Monday, 18 October 2010

sojourn

Being the son of an anglican priest, I have always been familiar with the word sojourn, the biblical term for making an overnight or temporary stay in a place.
And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.
Israel also came into Egypt; and Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham.

Since it’s a word I’ve always known, I’ve never hesitated about its pronunciation, which for me is ˈsɒdʒən (automatically implying ˈsɒdʒn̩ as an alternative).

Daniel Jones, while recognizing ˈsɒdʒən as a possibility, nevertheless preferred ˈsɒdʒɜːn, with a strong vowel in the second syllable. He also allows ˈsʌdʒ- for the first syllable. Meanwhile AmE tends to prefer soʊˈdʒɝːn, ˈsoʊdʒɝːn, sometimes with a stress difference between noun and verb.

For many people this is no doubt a word which — if they know it at all — they know only or mainly in its written form, so it is not surprising that the pronunciation is nowadays rather uncertain.

I wonder if anyone has r in the first syllable. Probably not. According to the OED, until the sixteenth century it was sometimes spelt with r. This may reflect the second of the two possible Latin sources, subdiurnāre and superdiurnāre.

18 comments:

  1. "...a word which they know only or mainly in its written form, so it is not surprising that the pronunciation is nowadays rather uncertain."
    When I point a fact like this out to my fellow Spanish speakers, they simply can't believe it: Surely a literate native speaker should be able to confidently read out any word in his own language (even if it's written in an English fashion)!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Another common assumption is that there must be only one standard, unmarked way of pronouncing a word (or two ways at the most: European and American).

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have likewise been keeping the flag flying for ˈsɒdʒ(ə)n all my life. I have mostly heard ˈsoʊdʒ(ə)n or 'soʊdʒɹn rather than ˈsoʊdʒɜːn, and suspected even them of being a spelling pronunciation, but I have not been very aware at all of ˈsɒdʒɜːn and ˈsoʊdʒɝːn/soʊˈdʒɝːn. I suppose that was merely unobservant of me, but I am perfectly aware of ˈsʌdʒ(ə)n. It sounds pretty antiquated or parsonical to me, but you list it before -ɜːn in LPD, which seems to correlate with my observations or lack of them. Is the order based on the same sort of statistical underpinnings as the preference polls, or on considerations of how to display the less common variants with minimal respelling?

    I do read introductions with rapt attention, but please be patient if it's just a matter of jogging my (and no doubt others') memory of something perfectly explicit in yours!

    ReplyDelete
  4. mallamb: I'm afraid my listing of variants in LPD merely follows the order of the syllables in the word, starting at the beginning. It does not imply any order of prevalence.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I don't think I could even enunciate a distinction between ˈsɒdʒən and ˈsɒdʒn̩. Does this reflect my accent or my naivety? I don't distinguish "Severn" from "seven" either.

    ReplyDelete
  6. OED1 in 1913 gives the three pronunciations sɒ·-, sǫ·-, sōᵘ·dʒəɹn, i.e. ˈsʌ-, ˈsɒ-, ˈsoudʒə(r)n, with no hint of a lengthened vowel in the second syllable.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Talking of LPD, is these such a thing as a suggestions box for the next edition? I sometimes spot the odd thing and wonder if it would be of use.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Is the difference in the second syllable, between American and British usage systemic? I mean, can r-ful dialects actually reduce a syllable containing a trailing R to a schwa? My self-analysis as a New Yorker, on the borderline between r-ful and r-less, suggests that they do not do that.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Leo: ən and syllabic n are phonologically equivalent. In some environments the difference is easily heard (e.g. garden), in others less easily (e.g. listen). This word is in the latter group.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Harry C: I welcome suggestions for LPD. Just email them to me: j.wells AT ucl.ac.uk .

    ReplyDelete
  11. Definitely ˈsoʊdʒɝn for me and I've never heard ˈsɒdʒən, not even in cinema.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I knew it primarily from the first Mars rover, Sojourner.

    I think I've been pronouncing that with the stress of the second syllable.

    ReplyDelete
  13. nycguy: I'm not sure I understand your point. In a rhotic variety, a "syllable containing a trailing R" will still contain r, so it reduces to ɚ ("schwar") rather than to ə. In LPD I analyse this as syllabic r with the alternative possibility ər (compare my answer to Leo above), and write it with a raised schwa followed by r.
    Rhotic ɚ maps pretty consistently onto nonrhotic ə; but this mapping does not work in the reverse direction, because nonrhotic schwa can map onto either ɚ or onto plain ə. Thus peninsula and peninsular are homophones in nonrhotic speech, but not in rhotic.

    ReplyDelete
  14. How was the Mars rover's name pronounced? Or Sojourner Truth?

    The stress at least is clear in Hardy's

    What would bechance at Lyonnesse
    While I should sojourn there
    No prophet durst declare,
    Nor did the wisest wizard guess


    I take it (**) in LPD2 is a more striking US/UK difference than (*)?

    ReplyDelete
  15. John’s perfectly right. Daniel Jones never changed his mind about the pronunciation of ‘sojourn’ in 43 years; and neither Gimson nor Roach-&-co have seen fit to change that judgment in EPD. No dou’t with good reason. I somehow like to think of it as /`sʌʤən/ coz I g’ess it’s spelling-influenced and that Craigie’s 1913 ordering of variants probably best reflected the longest traditional version. What puzzles me about it is where that /n/ came from which of course we also find in ‘journal’. The root is obvi’sly ‘dies’ and, altho we earlier had versions of the word with no ‘n’, it was certainly there in Latin. It reminds me of the topic of my blog 128 of 8 Sep 08.

    ReplyDelete
  16. JWL: the Latin etymons are based on the adjective diurnus 'lasting one day', rather than on the noun diēs 'day'. Italian giorno 'day' has the same origin.

    ReplyDelete
  17. John, I don't think that can be what JWL is puzzled about. I thought he must be saying that the root is ultimately 'dies', and like everyone else he knows the n was certainly there in Latin, and survived in the med L forms you gave and the Romance languages. I supposed him to be wondering where this 'urnus' forming 'diurnus' from 'dies' came from in Latin in the first place. I recognized it was no nonce derivative, but didn't know its origin, and intended to leave it to some of the IEists we see on here occasionally, but in their absence I did think of nocturnus and diuturnus and mensurnus and then a few others like taciturnus, which was obvious, and Saturnus, which I should have realized reveals Saturn's agricultutal antecedents, coming from the supine of serere to sow, and even alburnus 'auburn', from albus. So –urnus may not be very productive, but it's obviously some sort of adjectivizer with connotations that are not that hard to guess at.

    Leo, the transition from ʒ to a syllabic n can't be all that difficult if the French can drop the e in 'genou'. As for your non-rhotic merger of Severn and seven I think that bringing up the rear there's still a gradient of possible oppositions, from peninsula~peninsular, at 0, to silvern~sylvan, which is about the nearest I can get to 10. You may be a young leveller, and there is so much levelling that for the hearer there can hardly be functioning oppositions between such would-be minimal pairs, unless the intended distinctions are helped out in some extralinguistic way, but speakers may nevertheless be making them. It's not just a matter of the presence or absence of a ə, though I can't agree with John that ə and ən are phonologically equivalent unless they are in free vaiance, but also a matter of tempo and prosody. It's very marginal in non-rhotic English and indeed moribund, and I don't blame anyone who denies the existence of this relic, but for me Severn~seven is still somewhere on that gradient in the sense that one is potentially distinct from the other, even if not necessarily vice-versa. It can be stated set-theoretically in terms of the set of possible realizations for my 'seven' being properly included in the set of possible realizations for my 'Severn'. With a pair like 'bittern'~'bitten'it's more clear-cut. I would never say ˈbɪtn for the former or ˈbitən for the latter.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Realise with a blush that I have always (inwardly) pronounced this as [səˈʒɔ:n]...

    ReplyDelete