Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Salome

…which (that is to say, the Latin stress rule) brings us to the name Salome, borne inter alia by John the Baptist’s nemesis in gory Christian iconography. Its traditional pronunciation in English is səˈləʊmi, stressed on the penultimate and thus reflecting the long penultimate vowel and corresponding stress pattern of Latin Salōmē, from Greek Σαλώμη (where the letter omega, ω, tells you that the vowel is long).

In contemporary English, though, this is now in competition with initial-stressed ˈsæləmeɪ (which the Cambridge EPD, by the way, treats as the only American possibility, I’m not sure with what justification). The strong final vowel here may be inspired by the French version of the name, Salomé salɔme, or even the Spanish version (though in Spanish it has final stress). The initial stress can only come from applying the Latin stress rule on the mistaken assumption that the o was short.

Yesterday Jeremy Paxman had to ask a question to which the answer was Linnaeus: who wrote the Systema Naturae? But he pronounced the second word as ˈnætjʊreɪ. In Latin, of course, the u in this word is long: so the stress should be on the penultimate. Which is where we came in.

19 comments:

  1. Salome is these days probably just as familiar from Richard Strauss's opera (German libretto) as from the Bible. In the opera, the name has initial stress.

    Interesting entry in the RAI dictionary, recording all three possible stress patterns in Italian.

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    1. Steve, Italians always use stress on the first syllable of 'Salomè'. Stress on the second syllable is today only sometimes used in poetry.

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    2. What, even though it's marked on the final syllable?

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    3. Sorry, I meant to say LAST syllable. Stress on the first syllable is now archaic.

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  2. It is interesting to note that my copy of Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary gives different pronunciations according to sense. (Cf. Steve’s remark on the pronunciation of Strauss’s opera.) The entry reads:

    Salome
    /seuh loh"mee/ (=IPA səˈloʊ.miː) for 1, 3; /sal"euh may'/ (=IPA ˈsæl.əˌmeɪ) for 2, n.

    1. Also, Salomé. the daughter of Herodias, who is said to have danced for Herod Antipas and so pleased him that he granted her mother's request for the head of John the Baptist. Matt. 14:6-11 (not mentioned by name here).
    2. (italics) a one-act opera (1905) by Richard Strauss based on a drama by Oscar Wilde.
    3. a female given name: from a Hebrew word meaning "peace."”

    On the other hand Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate® Dictionary, which gives only one meaning (“a niece of Herod Antipas given the head of John the Baptist as a reward for her dancing”), shows what they seem to count as three pronunciations: sə-'lō-mē, 'sa-lə-(ˌ)mā (=IPA səˈloʊ.miː, ˈsæ.lə.meɪ, ˈsæ.ləˌmeɪ).

    (The IPA equivalents are my own additions, of course.)

    Anyway the word seems to be of Semitic origin (probably Hebrew or Aramaic and a cognate of Hebrew שלום šᵃlᵒwm ‘peace’), though in a Christian context it only occurs in the New Testament, and therefore must have reached the English language from Koinḗ Greek Σαλώμη Salṓmē via Biblical Latin Salome.

    Charlie Ruland

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    1. Thanks. Never occurred to me that Salome was the same word as shalom. Obvious now you mention it!

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  3. You asked "with what justification" the Cambridge EPD gives SAL-eh-may as the only American pronunciation, but that doesn't surprise me. I (American) had never even known that it could be stressed on the second syllable. I think that SAL-eh-may is these days pretty much the only possibility.

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    1. Lane, this is not what M-W Collegiate (11th ed) shows: it gives second-syllable stress as first choice.

      Also, since you did not include your true full name you risk the deletion of your comment.

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    2. John, IMHO you ought to be lenient with Lane. Here in Germany we have Data Privacy Commissioners (Datenschutzbeauftragte) who are pursuing Facebook and others for compelling their users to reveal their real name. One reason for this is that countless GDR citizens (“East Germans”) were arrested for nothing but unauthorized contact to West Germans or other westerners. I do hope you can imagine the risk some people run when they disclose their identity.

      Charlie Ruland

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    3. 'One reason for this is that countless GDR citizens (“East Germans”) were arrested for nothing but unauthorized contact to West Germans or other westerners.'

      How does this affect human fates today, in what way can this be relevant in the Germany of the 2010ies? I am puzzled.

      I was against John's 'reveal your true identity' policy for this perhaps more immediately relevant reason that this is supposed to be (I take it) a democratic forum, where no-one (but John himself, of course) is making his _pronunciamientos_ with a degree of authority proportional to his professional status or anything like that, and that we all (including John himself) are here talking sort of 'off record', not officially, _ex cathedra_ or like Pope when he's infallible---we're indulging in a 'Ferienplauderei', as the German puts it. That was at least, is no longer or not quite, my understanding. Plus, orthonymity puts at a disadvantage those of us whose full names are extremely rare, as compared to those whose aren't.

      Yet, a Salomo-Šəlōmō-nic (against, the 'Salome' root) solution can be found.

      True full name ---> see Profile.

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    4. Ad Wojciech:

      The past still makes those who experienced such a fate (themselves or among their family/friends/acquaitance), or who simply were afraid and felt restrained from acting the way they desired, empathize with oppressed people(s). Besides, and perhaps more importantly, this is the deep-rooted German Wehret den Anfängen! reaction: do not allow anything that might be the start of another dictatorship à la Honeker or even Hitler. And in order to achieve this goal, give your support to all those who suffer from tyranny. I believe that Wehret den Anfängen! expresses a more radical and consequently less self-centred attitude than the one implied by Polish solidarność, but this is only my impression, which may be deceptive.

      Enfin: Assuming that you, John and the rest have been supplied with enough material to ponder over let’s now return to the subject matter of his blog: fəˈnetɪks.

      Charlie Ruland

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  4. I’m not sure with what justification

    With no justification. I realize that you are using what Tom Shippey calls "the specialized politeness-language of Old Western Man, in which doubt and correction are in direct proportion to the obliquity of expression", but I am a Yank and I say what I think.

    M-w.com (essentially the Merriam-Webster Eleventh Collegiate) lists both the penultimate and the initial stress versions in that order, as do AHD4 and RHD2. In AHD4 we are told, however, that penultimate stress is preferred for the historical person, and initial stress for the Strauss opera.

    In one of Leo Rosten's late Mr. Kaplan stories (set in an EFL class in New York, but the year is indeterminate), one of the students, a butcher, mis-remembers Salome as salami, to the general confusion followed by hilarity of the rest of the class. Since salami has penultimate stress, that suggests to me that Salome was meant to have it also, and that confusion of vowels plus association of ideas is at the root of the EFL problem. That said, I have not heard the penultimate pronunciation myself.

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  5. If you check the English Pronouncing Dictionary on Salome again you'll see that the second-syllable stress is given as first recommendation for American English, followed by initial stress. And I don't think we British phoneticians need John Cowan to correct our manners.

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    1. Sorry, Peter, you're quite right. I think I misread it because of the line break. I ought to have said you regard initial stress as a US-only variant.

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    2. ...and all credit to you for including the ˈsæləmeɪ variant, which I failed to mention in LPD.

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  6. Doesn’t it speak volumes the AmE speaker on the LPD³ CD ROM says ˈsæləmeɪ although -ˈloʊm- is the only transcription given for AmE?
    ;-)
    Charlie Ruland

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  7. A postscript on Salome: I used to live in the Oxfordshire village of Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, and two neighbouring villages were called Britwell Salome and Berrick Salome. The pronunciation of Salome there is usually ˈsælǝm or səˈləʊm.

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    1. In 1953, Margaret Gelling recorded the local pronunciation as sɔləm. Named after the family of Almaric de Suleham, derived from Sulham in Berkshire. (Place-Names of Oxfordshire i, 106)

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