Tuesday, 14 August 2012

where was that again?

Londoners are used to hearing American (or other overseas) visitors struggling with what to us are very familiar names such as Leicester ˈlestə(r). We fail to realize how far from transparent the spelling is in such cases.

Sometimes, though, it’s we Brits who are caught out by American names whose spoken form is just as surprising, in view of the spellinɡ. We may know about Houston and even Poughkeepsie pəˈkɪpsi — but I was brought up short recently by Ashtabula, Ohio.

Given the antepenultimate stress of nebula and fibula, not to mention tabulate, I think I might be forgiven for expecting this name to be stressed on the tæb syllable. But it isn’t: it’s actually ˌæʃtəˈbjuːlə. (Thanks to Michael Ashby for this one. I’d better add it to LPD.)

I wonder if anyone can tell us how Temecula, California, is pronounced.

A British name that caught my attention recently is that of the village of Wadeford in Somerset. In a news report about flooding I’m sure I heard a local refer to it as ˈwɒdɪfəd. The BBC Pronunciation Unit tells me, however, that

according to the parish council clerk, that is an older local pronunciation which isn’t used quite as much now; most locals prefer ˈwɒdfəd.
Anyway, it’s certainly not the *ˈweɪdfəd that the spelling would seem to suggest.

42 comments:

  1. It's təˈmɛkjuːlə, though usually təˈmɛkjələ.

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  2. Why did you compare it with Latin words when it probably has nothing to do with them?

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    1. I'm sure many of us would follow John in comparing a new written word with what is familiar. In this case what was familiar was a set of words including nebula, fibula. The fact that there were Latin made them neither more familiar nor less. Actually, I can't think of a counter-example other than hula, which doesn't count because it only has two syllables.

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  3. ... Wadeford in Somerset. In a news report about flooding I’m sure I heard a local refer to it as ˈwɒdɪfəd...

    A weird instance of the spelling pronunciation being older.

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    1. Regardless of this particular example, spelling pronunciations usually _are_ older, for words that have been continuously part of the English language since at least the 15th century or so. English spelling used to be more phonemic than it is now. For example, the many North Americans who reintroduce the /l/ in words like "palm" are simply returning to the state of pronuncation before that /l/ was vocalized during the late Middle English period.

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  4. Placename pronunciation is a minefield!

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  5. How about those Long Island / the Hamptons villages like Quogue, Speonk, Amagansett, Quiogue, Cutchogue, Patchogue, Cutchogue, Hauppage, Ronkonkoma, Wantagh?

    I think I have read somewhere that the town of Charlotte in Michigan was pronounced ʃɚˈlɑt by the locals.

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    1. There was a list with respelled Hamptons' villages names, but now I cannot find it. The only thing I've managed to find is the list on a message board with the following toponyms:

      * Speonk – ˈspiːɒŋk
      * Quogue – kwɒg
      * Quiogue – ˈkwiːɒg
      * Aquebogue – əˈkwiːəbɒg
      * Hauppauge – ˈhɒpɒg
      * Cutchogue – ˈkʌtʃɒg
      * Patchogue – ˈpætʃɒg
      * Ronkonkoma – rənˈkɒnkəmə
      * Napeague – ˈnæpiɒg (but I believe this should be ˈnæpiːg, so perhaps the list shouldn't be believed)
      * Copiague – ˈkoʊpeɪɡ (or ˈkoʊpeɡ)
      * Islandia – aɪˈlændiə
      * Islip – ˈaɪslɪp
      * Commack – kəˈmæk
      * Wyandanch – ˈwaɪnˌdæntʃ
      * Centereach – ˈsenəriːtʃ (suspicious)
      * Moriches – ˈmʌrɪtʃɪs
      * Connetquot – ˈkɒnəkwoʊ
      * Wantagh – ˈwɔːntɔː

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  6. One of my treasured pronunciation memories was hearing an American in York ask for a Lincolnshire [lɪŋ koʊlnz haɪər] sausage. It seemed hilarious to me. I'm sure that Americans find it equally funny to listen to my struggling with American names.

    I've just looked up the Lancashire town of Colne (also the name of a river) in LPD3. It's interesting that you give the variants with and without [l] for British English, but only the version without [l] for American English. I doubt that many Americans know where Colne is. I would expect them to use the pronunciation with [l], as it is the spelling pronunciation.

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    1. Are you use they pronounced the L? I can see an American somehow missing "shire" and getting Lincolns-hire instead of Lincoln-shire, but I can't see any American mispronouncing Lincoln, adding an L. (And yes, I realize the -shire part isn't actually pronounced like the word shire.)

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    2. Yes, he did say a [l] in Linco[l]nshire.

      How would you pronounce Colne? (I presume that you've not heard of it before)

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    3. What does that have to do with anything? It would be very odd for an American not to see the word Lincoln in Lincolnshire. So how the pronunciation of Colne relates I really don't see. I would, though, pronounce it like coal with an added N. Which has no relevance to how we Americans pronounce the name of our 16th president. I just cannot see how an American could ever pronounce Lincolnshire without saying "Lincoln" like the name of the President, thus I have to wonder if you are wrong about the L or about his nationality.

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    4. Whoa, I didn't mean to step on the toes of your 16th president. Sorry if I'm causing any offence! I was just remembering something funny to me, and I didn't really think about Abraham Lincoln when I wrote the comment.

      The topic of the pronunciation of Colne is not directly linked. It's just a word that I had not looked up in LPD before today, and I noticed the different treatment for American English.

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    5. > [lɪŋ koʊlnz haɪər] sausage

      Or when a French lorry driver asked me for directions to *kylam – Culham (Oxon), unsurprisingly pronounced ˈkʌləm – I'd never even noticed that it looks rude in French until he did that.

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    6. Many moons ago, I was in the Colne Royal Morris Dancers. I wasn't listening critically to how the other dancers — some with local accents, others not — pronounced the name. Certainly, nobody's pronunciation stood out, although there were at least two RP-ish speakers and at least one Mancunian.

      My edition (1983) of the BBC British Names Dictionary gives only koʊn for Colne as the town, the river, or as a surname. That would make it sound like cone — which it certainly doesn't for me. For a start, it's a different vowel: ɒ not əʊ. Less audibly, I'm sure I articulate a sort of -ln-, i.e. kɒl follow by oral closure of the lateral. I'm not sure this produces audible l followed by audible n.

      I feel no inclination to articulate Lincoln (the city) this way — the main (perhaps only) reason being that the final syllable is unstressed.

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  7. Bob Dylan provides a helpful cultural reference point in this instance:
    "I’ll look for you in old Honolulu
    San Francisco, Ashtabula"
    http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/youre-gonna-make-me-lonesome-when-you-go

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  8. Here in Massachusetts, we're more familiar with some of the English names. We have our own Gloucester [ˈglɒstǝ(r)], Leicester [ˈlɛstǝ(r)] and Worcester [ˈwʊstǝ(r)], although a subset of the locals pronounce this last one as [ˈwɪstǝ]. There are also some local shibboleths like Quincy [ˈkwɪnzi], Peabody [ˈpiːbǝdi] and Billerica [bɪlˈrɪkǝ]. English placenames in southern New England seem to have fared more poorly, with Rhode Island having Warwick [ˈwɔ(r)wɪk] and Connecticut having the Thames River [θeɪmz].

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    1. θeɪmz! That's like one of the "hilarious" mispronunciations that Americans are popularly supposed to come out with when visiting the UK - like 'luːgəbəruːgə for Loughborough.

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    2. You are comparing pronouncing something exactly as it is spelled with adding two syllables beyond a spelling pronunciation?

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    3. Another English place name in Massachusetts that is not pronounced in the English fashion is "Harwich," which is ˈhɑrwɪtʃ here. Wikipedia says that the name of the town in England is pronounced ˈhærɪtʃ, but that isn't right, is it? It is my understanding, based on Gilbert's rhyming of the name with "carriage" in the "Nightmare" song of the Lord Chancellor in Iolanthe, that it is pronounced ˈhærɪdʒ.

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    4. The river in Connecticut is the θeɪmz? Oh, dear! I spent several days in New London without being any the wiser for it, because the only person to whom I ever uttered the name of the river (as tɛmz) was an out-of-towner like me.

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    5. And there's a tributary of the Thames (England) called the Thame, teɪm.

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    7. It seems to me that Harwich might be in the set of words Greenwich, ostrich, sandwich, for which I have heard both -ɪtʃ and -ɪdʒ

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  9. i think i would have guessed it was ˌæʃtəˈbjuːlə, but i'm not sure on what basis. maybe it just sounds like the Midwest to me.

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  10. My favorite unintuitive pronunciation is Mantua, Utah, which is pronounced /ˈmænəweɪ/.

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  11. Re: Temecula, the majority of Spanish-looking place names in California (Ojai, Cajon, Tejon, El Camino Real) are essentially Anglicized versions of the Spanish pronunciations -- so /ˈohai/, /kəˈhoʊn/, /təˈhoʊn/ and /ɛl kəˈminoʊ reɪˈjal/. It never occurred to me until I read it somewhere online that anyone would even think of pronouncing them like /oʤeɪ/ or /kəˈminoʊ ril/.

    There are some fiendish exceptions, like San Rafael in northern California, but this is largely the

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    1. I've always liked how /vəˈleɪ.oʊ/ splits the difference.

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    2. I think that the people in Brothers & Sisters pronounced it oʊˈhaɪ. Perhaps even oʊˈhaɪi.

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    4. That reminds me of həˈwaɪ i. Maybe that's where that pronunciation came from.

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    5. But "Los Angeles", not so much, or we'd be saying /lɔsˈɑŋhəleɪs/.

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  12. I've just remembered the name Ocula in the fantasy novel Maia by Richard Adams. This is a fantasy name in a fantasy world, so the readers have nothing to base a pronunciation on other than their experience of patters in English.

    Now in Tolkien's Fantasy work, readers may choose pronunciations that JRR did not intend — smaʊg vs smɔ:g for Smaug is a known example. But Adams must have felt confident of his reader's interpretation. Hundred of pages from the start he has one character say Ocula's going to get a little shock-ula.

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    1. How fun would it be if someone devised an IPA transcription scheme for Quenya or Sindarin. Then it would be much easier to transcribe those names and have a clearer insight into what kind of pronunciation Tolkien had in mind.

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    2. I certainly say /smaʊg/. How else would you pronounce the preterite of smugjan 'squeeze'? It's not an English word, after all, it's Norse! (I concede that I pronounce the Dwarves' names Englishly.)

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    3. There was an account on the radio last week of a musical adaptation of The Hobbit performed by a choir school in Oxford in the presence of Tolkien. After the performance it emerged that they had pronounced Smaug one way and Tolkien had intended the other. I forget which was which.

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  13. There seems to be a problem in Blogspot about uploading today's (Wed) post. Sorry about that.

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    1. You have ‹& #8221;› instead of ‹"› at the end of your opening span tag.

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  14. The name pronunciation problem is ubiquitous. My dialect is New Jersey (central). I learned(t) that Peru, Indiana, the birthplace of Cole Porter, is pronounced "PEE-roo." Madrid, New Mexico, is pronounced MAY-drid, and in my own backyard, "Buccleugh Park," is pronounced "BUGLE-oh Park."

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  15. anyways temecula is [tə.ˈmɛ.kju.lə]~

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