Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Tue Apr 25 17:05:59 UTC 2006

On Apr 25, 2006, at 1:03 AM, M.I. Amorelli wrote:

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Abbie Frank" <awriteny1a at YAHOO.COM>
> Sent: Tuesday, April 25, 2006 12:23 AM
> Subject: Re: Mitsubushi?
>> anyone have any ideas as to why some of these variants should be more
>> popular than others?
>> arnold (zwicky at
>> Hello,
>> Perhaps, if you do find an answer, it will apply to why some people
>> pronounce the home improvement store "Home Dee Poe"  and others
>> say "Home
>> Dehpoe".
>> Abby F.
>> C.U.N.Y. at Q.C.
> Hello,
> ..or indeed when (Italian) 'salame'/sa-la-me/ and 'zucchine' became
> American
> (Brit. etc) 'salami'/s§-la:-mI/ and 'zucchini'.
> M.I.Amorelli
> Faculties of Law &Economics
> Sassari
> Sardinia

ah, now we're veering into the fascinating territory of nativization
of foreign words.  but that's not, i think, the issue with
"Mitsubishi".  the name is perfectly easy to nativize into english
(using the special principles for furrin vowels, which predict that
"i" will be pronounced [i] or [I], depending on context).  the
problem isn't pronouncing it in english; the problem is *recalling*
it correctly.  i see now that it presents an interesting difficulty
for memory.

the word has all Is, except for one syllable, and that syllable is
the least prominent one in the word (accented syllables are the most
prominent -- here, the third syllable has the primary accent, and the
first syllable a tertiary accent -- and the first and last syllables
of a word are also prominent, but the second syllable has no kind of
prominence).  so: how to reconcile the specialness of the U
(representing [u]) in the second syllable with the lack of prominence
of this syllable?

one way involves remembering that the second syllable has U in it,
but spreading that vowel onto the immediately following, accented,
syllable, where it can stand out: I U U I (with the Us in the middle
and the Is at the edges) instead of I U I I.

another way is just to forget about the U, and use all Is: I I I I.

still another way is to move the U into the accented syllable: I I U I.

these are the three most common "improvements" on the original -- the
first at around 100,000 google webhits, the other two at about half

the next two improvements preserve U I in the middle of the word, but
use a U in one or the other of the two secondarily prominent
syllables: the first syllable, in U U I I (which has the Us first,
then the Is); or the last syllable, in I U I U (which has a pleasing
alternating pattern).  these two get around 14,000 hits.

after that, the other patterns are rare, under a thousand webhits.
there are six patterns in the 100-900 webhit range.  all of them
manage to align two vowels with the vowels of the model.  (yes, i
have now looked at all 16 patterns.  by the way, the model, I U I I,
gets 69,200,000 webhits).  #11 on the hit parade, U I U I (134
webhits), has a pleasing alternating pattern, but not much else going
for it.

still worse are patterns that preserve only one vowel of the
original, but at least have some Is in them: I I U U and U I I U,
with about 15 webhits each. these both have good patterns, but
they're really too far from the model.

finally, you get the pattern that preserves *none* of the original
vowels (U I U U), and the pattern that has no Is at all (U U U U).
these are desperately far from the model, and, fittingly, they get no
(legitimate) webhits.

so it does pretty much make sense.

arnold (zwicky at

The American Dialect Society -

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