Damien Hall halldj at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Fri Jan 11 14:48:49 UTC 2008

Just to clear it up for anyone who was wondering, the final vowel in British
'Jaguar' is a schwa: 'JAG-you-uh'.  I'm sure that everyone who's discussed it
so far knows that but, in all the transcriptions that have been given, the
final syllable has been transcribed 'ah' or 'are'.  To me, that suggests a
low(-central or -back) secondary-stressed vowel, which would be a slightly
different pronunciation, obviously.  Incidentally, this fact makes ?Barry
Popik's limerick, which Mark reminded us of yesterday, work less well, since
(for me anyway, and my impression is for most Brits) the last syllable of the
fifth line isn't the same as those of the the first and second:

> An old lady in Nicaragua                 -- schwa, unstressed
> Had her back hair bit off by a jaguar,   -- schwa, unstressed
> She said to him, "Ha!"                   -- low back primary-stressed vowel
> He said to her, "Bah!"                   -- low back primary-stressed vowel
> What a vile, artificial old hag you are! -- low back secondary-stressed vowel

Maybe this is one of those differences that 'flies under the radar' or is a
sufficiently small difference to be overlooked in a rhyme-scheme.

Also on this, it's true that 'we' say 'Nicarag-you-uh', but 'Antig-you-uh' is a
new one on me.  For all I know there may be some Brits who say it that way, but
the usual pronunciation is 'An-tee-guh'.

So, to go back to the original point that made the discussion, the Jag
commercial, which I've seen, sounds funny to me.  They're using a trisyllabic
pronunciation - so far so British and high-snob-value - but, as far as I can
remember, the final syllable is secondary-stressed, 'jag-you-ah'.  It's a kind
of halfway house between a widespread American pronunciation ('jag-war', not
the one that started this whole thread) and the British one.  Interesting that
it works!  It says something about linguistic salience:  in this case syllabic
structure is clearly more salient than vowel-quality, presumably because the
syllabic structure change alters the way the word sounds more?

Damien Hall
University of Pennsylvania

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

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