[Ads-l] thoughts on this idea? variant pronunciations in a dictionary receive individual etymologies

Fri Jan 6 12:08:06 EST 2017

As an amateur, my reaction is that this would be a very interesting and useful feature, but I would not expect there typically to be sufficient information resources available for this to be carried out.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Tim Stewart
Sent: Thursday, January 5, 2017 9:59 PM
Subject: thoughts on this idea? variant pronunciations in a dictionary receive individual etymologies

I'm writing a dictionary of blend words, and each entry has an etymology
that shows which parts of the source words became part of the blend. So the
etymology of *brunch* looks like [BReakfast + lUNCH].

I'm toying with an idea I don't think I've seen in a dictionary, and I'm
curious what the ADS-L folks think about it. Suppose we have the word
*buddhagan* which is a blend of the words *Buddhist* and *pagan*. The word
*buddhagan* is pronounced by people either of two ways:
(1) stress on first syllable and schwa after the /d/ sound; or
(2) stress on second syllable and long /a/ vowel after the /d/ sound.

Each pronunciation suggests a different way of analyzing the way the source
words have been blended. With the first pronunciation, we would analyze the
blend as the entire word *buddha* plus the syllable "gan" from "pagan".
With the second pronunciation, we would analyze the blend as "buddh" plus
the "agan". As you can see, the color of the /a/ vowel in the pronunciation
indicates which source word contributed the "a". See text example below as
well as a link to a screenshot from a PDF to illustrate how these two
pronunciations and etymologies might be presented in a dictionary:

(please pretend that capital E in the pronunciations means a schwa. and
please pardon the terrible phonetic transcription---the ADS-L listerver
butchers Unicode, doesn't it? otherwise I would have been glad to use

     BUDDHAGAN. noun. \'bu-dE-gEn\ [BUDDHA + paGAN] or \bu-`da-gEn\ [BUDDHa
+ pAGAN] A person who identifies with aspects of Buddhism and paganism.

Link to high-res screenshot of this same example:


My questions...

(1) Does it seem like a useful feature to provide each pronunciation with
its own etymology if the analysis of the blend is different for each
pronunciation? Any specific critiques or suggestions about this?

(2) On a tangential note: How vital is it that a newly published dictionary
intended for a scholarly and professional audience (let's say: comparative
religions scholars; historians; journalists) use IPA for the
pronunciations? At present I'm using the phonetic transcription scheme used
in the Merriam-Webster family of dictionaries since I figure it's familiar
to many readers, but I would like to gather some additional opinions and
reactions on this.

Thanks in advance,


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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