forte (was: Re: Accents in Am. English)

James Smith jsmithjamessmith at YAHOO.COM
Wed Jun 14 15:31:25 UTC 2000

--- "A. Vine" <avine at ENG.SUN.COM> wrote:
> "Steve K." wrote:
> >
> > On Tue, 13 Jun 2000, Lynne Murphy wrote:
> >
> > > New Oxford has the pronuncation 'fort-ay' first,
> and AHD has it last, so
> > > perhaps the American shift toward 'forte' is
> built on the assumption that the
> > > British know best.
> >
> > A sneak preview of things to com: this order of
> pronunciations has
> > been switched for the 4th edition of the AHD, with
> 'for-tay' coming first
> > now.
> >
> > A strong majority of our Usage Panel (74%)
> preferred the two-syllable
> > pronunciation, for what it's worth.

> >
> Funny, Rob Kyff just had it in his column, and
> insisted that monosyllabic
> "forte" was the human strength and bisyllabic
> "forte" the musical term.

The French spell "forte" without an accent, the 'e' is
silent, and the word is a single syllable - the silent
"e" indicates the "t" is to be pronounced, the
masculine form being "fort" with a silent "t".  The
Italians pronounce the "e" but an accent is not needed
to indicate this ... placing an accent on the "e" in
Italian would move the stress from the first to second
syllable but would otherwise not change the
pronunciation.  I have never heard the Italian
pronunciation, two syllables with strong stress on the
first, used in English outside of a musical context.

I have heard the pseudo-French "for-tay" - sometimes
mild stress on the first syllable or basically equal
stress on both syllables, but usually stress on second
syllable  - used to indicate a strength or skill, but
I've also heard it pronounced simply as "fort", and
that's the way I was taught to pronounce it in Jr.
High English.

James D. SMITH                 |If history teaches anything
SLC, UT                        |it is that we will be sued
jsmithjamessmith at     |whether we act quickly and decisively
                               |or slowly and cautiously.

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