Sophia, Maria

Damien Hall halldj at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sun Apr 20 16:14:02 UTC 2008

Yesterday, Joel Berson and I wrote about my niece Rosa María:

>> My eldest niece (6, a Londoner born of a Londoner mother and an Ecuadorian
>> father) is Rosa María /rOs@ m at ri:@/.  To mark her Hispanic heritage she has a
>> Hispanic name complete with an acute accent over the <í>, and so of course
>> the pronunciation of the second element of her name is the Hispanic one.
>> Brits may omit the acute accent in her name, and they may be confused about
>> how to pronounce the first part of it ([rowz@] is frequent),

> I like this pronunciation.  Apt for an energetic, boisterous child.

The pronunciation I meant was not one with _row_ 'loud noise' at the beginning
(though no-one would say that wasn't appropriate for RM;  far from it!).  I
meant that people pronounce her name as if it was an English one, in the way
that you'd pronounce _Rosa_ in English (like _rose_ with a schwa at the end).
This is, of course, quite a natural thing to do, seeing as Rosa María is in
fact English and doesn't live in a Spanish-speaking country!  But the fact that
even people who know her well and have heard her name pronounced in the Spanish
way (which is how her family pronounces it) hundreds of times, still pronounce
it in the English-language way, is testament to the strength of one's own
impressions / grammar over repeated attestations of alternative ones.

>> I don't know too many British Sophias, but my impression is that the
>> pronunciation of that name is variable between [s at fi:@] and [s at fai@],
>> depending on the individual case.

> Not so-fee-uh or so-fie-uh?  (In my phonetic alphabet)

No, I think that's a genuine dialectal difference.  That is, I have never heard
a British Sophia's name pronounced with a (secondary-)stressed first syllable,
so that it had a diphthong and sounded like the word _so_. In my experience of
the name (which I stress again is limited, Sophia not being that common),
whatever the pronunciation of the middle syllable, the first and last syllables
have always been unstressed and so contained schwas.

I don't have much to add to Randy's interesting post about diphthongs in the
IPA, except the following.  I have never thought much about the quality of the
offglide, but it is of course clear to me that the quality of the nucleus of my
diphthongs probably does differ at least across the Atlantic.  For example, I
think that I myself (?and most Brits) have [Ej] in that diphthong (abstracting
away from the offglide), whereas ?most Americans have [ej].  And of course they
may not have an offglide at all, if they're from the North (WI etc).

But I think there would be some people who'd be very interested in this
discussion on the Phonetics list:

Randy, are you a member of that?  If not, do you want to become one in order to
post this discussion there?  If not, may I cross-post it?  Contact me off-list
if you'd like me to.  If I do and if there are responses, I'll post a summary

Damien Hall
University of Pennsylvania

The American Dialect Society -

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