Liddell (was: Pronouncing drug names (w. note for Wilson))

Damien Hall halldj at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Thu Jan 31 15:06:31 UTC 2008

Wilson said:

'As for what causes the two communities to pronounce these words
differently in the first place, that's a strange question to come from
the mouth of an Englishman. What causes cockneys not to speak RP?
Besides, are you unaware of the after-effects of several centuries of
slavery and segregation? And cockneys are as white as any other random
Englishman, pravda?'

Pravda;  and no, I *am* aware of the after-effects of slavery and segregation.
I should have been clearer:  my question wasn't why African-Americans in
particular should pronounce these words differently from whites in particular
(any question like that probably can't be answered in a generalised way:  it
depends on the communities involved in each case, as you implied).  What I
meant was, why should different native speakers have different intuitions about
how to pronounce words of this type?  I think Tom provided a clue to an answer
when he pointed out that in English syllables with double orthographic
consonants tend to attract stress.  I'm sure that accounts for what
(gratifyingly) seems to be a common error wrt Henry Liddell.  On the other
hand, the default stress of English is penultimate.  So there are the two
explanations for the two intuitions.

Later in the discussion, Larry and Mark talked about Dean Henry Liddell of
Christ Church.  It's his name on the building owned by my *alma mater*, which
*is* Christ Church.  And, as a side-note to a side-note, it's interesting that
I (following the lead of my teachers, I think) have always referred to his and
Scott's dictionary as 'Liddell and Scott', not 'Liddell-Scott'.  The version
with 'and' is what's on the spine of my copy;  not sure for how many editions /
print-runs that's been true.

Damien Hall
University of Pennsylvania

The American Dialect Society -

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