Pyramidal.

Anne Curzan has a nice discussion of a vexed problem: when and how to correct people’s language. She opens with an anecdote:

Last month I was recording a lecture and had to say the word pyramidal. The passage, about bats in pyramidal cages, was an example of how the passive voice is deployed in scientific writing. I’d never before had occasion to say that word out loud.

I went with what seemed like a perfectly reasonable guess: pyramid (pronounced as usual) + –al, so the primary stress remained on the first syllable.

I got stopped. And corrected. “Py-RA-midal,” I was told. I had to practice a few times in my head before I could get it right on the videotape. (I now know that those of you in medicine have a leg up on me here, because you talk about the extrapyramidal system.)

Pronunciation is not the point here, though. What has stuck with me is how silly and disconcerted I felt when I got corrected. The insecure part of me felt as if I had just been outed. What kind of academic — let alone a linguist — doesn’t know how to pronounce pyramidal?

I can completely empathize with all that; I happen to know how to say pyramidal, but even at my semi-advanced age (I’m currently in the process of trying to figure out Medicare) and with my decades of obsessing about language, I still discover pronunciations I never learned (let’s not even talk about the simple words whose spelling I still have to look up to be sure), and if I said one of them wrong in such a situation and got corrected, you can bet I’d feel disconcerted. And she has an exemplary recommendation:

Next time you’re about to blurt out a correction of someone else’s language (their pronunciation or grammar or punctuation or something else), pause for a moment and consider what your goal is. Will this person really benefit from having you call out this bit of language, as I did when the producers corrected my pronunciation? And is this a good moment? If so, then go ahead — and do it kindly. If not, if the speech act will make you feel smart but not really help the other person, then consider keeping that correction in your head. Remember how stressful, if not downright silencing, it can be for someone to realize that you are listening to how they talk as much as to what they are saying.

Comments

  1. I once heard a technical lecture where the lecturer (from India, maybe?) kept pronouncing Rayleigh as ra-leg, with an aspirated g. Nobody corrected him, mercifully.

  2. Jim Parish says:

    When I was first learning advanced mathematics, Prof. B took me under his wing. He was a specialist in group theory (a branch of abstract algebra). Among other things, he taught me the concept of “isotropy” (eye-SAH-tr@-pee). Some years later, during one of my qualifiers, I had to give a talk on group theory before two professors (in fields related to, but not identical to, group theory) at a different university. When I said eye-SAH-tr@-pee, they both started laughing and informed me that the word was “EYE-so-tro-pee”. For the rest of the talk, I pronounced it their way. I was more angry than embarrassed, though; Prof B was my first mentor, and a specialist in the area; what business was it of theirs to correct him?

  3. Eli Nelson says:

    I’d expect “eye-SOT-ropy” based on the normal pattern for pronouncing words like this in English, and most dictionaries seem to only give that pronunciation. So their correction was not only rude; it was also ignorant—there was nothing wrong with the way you were pronouncing it before.

    That’s another thing about these kind of public corrections—you better be totally sure that you’re right about them!

  4. Y says: I once heard a technical lecture where the lecturer (from India, maybe?) kept pronouncing Rayleigh as ra-leg, with an aspirated g. Nobody corrected him, mercifully.

    Indian English is full of peculiarities. A kind of “shibboleth” is the pronunciation of the word “purchase” as pɜː’tʃeɪs rather than ‘pɜtʃəs. A lot of mileage is made out of this in the Australian comedy series Pizza.

    Another strange pronunciation that I came across in Europe (Netherlands) is that when speaking English the word “country” is pronounced kaʊntri rather than kʌntri. When I corrected the person, they explained that they would rather pronounce it kaʊntri to avoid saying the rude word in the first syllable. Interestingly, this is the supposed explanation of the fact that in England, the title of nobility is Earl rather than Count (even though the feminine is always Countess).

  5. Another case like isotropy is allophony. I’m still not sure whether to go with the “naive” or “classicizing” pronunciation, because I don’t think I’ve ever heard it spoken.

    @zyxt: Tangentially, a native English speaker from Canada once told me that he pronounced southern as [ˈsaʊðɚn], and I’m still trying to figure out how common that is up there. He was from Ottawa, though, so I wonder if maybe it’s a francophone pronunciation that’s rubbed off on the local anglophones.

  6. marie-lucie says:

    Lazar: southern as [ˈsaʊðɚn]

    This sounds to me like a hypercorrection based on the American and British pronunciation of South. At least in the Eastern part of Canada, South is pronounced almost as if written “Soath” (according to the so-called “Canadian raising”, which is actually a survival), so it is likely that the person in question was trying to avoid the perceived Canadianism and extending the non-Canadian pronunciation to the derived word. I doubt that this was due to French influence.

  7. @Jim Parish: I am a specialist in working with symmetry groups, and I would say that Prof. B was right. I have heard the other pronunciation, but mostly from mathematicians and physicists who are not native English speakers.

    Going back to pyramidal: I pronounce it the “correct” way, but I have heard the other pronunciation often enough that I would consider it an acceptable variant.

  8. Fortunately the OED3 has reached allophony, and it lists both pronunciations (first- and second-syllable stress) for both BrE and AmE. I have always used initial stress myself.

    As for count, haud credo. (“‘Twas not an old grey doe, it was a pricket!”)

  9. I’ve never heard “piRAEmidal.” I’ve heard it pronounced as “pyramid” usually is—stronger stress first syllable, weaker stress third syllable—with a schwa “al” tacked on.

    It seems possibly that the stress shifts in “extrapyramidal” due to the extra syllables.

    In other anecdata, I had an interesting conversation with a landscaper about a plant that many have read about in books and gardening columns but fewer have spoken of. When a garden client told her he had heard a radio program discussing cotoneaster (pronounced koe-TOE-nee-as-ter) shrubs, he decided that they sounded perfect for the project, and she ordered a bunch. She showed up with the plants in their black plastic pots to install them, and he said, “No, no, that’s not what I want! I already have plenty of cottoneasters (pronounced cotton-Easter).”

  10. John Cowan says: As for count, haud credo.

    Thanks for that, it’s interesting and informative. It gives rise to the following questions:
    Why hasn’t the traditional form for “wife of earl” survived through to modern English? Why was it supplanted by “countess”?
    And why is county rather than earldom the term for a territory ruled by an earl?

  11. In Old English, eorl was a rank rather than a title, so there was no need for a special name for their wives. County originally referred to a local court rather than a geographical area, the native word for which was and is shire. Eventually the two words and their senses converged, though county court displaced shire-moot.

  12. @m-l: Well, I wrote a comment about a week ago in the “Pausing Over Pronunciation” thread about why I think it’s problematic to call Canadian raising a survival (it differs significantly from the Scots vowel length rule and extends far beyond areas of Scottish settlement). I’d be inclined to support Trudgill’s hypothesis, summarized here, that “raised forms […] spoken by Scottish and other immigrants to Canada may have been mixed with unraised forms spoken by immigrants from other regions, so that new generations of Canadians resolved the conflict by developing an allophonic alternation between the competing forms.”

  13. Four out of five Russians pronounce – or, rather, mispronounce – “purchase” by stressing the second syllable and rhyming it with “ace” or “daze”. This includes people interacting daily with colleagues, counterparties or customers who are native English speakers. A puzzle to me.

    I’ve also heard an economics professor of Chinese or Taiwanese descent insist that “perseverance” actually rhymes with “severance” over protests from a handful of natively English-speaking students.

  14. David Marjanović says:

    What has stuck with me is how silly and disconcerted I felt when I got corrected. The insecure part of me felt as if I had just been outed. What kind of academic — let alone a linguist — doesn’t know how to pronounce pyramidal?

    Like Chinese character amnesia!

  15. January First-of-May says:

    In terms of incorrect pronunciations, I’m reminded of this page (which its author calls “a very serious attempt to get the prize for ‘most useless data on a webpage'” – but it should be rather interesting to linguistic blogs).

  16. David Marjanović says:

    Never mind where to put the stress and therefore the reduced vowels in Diplodocus or Deinonychus; I’ve heard data as [ˈdeɪ̯ɾə], [ˈdæɾɐ] and [ˈdɑɾə] from native-speaking Americans at the same conference, with no attempts to correct each other.

    this page

    The first two are really surprising misreadings.

  17. /ˈdɑːtə/ I’ve mostly heard from Australians.

  18. The first two are really surprising misreadings.

    So is the last, pronouncing facetious (misspelling as faceitious) as something close to fastidious.

    Then again, I remember pronouncing chagrin to rhyme with gangrene (with “sh” at the start). Also stressing the second syllable of euphemism and making it long, though that’s more understandable.

  19. I’ve never heard “piRAEmidal.” I’ve heard it pronounced as “pyramid” usually is

    You talk as if this were an everyday word you’ve heard many times, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t heard it more than once or twice in my life. Are you quite certain you aren’t extrapolating from having heard it inside your own head?

    I’ve also heard an economics professor of Chinese or Taiwanese descent insist that “perseverance” actually rhymes with “severance” over protests from a handful of natively English-speaking students.

    One of the most annoying things about teaching English in Taiwan was having my students “correct” me on points of English pronunciation and usage. (I have also had Germans do that, but at least I wasn’t their English teacher.)

  20. I haven’t read the other comments yet, but I deal with this at least on a weekly basis.

    I am a scientist working abroad. English is my mother tongue. Most of the science is conducted in English, but only maybe five percent of the people in the field have English as a first language.

    It is sometimes maddening, but I always hold my pronunciation corrections until after a talk. The worst for me, though, is the misuse of idioms. And also the difference between British and American standards.

  21. @Rick: It’s not a pronunciation issue, but something similarly maddening happened to me last week. At conference, a native French speaker was trying to draw as distinction between an “upper bound” and a “constraint.” The latter must have been a calque from French, but it was really irritating, since he made the supposed distinction a centerpiece of this talk. Under questioning (from myself and others), he did give a clear account of what the substantive difference was, and I think we impressed upon him that the words he was using did mean in English what he wanted them to mean. (Separately, there was the issue that in one of the two main cases he was talking about, the distinction he wanted did not even exist. However, that was more the fault of an earlier author, whose published description of his algorithm was probably misleading; I only knew the true situation since I had talked with the earlier author in detail about his results.)

  22. Rodger C says:

    I’ve also heard an economics professor of Chinese or Taiwanese descent insist that “perseverance” actually rhymes with “severance” over protests from a handful of natively English-speaking students.

    Was he a Calvinist or educated by same? That’s how one pronounces it in Point 5 of the Synod of Dordrecht, “the final perseverance of the saints.” Cf. also Marlowe: “Though thou hast now offended like a man, / Do not persever in it like a devil.”

  23. Will never forget the time my father pronounced “orthodoxy” as, well, something like “orthotics-y.” I about fell out of my chair laughing, but then felt bad because he was obviously a bit embarrassed over it. Joke’s on me, because I can’t help but read it that way in my head now.

    I was recently left feeling very uncomfortable when corrected on “redolent” – why shouldn’t it be redOlent? Why does everyone else seem to know that the stress is on the first syllable? Is everyone hanging out without me again?

    As for teaching English, I never could convince some of my Russian students that “clothes” is pronounced about the same as “close [the door].” They were determined to say [‘kloʊ ðəz], with a very carefully articulated ð. (Actually, could fill a volume with the things I, as an American English speaker, couldn’t convince my students of, as learners of British English and natural skeptics.)

  24. Rodger C says:

    I’ve seen 19th-century novels with “clothes” written in dialogue as “clo’es,” as though the pronunciation was current but not quite respectable.

  25. The use of -ʼd for -ed in hymnals seemed to long outlive the regular use of /ǝd/. (And I could never make heads or tails of heav’ns.)

  26. Evan Hess says:

    Pyramidal, spoken out loud and accented on the second syllable, probably would not be readily understood by anyone but a pyramidologist, which seems to me like a good reason to maintain an alternate pronunciation accented on the first or even third syllable for casual use (assuming anyone ever uses it casually).

    English might have had the word pyramidate, from the Latin pyramidatus, but the Latin word has about a ghostly existence as possible, a single instance as a gloss that crept its way into a text of Cicero, or so say Lewis and Short. Its existence is too ghostly to have made the cut for the Oxford Latin Dictionary — that’s a reason Lewis and Short is still fun to use.

    Better might have been the pure Greek pyramidoid — a nice, woody word.

  27. Yes, very woody indeed!

  28. Harry R says:

    At least three online dictionaries give the ‘wrong’ pronunciation of pyramidal:

    http://dictionary.cambridge.org/pronunciation/english/pyramidal
    http://www.macmillandictionary.com/pronunciation/british/pyramid
    http://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/pyramidal

    I checked because I was surprised to hear it was wrong. So at the very least there’s some disagreement.

  29. The standard stress pattern of “pyramidal” is the same as that of “pyrimidine,” even though the two works are not recently (and possibly not at all) related.

  30. At least three online dictionaries give the ‘wrong’ pronunciation of pyramidal

    Huh. Thanks for checking; this is why it’s always a good idea to refrain from being too dogmatic about wrongness.

  31. I was laughed at by my college roommate for stressing the second syllable of “redolent”.

    As a mathematician I have heard “isotropy” as both eyeSOTropy and EYEsotropy, usually the latter. I imagine that the former is chiefly British.

    In my youth in England I heard an English grad student ask a very distinguished and brilliant (and proud and opinionated) English mathematician which of two pronunciations of “homotopy” was the correct one. The expert’s surprising answer was that he himself strove for something in between the two, based on a knowledge of ancient Greek.

  32. Rodger C says:

    @Lazar: The pronunciation of “heaven” as a monosyllable seems to have come and gone between the 17th and 19th centuries.

  33. The Longman Pronunciation Dictionary states the following in its entry for -al: When forming an adjective, this suffix imposes stress one or two syllables back (ˌuniˈversal, ˈpersonal). When forming a noun, it is stress-neutral (ˌdisapˈproval).

    Following this rule, the adjective pyramidal would be expected to be either ˌpyraˈmidal or pyˈramidal. I must have internalized a similar version of this rule, because either version sounds ok in my head. By contrast, ˈpyramidal sounds incorrect to me.

    For the record, the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary gives pyˈramidal as the main entry and ˈpyramidal as an alternate possibility, while also recognizing that the stress in this variant can shift to ˌpyraˈmidal.

  34. I myself have a spelling pronunciation of clothes, Ghu knows why, but it remains a monosyllable. As for -ed vs. ‘d, the full pronunciation is still required in many old hymns to make them fit the music, so it’s handy to signal the elision, as one gets into the habit of trying to supply it otherwise.

    I think I’ve posted before about the weirdness of “And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing” from the carol “Joy to the World”. The first “heaven” is sung over two notes and the second over three, but it’s traditional to use the monosyllabic pronunciation and stretch it: “and he-evn, and he-e-evn, and nature sing”. There are probably some modern recordings by people who don’t know this and sing “and heav-en, and he-ev-en”, but I haven’t tried to find them. Note that in either version there is a syllable /hɛ/, thus violating the supposed no-lax-coda-vowel constraint.

  35. Eli Nelson says:

    Isn’t the syllable just /hɛv/? It’s common in singing to stretch what is in speech a single phonological syllable across multiple notes (Wikipedia tells me this is called “melisma,” with a possible Greek plural “melismata” which most people would probably not know how to pronounce). While this may sound phonetically like multiple syllables, I don’t think it’s clear that the word gains more phonological syllables just because it is sung this way.

    In this context, the /n/ of “heav’n” can be re-syllabified with the following vowel-initial word, but in other contexts it can’t. I wonder if elision of “heav’n” is more common before words that start with vowels?

  36. And along these lines, I’d challenge anyone to competently sing the first verse of “Rule, Britannia!” without extensive training.

  37. January First-of-May says:

    As a mathematician I have heard “isotropy” as both eyeSOTropy and EYEsotropy, usually the latter. I imagine that the former is chiefly British.

    In my youth in England I heard an English grad student ask a very distinguished and brilliant (and proud and opinionated) English mathematician which of two pronunciations of “homotopy” was the correct one. The expert’s surprising answer was that he himself strove for something in between the two, based on a knowledge of ancient Greek.

    I wonder which, specifically, the “two pronunciations” were…

    Based on the Russian, I would have expected eyesoTROpy (I’ve kept the first two syllables, but it could just as easily be ee- and/or -zo-) and homoTOpy.

    As for teaching English, I never could convince some of my Russian students that “clothes” is pronounced about the same as “close [the door].” They were determined to say [‘kloʊ ðəz], with a very carefully articulated ð. (Actually, could fill a volume with the things I, as an American English speaker, couldn’t convince my students of, as learners of British English and natural skeptics.)

    It is? I didn’t know that.

    I suck at carefully articulating ð (it usually comes out as [z] or [d͡z]), so I end up pronouncing something similar to “closes”, but it’s certainly nowhere near the same as “close” (in particular, there are definitely two syllables).

  38. Yup, it’s the same as “close.” Amend your ways!

  39. It can be either /kloʊz/ or /kloʊðz/, yeah. (But one syllable in either case.)

  40. There wouldn’t be two syllables even if it had /ð/. The verb clothes has /ðz/ and has one syllable (as does clothed), and so do various plural nouns in -ths (like paths), for those people who don’t have /θs/ in the plural.

  41. @Hat, re @Brett: Speaking as (yet another) mathematician… Prior to reading this post I would have said pyramidal with stress on the first syllable. In fact, I think I have said it like that aloud before. I also think that I’ve heard it aloud, with stress on the first syllable, from other mathematicians.

    I know for sure that I have never heard a mathematician say it with stress on the second syllable. But it could just be me; maybe I don’t go to enough talks about pyramidal things.

  42. David L says:

    A word that causes me a similar difficulty is ‘artisanal,’ as a descriptor of cheese, honey, beer etc in the NYT. It looks as if it wants to be pronounced with stress on the second syllable, but that sounds silly to me. As do all the other possible pronunciations.

  43. A word that causes me a similar difficulty is ‘artisanal,’ as a descriptor of cheese, honey, beer etc

    I think it causes everyone difficulty. I try to avoid saying it if at all possible.

  44. I’d go for [ˈɑːsnəl]. Problem solved.

  45. George Grady says:

    so do various plural nouns in -ths (like paths), for those people who don’t have /θs/ in the plural.

    Am I weird in pronouncing path with a /θ/, but paths with a /ðz/?

  46. @George Grady: No, you’re not weird. That’s how I pronounce them.

  47. @LH & Rodger C: That professor earned his first two degrees from universities in Taiwan, so I assume he was born and grew up there. The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan is the largest Protestant denomination on the island, dating back to 1865, but I’m not sure they subscribe to the Synod of Dort (Dordrecht) confession. I’m aware that the term itself, the “(final) perseverance of the saints,” has some currency among low-church, Calvinist-leaning American Protestants. I think the only time I’ve heard it used was by a white American Baptist minister more than 20 years ago, but I can’t recall how he pronounced it.

    I can imagine a situation when a non-native speaker could be in a position to point out a discrepancy between the dictionary-recommended position of the stress and its placement by 90% or more of native speakers: the Russian word тефтели (meatballs with rice). Only a tiny number of Russians, regardless of education, stress the first syllable.

  48. @George Grady: Yeah, that’s the traditional standard for path and various other -th words. This alternation takes place with other fricatives too, like in house, wolf, wife, etc.

  49. @Brett: Check out pyramidon. You won’t regret it.

  50. In Australia, some news readers have a spelling pronunciation of “Wednesday”: wednzdei.

    And then in the same breath they also come out with feb-you-erry for “February”.

  51. marie-lucie says:

    GG: path with a /θ/, but paths with a /ðz/

    I learned the voiceless plurals (with a /θs/) in school and only heard the voiced ones (with a /ðz/) in North America, after I already had a (French) degree in English. They surprised me but turned out to be normal for the native English-speakers I heard saying words of this type. Are the voiceless plurals common in the British Isles?

    AK: Check out pyramidon

    Extraordinary words, both for the analyses and the meanings!

  52. If anything, my suspicion is that the voiceless forms are more common here in North America. I hear forms like [ˈhaʊsəz] with some frequency, although they do stand out to me.

  53. “a spelling pronunciation of “Wednesday””

    I didn’t know it existed in Australia, but it does exist in some parts of northern England and Scotland, where it’s not a spelling pronunciation – it’s just the traditional pronunciation. See the testimony in comments at
    http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/84033/where-is-wednesday-pronounced-wedinzday

    For me, “Feb-you-erry” is perfectly acceptable, while “liberry” is childish or illiterate. “Aks” for “ask” is “wrong” but it doesn’t bother me much while “nucular” makes my blood pressure rise. Odd how your mind comes to draw these arbitrary lines.

    The majority of drivers in the DC metro announce that the train is stopping at “Ju-dish-you-airy Square,” except that occasionally you’ll get one who says “Ju-dish-ee-airy” with exaggerated care – obviously the result of special training.

  54. it does exist in some parts of northern England and Scotland, where it’s not a spelling pronunciation – it’s just the traditional pronunciation.

    Interesting, thanks!

  55. Trond Engen says:

    That makes sense. The Northern /r/ doesn’t turn into a palatal glide just like that. But I could well imagine /febwari/.

  56. Well, Bloix’s comment about Scotland and the North was in reference to “Wednesday”.

  57. February with /ju/ is the result of one /r/ being lost in rhotic varieties when there are two instances in close succession. How acceptable this is, is lexically as well as generationally and regionally specific: I say Febyuary and libary but not secketary (where there is an intervening syllable), whereas my wife enunciates both instances of /r/ in all three words.

  58. Trond Engen says:

    Ouch, bad case of wishful reading! I thought he confirmed something I’ve been thinking about without actually bothering to look into.

  59. Trond Engen says:

    But strange… I read about ‘Wednesday’ thinking that that makes sense in dialects with less phonological reduction, triggering the recollection of the thought that I’d also expect unreduced ‘February’ in Northern English, and before I got to formulate my reply, my mind had changed Bloix’s comment.

  60. Trond Engen says:

    But another thought, maybe invalidating even that piece of non-reasoning: Is the loss of /d/ in /wenzdi/ phonologically regular? Or is it levelling of the syllable structure or phonological complexity when “counting” weekdays?

  61. Trune: Totally irregular, and surely due to the trochaic rhythm of the other weekdays (save Saturday). The moon and the god Tiw (= Týr) are monosyllabic, but the god Wóden (= Oðinn) was definitely not. On the other hand, Þunor (= Þór) and Frige (= Frigg) were disyllabic in English, so perhaps Thursday and Friday were named under Norse influence with a bit of etymological nativization (note that Frigg and Freyja may be doublets within Old Norse).

    At a finer grain, my wife says /tjuzdeɪ/ and I say /tuzdi/, so she calls me a gangster and I call her a snob.

  62. I natively have secretary and library, and consciously switched to February in my teens – but I do have reduction of unstressed medial /r/ in specific cases like surprise, governor, caterpillar, northerner/southerner (though less consistently in easterner/westerner, perhaps because they’re less frequent), and maybe a couple others I’m forgetting.

    @JC: A while ago I mused that we should try to use somewhat more (modern) English names for the Germanic deities where possible. For example, we’ve got Tyr, which is explicitly North Germanic, and Tiw, which doesn’t mesh with modern phonotactics – though at the same time, I think the naively modernizing Tue would seem a bit silly, especially for yod droppers. Eventually I decided that the best name for him would be Tye.

  63. Eli Nelson says:

    I have potential loss of the “r” in unstressed syllables (I guess phonetically, it would be a change from a syllabic “r” to a schwa, or loss of r-coloring on the vowel) in words like “surprise,” “governor,” “caterpillar.” Like Lazar, I natively acquired “secretary” and “library” with both “r”s, but “February” with /ju/. Consciously switching to the pronunciation with /ru/ has a certain amount of appeal to me, but I haven’t yet and likely won’t—it would feel too much like an affectation.

    I read an interesting paper on this topic: “R-Dissimilation in English” by Nancy Hall.

    @Lazar:

    Eventually I decided that the best name for him would be Tye.

    A disadvantage of this name in my opinion is that it’s not clear how it should be pronounced.

    @Trond:
    A syllable like /wednz/ is not phonologically possible for standard English speakers, so in that sense, the loss of the “d” is indeed required, and regular, once you get the contraction to two syllables. The contraction is irregular, though: the normal remedy to a sequence like this would be to make the “n” syllabic.

  64. Just as if it were a normal English word – /taɪ/, like dye. It’s a bit fanciful, of course, but I think it’s a better fit than /t(j)uː/ or /tɪʊ/. It seemed to me that most of the non-Germanic languages of Europe have more nativized names for their old gods, whereas we’re stuck with overly assiduous Old Norse or Old English ones.

  65. Well, diachronically all names and terms from ‘pagan’ religion were lost in Danish (except in day and place names) and reintroduced by romanticizing nationalists 200 years ago — adjusting the written forms from the Icelandic sagas ad hoc to look more Danish and then pronouncing them as written.

    I don’t know if Norwegian Ty is a more direct survival, but at least it doesn’t have the nominative marker that was reintroduced in Danish Tyr.

    But when were the native Anglo-Saxon terms last in active popular use? 1500 years ago? (Assuming Christianity drove them out completely before the Norse arrived with their cognate deities). I’ve been trying to figure out what the regular development of Tīw would have been, but it’s just as likely that it would have been replaced or extended with an epithet — cf. Iuppiter.

  66. Trond Engen says:

    Njörðr would be modern English Ne(a)rth. Which reminds me of another old idea of mine: that the name is essentially an epithet *n-érþuz “un-earthly”. (I’ve also thought of *ne-árþuz “unplowed”, but that doesn’t fit the attested Nerthus.)

  67. I always took the name to be a noun derived from PIE *H2ner- “man, strong”, originally meaning “strength”.

  68. There are also the place names Wednesbury and Wednesfield (part of Wolverhampton), which have the name of Woden in them. The WIkipedia talk page for the former says that both /ˈwenzbəri/ with dental loss and /ˈwedʒbəri/ with nasal loss are in local use. Apparently -bury in this case is not < OE burh ‘fort, fortified town, town’ as in most cases, but < beorg ‘hill, mountain’, as its form in Domesday Book is Wadnesberie. This would normally would have led to -berry, as in the name of the Yorkshire hill Roseberry Topping, which is thought to contain a disguised form of Odin.

    I have r-dissimilation in caterpillar, surprise but not governor or any of the -erner words.

    I think the best name for the god would indeed be /t(j)u(ː)/, but I agree that the spelling Tue looks bizarre. Historically, words in /ɪw/ like new have come to be spelled ew after merging with words in /ɛw/ like few, so how about Tew? Hard to mispronounce and historically sound, and those few who have not shifted /ɪw/ to /ju/ will say it that way, which is also historically right.

  69. My preferred spelling is “Tiu.”

  70. Trond Engen says:

    Swedish and Norwegian placenames from Óðinn generally have On-, e.g. Sw. Onsala, No. Onsøy and Onsaker. Danish Odense must be a reading pronunciation.

  71. Trond Engen says:

    Hans: I always took the name to be a noun derived from PIE *H2ner- “man, strong”, originally meaning “strength”.

    I’m aware of that etymology, but a) since the meaning “man(ly)” is widespread I don’t think it goes well with the existence of a female counterpart, and b) the root is not otherwise attested Germanic. Except now I’m suddenly thinking that those Eddaic names starting in Njar-/ Njör- might be relics of this root rather than just poetic variations on Njörðr.

  72. Trond Engen says:

    I like Tew. Also Wuden. Thunner. Freya already looks like something that might develop from an Old English cognate of Friggr, but modernized it would be Free. Or maybe rather Frea. Free is her brother.

  73. Odense must be a reading pronunciation: Locally I think it’s something like [ɤˑns], but it was large enough in 988 to get Denmarks fourth episcopal seat (Othenesuuigensem in Latin, I assume -ensem is extraneous).

    So yes, the form /’oðn̩sə/ in Standard Danish is very conservative, and of course there was some influence from the written form, but I don’t think it was ever rare enough in certain spoken registers that someone would have to guess how to pronounce it just from writing.

  74. Won, Tew, Ther, Frou

  75. Fife?

  76. David Marjanović says:

    Danish Odense must be a reading pronunciation.

    Or an etymological spelling – a local, our own Sili, pronounces it [ˈoːnsə] with two syllables.

  77. Trond Engen says:

    Yes, I meant the Standard Danish pronunciation. Writing from my phone this weekend, I see that I’m being too terse.

    The point was supposed to be that the more phonologically conservative Cont. Scand. languages have lost /ð/ here, but in some contrast to the other toponyms mentioned, Odense is an important city with a long and continuous history of interaction between spoken and written forms. OTOH, also the much younger Norwegian towns Molde and Vadsø have their pronounced d’s from the (danified) written forms.

  78. Trond Engen says:

    Norw. Onsøy, a parish now merged into Fredrikstad, is etymologically identical to Odense. The traditional local pronunciation is something like [2unsɵ] (the difference between V:L and VL: being neutralized in this position).

  79. Current opinions seem to differ whether the second part in the compound is ‘island’ or ‘consecrated place’ — but I can’t see ‘island’ giving -uuig- in 988 Latin (probably reflecting /wiχ/, to the root of Weih(nachten) and (sacrificial) victim).

    Which is it in Onsøy?

  80. Trond Engen says:

    No, I was wrong. The classic source on the etymology of Norwegian farm and parish names, Oluf Rygh’s Norske Gaardnavne, has the old local pronunciation as /ó1nnsen/, presumably what I’d write [1un(:)sen].

  81. Trond Engen says:

    I noticed that and assumed it was a hypercorrect spelling based on Island Danish /g/ > /j/. But now that you mention it I was aware of the other (and better) etymology.

    Onsøy is definitely “Woden’s island”. It’s a real parish name, not the name of the location of the church being extended to the whole parish. The main part of the parish is the main part of what used to be an island between two of the river Glomma’s minor distributaries (is that a word)?

  82. David Marjanović says:

    Tributaries?

  83. Trond Engen says:

    I’ve seen “Odins Ve”. But I’m not sure if with really supports that — unless /X/ was identified with the devoiced allophone of /G/. Are there other instances where is used to denote final /X/?

  84. Trond Engen says:

    Tributaries are secondary rivers bringing water to the main branch of the river system. What I mean is minor rivers branching off near the lower end and draining water from it.

  85. Trond Engen says:

    And not in a silty delta either. The river meets hard rock, spreads sideways, and breaks through at several points.

    Edit: Hard rock and moraine.

  86. January First-of-May says:

    Yes, I think “distributaries” is the correct word here (and I’ve seen it used in similar contexts before, though I can’t recall where exactly).

  87. 988 is older than the sagas — and before Island Danish was a thing, I think. Normalized ON for the noun is , Runic we, Gothic weihs (adj), but the ON verb is vígja, attested in Runic pr.subj wigi. So the question is if Auslaut /χ/ or /h/ could have survived unwritten until 988, or at least an awareness of the relation to the verb root, so that its voiced counterpart reappears intervocalically in the Latin form.

    (Also how would a monk write /χ/ if he heard it? Or maybe the whole -gensis part was tacked on to make it look a bit more familiar).

  88. Distributary is indeed the word. The Missisippi delta has many. It’s only a complex series of locks and dams that keep the Mississippi running in its current bed instead of transferring the main flow to the Atchafalaya, one of its main distributaries, thus leaving Baton Rouge and New Orleans dry (and cut off from river traffic).

  89. Trond Engen says:

    Yeah, the form is older than the main corpus of ON. I didn’t mean to question the existence of a final consonant in weX (although note Runic ) only its representation with g. But the living relation to the verb is a good point.

    I admit that hypercorrect spelling is highly unlikely that early. But following the tangent, Danish lenition would already have started at that point, wouldn’t it?

  90. Danish lenition: No idea 🙂 I’m not a historical linguist, you know, I just fake it with Google. But there are lots of -gh- and zero around only a little later, in contrast to West Norse I think. (wighiæ, wiæ in Skånske Lov, early 13th).

  91. Eli Nelson says:
    A syllable like /wednz/ is not phonologically possible for standard English speakers, so in that sense, the loss of the “d” is indeed required, and regular, once you get the contraction to two syllables. The contraction is irregular, though: the normal remedy to a sequence like this would be to make the “n” syllabic.

    I perceive a weak shwa in between the d and the n, but there could also be realisations where the n is syllabic.

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