Costello.

My wife asked me “How come Costello is an Irish name? It doesn’t sound Irish.” I had to agree that it didn’t, so I checked my go-to book for surnames, Rybakin’s Словарь английских фамилий = A Dictionary of English Surnames (Moscow, 1986), where I found that it represented an Irish MacOisdealbhaigh, pronounced something vaguely like mc-ISH-dalwa, and you can sort of see how that could wind up as Costello, especially after a few pints. She raised an eyebrow when I reported this but didn’t object. Then I made the fatal decision to check Wikipedia, which said “Oistealb or Osdealv was the Gaelic rendering of Jocelyn,” referring me to this webpage:

The origin of the surname Costello provides a perfect illustration of the way the native Irish absorbed the invading Normans. Soon after the invasion, the de Angulo family, also known as “Nangle” settled in Connacht, where they rapidly became powerful. After only three generations, they had begun to give themselves a surname formed in the Irish manner, with the clan taking Jocelyn de Angulo as their eponymous forebear. Jocelyn was rendered Goisdealbh in Irish, and the surname adopted Mac Goisdealbhaigh, later given the phonetic English equivalent “Costello”.

This time my wife said “I’m sorry, that makes no sense,” and I find it hard to disagree. How on earth do you get Goisdealbh out of Jocelyn? But I’m not the explainer here, just the bearer of odd news. I report, you decide.

(Wikipedia also says: “Although it is not of Italian origin, the name Costello has a misleading Italian appearance. It occasionally has been adopted as a pseudonym or stage name by famous people of Italian descent [...], which creates further confusion about the origin of this Norman-French surname.” It sure does!)

Comments

  1. This is so absolutely fascinating. Even more so, the fact that you consulted a Russian book for an Irish surname. What a great blog.I guess we are just missing a Gaelic scholar here?

  2. “and I find it hard to disagree. How on earth do you get Goisdealbh out of Jocelyn?”

    Yeah. There’s a lot of strecth in Irish but not quite that much. “Proinsias” for “Francis” is weird but obvious once you look at it. “Gearoid” for “Gerald”? – well maybe the Normans hadn’t palatalized their Norse personal names for whatever reason.

    ” I had to agree that it didn’t, so I checked my go-to book for surnames, Rybakin’s Словарь английских фамилий = A Dictionary of English Surnames (Moscow, 1986),”

    There has to be a story behind a book on Englsh surnames lisitng Irish names.

  3. Other Latinate-seeming British Isles names: Pattillo and Omohundro. I once had a list of these in my head, but that list was replaced by something equally useless.

  4. In addition, I once had a strange conversation with my father-in-law that hinged on his misconception that Shapiro was an Italian name. Since then I hear it as Sciappiro.

  5. j>g
    o>oi
    s>st>sd
    e
    l
    y>w>v
    n>∅

    In Ireland the stress is usually on the first syllable COStello, which at least is consistent with Jocelyn. Elvis CosTELLo is of Irish stock; not sure whether he intended his stage name to be stressed thus.

    Among other Irish names which change stress abroad are those ending -ín/-een (Maureen, Eileen), which in America seem to get analogised with French names in -ine (Nadine, Celine).

  6. Among other Irish names which change stress abroad are those ending -ín/-een

    But in some Irish dialects these are pronounced with end-stress (because of the long vowel).

  7. How is de Angulo originally a Norman name?
    The California linguist Jaime de Angulo was born to Spanish parents.

  8. marie-lucie says:

    Y : I was wondering about that too. It seems that Nangle was a variant of the name. Could it be that de Angulo is a Latin translation of a Norman French name (perhaps Delangle/de l’Angle?

  9. Makes sense to me.

  10. David Eddyshaw says:

    Another Irish name which looks as if it really, really ought to be Italian: Tincello.

    My relatives of that name have given up correcting everyone and now just go with the flow and say “Tinchello.” They’ve been known to accept the plural “Tincelli.”

  11. marie-lucie says:

    DE: How do the Irish in Ireland pronounce Tincello?

  12. Ben,
    “Other Latinate-seeming British Isles names: Pattillo and Omohundro.”

    It’s funny what sounds like what to people. Pattillo doesn’t sound at all Latinate to me. It sounds like a Finnish lumberjack in the Upper Peninsula. Omohundro sounds like an exchange student from Madagascar.

    As close to Latinate as they get is like those Sicilian surnames that look Italian but aren’t quite because they aren’t really Italian.

  13. David Eddyshaw says:

    @marie-lucie:

    Tinsello.

  14. Y: The original Jocelyn de Angulo wasn’t exactly a Norman, he was Anglo-Norman. “Jocelyn is believed to have derived his surname from his homeplace of Angle, Pembrokeshire.” So it looks like a Latinization.

    I don’t know about de Angulo, but it would not be unusual to find Irish names in Spain. On two major occasions large numbers of Irish aristocrats and their followers departed for Spain, the Flight of the Earls in 1607 and the Flight of the Wild Geese in 1691. The Spanish army had three Irish regiments up to Napoleonic times. Irish priests were commonly trained in Salamanca, since Catholic education was forbidden in Ireland, and there was an Irish colony there. One well-known example of the Spanish-Irish is Don Juan O’Donojú, who played a large role in Mexican independence.

    But since the de Angulo family in Ireland changed their surname to Mac Coisdealbhaigh, the Spanish name probably has a different origin.

  15. LH: “in some Irish dialects these are pronounced with end-stress (because of the long vowel)”

    Names like Kathleen / Caitlín always have a long vowel in the final syllable, but I don’t recall ever hearing it stressed, either in Irish or Irish English, not that that proves anything. It’s originally a diminutive suffix, so stress would be unexpected.

    David Eddyshaw: I have my doubts about Tincello as an Irish name. Given Costello and indeed Kinsella (KIN-sella), it’s not unthinkable, but your comment is the first time I’ve ever encountered it (again, not that that settles it). And I can’t find it in the Irish phonebook or the 1901 or 1911 census. Then there’s Pasquale Tincello who seems to have immigrated to the US from Italy. I wondered whether it might be a doublet with Tinsley (maybe from *Ó Tinsealdheabha or something like that), but that doesn’t seem to be the case if this site is at all reliable.

  16. “But in some Irish dialects these are pronounced with end-stress (because of the long vowel).”

    Indeed. See also Moran, Mahoney.

  17. mollymooly: I’ve submitted a comment, which is apparently ‘in moderation’ (too many links?), that says “Names like Kathleen / Caitlín always have a long vowel in the final syllable, but I don’t recall ever hearing it stressed, either in Irish or Irish English, not that that proves anything. It’s originally a diminutive suffix, so stress would be unexpected.” We’ve obviously had different experiences (or I just haven’t paid enough attention). Where in Ireland would you hear KathLEEN, etc.? Or MorAN or MaHOney?

  18. marie-lucie says:

    maidhc: fascinating Irish-Spanish history! Great name, “O’Donojú”!

    About de Angulo, could it be that one member of the family (or more) went and settled in Spain, while the rest of it in Ireland (or coming back home) changed its name to a more obviously Irish one?

  19. J.W. Brewer says:

    Wikipedia confirms my own intuition that for whatever reasons “Costello” has been used as an alias or “stage name” on several occasions by persons whose real surnames were Italian, e.g. the mobster Frank Costello (born Castiglia) and the comic actor Lou Costello (born Cristillo). Whether this is sheer coincidence, or whether the name’s Janus-like character as one which was both Italianish-sounding but also Irishness-evoking (at a time when the Irish were perhaps a bit more assimilated toward the American mainstream than the Italians?) was driving the choices is unclear to me.

    Declan MacManus p/k/a Elvis Costello supposedly picked the surname because his dad (a jazz musician also surnamed MacManus) had at one point used “Costello” for a stage name. But wikipedia offers no information on why his dad made that choice . . .

  20. Names like Kathleen / Caitlín always have a long vowel in the final syllable, but I don’t recall ever hearing it stressed

    To quote T. F. O’Rahilly’s Irish Dialects Past and Present: “Southern Irish throws forward the stress to the second syllable of a word whenever that syllable is long, e.g. cuileá·n, arú·r (< arbhar), ógá·nach, díomhaoi·n.” I learned Connemara Irish, so it sounds funny to me too, but there it is.

    O’Rahilly says, “The first impulse towards the accent-shifting which took place in Southern Irish came, I have little doubt, as a result of the Anglo-Norman invasion, which affected Leinster and Munster more intensely than it did the other provinces,” for what that’s worth.

  21. Gearóid is a perfectly regular reflex, or looks like it, of *Gerontios, Welsh Geraint. Maybe it was borrowed long long ago and then (as often happens) arbitrarily equated with Gerald?

  22. Breffni, your comment is in moderation because you have a Latinate-sounding name. Hat is very strict about that sort of thing.

  23. A perusal of Spanish language sites (here and here) discussing the surname (de) Angulo yields two common theories. One connects the Spanish Angulo to an 8th century Scottish prince who came to Spain to help with the Reconquista. By another version, he was Anglo-Norman. The other theory suggests a natural placename, Ángulo, i.e. ‘angle’—perhaps a sharp bend in a river? The first theory is wanting, unless the Scottish/Norman/English prince or whatever is clearly identified. Whether it’s plausible or not that the valley of Angulo in Burgos was named after the family, I can’t say. The second theory is simpler, but doesn’t explain the stress shift to what I assume is Angúlo. The homonymy parallels that of the English Angle and angle.

  24. what I assume is Angúlo.

    Why would you assume that? I’ve been assuming the stress is on the first syllable; note “also known as ‘Nangle.’”

  25. It’s spelled without an accent. A check of YouTube yields a Florida politician, pronounced Mateo de Ángulo by an English-speaking newscaster, and a boxer, Alfredo Angúlo, as pronounced by a Spanish speaker, so… inconclusive.

    Meanwhile, the Spanish legend of the “Lodovico Angulo, the son of the Scottish king Angulo”, is ridiculous on its face, but may contain a grain of truth, as far as some foreigner bringing the name to Spain. I don’t know.

  26. It’s spelled without an accent.

    Doesn’t mean anything. Accents are often omitted on capital letters, and of course you wouldn’t expect them in medieval documents anyway.

    a boxer, Alfredo Angúlo, as pronounced by a Spanish speaker

    Interesting. Maybe a different name?

  27. …and another video, by a Colombian introducing himself as Santiago de Angúlo; and a soccer player from Valencia, whose name is spelled Miguel Ángel Angulo.

  28. per incuriam says:

    Names like Kathleen / Caitlín always have a long vowel in the final syllable, but I don’t recall ever hearing it stressed, either in Irish or Irish English, not that that proves anything. It’s originally a diminutive suffix, so stress would be unexpected

    Boreen, shebeen, smithereen, spalpeen…

    Dimunitive suffixes also receive the stress in Spanish, Italian etc. (e.g. spaghetti, tortilla).

    To quote T. F. O’Rahilly’s Irish Dialects Past and Present: “Southern Irish throws forward the stress to the second syllable of a word whenever that syllable is long, e.g. cuileá·n, arú·r (< arbhar), ógá·nach, díomhaoi·n.” I learned Connemara Irish, so it sounds funny to me too, but there it is

    That stress pattern is still the norm in Munster Irish today.

    Final stress in Eileen, Kathleen etc. is common in Ireland in my experience. Perhaps that’s been mainly in Munster though.

    Like Breffni I have doubts as to Tincello being an Irish name and I too am curious to know where in Ireland you would hear MaHOney (certainly not in the O’Mahony heartland of West Cork).

  29. MaHOney fits English default penultimate stress (with many lexical exceptions, especially in native words), of course, but that will not account for MorAN.

    Speaking of native words, last month I attempted to count how many remain in English, using the OED’s advanced search to get a list of words first used in Old English that are still current. As I reported on Lameen’s blog:

    That gave me about 7000 words. The OED’s notion of “current” involves a lot of rare, archaic, poetic, and dialectal words, plus forms that have gone out of use since OED1, so I intersected that with a list of about 120,000 current English words (in OED spelling) to bring it down to about 3800 words. I then hand-filtered that list to remove inflectional forms and obvious derivatives and compounds (but not opaque ones like outlandish and goshawk), plus OE and proto-Germanic borrowings from Latin and French and Norse, and got it down to 1800 words. That’s the whole inherited vocabulary of Modern English.

  30. John, that is indeed not that big of a number, but in comparison to all the words in a person’s vocabulary filtered by the same criteria, it’s not tiny. For example Williams’ Origins of the English Language, p. 67, counts 83% inherited vocabulary among the thousand commonest words; for less common ones the numbers converge on 25% English, 42% French and 18% Latin 9,000–10,000 frequency range. Next to 33% native vocabulary in Japanese (Wikipedia, by unclear criteria), or the 3000 or so basic words reconstructed for Proto-Basque (Trask’s dictionary, which includes obsolete and local forms), English does not seem too wild.

  31. Breifnín says:

    per incuriam: smithereen is the only one of those that would definitely take final stress in my speech. I think I could go either way with shebeen, but I doubt I’ve ever said it aloud. Not being a native speaker of Irish nor even a decent non-native speaker, I won’t go any further than suggesting that initial stress is at least acceptable in the Irish version of each of them (there’s An Spailpín Fánach, for one thing), and I would have thought more common. But my intuitions about Irish aren’t worth much. I didn’t mean, incidentally, that diminutive suffixes don’t get stressed in any language, only that they don’t in Irish. But if there are dialects where spailpín, boithrín etc. do take final stress, then that observation doesn’t stand up.

    I asked a native speaker of Munster Irish (from Kerry) about the pronunciation of the Caitlín class of names, and he insisted it’s always initial stress (he has a daughter with one of those names). As for English, I’ve lived several years in each of Munster, Connacht and Leinster (Dublin), and I’ve never noticed the final-stress variant of the Kathleen names. But if you have, then I accept it must be out there.

    Walt: “your comment is in moderation because you have a Latinate-sounding name. Hat is very strict about that sort of thing”. That must be it. I’ve adjusted my name to remove any ambiguity.

  32. per incuriam says:

    smithereen is the only one of those that would definitely take final stress in my speech. I think I could go either way with shebeen, but I doubt I’ve ever said it aloud

    The OED has all of them with final stress.

    I didn’t mean, incidentally, that diminutive suffixes don’t get stressed in any language, only that they don’t in Irish. But if there are dialects where spailpín, boithrín etc. do take final stress, then that observation doesn’t stand up

    The An Gúm Engish-Irish dictionary that gives phonetic spellings indicates final stress for these words (double primary stress in the case of síbín/shebeen).

    I asked a native speaker of Munster Irish (from Kerry) about the pronunciation of the Caitlín class of names, and he insisted it’s always initial stress (he has a daughter with one of those names)

    According to the An Teanga Bheo booklet on Kerry Irish (Corca Dhuibhne) the stress falls on the final syllable in all such words (e.g. cailín, gairdín). Fear of moderation precludes me from posting links to sound files.

  33. Oh, go ahead and post them; now that I’m awake, it won’t take more than a few minutes for me to approve the comment. Moderation isn’t a moral judgment!

  34. Authority and the evidence are against me then: forvo.com has final-stress (as well as initial-stress) pronunciations for Róisín and Eibhlín, and also one for Cáitlín (but not Caitlín without the a-fada). And I guess if that’s true of Irish, it’s likely to be true of the anglicisations too. Clearly I need to pay more attention. Mind you, I’m slow to take OED as an authority for the pronunciations of Irish English speakers.

    FWIW, the abair.ie synthesiser (which so far only has Gaoth Dobhair and Connemara dialects) has unstressed -ín in all cases that I’ve tried, proper and common nouns.

  35. per incuriam says:
  36. The Munster pronunciations are certainly very clear.

    I don’t see McCourt as a reliable model for the pronunciation of Kathleen: he lived most of his life in the US, and it’s audible in his accent. Note that he also uses the anglicised pronunciation of Caitlín.

  37. Backing up a bit, we watched the 1962 musican “The Music Man” the other night – great reputation, but not holding up too well – I hadn’t seen it since I was 10 or 11 – and re-noticed the local librarian’s family (Irish) being named “Peru” which I thought odd at the time, when I was little. This time, I read the credits and I see that it is written “Paroo”. That doesn’t sound Irish to me, either. It scarcely sounds like an actual name. Is there a rational explanation for that as well? (Of course, it is a work of fiction, so maybe it’s made up?)

  38. Paroo is a known Indian surname, and a place in Western Australia, but both seem irrelevant to The Music Man.

  39. “Where in Ireland would you hear KathLEEN, etc.? Or MorAN or MaHOney?”
    My naive Munster anglophone impression of ‘Kathleen’ and ‘Eileen’ is that they are stress-shifting à la ‘fourteen’, ‘princess’, etc. I too have never heard MorAN or MaHOney in English in Ireland, but I have heard both in English elsewhere, and I have heard analogous stress in Irish in Ireland for ‘(Ó) Móráin’ and ‘(Ó) Mathúna’. (Of course ‘Móráin’ has two long vowels, which muddies the waters somewhat.)

    Assuming the default pronunciation of the anglicised form is indeed different within and without Ireland, why should that be so? My initial flippant hypothesis was that analogy from French, Italian, etc. influenced foreign preference. Other possibilities: maybe the relative prevalence or prestige of Munster v Connacht Irish differs between the home and diaspora communities; or maybe it’s just chance.

  40. Stress-shifting – I was starting to think that too. There must be evidence out there bearing on it (i.e., -ín names/nouns in different prosodic contexts), but I can’t think how to get at it. Anyway, the Munster pronunciations in Per incuriam’s link are pretty unambiguous.

    As for why stress-final wins out elsewhere – well, first of all, where else? The US certainly; also Canada? How about Australia? I don’t think it happens in the UK: see the pronunciation of ‘Maureen Lipman’ 17 seconds into this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFUG8khlWBU. If it’s just a US thing, then I think it fits with a general US pattern of giving final stress to bisyllabic foreign(-seeming) words. That’s an overgeneralisation, but I can’t come up with the nuances just now. Maybe it’s only closed and/or heavy final syllables? I think it’s been discussed here before. Also, spelling could be a factor: I can intuitively see how ‘-een’ might look the most salient syllable in such names, in roughly the way the first syllable somehow attracts attention in Vladimir.

  41. As chance would have it, in an ancient thread that’s just sprung back to life (Habanero), Hat wrote (re stress in ‘Hezbollah’), “I’m not sure why the former [final-stress / Persian] pattern is so widespread except it has that ‘foreign-sounding’ air so satisfying to English speakers.” Again, I wonder if spelling has something to do with it. I bet that, shown the word ‘Hezbolla’, most anglophones unfamiliar with the word would give it penultimate stress, while ‘Hezbollah’ would more often elicit final stress. That would make a nice little pseudoword experiment.

  42. For whatever eason, princess does not undergo iambic reversal (as this stress-shift is called) in AmE; it’s always PRINcess. Fourteen certainly does, though: to “How many plates are on the table?” the answer may be “FOURteen plates” or “Just fourTEEN”. I would certainly expect MAUReen LIPman even from people who consistently say MaurEEN in isolation. More at Lynneguist’s blog. Note that various Americans there disagree on whether Berlin Wall stress-shifts from berLIN (normal for the German city) to BERlin or not. (For me it does not.)

  43. I would certainly expect MAUReen LIPman even from people who consistently say MaurEEN in isolation.

    You would certainly be wrong in my case; it sounds weird to me. MaurEEN, for me, is immutable.

  44. per incuriam says:

    My naive Munster anglophone impression of ‘Kathleen’ and ‘Eileen’ is that they are stress-shifting à la ‘fourteen’

    Yes. I think the way Frank McCourt says “Kathleen” is a decent illustration of this. It also reflects the way words with this ending are stressed in Munster Irish (compare for example cailín and cailín aimsire).

    As for why stress-final wins out elsewhere – well, first of all, where else? The US certainly

    Is it so clear-cut? Kathleen Turner for example seems to be KATH-leen (even in isolation).

  45. Again, for me it’s always Kath-LEEN. But I am not representative.

  46. Right enough, on the first YouTube interview I found she’s introduced as KATHleen Turner. I would have thought Maureen Dowd would be a candidate for stress shift in the context of her full name, but she seems to be mostly MaurEEN. Even there there’s an exception: in this interview with Donald Rumsfeld – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZMXwconALU – the interviewer says MAUReen (Rumsfeld doesn’t).

  47. whether Berlin Wall stress-shifts from berLIN (normal for the German city) to BERlin or not. (For me it does not.)

    For me it does, except in the case of Facebook’s Irving Berlin wall. Interesting, thanks. I now see I’ve been living a lie.

  48. Alon Lischinsky says:

    @languagehat:

    I’ve been assuming the stress is on the first syllable

    Not in the typical version of the Spanish surname. I wouldn’t know about the Anglo-Norman, but none of the Spanish Angulos I know of are pronounced /’aŋ.gu.lo/; all have stress in the penultimate syllable, which pretty much rules out an etymology in La. angulus.

    It’s true, as you write, that sometimes accents are omitted in capital letters, but the first site Y linked in writes “Álava” with an accented capital A. The lack of an accent in “Angulo” does indicate a paroxytone pronunciation.

  49. Well, the Spanish name is apparently different and unrelated, then.

  50. zythophile says:

    One to add to the surnames that are Irish but sound Italian (to be exact, it can be an Irish-origin surname OR an Italian-origin surname) – my mother’s maiden name, Donno, comes from an ancestor the spelling of whose surname changed from Dunnough (or Donohough) when he arrived in London from Ireland around 1790. Where the Italian Donnos come from, I dunno.

  51. dainichi says:

    Is there really a full consensus about what “stress” means in English? I mean, primary stress, secondary stress, reduced and unreduced vowels, it’s a bit of a mess if you ask me.

    Hat, when you say Kath-LEEN, do you consider first syllable to have secondary stress? Do you reduce the vowel to a schwa (or some other reduced vowel)?

    per incuriam, when you say KATH-leen, do you consider the second syllable to have secondary stress? Do you reduce the vowel to a schwa (or some other reduced vowel)?

  52. marie-lucie says:

    dainichi : A stressed vowel in English – primary or secondary – does not reduce.

    In the 1950′s some linguists recognized four levels of stress in English (including “unstressed”), but that number has been reduced to three. One could do with two (either stressed or unstressed), but when there is more than one stress in a word a difference needs to be made between primary (strongest) and secondary stress. This happens when a word is longer than three syllables, and also in some cases where a word of two syllables stresses them both.

    Compare fourteen and forty: fourteen has two stresses, forty only one. Which one of four and teen have primary stress may depends on the rest of the phrase, as in JC’s example above.

    Seventeen has two stresses (on the vowels of sev and teen, while seventy has only one (the en in the middle does not have a vowel in normal speech: it represents a “syllabic n“). Hippopotamus has primary stress on pot and secondary stress on hip, and the other vowels are unstressed and reduced. Tradition and traditionally both have primary stress on the “diti” (pronounced like “dish”).

    Apart from -teen words, which are clearly composed of numeral + teen, other …een words (many of which are borrowings) tend to be stressed on the last syllable, as in the names Maureen and Colleen. Kathleen seems to vary according to speakers, but that is probably because of the influence of Katherine, which is always stressed on the first syllable.

    There are even more subtleties (or complications) in the treatment of English stress. Google “stressed vowel” for more explanations and examples.

  53. Kathleen seems to vary according to speakers, but that is probably because of the influence of Katherine, which is always stressed on the first syllable.

    But as Molly Mooly and others mentioned, in Ireland & Britain Maureen, Irene, Eileen, Doreen etc. have all been stressed on the first syllable.

  54. Hat, when you say Kath-LEEN, do you consider first syllable to have secondary stress?

    Yes.

    Do you reduce the vowel to a schwa (or some other reduced vowel)?

    No.

    One does not need a detailed theory about what “stress” means in English to know which syllable of a word one is stressing.

  55. J. W. Brewer says:

    As deployed in the lyrics of “Come On Eileen,” the name “Eileen” primarily has second-syllable stress, but occasionally first-syllable stress. Maybe this is “poetic license” with the immediate rhythmic needs of the song overcoming ordinary pronunciation, but how confident are we that the singer (wikipedia says born/raised in Wolverhampton to/by Irish parents from Co. Mayo) would uniformly use first-syllable stress in ordinary conversation?

  56. marie-lucie says:

    LH: One does not need a detailed theory about what “stress” means in English to know which syllable of a word one is stressing.

    True if one is a native English speaker, unless one is teaching ESL

    I was not writing for the benefit of anglophones, who would not even think of asking dainichi’s questions. English stress, its placement and its influence on vowel quality are a major difficulty for non-native speakers, especially those in whose languages stress is either fully predictable or does not play a major part in word formation and identification: French and Japanese are well-known cases.

    Linguists usually classify stress and tone together in a separate category of “suprasegmentals”, as opposed to the consonants and vowels which constitute the indispensable “segments” of speech. I am sure that Chinese speakers know how to use tone, but even identifying tones can be very hard for speakers of structurally toneless languages (those in which tone does not affect word identification). Stress is also difficult for speakers of structurally stressless languages.

    JAP: But as Molly Mooly and others mentioned, in Ireland & Britain Maureen, Irene, Eileen, Doreen etc. have all been stressed on the first syllable.

    I was quoting words according to what I am used to hearing in English Canada (where stress is generally as in the US), but as I mentioned, two-syllable, two-stress words are not necessarily stressed the same way in every English-speaking region, or even in every sentence, even by the same speaker). Historically, there has been a tendency to shift stress to the first syllable in a large number of English words (eg REsearch competing with earlier reSEARCH), and this shift is still going on. Whether KATHleen (perhaps helped by KATHerine) results from this shift, while KathLEEN is following an older pattern, I am not in a position to say.

  57. I don’t see any need for a secondary-stress phoneme in English. What are called secondarily stressed syllables are simply unstressed syllables without vowel reduction. Here are a few examples: I will use an acute accent for stressed syllables, a grave accent for unstressed syllables without vowel reduction, and no accent for vowel-reduced unstressed syllables. So we have fòurtéen, which becomes fóurtèen with iambic reversal and contrasts with fórty; sèventéen, or under iambic reversal séventèen; príncess with no possibility of reversal in AmE but prìncéss ~ príncèss in BrE; Berlín for some Americans but Bèrlín ~ Bérlìn for others; Máhony, Móran (or Móràn?) in Ireland, Mahóny, Morán in the U.S. (Whether you write -y or -ỳ in Mahony is a question of theoretical interpretation: it depends on whether you prefer to think that happY-tensing has changed the reduced pronunciation of final reduced /i/ from /ɪ/ to /i/, the same as the unreduced pronunciation, or that it has changed final syllables consisting of /i/ from reduced to unreduced.)

    On the other hand, if you are doing prosody you do need four abstract kinds of syllables: plain stresses, stresses that can be demoted to slacks, slacks that can be promoted to stresses, and plain slacks. Which of these is what depends on the meter, if any: iambic pentameters traditionally allow a lot of promotion, typically one per line, whereas four-stress native verse neither has nor requires promotion, but demotion is quite common.

  58. I was not writing for the benefit of anglophones

    Right, but I wasn’t responding to you but to dainichi; it may be that I misunderstood their comment, but I was answering according to my understanding of it.

  59. John,

    I don’t see any need for a secondary-stress phoneme in English. What are called secondarily stressed syllables are simply unstressed syllables without vowel reduction.

    But is it any more natural to posit two flavours of unstressed vowel, reduced and unreduced, than it is to posit three grades of stress? Wouldn’t words would have to carry the same amount of information in the lexicon anyway? For example, under your analysis, it’s true that each of the syllables of sèventéen would have to carry only a binary label for stress (’1. unstressed 2. unstressed 3. stressed’), which is simpler than marie-lucie’s three-value variable (’1. secondary stress 2. unstressed 3. primary stress’); but your analysis requires another tier of (binary) information for the vowels: ’1. unreduced 2. reduced [3. N/A]‘. Whereas in marie-lucie’s analysis the vowel reduction follows from the degree of stress on the syllable, and doesn’t need to be separately specified. Or are there independent reasons for preferring to dispense with the secondary-stress notion?

    Re: Móran vs. Móràn in Ireland – definitely the former: reduced vowel on the second syllable. Unless I’ve missed something again.

    Incidentally, it’s been well established by now anyway, but a native-speaker colleague in our Irish department agrees with LH and per incuriam that second-syllable stress is the norm in ‘-ín’ names as pronounced in Munster Irish. I don’t know where that leaves my Kerry informant.

  60. Whether KATHleen (perhaps helped by KATHerine) results from this shift, while KathLEEN is following an older pattern, I am not in a position to say.

    No, I don’t think so. RE-search is a pronunciation that came to Britain in the 60s from the US, followed (less successfully) by DE-fence in the 70s, whereas KATH-leen is an older Anglo-Irish pronunciation that has nothing to do with the US. And as I said, Katherine is moot: Kathleen’s pronunciation in (parts of) Ireland & Britain is similar to all the other -een names in having the emphasis at the start of the word.

  61. But is it any more natural to posit two flavours of unstressed vowel, reduced and unreduced, than it is to posit three grades of stress?

    It depends on how surface-y your analysis is. If you think that speakers maintain each word in the lexicon separately, then “reduced vowel” is a purely historical notion: the anglophone mind remembers that the phonological shape of organize is [ˈɔrgənaɪz] and of organization is [ɔrgənɪˈzeɪʃən] (details vary according to accent), and that’s that. No need for any talk of reduced or unreduced vowels. But if you think that the root has the same phonological shape in each case, be it [organaɪz] or [organize] (SPE) or whatever, and that it is transformed on the way out according to the suffixes added, then you have to posit an internal representation of which vowels will become reduced when they are unstressed and which will not. You can call that “secondary stress” if you want to, it’s purely abstract.

    Your use of “posit” suggests that you think in the latter terms.

  62. “Your use of “posit” suggests that you think in the latter terms.”

    Just a habit from way back; I didn’t intend it as a Chomskian dog-whistle (but perhaps that’s not what you meant?). On the representations question, I think I think that we develop deeper representations through experience. I don’t think kids can intuit an underlying unreduced vowel from a schwa (like /E/ from the final schwa of experience, but in many cases I imagine we find out the (historically, not mentally) ‘underlying’ vowel through exposure to spelling or related words, like experiential. I imagine that the surface-like representation with schwa and the later-acquired, more abstract or ‘underlying’ one with /E/ coexist. I don’t think the later understanding has to elbow out the earlier one, and in fact I assume they’re different kinds of mental entity.

  63. marie-lucie says:

    “My” analysis is hardly original, and I am not a specialist in English phonology. I agree that JC’s proposal of two kinds of unstressed vowel, although “observationally adequate” (as Chomsky would say), calls for a statement of under what conditions such a vowel reduces or not. Positing two degrees of stress (primary and secondary) is descriptively easier, whether or not it is considered theoretically sounder (and that would depend on the theory).

    A lot has been written about English stress. I am pretty sure there is also a more general volume called “Stress” in one of the Cambridge U series on linguistics, dealing with stress in a variety of languages.

  64. marie-lucie, by “your” analysis I just meant the analysis that you set out in your comment, with typical clarity.

  65. David Marjanović says:

    but that will not account for MorAN.

    In the US, the desire to keep it distinct from moron is probably enough to explain that.

    (Not that it always works. Remember?
    “Get A BRAIN!
    MORANS”)

  66. Moran with initial stress would not collapse with moron, for the latter has unreduced vowels.

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