Change from above in the early prescriptive pronouncing dictionaries of English

Abstract : Our research has been conducted on a database stemming from a fully computerized re-edition (Trapateau 2015) of John Walker's Critical Pronouncing Dictionary and Expositor of the English language (1791, 1809) providing exhaustive lists of lexical units belonging to a lexical set or to a stress pattern. 62 In Walker's dictionary the word vertigo has three competing pronunciations, two of which are the consequence of a pressure from above: “learnedly” [vɛːˈta ɪɡ o], “modishly” [vɛːˈtiːɡo], as opposed to “the genuine English analogy” of [vɛːtiɡo]. Walker yields to the learned in his Dictionary. Similar pressures have generated changes from above in stress placement, reluctance to palatalisation, and vowel quality. 1) Stress placement European, /010/ is superseded by the Latin stress pattern in /2010/. 2) Palatalisation The noun duke pronounced [duːk] or [dʒuːk] “is not so vulgar as the former. Educate[edʒukeɪt], [dj] prestige form. Courtesy has an elegant pronunciation in [tsi] which has prevailed on the vulgar pronunciation tʃi a back formation of courteous [ˈkɜːtʃəs]. 3) Vowels before /r/ The word merchant was pronounced with [aː] like clerk. The spelling pronunciation which prevailed, [ˈmɛːtʃənt], changed further to [ˈmɜːtʃənt]. The same is true of errand, mercy. 4) Diphthongs The word wind as a noun was diphthongized but the “polite circles” have imposed [wɪnd] as the standard pronunciation. The noun envelope is pronounced in the French way [onviˈloʊp] but the mere Englishman pronounces it like the verb envelop. The research will investigate such cases in which Walker says with ironical resignation that “in language as in many other cases, it is safer to be wrong with the polite than with the vulgar.”
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Contributor : Rodolphe Defiolle <>
Submitted on : Thursday, November 10, 2016 - 11:04:34 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, March 13, 2019 - 1:52:12 PM

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Jean-Louis Duchet, Nicolas Trapateau. Change from above in the early prescriptive pronouncing dictionaries of English. 13th Conference of the European Society for the Study of English, The European Society for the Study of English, Aug 2016, Galway, Ireland. ⟨halshs-01394948⟩

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