Stress patterns on words spelled with final <el...

Jan Ivarsson janivars at BAHNHOF.SE
Tue Aug 29 19:27:49 UTC 2000

Herb Stahlke writes:

"A strange thing is happening to American English stress on words ending orthographically in <el>.  Surnames and one or two other words are showing up with final stress.  It's pretty universal with Nobel, but I'm hearing Wiesel frequently pronounced [wi'zEl]..."

Like Dennis R. Preston, "I see no reason to doubt that it is modeled on French for the obvious cultural stereotypes", at least not in many cases. This is certainly true for <no'bEl>, which, by the way, is how members of the Nobel family pronounce their name. Thus, in this case, the stress is not a recent development in American English, but a perfectly correct pronunciation.
In Sweden, there are many other names ending in -el or -ell (e.g. Sergel, Mankell, Kernell, von Dardel, de Dardel), but the spelling gives no clue to the stress: <'sEr.gel> or <ser.'gEl>, <'mAn.kel>, <tcher.'nEl>, <fon 'dAr.del>, <d@ dar.'dEl>. You simply have to know.
In other cases, the American stress change is certainly due to a lack of knowledge of the pronunciation in the original language (e.g. Trendelenberg), sometimes adopted even by the bearers of the name, e.g. the CNN news anchor Mr. Begleiter, pronounced by everyone on the channel (thus presumably by himself) <'bEg.lai.ter>, even though the German prefix be- is always unstressed.

Jan Ivarsson, Sweden
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