Pronouncing Wisconsin

Dennis R. Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Thu Dec 21 20:55:57 UTC 2006

Well, Wilson, it beats my boyhood Massa-two-shits. Guess how
surprised I was when I found it on a map.


>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
>Subject:      Re: Pronouncing Wisconsin
>So, I take it, then, that "West Consin," the hypercorrected version
>that I concocted while still but a tyke down in Texas, is not
>acceptable? :-) That probably explains why it was years before I could
>find the place on a map!
>On 12/21/06, Arnold M. Zwicky <zwicky at> wrote:
>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>  Poster:       "Arnold M. Zwicky" <zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU>
>>  Subject:      Re: Pronouncing Wisconsin
>>  On Dec 21, 2006, at 9:37 AM, Scot LaFaive wrote:
>>  > I've noticed lately that many commercials played in Wisconsin seem
>>  > to have
>>  > people clearly pronouncing the /k/ sound in the second syllable,
>>  > and it
>>  > sounds odd to me. From what I gather from 31 years in Wisconsin, it
>>  > seems
>>  > that natives generally don't clearly pronounce the /k/; I think we
>>  > tend to
>>  > voice it as /g/, but I may be wrong in my analysis (my ears don't
>>  > distinguish so well, the lazy fools). Just curious if anyone else has
>>  > noticed this or can confirm or correct me.
>>  this one comes up here from time to time.  the short version is:
>>  "Wisconsin" is usually pronounced by natives of the state with an
>>  unaccented first syllable, but by outsiders with a tertiary accent on
>>  the first syllable.  the accentual difference yields a difference in
>>  syllable-division.  with unaccented first syllable, the s is
>>  syllabified as part of the second syllable: Wi.scon.sin; the k is
>>  then unaspirated (as in "skin"), which you might be hearing as
>>  voicing.  with an accent on the first syllable, the s can be (though
>>  it doesn't have to be) syllabified as the offset of that syllable:
>>  Wis.con.sin; if so, the k is aspirated and will be heard as a clear k.
>>  arnold
>>  ------------------------------------------------------------
>>  The American Dialect Society -
>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.
>-Sam'l Clemens
>The American Dialect Society -

Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of English
15C Morrill Hall
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
preston at

The American Dialect Society -

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