Forteh: UK pronunciation

Damien Hall djh514 at YORK.AC.UK
Thu Jan 8 18:16:50 UTC 2009

Earlier, I said:

>> 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

Ah! I interpreted the pronunciation-spelling 'forteh' exactly as indicating
the pronunciation [fOrtE], and I was going to adduce the fact that it ended
with an open /E/ as evidence in favour of my contention that AmE nativised
loanwords less. This argument would only have worked if 'forte' had been a
loan from Italian [fOrtE], which, until I read this message, I assumed that
it was. But, also, in English English folk-linguistics, the result of the
Manchester / Yorkshire shibboleth final /-i/ > final [-E] is usually
written <eh>: in popular sports coverage, people refer to the less
successful side from Manchester as <(Manchester) Citeh>.

So, as you say, this is really a question of bisyllabicity versus mono-.
But, having said that, your PS is interesting:

>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.

as evidence that people like to avoid homonyms, and will be quite inventive
in order to do so, to the point of elevating phonetic distinctions to
phonemic status!


Damien Hall

University of York
Department of Language and Linguistic Science
York YO10 5DD

Tel. (office) 01904 432665
     (mobile) 0771 853 5634
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