[This week’s post was kindly written by Jack Windsor Lewis: many thanks, Jack!]
Alex, you commented January 14, 2012 at 10:39 am
I’ve been watching BBC World News for a couple of hours now and they’re talking about the Italian cruise ship, Costa Concordia, which ran aground off the coast of Tuscany yesterday evening.
In this report by Andy Moore we hear that the island near to which the ship sank is called [ˈʒiːliəʊ], but no! Italians call it /ˈdʒiʎʎo/, with an AFFRICATE in the first syllable. …
And another newsreader, talking about the little town of Santo Stefano (...), called it [ˈsæntəʊ steˈfɑːnəʊ]. Italians always stress the first syllable in ‘Stefano’!
I wasnt in the least surprised to hear such pronunciations. Despite the entries in LPD and CEPD, you're at least as likely to hear from even careful music presenters like BBC Radio 3's Rob Cowan the pronunciation /ʒiːli/ for the name of the great tenor Beniamino Gigli. I noticed that the BBC on-the-spot reporter Bethany Bell was saying /ʒiːliəʊ/ for the island even a day or so later. My article at §3.7.I.5 on my website (http://www.yek.me.uk/changestwe.html) pointed out some years ago how GB speakers are getting more and more vague about whether to use /ʤ/ or /ʒ/ except that for forren words they tend to prefer the latter.
As to Stefano, I pointed out in my Blog 107 on "Amphibrachising", if English speakers have the impression that words come from Romance languages, since in most such languages there is the much more frequent alternative in polysyllables of the amphibrach with the stress pattern [– `— –], they go for that. This is extremely familiar especially in large numbers of diminutives from albino and casino to mosquito and zucchini. Compare also items like bravado, desperado, libido, querido, tornado and torpedo. The tendency can be seen in eg the placename Cordova where, although all the various places so called throughout the Spanish-speaking world are accented Córdoba, all the half-dozen places so called in North America are given amphibrachic accentuation.
Many Italian, Spanish and other words and names are either often or regularly amphibrachicised by English-speakers including angora (now replaced as a city name by Ankara which is not so treated), Brindisi, Cagliari, Cyrano, Desdemona, Genoa, incognito, Lepanto, Lipari, Maritimo, mascara, Medici (tho the singular medico is usually okay), Modena, Monaco, Otranto, paprika, rococo, stigmata, Stromboli, Taranto, tombola, Trafalgar etc. The word oregano is amphibrachicised in Britain but not in America where Spanish is better known. More on this topic may be found on my website at 'Italian Words in Spoken English' Item 9 §4.