema, while 3rd has breves above both -e- and -a.

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  9. I suspect quite a lot of people use them jokily, but not as a form of address, or even without some sort of qualifier. For example when my son was a babbakin (ˈbæbəkɪn) and spoke mostly Japanese (our decision in the bilingualism debate having been to try to keep it as the family language so that it survived exposure to others), if I had to talk to him at play school or somewhere in the company of other children, I soon found that he refused to answer in Japanese, even to the extent of using elaborate grammatical acrobatics to respond to things that would have expected perfectly straightforward answers in Japanese. But since his mum was not yet Mum, but Kāhan (a dialect word) and I suppose for the purely selfish reason that I would have felt foolish calling her that, I would say things like "You don’t want to upset your məˈmɑː, do you?" Thus embarrassing him even more than if I had spoken Japanese.

    This was not out of pure perversity or wickedness, as when his grandparents were not yet Grammer and Granda (again dialect), which in spite of already being multiple grandparents they were not before his birth, which causes all these appellations to shift a generation much more compulsorily that in Western countries, everyone jocularly called them məˈmɑː and pəpɑː (or Mummy-san and Daddy-san).

    I called my own mother Mums (or I regret to say Mumsy) and my father Daddy. Even the Queen called hers Mummy and Daddie apparently (not that she's upper-class of course). So I suspect you're right in thinking, as I guess you do, that məˈmɑː and pəpɑː are almost too highly marked to be in the list at all. [ˈmɑmə] and [ˈpɑpə] are I suppose still in rude health, but only in N America, surely? Anyway, aren’t they spelt momma and poppa?

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  10. You might be taken aback if you thought my above post was in reply to Graham, rather than Lipman's just before his!

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  11. Graham, thanks. I haven't the key to the symbols, but that looks as if the 1st ed. had -ɑː, and both the 2nd and the 3rd schwa.

    mallamb, thanks, too. Didn't the Queen call her parents mummy but papa? Or was that someOne else? I remember reading it somewhere and wondering whether it looking-glassed a difference in relationship.

    The American default spelling is, I think, as you wrote, except in families of German origin, of which there aren't few.

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  12. I agree. I think papa [pəˈpɑː] and ma(m)ma [məˈmɑː] are nowadays only jocular. They belong with other jocular expressions such as "the aged p." (parent). I know one man of my age who regularly spoke to others of "my [məˈmɑː]", but I bet he didn't call her that when addressing her. She was probably "mummy", like mine (whom my brother tended to refer to, when talking to me, as "little ma"). As you will know, my partner is of West Indian origin, and his mother was "ma" for both of us.

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  13. My own (late) mother was "Mum" ("Mummy" when I was very young) but my (Chinese/Vietnamese) mother-in-law is "Má" (rising tone) no matter whether the rest of the utterance is Mandarin, Vietnamese or English. Before my wife and I were married, I addressed the same lady as "Ko" (aunt). For some years I worked with a good friend/colleague (female, 40s) who referred to her mother as [məˈmɑ:] but addressed her as [ˈmɑ:]

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  14. Now that is interesting. I'd have thought that people who still use [məˈmɑ:] at all other than in joke would address her thus and refer to her as "my mother" to outsiders.

    Are there any differences between papa and mama? Probably no systematical ones, I suppose.

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  15. Yes, John and cha, I think that’s it. It's the embarrassment thing again, isn't it?

    "My [məˈmɑː]", I note, is duly equipped with qualifier as I said above I think it needs to be for a lot of people, and even "little ma" seems to need a qualifier as long as you didn’t call her "ma". My brother also cops out with "ma", although we never called her that, but again with qualifiers, such as "deaf ole ma", with further marking of one of those qualifiers. (She is an ever more satanic 93, and refuses to wear her hearing aid, so we also call her She, Charybdis, Godzilla – already Japanese, but a lot of these Japanese monsters end in –gon, and baba is a grandma as in Russian etc., only very far from being hypocoristic, so we also call her Babagon, and of course Onibaba, from the film. My brother was in the same set as John Cleese, and the infamous deaf woman in Fawlty Towers is widely supposed to have been based on her.)

    It's that starting to call one's mother Mother at some point, which is what is expected of one, is just too toe-curling. I was approaching sixty before I eventually managed to say it of mine, but never to her.

    Phillip, are you sure you're not thinking of your lambdaically challenged namesake? When his letters to Di were published they were signed Pa. I have only ever seen Daddie (note the spelling) for the Q's pa.

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  16. That should have been Mummie as well.

    But you are probably right. Why would One have been consistent? Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

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  17. I always found it extraordinarily strange when people address their in-laws as parents, whichever words of the ones in this thread they use.

    But the usage of Pa/Ma isn't the same as of Papa/Mama. (I find the former sound American and informal.) And then there's Fa.

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  18. And talking about "my mother" is quite different from talking about "mother", I think.

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  19. Two points relating to Lipman's penultimate message :

    1) How do you (Lipman) address your parents-in-law, or how would you address them if in fact you have none ?

    2) In Vietnamese (as, I suspect, in many languages from that region), I think I have little option but to address my mother-in-law as "Má" -- the correct form of address between any pair of individuals is governed far more by cultural expectations than by personal preferences.

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  20. 1) might be the mysterious Fa (cf Farve and Muv, as the Mitford sisters, but I shouldn’t think they invented it. )

    2) is exactly why my son's above-mentioned Grammer and Granda had to be Obāsan and Ojīsan not only for him but for my wife and me once he was born.

    Philip, I think the point is that these are proper names, and as long as the in-laws have different conventions or even languages, it doesn’t seem the least bit strange to me if they are addressed the same way as by one's partner. JW and cha seem quite typical to me in this. It's almost strange if they are not addressed the same way. What are the alternatives? And it goes way back: I remember having to put my brother straight when he talked about another boy's michael. And the looking-glassing of class you referred to (thank you for that!) drove two of my oldest Oxford friends to call themselves Grandad and Nonna. It's a minefield! A lot of my contemporaries had nannies, but one of them had a Scottish Nanny and says that she got called Nursey by the uninitiated when he was a child.

    We have not been very consistent in the use of disambiguating UC and LC on this thread, but I have attempted it in this.

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  21. Chaa006, I wasn't even thinking about your Má at all, just about the Duke of Edinburgh and (the) Princess Diana.

    I call my in-laws by their proper names. (That's the short version.) I see your point, but I think "Pa" is too weak to be considered a proper name. "Nearly-proper" names are not uncommon for grandparents, though, maybe reinforced by the need to differentiate between the pairs, and in that case, I'd understand that a less common word is treated as if it were a proper name.

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  22. If you think "Pa" is too weak to be considered a proper name, why do you give it a capital letter? Aha!

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  23. In Cornwall, 'mother' is the form used by just about everyone post-childhood, as far as I can hear, whether referring to one's own mother or someone else's.

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  24. May I seek a little clarification in the matter of names ? Mallamb, I notice that you address some replies to "Phillip" and others to "Philip", yet as far as I can see, no-one contributing to this topic identifies himself as either. Could you possibly include (perhaps in parentheses) the name by which the person to whom you are addressing your reply identifies him/herself, so that newcomers such as myself are better placed to follow the thread ?

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  25. I (an American) called my parents Ma and Dad till the day of their deaths, but I always refer(red) to them as "my mother" and "my father". (An exception: When I answered the phone as a child, the caller frequently asked for "Professor Cowan". I would then enquire, "Professor Thomas, or Professor Marianne?" My mother thought I should say "Do you want my mother or my father?", but at the time I thought that was unprofessional and inconsonant with the dignity of a telephone receptionist, even if unofficial.)

    My wife calls her parents Mother and Daddy and apparently always has: her mother objected strongly to mama-words, apparently on class grounds. My daughter calls me whatever she feels like, but she calls my wife Mom (if she's feeling good about her) or Mother (if she's angry). We call ourselves Gramma and Grampa to her son, who's too young to talk yet.

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  26. Chaa, you're right of course. Sorry to have annoyed you. I see I have even been sloppy about your name, and that mistake was too obvious for me to be able to plead failing eyesight as I can for my erratic lambdacism. I'm sure you didn’t need to do much detective work to get from the Duke of Edinburgh to his "namesake", but I am duly chastened and will be more correct in future. As for your number, I can never remember the numbers after usernames, and you at any rate don’t seem to need yours.

    John C, do you always refer to your parents as "my mother" and "my father" even to close friends and family? And do you explain the punctilious childhood professionalism you report by saying you were born aged, as I do?

    Does your wife have any male siblings who call her parents Mother and Daddy? And is Gramma for græmmɑ or græmɑ? (My son's Grammer has one /m/ and his Grandma has /nm/. See what I meant about proper names!)

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  27. Well, I'm still not convinced that I know who HRH the D-of-E is in this context : I had thought that it was probably "Lipman", but still can't really see the connection. However, I'm sure it doesn't matter !

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  28. On third thoughts, perhaps I'm going gaga.

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  29. I must say this conversation is quite interesting. It amazes me the number of variations that have occurred amongst families as to what to call their parental authorities.

    I (American) always called mine Mom and Dad. Even for a short time, I called my step father Dad. I think mostly to keep my mother happy since he entered my life at six. At some point that changed (I think I was angry at him), but I never called my step-mother anything but her given name. I do, however, sometimes in joking manner say mother and father to them. However, I've found that from others that call their parents Mom, Dad, Momma, etc. that when they use the terms mother and father it is more often in an anger situation. My partner actually calls his father Da, which I'd never heard before we got together. Interestingly, I think of Pa and Ma as really colloquial forms of address from rural mountainous southern regions (hillbillyish)

    This conversation becomes even more interesting when you include grandparents. I grew up with grandma and grandpa, distinguishing my maternal and paternal grandparents by their last names (eg: Grandma Barnes, Grandpa Zordel), but when some cousins that were younger came along my maternal grandmother's indicator was shifted by the rest of the family to Grammy. I have nephews/nieces in one family that use Mama and Papa to refer to their my mother and stepfather. The terms here seem to go on forever in American speech: grandma/pa, gramma/grampa, granny, gram, gramps, mohma/pohpa, meemah/peepah, grammy, pop, and on and on. I have always truly been amazed at the terms of address/affection for grandparents that I hear. I also often wonder how many of them were developed by the child or by the parents--making a decision as to what they wanted the child to call his/her grandparents.

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  30. This is beginning to look like some sort of reference base, so I had better report that my mother called her parents Mumpsk(i) and Popski. I always thought it was the child that determined those, but at this rate someone is going to disabuse me of that idea.

    Already a remarkable bit of synchronicity: you have listed 'meemah' for grandmother, and the first time I learnt of the existence of anything like that was just one day earlier, as Mima [ˈmiːma].

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  31. Quite remarkable. Apart from that individual case in the e-mail, where it came from an infantile distortion of the English mummy in a French context, I had thought that Mima/Meemah was a not too common but regular first name only.

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  32. A short Google search gives quite a lot of relevant hits for meemah and grandmother, with one indication that in Texas, it's used for a great-grandmother only.

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  33. In the Orange commercal, it sounds like cinem[ɑː]: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DU8D9QugbiM Pedro

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  34. And again in the second ad http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yc_SVpeFCBs&feature=related Pedro

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  35. Thanks for that. The hilarious thing is that the witch says –mɑɹ throughout the second ad! Probably a non-rhotic Brit trying (as incompetently as most still do) to do American, but possibly a non-rhotic American trying to do rhotic. The voiceover at the end is definitely mɑː, though.

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  36. Ironically (see your's comment), I too, thought you might be interested in a link to my blog since you and your jewelry are the subject of today's post. Nice cinema blog and love to see all too..

    kartę r4i

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  37. Mallamb: I suppose I would call my father Dad when speaking to my half-siblings, since we share our father but not our mothers — but I have been estranged from them since his death, so it doesn't come up. Most of my other close relatives are dead or living far away.

    My wife has no male siblings, but her female sibling says Mommy and Daddy. I can't nail down what my wife calls herself to [mm] vs. [m]; it seems to be erratic. Dorian himself doesn't talk yet.

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  38. I would have given the different way to pronounce cinema more a result of accent issues... sometimes the pronunciation of a word varies depending on the accent.

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