Re: How would you pronounce this word...? (no, it's not in a dictionary)

Subject: Re: How would you pronounce this word...? (no, it's not in a dictionary)
From: Dick Margulis <margulis -at- fiam -dot- net>
To: Jeyen Chevenga Barham-Kaiel <jeyen -at- bigfoot -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 11 Feb 2000 17:15:28 -0500


As I wrote to Rene, shortly after sending my original post, I had
intended PAY-see-an (or PAY-see-ahn, using your system), not
PA-see-an). It was an uncaffeinated typo.)

But I believe you are incorrect about default stress in American
English. What I was taught is that in words of three or more syllables,
the trend in American English is to switch from the older default of
stressing the penultimate syllable to the newer default of stressing the
antepenultimate syllable. This was from a lecture in my sophomore
English class at Cornell in 1965-66, and my sister's lecture notes from
the same course, taken in 1960-61, confirmed that it was not a new
observation then. Now we have had another 40 years of nationally
broadcast television speech to set it in concrete. I think British
English is less far along in this transition.

However, all that said, it is still valid to point out that an
international company has to consider more than American English. If
they want it pronounced consistently worldwide (maybe they do; maybe
they don't), then it is incumbent on them to indicate graphically where
they want the stress and how the vowels are to be construed.

Anyway, what inspired my comment about rules was a wonderful book I just
finished reading, _Words and Rules_, by Stephen Pinker. Basic Books,
1999. I highly recommend it to anyone who cares about language, how we
acquire language, and the true nature of grammar.


Jeyen Chevenga Barham-Kaiel wrote:
> More on this one:
> I was going to disagree that the default English pronunciation would be
> PAH-see-an (where "a" is pronounced as in farm). Most English words are
> accented on the next to last syllable, not the third to last. Thus, if
> it's a three syllable word, the pronunciation would be pah-SAY-an.
> However, after doing some digging in the dictionary, I realized that
> words that end in on, not in ion, usually have the emphasis on the third
> to last syllable. I'm sure there's some etymological reason for it, and
> if you know it, I'd love to hear it.

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