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Pronouncing Ballet Namespet-EE-pah or PET-ee-pah


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#61 grace

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Posted 27 July 2003 - 05:22 AM

estelle: in melvyn bragg's interview documentary with sylvie, a few years back, it was made clear that the 'll' is NOT silent. i do however, find it rather hard to pronounce, that way!

#62 justafan

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Posted 27 July 2003 - 08:42 AM

I've always wanted to know how to pronouce balletomanes. And does the pronunciation change with plural or singular?

#63 Mel Johnson

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Posted 27 July 2003 - 09:16 AM

I say BAL-lett-o-mains, but then I say BAL-lay, too. In the dictionary, bal-LETT-o-mains is the preferred American pronunciation.

Just think of the fun we could have had if Marius or Lucien Petipa had married a Spanish girl and they had a daughter Pepita! :grinning:

#64 Hans

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Posted 27 July 2003 - 07:46 PM

French words involve NO accented syllables; all syllables must have the same strength.  Therefore, the great choreographer is pronounced:
pet i pah

Are you quite sure about that, citibob? My French-speaking friends from both Canada and France have told me otherwise, though perhaps I am misunderstanding. Perhaps Estelle could clarify...?

#65 Paul Parish

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Posted 27 July 2003 - 11:33 PM

As an American from Mississippi with a grandmother from New Orleans who spoke Creole French and said "soignee" with a STRONG stress on the second syllable, who won a prize for my French studies at Ole Miss where I learned that my grandmother's French was extremely provincial, and who then studied English in England at Oxford, and had my pronunciation sniffed at by New Yorkers and Brits and everything in between, i had some time to think about how hte two countries differ in pronouncing French --

and hte issue seems to be that French is a language that does NOT have significant stress-accents, whereas English does (both versions) -- and so ANGLICIZING means deciding where to put the stresses in words that didn't have them originally....

on different sides of hte Atlantic, English speakers apply stresses to syllables that basically SHOULDN"T have them, while ignoring the syllables created by terminal "e's" (Jean is a one-syllable word, Jeanne has two syllables, and -- well, by this rule, Estelle should have three -- but perhaps she will correct me)....

In England, Englishness is understood to inhere in the sacred right of hte first syllable to get the stress -- as in ENGland; so French words are allowed to retain their Frenchness by having the second syllable accented -- so Desiree in England is pronounced with a strong stress on hte middle syllable ("Des-- EAR--ay"), in the US with accents on the first and third ("DEZ-uh-RAY"), and in France with equal stress on all three syllables....

but words that hte ENglish REALLY want to appropriate are taken in like CARriage and GARage and VENison and PULlet and BALlet, which all get the stress where it goes in a true ENGlish word, on hte first syllable

In different parts of the United States, the same rule is applied variously -- In the port cities, the British way seems to be prevailing. But inland, even in Oakland I've heard people speak of the JofFREY BaLLET -- the full, exotic, outlandish glamor of a non-ENglish word would be lost if the stress fell on hte first syllable.....


French also doesn't aspirate plosives-- "Petipa" would NOT have aspirated p's -- no explosive puff of breath on either one, so it would sound almost like "Betiba......"

#66 Mel Johnson

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Posted 28 July 2003 - 02:31 AM

However, we have received "Petipa" through a Russian filter, where strongly accented syllables and aspirated plosives are quite the usual thing. One general rule of Russian pronunciation of names is that if the name ends with a vowel, the accent is not on the last syllable, neither is it on the penultimate, but instead, on the paenepenult, the NEXT to the next to the last syllable. Except when it isn't, of course.

#67 Estelle

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Posted 28 July 2003 - 04:20 AM

French words involve NO accented syllables; all syllables must have the same strength.  Therefore, the great choreographer is pronounced:
pet i pah

Are you quite sure about that, citibob? My French-speaking friends from both Canada and France have told me otherwise, though perhaps I am misunderstanding. Perhaps Estelle could clarify...?

Well Hans, after some further thinking it is quite a complicated thing... I think that in French there are no strong stress-accents (it's far less strong than in English), and for example in French dictionaries there is nothing about stressed syllables when the phonetic pronunciation of the word is written, and I don't remember being told anything about it in class. But I think there is a small stress, following the rules I had given in another post (and as it is a rule which applies for all words with no exceptions, that's perhaps why nothing was said about it in class), and for example I remember it was quite striking when I attended Spanish classes, and some people were likely to pronounce Spanish words as it they were French (and so stressed the wrong syllable in most of the words ending with a vowel) and it really sounded weird! And perhaps also the accentuation of words is a bit stronger when it's in the context of a sentence than for isolated words (and for example it has an importance in classical poetry, for example in an alexandrine it sounds really bad if the 6th syllable is on a syllable or word which isn't accented normally).

Also there are quite a lot of differences between regional accents (I was quite aware of it, as my parents both were from another region than the one where I grew up, and so as a kid there were a lot of words that I didn't pronounce the same way as my schoolmates- and even now my own accent depends quite a lot on where I am and who I'm talking with :wub:) but not that much in the accentuation, I would say one difference might be the pronunciation of "e muets" which can vary, in Paris they're almost not pronounced (my name would sound like "Estel"), while in some southern regions they are more pronounced but the accent is on the penultimate syllable (Es-TEL-le).

Paul, about the number of syllables... my name does have three syllables, but the last one would be less strong that the others, if it makes sense. Err, I'm afraid this thread is getting transformed a bit too much in a French linguistics thread :o

And Mel, you're right that Marius Petipa's name was known through a Russian filter, and so the Russian pronunciation probably was the most important... (But what about Lucien Petipa? ;) )

#68 Mel Johnson

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Posted 28 July 2003 - 01:57 PM

(But what about Lucien Petipa? ;) )

I'll have to ask him the next time I see him.


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