Wednesday, 17 August 2011

On Italian warthogs

A correspondent writes to ask about the correct stressing in the Italian word facocero (‘warthog’). He says that in a book on Italian elocution the only pronunciation he found was ˌfakoˈtʃɛro, not faˈkɔtʃero, which is what he claims to use. So he asks whether the variant with main stress on the penultimate is correct or not.
Well, yes. Both stressings are acceptable, but faˈkɔtʃero is definitely the more common of the two pronunciations. It is interesting to note that the Devoto-Oli 2011 only includes the variant ˌfakoˈtʃɛro, which to me sounds terribly old-fashioned, if not almost non-existent. The DOP, too, prescribes the same form and remarks that the variant with antepenultimate stress should be avoided. Canepàri in his DiPI prioritises ˌfakoˈtʃɛro but also considers faˈkɔtʃero as acceptable.
Clearly none of the above dictionaries is anywhere near the correct description of the current Italian phonetic situation: faˈkɔtʃero is what most Italians (maybe 90%) say; the variant ˌfakoˈtʃɛro is today only rarely to be heard in television documentaries about animals. For this reason, I would strongly recommend that learners of Italian as a foreign language use the variant with antepenultimate stress, as the one with stress on -ˈtʃɛ- is only likely to cause ridicule and derision amongst native speakers.
faˈkɔtʃero is also the only pronunciation I use and which I remember learning for the first time when in my childhood I was exposed to the Italian version of the Disney cartoon film The Lion King. In it, the warthog Pumbaa was only referred to as a faˈkɔtʃero, and so that’s the pronunciation I’ve picked up. Interestingly, this is also the only pronunciation we hear on Forvo: listen here.
As my readers will have realized, Italian stress patterns are particularly tricky, especially in technical terms, words of classical origin, and medical ones. So, for example, utensile (‘utensil’) can be both uˈtɛnsile and utenˈsile (although some people regard the former as an adjective and the latter as the correspondent noun); Edipo (‘Oedipus’) is both ˈɛdipo and eˈdipo; and sclerosi (‘sclerosis’) can be both ˈsklɛrosi, -zi and skleˈrɔsi, -zi.
It would be very interesting to hear from you, my dear followers: which pronunciation(s) do you prefer? I sometimes wonder if I should write my own Italian pronouncing dictionary...
Some more holidays. Next posting: September.