Friday 1 July 2011


I wrote this yesterday, but was unable to post it because of problems at
_ _ _

The newsreader on BBC R4 this morning mentioned that when the newlyweds William and Kate visit Calgary they will attend a ˈrəʊdiəʊ. (That’s the Calgary Stampede, “the greatest outdoor show on earth”.)

My ears pricked up, because I’m aware that in LPD I prioritized a differently stressed version of this word, rəˈdeɪəʊ.

I know that both stressings are possible in English, but I had the impression that — despite our English tendency to go for initial stress (cf video, Romeo, stereo) — the penultimate stress was more correct and therefore to be expected from BBC newsreaders. The reason it was (I thought) considered correct is its origin as a Spanish word, roˈðeo.

Our pronunciation dictionaries give both possibilities, as you would expect. So does the OED. But they prioritize them differently.

BrE -ˈdeɪ- -ˈdeɪ- ˈrəʊ-
AmE -ˈdeɪ- ˈroʊ- ˈroʊ-

The OED has an interesting note.
The stress of the Spanish word is on the penultimate syllable. In English, pronunciations closely resembling the Spanish pronunciation are frequent in areas of former Spanish settlement in the western United States, especially in California and the southwest. Alongside these, Dict. Amer. Regional Eng. (at cited word) records various naturalized pronunciations which show shift of stress to the first syllable (so especially in Midwestern and eastern states) and/or substitution of /i/ for Spanish /e/ or its naturalized equivalent /eɪ/ in the second syllable.

I notice that Romeo similarly has penultimate stress in Italian, roˈmɛːo. And in Latin the word vidēō (‘I see’) has a penultimate long vowel and therefore penultimate stress. But no one dreams of reproducing this penultimate stress in English. These two are anglicized as ˈrəʊmiəʊ, ˈvɪdiəʊ, with the penultimate vowel weakened as you would expect to i.

Ought I to change my priorities for rodeo?


  1. Penultimate short in Lat. videō, I think. And generally in Latin, a long vowel before a vowel is not possible (a few exceptions like fīō).

  2. Being more exposed to AmE, I am absolutely sure that I've only ever heard /ˈroʊdioʊ/.

  3. Also, listening to the CD version of LPD now, both recordings clearly put the stress on the first syllable, even though the prioritized versions are penultimately stressed as you said John.

  4. Max, you're right. Shows how rusty my Latin is. I was thinking of the infinitive, of course.

  5. Strangely, the car name Alfa Romeo tends, I think, to be stressed (in the UK at least) 'ælfǝ rǝ'meɪǝʊ, despite the existence of both elements in the NATO spelling alphabet (Alpha Bravo Charlie Delta etc), where Romeo is (I think) always 'rǝʊmiǝʊ. I can remember being laughed at by a classmate when I was at school because I had pronounced the car 'ælfǝ 'rǝʊmiǝʊ.

    On RODEO, I don't think I have ever heard it pronounced (not a fan of westerns); I had always assumed it was 'rǝʊdiǝʊ.

    On the subject of stress shift by English speakers, e.g. Sp. rodEo > Eng. (for some people) rOdeo, does Professor Wells have any views on the pronunciation of tennis players' names as currently demonstrated by the Wimbledon coverage? I am thinking particularly of Sharapova [ʂɐˈrapəvə] being pronounced as [ʃærǝ'pǝʊvǝ].

  6. As an AmE speaker, /ˈroʊdioʊ/ is the only pronunciation I would use/have heard in the US. However, there is a street in Beverly Hills called Rodeo Drive, and that's generally pronounced /roʊ'deɪoʊ/

  7. Forvo has three recordings for rodeo in English, all from the United States. Two give only initial stress, while the other gives that pronunciation first, followed by the alternative with penultimate stress.

  8. Wait... someone in the world actually says it with penultimate stress, or were you just assuming based on the Spanish? I mean, *I've* never heard it with penultimate stress in my life...

  9. @reuoq gosh what an egocentric comment!! Just because *you've* never heard a pronunciation doesn't mean it's not used!!
    See comment earlier on Rodeo Drive for instance ... :)

  10. I learned the first-syllable pronunciation growing up in the northeastern US, where it is universal, but as an adult I've had natives of the southwestern US make fun of me for not accenting the E. I believe that people in the rodeo biz also accent the E.

    Even for me, the well-known ballet by Agnes de Mille is always accented on the E.

  11. Like ibarrere, I have only heard first syllable stress for the English common noun "rodeo". Penultimate stress in Spanish or the placename "Rodeo Drive" in Beverly Hills.

    (ex-Brit, lived in northern California for the past
    14 years)

  12. A quick survey of songs:

    "Rodeo Girl" Rickie Lee Jones
    "Prince of the Rodeo" Turbonegro
    "Rodeo Town" The Kills
    "The Sweetheart of the Rodeo" Emmylou Harris
    "Rodeo" Garth Brooks
    "Rodeo Clowns" Jack Johnson

    roʊdioʊ (stress unclear)
    "Papa was a Rodeo" Magnetic Fields
    "Rodeo" Method Man

    roʊdeɪoʊ (stress unclear)
    "King of the Rodeo" Kings of Leon

    "Down Rodeo" Rage against the Machine (the track is about the street aforementioned Rodeo Drive)

  13. I agree with the previous commenters. I'd go so far as to say that roʊˈdeɪoʊ for the sport sounds pretentious and affected to most North American English-speakers, and should be avoided.

    A couple of observations just to complicate things: 1) The BOAT vowel in Calgary is very different from the BOAT vowel in, say, Houston*, Texas, so IPA might not be the best way to think about this. 2) Many participants in rodeo are Mexican or Mexican-American, and may speak Spanish as their primary language. I've no idea what impact that might have. The Mexican equivalent is called charreada. There's an similar sport in Chile called rodeo, but I've never been able to predict how Chilenos are going to pronounce anything.

    * Rodeo (sport) : Rodeo Drive :: Houston, Texas : Houston Street, Manhattan

  14. And I'm sure you're aware of the pattern of Americanization of Mexican Spanish that gives lariat from la riata, buckaroo from vaquero, etc.

    These changes occurred orally, and then later spelled phonetically. I think it's just a coincidence that the phonetic rendering of the AmE "rodeo" is identical to the standard Spanish orthography.

  15. I do not approve---it verily displeaseth me to say this---of representing the Italian pronunciation of 'Romeo' as roˈmɛːo. I do not think that Italian has vowel-quantity in the sense in which English or German or Finnish or Czech or French have it, or in which Latin had it. The second --- stressed --- vowel in 'Romeo' will often be lenghthened, but not always and besides, this lengthening seems to belong to a different level of language than the length 'a' in 'part' or the lenght of 'e`' in 'me`re' (French).

    I understand that persons whose native language knows vowels long and short cannot help hearing them in Italian; just as, if their native idiom does not know geminated consonants, they can't help NOT hearing them in Italian. Pero`...

  16. I've only heard /roʊ'deɪoʊ/ as a kind of jocular pronunciation in American English (or for Rodeo Drive, as others have mentioned). Other than those exceptions, it's always /ˈroʊdioʊ/ here.

  17. As far as Romeo goes in Italian... I do wonder whether that length mark should be there, not because it is inexact, but because I think some Italians lenthen the vowel, while others do not.

    P. S. Is there any way of changing the typeface of the comments to Segoe UI used in the main blog post or Lucida or any other, fully IPA-compliant one?

    P. P. S. Is it a rule to use the alveolar tap ɾ for Italian r between the vowels and the trill r elsewhere?

  18. Another question regarding Italian: would it be more correct to transcribe it this way kavaˈljɛːɾe or this way, with an non-syllabic i, kavaˈli̯ɛːɾe? I think the LPD uses the j.

  19. Duchesse: there is often more than one 'correct' way of phonetically transcribing a given language using IPA. Although length marks in Italian are redundant, many people find them useful reminders (compared with, say, Spanish). I generally follow my late colleague Marguerite Chapallaz's Pronunciation of Italian. She uses j.
    Typeface: I have chosen Segoe UI for my blog (or, for Mac users and anyone else who doesn't have it, Lucida Grande) because I prefer it to other phonetic fonts currently available. I have no control over the typeface of comments.

  20. Thank you for the reply! I have one other question: if you were to use the lenth mark for geminated consonants, would you put them before the stress mark or after it? For example, Abbado. Would it be abːˈado or aˈbːado?

  21. "Rodeo" has initial stress for me (b. Michigan, l. Massachusetts), except in the name of Copland's orchestral suite; then it's penultimate.

  22. Duchesse: I wouldn't use the length mark for consonants, I'd double them, thus abˈbado. They straddle the syllable boundary.

  23. Length marks in Italian are _worse_ than redundant, I'd insist: they are systematically misleading. They mislead people into thinking that the stressed vowel is always long, which it is not; some Italians drawl, it is true, stressed vowels but only before a pause, or when they wish to put emphasis on the word, or when they pronounce the word in isolation, for illustration purposes (but even there they might just as well not drawl them, and sound equally correct).

    If you ask an Italian and a Spanish what 'hand' is their respective native idiom, they will say 'mano', and chances are that Giuseppe will lengthen the 'a' while Jose will not.

    But no Italian will ever say: 'la tu:a ma:no e`: cosi` fredda' or something like it. This would sound ridiculous, or like ridiculing the Italian language.

    The vice of placing length marks after Italian stressed vowels resides in this, that they encourage ridiculous pronunciations like that---nay, they make them appear exclusively correct.

    In English by contrast---a language which has real vowel-length---a speech-scrap like this:

    who will believe my verse in time to come

    no matter how quickly and sloppily pronounced, will always have a (relatively) long vowel in 'believe' and 'verse' (non-rhotic English, that is), will it not?

  24. That would be like saying it is misleading to transcribe English using r when it is actually pronounced [ɹ] or [ɻ]. Or that it is annoying to transcribe the Enlish e with e. ‘It's better to use ɛ.’ On what planet? Both are equally incorrect. But e has an advantage of being more transparent. I found that Amy Stoller comment completely hilarious...

    No Italian would pronounce kavaˈljɛːɾe with a short ɛ...

  25. John: Yes, I know. But I've asked if you were told explicitly to do so...

    And, Wojciech, tua and è are never long... And mano is never short, like in Spanish.

  26. Ad Duchesse de Guermantes.

    I am not saying that the 'a' in 'mano' in either It. or Sp. are short. They are neutral, there being no vowel-quantity in either. Now under certain circumstances, like pause, emphasis, etc. Italians do (sometimes) lengthen the stressed vowels, but this has nothing to do with vowel-length like that of English or Czech or Finnish or German.

    Listen to this:

    the beginning of a recording of Pinocchio.

    Questa e` una registrazio:ne ...?

    No. registra'zione.

    Tutte le registrazio:ni di Librivox so:no di domi:nio pubblico? Per ulterio:ri informazio:ni..?

    No. Just listen, please. Ulte'riori informa'zioni...

    ..o per sape:re co:me diventa:re volonta:rio?

    No. Again, no 'long' vowels in there. And the lady seems to have no regional accent, least of all that of Cagliari, if you familiar with it.

    When pronounced in isolation, for illustration purposes, your Italian will drawl the vowel stressed, for instance:

    Giuseppe, how d'you call an apple in Italian?

    Answer: me:la.

    But this is an 'illustration' pronunciation, which has nothing to do with how the word is pronounced in the flow of natural speech.

    People sometimes mock Italian suade by saying:

    Tutte le registrazio:ni di Librivox so:no di domi:nio pubblico. Per ulterio:ri informazio:ni o per sape:re co:me diventa:re volonta:rio visita:te il si:to...

    My problem with length marks in Italian is precisely that it invites and encourages such mockings.

  27. Giuseppe is going to be mocked anyhow if he asks "HOW do you call an apple in Italian?". In English we say "WHAT do you call...?"

  28. An appropriate topic for getting on your hobby horse and having a trot around.

  29. I have explained why I think setting length marks in Italian is wrong and detrimental from the learner's point of view. It is indeed a kind of a hobby horse of mine, in the sense that I love (and frequently use) Italian and encounter in German and growingly English-language sources API transcriptions where length-marks are used. Germans taking such transcriptions seriously and saying:

    che bella co:sa e' un'giorna:ta e 'l so:le
    a:ria sere:na do:po la tempesta

    sound ridiculous. Their dictionaries instructing them to speak like that pay them an 'ursine service' as they say in German (Baerendienst). Unfortunately, the practice seems to be gaining ground even in the heretofore more careful Anglophone publications.

    Ad John

    Giuseppe did not say but was said-to (passive voice) 'what do you call...'. One of the pleasant qualities of the Italian people---setting it apart from some other, self-enamoured nations---is that they next to never mock anyone whose native tongue is not Italian for errors in that language....

  30. I had the impression that — despite our English tendency to go for initial stress (cf video, Romeo, stereo) — the penultimate stress was more correct and therefore to be expected from BBC newsreaders.

    It may be worth mentioning that one guide to what is 'to be expected from BBC newsreaders' is their own published pronunciation dictionary, which says:

    rodeo cowboy exhibition
    roh-di-oh /ˈrəʊdiəʊ/

    Less commonly also roh-day-oh. The latter pronunciation is also appropriate for the ballet by Copland, and for Rodeo Drive in Beverley Hills.


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