Thursday, 2 September 2010

Lon/g/evity?

While watching yesterday evening's Tony Blair interview with Andrew Marr on BBC2, I was slightly surprised by the way the presenter pronounced the word longevity: he said lɒŋˈgevəti instead of the traditional lɒnˈdʒevəti/lɒŋˈdʒevəti.
I have to admit that it's not the first time I've heard such a pronunciation, although none of the current pronouncing dictionaries seem to allow it.
I think one of the possible reasons for the existence of this variant form is that people might be influenced by the way they pronounce the term longitude. As John Wells has shown in his LPD3, people today are increasingly going for ˈlɒŋgɪtjuːd (85%), instead of ˈlɒndʒɪtjuːd (15%). See the preference poll graph below:




What about you? How do you pronounce longevity?

You can watch the last bit of the interview with Tony Blair here. (Andrew Marr pronounces longevity with a "hard g" towards the first half of the 12th minute.)

And for those Italians who read the monthly magazine Speak Up, there's an interview with one John Burton in the August issue (article The Music of Time, track 11), in which the interviewee pronounces the word longevity with g. The comment by Rachel Roberts at the end of the magazine (p.65) is that English pronunciation is so difficult that even native speakers get it wrong.
No, Rachel! That's NOT the way it is! Pronunciations come and go. Language is a living and constantly changing thing. If some people (are starting to) say lɒŋˈgevəti, you just have to accept it. And who knows? In the future, this variant may well become the new established form!

And finally, if you want to read some further comments on this topic, here is where you can find them.

(For more on idiosyncratic pronunciations you can also read this post by Jack Windsor Lewis.)

3 comments:

  1. It's morphological regularization, keeping the shape lɒŋ(ɡ) for long(-). In the other direction, compare analogous as əˈnælədʒəs, under the influence of analogy.

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  2. For me, longitude is /ˈlɒŋ.də.ʧuːd/ (with /d/ instead of /g/) and longevity is /lɒŋ.ˈʤɛv.ə.ti/.

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  3. Thanks, Robert!
    If you check LPD3, pp.470-471, you can see that you're not the only one to pronounce "longitude" with a /d/.

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