Friday, 7 September 2012

Singaporean

How do you pronounce the adjective from Singapore, i.e. Singaporean?

With most English suffixes we can be clear about their effect on word stress. Some have no effect at all, e.g. -ing. Some attract the main stress, e.g. -eer, -ette, as in mountaiˈneer, kitcheˈnette. Some cause the main stress to fall on the syllable before the suffix, e.g. -ity, as in aˈcidity, viˈcinity.

But with -ean there are two possibilities. In some cases it throws the main stress onto the preceding syllable, just like -ity. Thus we say cruˈstacean, Proˈmethean and Shakeˈspearean. But in other cases it attracts the main stress to itself. Thus we say Euroˈpean, epicuˈrean, Hercuˈlean, Jacoˈbean, Pythagoˈrean and Sisyˈphean.

In the case of Caribbean we are split. Some of us (mainly Americans) treat it like Shakespearean and say kəˈrɪbiən; others (mainly Brits) treat it like European and say ˌkærɪˈbiːən.

Which brings us to Singaporean. In LPD I gave priority to ˌsɪŋəˈpɔːriən; but I’ve just heard a British television newsreader say ˌsɪŋəpɔːˈriːən. (Irrelevantly, some speakers have ɡ after the ŋ. That’s not what I’m focusing on.)

I think Tyrolean is equally variable.

At least with the less familiar words in -ean this uncertainty means that no one need worry about which stress pattern is correct. Acheulean, anyone? Cytherean, Labradorean, Mozartean, Saussurean, Tartarean?

23 comments:

  1. Singaporeans say ˌsɪŋəˈpɔːriən without exception. Though thats of course the standard not the colloquial variety.

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    1. I'm in Singapore (but born in Malaysia), and have been here for more than 20 years, and I say ˌsɪŋgəˈpɔːriən and I think I have heard ŋg from a few people too. I have heard many Australians sayˌsɪŋəpɔːˈriːən though.

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    2. As a Singaporean myself, I would say Singaporeans would almost always place stress on the 3rd syllable. There's a bit of variation with regards the pronunciation of the velar plosive (though I wouldn't expect it in the mesolect and acrolect varieties), but the stress is definitely always on pɔ: :-)

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  2. I'd probably say Mozártean, but Mózartean (stress not shifted at all) wouldn't sound strange to me, at least less so than Shákespearean.

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  3. All those unfamiliar examples sound best to me with stress on the syllable before the suffix. I think this would be my default for new coinages; the stressed version of the suffix is not productive (for me).

    Maybe that's because I'm thinking of the similar -ian suffix, which never takes stress and is usually pronounced the same as -ean, although it also tends to cause affrication (as in Lilliputian).

    P Mc Anena

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  4. Confronted by words in -ean that are new or never heard, my instinct is to preserve the integrity of the name in the unlikely event of having to read the word aloud — or choosing to 'aud' it silently. If I recognise the name, that is.

    In the case of Acheulean I've been familiar with the adjective for some time but only recently took in the name Acheul. So in the past I tended to aud ̩ækju:ˈli:ən, but now I suppose I favour ̩aˈʃɜ:lɪən.

    [My former pronunciation of Acheulean was influenced by the other Palaeolithic culture names Mousterian, Gravettian Magdalenian spelled with -ian. For the same reason I'm inclined to say Soloutrean with stress before the suffix.]

    Cytherean is not an entirely unusual word for me, though I misremembered the spelling as Cytherian. An attribute of Aphrodite (if I'm not confusing it with another word), it's clearly related to Cythera, which (for me) has initial stress followed by two completely unstressed syllables. So my instinct is for ˈsɪθərjən or just possibly ˈsɪθər ̩i;ən.

    The foreign names Mozart and Saussure call for stress on both syllables. For me it's initial full stress on the former ( (when speaking in English, that is) and final full stress on the latter. Both words (for me) have secondary stress on the other syllable. Changing the stress in Mozart does not (for me) impair the integrity of the name, and I would hate to say ˈməʊtsə ̩ti:ən, so it's second-syllable stress on Both for me. Just as it would be if I encountered Shakespearean for the first time.

    Similarly, Labrador has a heavy ɔ: in the third syllable, and I'd hate to say ˈlæbrəd ̩dɒri:ən or ˈlæbrədə ̩ri:ən. So I'd shift the stress to third syllable of Labradorean. Only if forced to do so, that it. It's such a strange word that I'd hesitate to aud it and would read it aloud only with a disclaimer or explanation.

    Tartarean is problematic. It's not immediately obvious what the name is. I presume it's Tartarus, so there's no question of preserving the integrity. The suffix -ean replaces a syllable. Even more than with Labradorean, I don't think I'd choose to aud the word and I wouldn't read it aloud without giving some warning to the hearer(s). I suppose I'd choose ̩ta:təˈri:ən.

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    1. Cytherean is used by planetary astronomers to mean 'concerning the planet Venus', parallel to Martian, Jovian, etc. This is because Venusian is a barbarism and Venerean sounds too much like venereal.

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    2. I was sure I remembered Venusian from Dan Dare (British comic-magazine hero). So I looked up the OED and found the word is common in science fiction and astrology.

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    3. Indeed, it was common in science fiction, either as an adjective or as a noun, meaning a human or alien resident of Venus, before we discovered just how improbable that was. Pronounced, of course, /viˈnuʒən/ in either case.

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  5. A couple of obvious typos which I won't address. It took ages struggling with blogger to get the posting published. Needless to say, I don't think ; is an IPA diacritic. And I would never hear two d sounds in Labradorian.

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  6. I make it Py'thagorean with no stress movement at all, at least in Pythagorean Theorem, which is the most ordinary use of the word for me. Trying out the words you asked about, they all come out like Shakespearean.

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    1. For me it's Pythagorus's Theorem His followers were the Pythagoreans — for me stressed on the suffix.

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    2. A Pythagorean is/was a disciple or follower of Pythagoras. This word has a pretty established pronunciation, at least among classicists, philosophers, and historians, with penultimate stress, like European. See LPD, EPD and the OED. The only disagreementamonɡ these dictionaries is where the secondary stress goes: ˌPythagoˈrean or Pyˌthagoˈrean.

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  7. I'm not so sure about Americans being so fast to kəˈrɪbiən. If for no other reason than I'm always doubtful about which to use.

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  8. We say epicuˈrean? Well, live and learn.

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    1. See dictionaries -- even the EFL learner dictionaries like LDOCE.

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    2. @ AJD:
      That was news to me as well.

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  9. Merriam-Webster has both ˌepɪkjʊˈriːən and ˌepɪˈkjʊriən, though, so at least in North American English antepenultimate stress might be possible.

    I've never heard a linguist pronounce Saussurean with penultimate stress and I'm not sure other people have much occasion to use the adjective.

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  10. Cytherean is now very rare and would perplex the majority of amateur astronomers and probably professionals as well. Venusian it is, despite the barbarity.

    Tudor Hughes

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  11. Scholars, presumably churchmen, with a jaundiced view of Greek and Roman religion, decided that a Cytherean in the sense of priestess of Venus must have been a sacred prostitute, such as they read of in India. By extension, it was a fancy name for any prostitute.

    So, in the OED the adjective is celestial and the noun disreputable.

    I see that the pronunciation, contrary to my instinct, is sɪθəˈriːan. The E spelling reflects Latin Kytherēa representing Greek Κυθέρεια.

    Interestingly the accent (not stress but comparable) and the vowel quality in the second syllable differ from the place-name noun Κύθηρα.

    I said I'd misremembered the word as Cytherian. That was itself a false memory. I used to think it was Cytheran — which would have accepted initial stress.

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  13. CORRECTION

    Latin Kytherēa

    Silly me! Latin Cytherēa.

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