Stress patterns on words spelled with final <el> (long posting)

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Fri Aug 25 20:12:03 UTC 2000


I have heard this shift to final syllable in lots of words, not just final
-el (most suprisingly, for me, in Hungarian names, by the pretend-cultured
announcers on most classical stations, where one regularly hears, e.g.,
ko-DIE, rather than KO-die - for Kodaly).

I propose calling this the psuedo-cultured incorrect stress shift (PISS),
and I see no reason to doubt that it is modeled on French for the obvious
cultural stereotypes.

It's interesting to note that in authentic French loans it's US English
(not BritEng) whiich presrves the final syllable stress, e.g., bal-LAY and


>A strange thing is happening to American English stress on words
>ending orthographically in <el>.  Surnames and one or to other
>words are showing up with final stress.  It's pretty universal
>with Nobel, but I'm hearing Wiesel frequently pronounced [wi'zEl].
> I've regularly heard the conductor Julius Rudel pronounced
>[ru'dEl], on a variety of programs on NPR.  And a number of years
>ago Ball State had a head football coach named Schudel.  His wife
>is a shirt-tail cousin of my wife, the family's from NW Ohio, near
>Toledo, and there the name has always been pronounced ['Sud at l].
>When he was an assistant coach at Michigan, before he came to Ball
>State, he found his name so commonly being pronounced [Su'dEl] by
>people in football, that he adopted the form and made it clear
>when he came here that that was the pronunciation he preferred.
>Names that have been around longer seem to have initial stress,
>like Joel, although Noel goes both ways, more often [no'El] when
>referring to Christmas, but the composer/lyricist is always
>['no at l] Coward.  Even Joel, when pronounced as a borrowing from
>Modern Hebrew, becomes [yo'El], as in the name of the former
>conductor of the Atlanta Symphony.
>Other proper nouns have initial stress, like Bethel, Daniel, and
>Hazel, although I have heard the occasional [daen'yEl] for the
>spelling Daniel.  A number of verbs have final stress, but they're
>Romance borrowings so that's not surprising:  compel, expel,
>repel.  Nouns and adjectives tend to have initial stress:  bagel,
>chancel, chisel, counsel, cruel, diesel, dowel, fuel, hazel,
>jewel, towel, vowel, but there are exceptions to both patterns,
>like cancel (never [kaen'sEl], hotel, motel, and pastel.
>Why is a subset of these words, particularly surnames, undergoing
>this stress shift?  Is it a spelling pronunciation, that is, final
><el> in names is rare enough that it seems odd and so it gets
>stressed, counter to more usual English stress patterns?  Why the
>football connection?  Two or three years ago, there was an
>African-American college player on a southern school team with a
>four-syllable Scots or Irish name (I don't remember the full name
>or whether it was Mac or Mc) that ended in <ell>.  Network TV
>announcers regularly pronounced his name with final stress, a good
>trick for an American English four-syllable noun.  Is there a
>southern pattern coming into this through football?
>Herb Stahlke
>Ball State University

Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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