A blog about any and all things linguistic. Topics can range from phonetics to syntax to aspects of specific languages. Updated weekly.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Pronunciation of final -e
My wife and I were last night discussing the varying pronunciations of Nietzsche: nitʃi versus nitʃə. As far as I'm aware, the latter is the preferred pronunciation, based on the fact that every philosopher I know pronounces it this way (and they're the ones with most cause to use it), and that Nietzsche was German, in which a final e such as this one should, according to my scant knowledge of German, be pronounced as a schwa. So why do people say nitʃi? That's what I said until I started taking philosophy classes. My hypothesis is that it stems from final -e in the numerous Greek words and names we've borrowed into English. To give some examples from linguistic and English terminology, "apocope", "syncope", "synecdoche", or from Greek mythology, "Persephone", "Ariadne", etc. etc. When people look at a word they don't say "Hmm, what language is that from?" They have vague unconscious knowledge of how they've heard other similar words pronounced, and in this case that results in a translation of the German -e in Nietzsche to the final -e in Greek which is pronounced i. Another reason we should have linguistics classes in school.
I live in New Brunswick, NJ with my wife Amanda, and am currently a 3rd year linguistics Ph.D. student at Rutgers. My research interests include phonetics, phonology, Optimality Theory, Native American languages (esp. Na-Dene and Algonquian), loanword adaptation, and syllable structure. Send comments/suggestions/questions to:
rdenzerk at eden.rutgers.edu