Forteh: UK pronunciation

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Jan 8 17:09:51 UTC 2009

At 11:32 AM +0000 1/8/09, Damien Hall wrote:
>Benjamin Barrett said:
>'As has been discussed here before, the forteh pronunciation is apparently
>considered standard by most Americans.'
>I'm loath to rehash old discussions that are already in the archives, but I
>can't remember this one, nor can I find it by searching the archives (I'm
>sure it exists, but it's difficult to know what search-term to use; I used
>'forteh' and only came up with the present discussion.

It might have been in threads discussing the "fortay" or "for-tay"
pronunciation (vs. "fort").  I'm not sure I'd have used "forteh",
which looks as though it should end with an open /E/ sound.  It's
really a question of bisyllabicity vs. mono-.  I grew up mostly
hearing "fortay" and at some point I consciously switched to "fort"
once I realized it was a French loan and not an Italian, Spanish, or
Latin one.  I hear both in the U.S., but usually the bisyllabic


P.S.  I tend not to pronounce it at all unless I'm reading someone
else's prose, because it's not quite a homonym with "fort", having
more of a pronounced final -t, while the one in the defensive (or, in
this season, snow) building is unreleased.

>Anyway: this opinion about the standard pronunciation of _forte_ for
>Americans would make sense given (what I consider as) the tendency of AmE
>to nativise pronunciation of Romance loan-words much less than BrE does. I
>have a certain amount of actual evidence that that's the tendency, too,
>from an experiment I did on two-syllable words a while back.
>So now it becomes clear what my point is: as a speaker of BrE (and now back
>in England, too, at least for the time being), I pronounce this word
>'fortay'. I can't remember hearing any other pronunciation from other BrE
>speakers, either. I haven't seen 'The Duchess': does any of the
>single-nationality British actors use the word and, if they do, how do they
>pronounce it?
>Damien Hall
>University of York
>Department of Language and Linguistic Science
>York YO10 5DD
>Tel. (office) 01904 432665
>     (mobile) 0771 853 5634
>Fax  01904 432673
>The American Dialect Society -

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