Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Dugher, Creagh, Danczuk

I estimate that the Oxford Dictionary of Surnames by Patrick Hanks and Flavia Hodges (also published as part of the Oxford Names Companion) contains about 35,000 surnames with their etymologies or origins. Yet the number of surnames in Britain must be many more than that, judging by names that crop up in the news but are not to be found in the ODS. And that is without considering names of recent arrivals from other countries. If we add in other English-speaking countries, particularly the United States, the number of current surnames is very large indeed.

The current crop of Members of Parliament includes one Michael Dugher. I came across his name in the newspaper and was wondering how it would be pronounced. It looks vaguely Gaelic: compare Irish dúghlas ‘dark green’ and its Scottish Gaelic equivalent, which have given us Douglas. But it is not to be found in the ODS.

Thanks to Jo Kim for pointing me to a short video clip in which Mr Dugher says his own name as he identifies himself. This is part of a series of brief goodwill messages from MPs to British troops serving abroad.

As you can hear, he pronounces his surname with the STRUT vowel, as if it were spelt Dugger. As a dictionary entry we would write ˈdʌɡə. Since he speaks with a noticeable northern accent (born and raised in Doncaster, south Yorkshire), he makes no distinction between the STRUT and FOOT vowels, so that this actually comes out more as ˈdəɡə, ˈdʊ̈ɡə.

The preceding clip on the same website is spoken by Mary Creagh, MP for a neighbouring constituency. She says her name as kreɪ, which is what you would expect. According to the ODS this is a variant of Cray, and is an anglicized form of Irish Ó Craoibhe ‘descendant of the curly-headed/prolific one’.

Another MP with a northern accent (born in Rochdale, Lancs.) is Simon Danczuk. He pronounces his name as ˈdæntʃək. (Is the second vowel his STRUT vowel or his schwa weak vowel? This is perhaps a meaningless question. In any case, on the clip he devoices it completely.) This name is not in ODS. It looks as if it would be a Polish diminutive of Dan(iel).

Such video clips offer a useful type of straight-from-the-horse's-mouth resource that was simply not available to lexicographers until very recently.

14 comments:

  1. Funnily enough the gh of anglicised Gaelic surnames (and placenames) usually doesn't represent an original gh. More usually it represents a ch, or occasionally a h. Or sometimes it appears where the original Gaelic has nothing, as in Creagh.

    In Irish English, gh is usually pronounced h between vowels, or silent at the end of a word. So when I saw Dugher, it looked to me like a variant of the common Irish surname Dooher and I imagined it would be pronounced the same: 'duhɹ̩ (or 'duːhə in RP). But standard English phonotactics forbid h between a strong vowel and a weak vowel. That's why names like Gallagher are pronounced 'galəhɹ̩ in Irish English (equivalent to 'ɡæləhə in RP) but 'ɡæləgə in England.

    So it is possible that Dugher is Gaelic, but the intervocalic h would have been replaced with a g at some point during his family's time in England.

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  2. Also it seems clear to me that Mr Danczuk is employing his schwa in ˈdæntʃək, rather than a STRUT or FOOT vowel.

    Some educated Lancastrians do use ə for STRUT~FOOT but that would be a strong vowel so it wouldn't normally be devoiced as in the clip.

    Also, later in the clip he can be heard saying good luck gʊ̈d lʊ̈k and then come back safely kʊ̈m bak 'se̞ːfle̞, using the classic Northern rounded vowel.

    Why is it a meaningless question? Even if he did use ə for STRUT~FOOT, would there not still be a strong/weak vowel distinction between the two?

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  3. Sorry - he actually says ˈdantʃək (not ˈdæntʃək as I said above)

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  4. Any ideas on how to pronounce the surname of Linda Riordan, MP for Halifax?

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  5. @ Pete: I suggest to use ɜ rather than ə for this sort of STRUT (also typical of speech in Wales). That is a way of distinguishing it from commA.

    If a phonetician uses ɜ: rather than ə: for NURSE (in most accents), then I think that s/he should use ɜ rather than ə in Welsh STRUT.

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  6. @Ed: Yeah, that makes sense, although I've always had trouble distinguishing the two (except of course where one is long).

    O'Riordan is a common enough surname in Ireland and it's usually pronounced o'ɹiəɹdən. That would be əʊ'ɹiədən in RP. Like the English (?) name Rearden, in fact.

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  7. I don't think Danczuk is related to Daniel in Polish. To start with, Daniel is not a particularly frequent name in Poland. The only non-idiosyncratic (as in "family-lect") diminutive I can think of would be Danielek, derived by a regular rule. (But it sounds a bit off to me...)

    -czuk is a typical ending in Ukrainian surnames when spelled using Polish orthography. It will be dervied from something along the lines of Dan-, but I can't think of a specific etymology... And I don't really know what -czuk may mean... 'Son of'?

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  8. John,
    «As a dictionary entry we would write ˈdʌɡə. Since he speaks with a noticeable northern accent (born and raised in Doncaster, south Yorkshire), he makes no distinction between the STRUT and FOOT vowels»

    So if you suspect that the question of whether Simon Danczuk's second vowel is his STRUT vowel or his schwa weak vowel is meaningless, why would it not also be a meaningless question whether Mr Dughar pronounces his surname with the STRUT vowel or the FOOT vowel? Why would you identify it as STRUT for the dictionary entry?

    That would suggest that he is not only using an English spelling pronunciation of the Gaelic name as in 'ɡæləgə, but one in an accent other than his own! Even if you knew that his wider family used or had used a spelling pronunciation from a region with the STRUT-FOOT split, he might be the sort of Yorkshireman who is contemptuous of anyone who says ˈbʌgə, never mind ˈdʌgə, including members of his own extended family of that name!

    LPD3 even has a separate entry for 'booger' (as indeed the OED has), giving of course ˈbʊgə as the first pronunciation, but recognizing buːgə, which OED does not. The LPD3 sound files however have ˈbuːgə for the UK and ˈbʊgɹ for the US. I'm sure this ˈbuːgə must be a spelling pronunciation, which moreover defeats the humorous Northern connotations.

    I had better explicitly defend my claim that 'ɡæləgə is a spelling pronunciation. Pete says 'galəhɹ̩ in Irish English is equivalent to 'ɡæləhə in RP, but 'ɡæləhə *is* surely the usual RP version, and I see you prioritize it in LPD3.

    Similarly I feel sure there must be people called Dugher who have not adopted any spelling pronunciation with g, but as Pete suggests, pronounce the name 'duhɹ̩ (or 'duːhə in RP) *without* having adopted the spelling 'Dooher'. But I also feel sure that there must be people who pronounce it 'duːə with either spelling, out of deference to the standard English phonotactic rule that Pete mentions.

    On the other hand it cannot be supposed for a moment that the bearers of Gaelic names necessarily recognize standard English phonemics, never mind phonotactics, whether in their own pronunciation of such names or in anyone else's.

    I'm afraid I feel moved to trot out an anecdote about this. I was berated by a friend for calling him ˈhju:gəʊ (not his real name) məkˈmɑːn (he could do a parodic RP), and was told in no uncertain terms that his name was ˈkjʉgo ˌmakʲˈmaχən. I said I would attempt that if he would desist from calling me ˈmɐɪχəl laːm. This arrangement soon lapsed. (Acknowledgments or apologies – not quite sure which – to Pete for the phonetics.)

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  9. @Pete:

    I think /h/ in "Gallagher" is fairly common in RP: it's certainly the pronunciation I've always used.

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  10. @mallamb: You don't have to be aware of the phonotactic rules of your dialect to be bound by them!

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  11. Michael Dugher's pronunciation of his name is an example of the strange perception effects I get with FOOT and STRUT: my ears interpret it as STRUT, not FOOT. (I'm one of those Northerners with a relatively mild accent who does have a FOOT/STRUT distinction of some sort.)

    I'm another one with /h/ in "Gallagher".

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  12. Pete,

    How extraordinary that you should get the idea that I was saying anything so preposterous as that you have to be aware of the phonotactic rules of your dialect to be bound by them!

    How could you think I was referring to literal deference to the standard English phonotactic rule? I really must use less fancy language. All I meant was that if people do pronounce either Dugher or Dooher as 'duːə, that form is in conformity with the standard English phonotactic rule. I would pronounce it that way myself, whether it was my own name or not, unless the bearer of the name objected to that degree of Anglicization of it.

    And if they pronounce either Dugher or Dooher as 'duːhə, that form is not in conformity with the standard English phonotactic rule. But it's an increasingly marginal rule: OED now recognizes ˈviːhɪkl, for example, though LPD3 marks it with §. Moreover proper names can be extrasystematic in a lot more ways than that, especially if they're Gaelic in origin!

    And it's in the same sense that people may not "recognize standard English phonemics, never mind phonotactics, whether in their own pronunciation of such names or in anyone else's". They (i.e. their pronunciations) may not conform to them, and they may not recognize (i.e. accept) the pronunciation of people who do. The point of my anecdote was to give an instance of this.

    Thus in the case of McMahon, the pronunciation məkˈmɑːn, which does conform to them, is well established, including among bearers of the name who have no problem with that degree of Anglicization of it, and LPD3 gives it priority for the UK, not recognizing anything but məkˈmæn for the US. It gives məkˈmæhən for the fourth UK variant, and that is I think a reasonable pronunciation to adopt in order to defer (literally) to anyone who does not accept that the name should be conformable to standard English phonology.

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  13. "Danczuk" doesn't sound Polish to my ear. But I imagined that it would have sounded more natural to me if it was "Dańczuk". And luckily I've found that there are 221 people with the name "Dańczuk" in Poland.

    Indeed, as wjarek commented, surnames ending in "-czuk" are usually of Ukrainian origin. Their more Polish counterparts would end ex. with "-czak". It seems that "Dańczak" is more popular in Poland, as there are 1035 people with the name "Dańczak" in Poland.

    I would personally relate the name with the verb "dać" (to give), but this may be completely naïve.

    As far as I know, Ukrainians who move directly from Ukraine to the UK have their Ч in names spelled as ch, not cz. So I assume that Simon Danczuk's ancestors come from a region now forming part of Ukraine, but belonging to Poland before the World War II.

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  14. 'But standard English phonotactics forbid h between a strong vowel and a weak vowel. That's why names like Gallagher are pronounced 'galəhɹ̩ in Irish English (equivalent to 'ɡæləhə in RP) but 'ɡæləgə in England.' "Gallagher", "Callaghan" and others have /h/ between unstressed vowels, which would explain why RP more readily allows /h/ in them.

    Within Ireland, checked vowels can occur in stressed syllables before /h/: "​Kilbeheny" (and even "vehicle") with DRESS, "Aghada" with TRAP, "Drogheda" with LOT. (Offhand I can't think of KIT, STRUT, or FOOT examples.) I think JCW in Accents of English says of Irish English that /h/ can occur syllable-finally, but at least those examples could have the /h/ in the following onset. In my experience, "Lough" ends in /k/ for most Irish speakers.

    OTOH: Surname "Maher" often (usually?) has START rather than TRAP + /hə/; McMAhon and MAhony often have PALM; "Cahir", exceptionally, has SQUARE. I have hardly ever heard "Youghal" with LOT + /hə/ rather than THOUGHT. Does Munster English anglicise pronunciations more readily than Connacht or Ulster, or is it that it was colonised earlier?

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