[Ads-l] The pronunciation of "Elizabethan"

Randy Alexander strangeguitars at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jul 10 17:28:21 UTC 2015

Despite having a son named Ethan, I can't speak to why it's ElizabEEthan.
However, I have a sister named Elizabeth and regard both "a-LIZ-a-BETH" and
"aLIZabith" as "correct" pronunciations at different points on the allegro

Strong (non allegro)
ee LIZ uh beth
ih LIZ uh beth
@ LIZ @ bith
Weak (allegro)

Or something like that.


On Fri, Jul 10, 2015 at 1:25 PM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:

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> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      The pronunciation of "Elizabethan"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> For all of my literate life, I've hewed to the pronunciation,
> "Eliza.BETHan," despite hearing the pronunciation, "Eliza.BEEthan," used by
> the rest of the world. The reason for this is that I grew up with the BE/SE
> pronunciation of "Elizabeth" as "a-LIZ a-BETH." So, as any fool can plainly
> see, if you add the suffix, "-an" to this proper name, then the
> pronunciation is just naturally going to be "a-LIZ a-BETH at n."
> Thanks to Jim Crow and the fact that that term only rarely enters into
> casual conversation, on those rare occasions when I've heard -BEEthan, I've
> paid no attention. Furthermore, -BETHan was only reinforced by a popular
> R&B song of yoredays, "Elizabeth" - pronounced quite clearly as "a-LIZ
> a-BETH" - by The Thrillers, now available on iTunes. And, finally, that
> pronunciation was cemented into my grammar by the theory of underlying
> representations presented in the Sound Pattern of English, even though, by
> the time that I read that work, I had "corrected" my pronunciation of
> "Elizabeth" to "aLIZabith" to conform to expectations. But, given the
> authority of SPE, I saw no reason to change -BETHan to -BEEthan.
> Eventually, I came to wonder what it was that could possibly be the
> motivation for -BEEthan. I've decided that it's merely a kind of bizarre
> spelling-pronunciation. If you ignore everything about the string
> _elizabeth_ except -ethan, then, given the name, "Ethan," clearly, the
> pronunciation of Elizab + ethan must be ElizaBEEthan, modulo the existence
> of "Beth" and even "Bethan[y]."
> Is I'm right, fellas?
> --
> -Wilson
> -----
> All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint to
> come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
> -Mark Twain
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

Randy Alexander
Manchu studies: http://www.sinoglot.com/manchu
Language in China (group blog): http://www.sinoglot.com/
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The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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