Monday, 6 June 2016

stress on fo'reign words

Some time ago (a little over two years ago, in this post) I wrote this:
In my youth I spent a few months selling magazine subscriptions, as mentioned in a previous post. ... 
One of the English titles that I had for sale was Motor Sport. So  into my fairly competent spiel (I had learned the necessary Spanish off pat) I dropped these three totally unrecognizable syllables: /məʊtəspɔ:t/. The Spanish for 'Motor Sport' included an /r/ sounded before the epenthetic vowel that precedes the outlandish consonant cluster /sp/. 
‡  Outlandish, that is, at the beginning of a word.
In my transcription I overlooked what may be a crucial point: in English, stress is on the first syllable; the Spanish is /mɔ`tɔ`pɔrt/.

Of late I've been noticing cases of mistaken stress, sometimes occasioning further phonological mistakes. In no particular order they are
  • Boris
  • Karel
  • Roland Garros

There's a problem here. In Russian an o in an unstressed syllable is reduced to something a lot more central; I know no  Russian, but I think of this sound like the Portuguese /ɐ/ (and don't get me started on people who  overpronounce Portuguese as though it were Castilian Spanish: that's OK for Brazilian Portuguese, but in Continental Portuguese it's a sure sign of foreignness). So English speakers are stuffed either way. Putting the stress on the first syllable is wrong; but if you do put the stress on the second syllable then the o has to change – resulting in a noise that is going to be simply unintelligible to other speakers (either of English or of Russian).

This is a related problem. My taiji teacher's husband, Czech by birth, has this name. Many English speakers (myself included) pronounce this as we would say Carol (which at one time was optionally male...

... which reminds me of a Carroll Gibbons 78rpm record in my father's collection  – on the Brunswick label, I seem to remember. On the air is the one tune I remember from it. The balding pianist on the jacket was obviously a man. (Aha – faulty memory, it must have been an LP, with a jacket like that; and come to think  of it the Brunswick 78 may have been The Little Fiddle
Oh what a tangled web we... trawl(?)
When first we practice to recall
as wossname so nearly said).

But stress is on the second syllable of Karel. Some students, noticing this, adopt that stress (as in some way "better") . However , they can't keep themselves from enforcing the English phonological rule that requires unstressed syllables (with a few exceptions, notably /ɪ/PPS) to be reduced to /ə/. So they say /kə`rel/ which is wrong in spite of their assiduous striving towards linguistic purity.

Roland Garros

PS: Aha, that was it
The BBC, like most English speakers, uses the anglicized /`gærɒs/. But MrsK often prefers the Eurosport coverage – which exposes the viewer to advertisements aimed at a wider audience. The sponsor of the French Open (whose name, the marketing department will be disappointed to hear, escapes me) regularly announced "Longines,  proud sponsor of Roland Garros".

But here's the thing: they assigned the correct stress to Garros, but at the expense, ...
<digression type="sophomoric"> 
as with "Karel" [vs, as they used to say in Latin (vide supra="see above")
at the risk of sending musicians into a frenzy of page turning (volta subito). #BouBoumTsh ]
 ... of reducing the /a/ to /ə/.  And, to compound the injury, they didn't change the stress on "Roland", indeed they made no attempt at all to disguise their obvious feeling that this was an Anglo-Saxon name: /`rəʊlənd/ – "demmed Frenchies", as the Scarlet Pimpernel might have said.

Is that the time? I'll wrap this up another day.


Update:2016.06.06.17:00 – Added picture

Update:2016.06.07.12:05 – Added PS

PS re Boris
Another bit of autobiog: I first became aware of this when I was rehearsing with a balalaika player who wanted me to adopt the name 'Boris', and as it happens one of the tunes we played was Korobeiniki (neither of whose os makes an o-like sound). I was reminded of this by a recent radio programme that used the soundtrack of the GAME BOY game Tetris (which, I'm obviously not the first to discover, is the same tune).

Update:2016.06.07.16:30 – Added PPS

I just remembered that I wrote this snippet about five years ago – for the forerunner of When Vowels Get Together, but at a time when my vaulting ambition extended to all  vowels everywhere. I've brushed it up a bit (but left the period detail – notably the reference to ol' red eyes):
Unstressed i is regularly – in Received British English (RBP) – pronounced /ɪ/. But in many variants, particularly ones with Estuarine tendencies, /ə/ is used –(especially in words that already have a stressed /ɪ/). For many speakers, for example, Tony Blair was the /praɪm 'mɪnəstə/, with the second i of minister reduced to /ə/. 
Also, even in people who think of themselves as speakers of RBP,  this reduction may occur: demonstrations may, for example, be accompanied by acts of /'sɪvəl dɪsə'bi:djəns/, although those speakers, if asked 'How do you pronounce C-I-V-I-L?' would say /'sɪvɪl/ (possibly adding /əv kɔ:s/).

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