Chefography: LA and tablescapes

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Wed Mar 21 16:07:09 UTC 2007

On Mar 21, 2007, at 1:01 AM, Benjamin Barrett wrote:

> On Chefography on the Food Channel, the episode on Sandra Lee
> included:
> LA pronounced as "EL lay" (as opposed to "EL LAY") in the expression
> "L.A. County Fair".

this is an instance of the famous* Rhythm Rule of english, according
to which certain words that have (primary) final stress in isolation
can retract the stress (in certain constructions) when followed by an
initially stressed word, thus preserving alternating stress:

   sixTEEN [in isolation]
   sixTEEN acCESSories [before unaccented syllable]
   SIXteen CANdles [before accented syllable]

   outSIDE [in isolation]
   outSIDE the BOX [before unaccented syllable]
   outSIDE of CHIna [before unaccented syllable]
   OUTside CHIna [before accented syllable]

   el (L)AY [in isolation]
   el (L)AY aPARTment [before unaccented syllable]
   EL (lay) COUNty [before accented syllable]

the alternative accentings are in general not ill-formed, but are
disfavored and tend to occur only in special contexts (like
contrastive or emphatic stress).

*a 1965 article by dwight bolinger says that "Jespersen credits James
Elphiston with having noted in 1765 the rhythmic shift of stress in
words like..."  later treatments by daniel jones, chin-wu kim, mark
liberman and alan prince, paul kiparsky, alan prince on his own.
brief bibliography in my "forestress and afterstress" piece of 1986:

The American Dialect Society -

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