Thursday 20 September 2012


Do you pronounce trauma as ˈtrɔːmə or as ˈtraʊmə? Does it start like trawl or like trousers? THOUGHT or MOUTH? What about its derived adjective traumatic? Do you distinguish between physical trauma (A&E) and psychological trauma (Freud)?

Most words with the spelling au are pronounced with (RP) ɔː. That is what we have in saucer, author, applaud, paunch, Paul, and so on.

There are various other possibilities for au. In cauliflower and sausage the vowel is ɒ. In aunt it is ɑː (AmE æ). In gauge it is .

In French words it is usually əʊ, as in chauffeur, gauche, mauve and sauté, though I have noticed that in the name De Gaulle, rather than the expected əʊ. it is quite often ɔː (which is actually a closer phonetic fit to French o).

In German words, though, we get , as in (sauer)kraut, Strauss, Faust(ian) and Gauss(ian). However the trade name Braun usually has ɔː, whilst Audi can go either way.

We also often get rather than ɔː in a number of scientific words of Greek origin, such as the trauma we started off with, and also glaucoma and tau. But this does not apply to those words of Greek origin that are NOT particularly scientific: autograph, nautical, authentic. The latter have come to us via Latin and/or French, while the former are taken directly from Greek: τραῦμα ‘wound’, γλαύκωμα ‘greyness’. It’s interesting that somehow even non-classicists can tell the difference, and even classicists are not tempted to use Latin-style in words of direct Latin origin such as augment, auxiliary.

A quite special case is aural, not a Greek word, sometimes pronounced ˈaʊrəl so as to distinguish it aurally (sorry) from oralˈɔːrəl.

_ _ _

I shall be out of circulation for the next few days. Next posting: 26 Sept.


  1. I wouldn't pronounce those scientific Greek words with , and I think in cases where the words are established in current use, for example trauma unit, most people would agree with me. It's definitely ˈtrɔːmə ˈjuːnɪt.

    I have heard glaʊˈkəʊmə but I've always assumed that was a recent pronunciation, along the lines of ˈælgaɪ for algae (traditionally ˈældʒiː).

    piː mæk ənɛnə

  2. I'm sure the pronunciation of "De Gaulle" is influenced by "Gaul", an appropriate folk etymology. Wikipedia tells me the name is from the Flemish "Walle" 'rampart', cognate with English "wall" -- which also has the THOUGHT vowel.

  3. The general unspoken assumption seems to be SCIENTIFIC=GERMAN.

    Braun is technology, not science — and consumer technology at that.

    The pronunciation ˈaʊrəl is that rarity of rarities a conscious, deliberate, useful mistake. I think I prefer eɪ ju: ɔ:rəl. Neither device works unless the hearer(s) are aware not only of the homophony but also of the actual danger of ambiguity at the time of speaking.

    And there's no need to mess with ɔ:rəl kɒmprɪhɛnʃən or ɔ:rəl kɒmpəzɪʃən. We don't comprehend through our mouths, nor do we compose through our ears.

  4. I think I've said ˈaʊrəl rather than ɔ:rəl "aural", even though, lacking the horse-hoarse merger, I have o:rəl for "oral". You can't be too careful, y'know.

  5. I think I have ɔ:rəl "aural" and o:rəl "oral" even though I do have the horse-hoarse merger. The former is like my cause and the latter like my more.

  6. Always ˈtrɔːmə for me, and I use the same vowel sound in sauté but stick to French əʊ in chauffeur.

    Audi with aʊ suggests "'owdy", but I still say it that way at least some of the time. Having studied German might be a factor.

  7. Some British people pronounce the name "Claudia" with /aʊ/. I find it surprising that this pronunciation persists despite the availability of /ɔː/ as an alternative that's more consistent with the treatment of "au".

    In addition, I once met a British person (accent near-RP) named Laura who said her name with /aʊ/. I didn't ask her why, as I imagined that she got sick of everyone asking her that, much as I get tired of people telling me how strange my surname is.

    Ed Aveyard

    1. Though I don't find it particularly strange looking, I am wondering how it's pronounced.

    2. Using the Wikipedia system of diaphonemes, it is /'eɪvjɑrd/. It is a WR Yorkshire name, and is pronounced ['e:vja:d] in our accent.

  8. I have ɔː in trauma. Also in sausage, sauté, and glaucoma.

  9. I suffer from the (American) Northern Cities Shift. Sometimes, particularly when I'm not paying attention to my speech, ɔ becomes ɑ. This means that while /ˈtrɔːmə/ is an option, /ˈtrɑːmə/ is likewise attractive—if not moreso.

  10. I'm from the middle of the U.S. and pronounce it as tramə. (Or trɑmə if you prefer.) Perhaps influenced by the cot-caught merger (which I don't have) or perhaps influenced by drama (they rhyme for me).

    The adjective traumatic has a schwa in the first syllable for me.

  11. Here's my list:

    MOUTH: trauma (both physical and psychological), sauerkraut, Strauss, Faustian, Gaussian, Audi, glaucoma, tau; aural only when necessary. I don't know Braun as a trade name; as a German surname, I'd pronounce it with MOUTH.

    THOUGHT=CLOTH: saucer, applaud, paunch, Paul, sausage, sauté, de Gaulle, Gaul, autograph, nautical, authentic, augment, auxiliary.

    GOAT: chauffeur, gauche, mauve

    STRUT: cauliflower.

    TRAP: aunt.

    NORTH=FORCE: oral, aural except when disambiguation is required.

    And of course for me A&E is the name of a cable television channel.

  12. @John Cowan. "Culliflower"? Interesting, don't think I've heard that before. I have:

    MOUTH: sauerkraut, Strauss, Faustian, Gaussian, Audi, Braun

    THOUGHT=CLOTH: trauma, cauliflower, saucer, applaud, paunch, Paul, sausage, sauté, Gaul, autograph, nautical, authentic, augment, auxiliary

    GOAT: chauffeur, gauche, mauve, de Gaulle

    TRAP: aunt

    NORTH: aural

    FORCE: oral

    I do say taʊ, though I'd like to say tɔː for consistency's sake. On the other hand, I stick firmly to /ænt/, though some of the more sophisticated Americans have /ɑːnt/.

    - Stephen Bruce (Illinois)

  13. For 'trauma' I probably fluctuate between THOUGHT and MOUTH. I pretty reliably have MOUTH for words of German origin, including 'Braun' and 'Audi'.

    One interesting case for me is 'sauna', of Finnish origin, which I'm quite used to hearing and pronouncing with MOUTH, because it usually comes up in conversations with non-native speakers of English who tend toward the more Finnish pronunciation. Sometimes it takes me a moment to recognize the word if pronounced with THOUGHT, as most native English speakers would.

  14. The development /au/ -> /ɔː/ happened more or less simultaneous with the Great Vowel Shift, I believe.

    So we would expect MOUTH only in words that entered English after the GVS, and did not come via French (where /au/ had its own developments).

    1. And then there's analogy with words that look similar, and the general default interpretation of written au.

      Phillip Minden

    2. vp

      So we would expect MOUTH only in words that entered English after the GVS, and did not come via French

      That would only apply to words that entered English as spoken items. But loan words do tend to come as written items. Hence the widespread pronunciation brɔ:n for Braun.

      This could have been resisted — not a difficult task for firms who advertise on television. In the past everybody said nɛslz for Nestlé's, but the advertisers have now taught us differently. Similarly, they have taught us to say aʊdi. They could well have taught us to say braʊn, but decided against it.

      Sauna must have entered long after the GVS, but the sɔ:nə pronunciation flourished. I suggest that this is because far more people read about a sauna than used or ever saw one.

    3. How long ago was that true for Nestlé? I've never in my 40-some years heard the nɛsl/nɛslz pronunciation. However, looking on the internet for pronunciation, I see that mentioned as a British pronunciation. (I'm American.) Since it sounds like you mean relatively recently, I'm thinking your "everyone" means everyone speaking British English.

    4. It was certainly ˈnɛsl̩z Milky Bar when I was a kid (I'm 54 and British).

    5. Ellen

      I'm fourteen years older than Steve, so I remember when there were no commercials on TV here in Britain. I can't remember when I first heard nɛsleɪ. I think the pronunciation gained ground when I was working overseas.

      And yes, of course I meant everybody in Britain — I wouldn't presume to comment on American pronunciation. US and UK are not just linguistically different, they're different markets. A brand name like Nestlé may be pronounced differently in different markets. A brand name like Braun may not feature in both markets.

    6. I'm 53, and American. Even though it was one of the common brands when I was a kid, I don't think I ever heard the nɛslz pronunciation. It's always been either nɛsliz or nɛsleɪz.

  15. Let's see, what do I have:

    LOT = CLOTH = THOUGHT: trauma, cauliflower, sausage, saute, De Gaulle, glaucoma, autograph, nautical, aural

    PALM: aunt

    GOAT: chauffeur, gauche, mauve

    MOUTH: sauerkraut, Strauss, Gauss, Faust, Audi, tau

    NORTH = FORCE: oral

  16. On Nestlé: there is an extensive discussion of the pronunciation here - - and the pronunciation was definitely originally /ˈnesl/ in the UK and /ˈnesli:/ in the US.

    I say /ˈtrɔ:mə/ only, and /ˈɔ:rəl/ for both oral and aural. Usually the context disambiguates - you know it's an aural exam when you're going for a music exam, although it won't be clear which /ˈɔ:rəl/ exam it is when it is an English exam, say. I also say /ˈsɔ:teɪ/ for sauté.

  17. Haloo pak^^

    Kami dari SENTANAPOKER ingin menawarkan pak^^

    Untuk saat ini kami menerima Deposit Melalui Pulsa ya pak.

    *untuk minimal deposit 10ribu
    *untuk minimal Withdraw 25ribu

    *untuk deposit pulsa kami menerima provider

    untuk bonus yang kami miliki kami memiliki
    *bonus cashback 0,5%
    *bunus refferal 20%
    *bonus gebiar bulanan (N-max,samsung Note 10+,Iphone xr 64G,camera go pro 7hero,Apple airpods 2 ,dan freechips)

    Daftar Langsung Di:


    Kontak Kami;

    WA : +855 9647 76509
    Line : SentanaPoker
    Wechat : SentanaPokerLivechat Sentanapoker

    Proses deposit dan withdraw tercepat bisa anda rasakan jika bermain di Sentanapoker. So… ? tunggu apa lagi ? Mari bergabung dengan kami. Pelayanan CS yang ramah dan Proffesional dan pastinya sangat aman juga bisa anda dapatkan di Sentanapoker.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.