Apparently, Tarquinia is not the only town to stage a nativity play (see last week’s blog). According to this BBC article, “[a] nativity play with a difference has taken place on a village green” in Horsmonden, Kent: “[t]he production (...), which is held every Christmas, recreated the stable scene with three kings arriving accompanied by a camel”. (Very similar to what we’re going to see here in Tarquinia in the next few days, except that we’ve got three camels coming this year, not just one!)
This article in particular made me think about the pronunciation(s) of place names in English. As you know, names of people and places can sometimes have very unexpected pronunciations. For instance, how do you pronounce Horsmonden? Both LPD3 (p.387) and CEPD (18th edition; p.238) have ˌhɔːzmənˈden for BrE, although the latter also notes
“old-fashioned local pronunciation: ˌhɔː.sən-“.
And what about Derby(shire), which also features in the text? Here BrE and AmE vary somewhat, with GA usually tending to reflect the orthography more closely: thus BrE ˈdɑːbi, GA ˈdɜ˞ːbi. The CEPD (18th edition; p.134) also comments in one of its usage boxes:
“Note: American pronunciation sometimes uses US ˈdɑːr- for British references”.
A frequent question I get from my students is the correct stressing in the name Manchester. Does the stress always fall on the first syllable? Is it right to say Manˈchester, as some Italians pronounce it? All the pronouncing dictionaries I have show this word with initial stress, although in LPD3 (p.486) we also find it with secondary stress on the second syllable: ˈmænˌtʃestə. I suppose one of the reasons some EFL students think Manchester has main stress on the -chest- syllable is because they sometimes hear native speakers pronounce it with a full vowel e – or ɛ if you like – instead of (the perhaps more usual) ɪ or ə. A syllable with a full vowel tends to be clearer and thus may be perceived as strongly stressed by some non-native speakers. Obviously, much also depends on the rhythm of the utterance in which the name is contained.
Those of you interested in this topic might like to know that the new edition of the CEPD now includes a glossary of terms used in phonetics and phonology. Among them, there’s a section (p.570) entitled “names of people and places”. In it, you can find some useful information concerning difficult pronunciations of proper names and towns/cities, including notes on tendencies within BrE and AmE.
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Happy Christmas, everyone!