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Pronunciation of "ballet"


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#1 Treefrog

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Posted 30 April 2005 - 08:22 PM

Is there any general agreement among English speakers about where the accent lies in the word ballet? I have always pronounced it "bal-lay' ", with the accent on the second syllable. Yet, tonight I was watching a BioArts program in which dancers repeatedly spoke of the New York City "Bal'-lay" and the School of American "Bal'-lay".

:yahoo:

#2 Ariodante

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Posted 30 April 2005 - 08:34 PM

As a foreigner maybe I should keep my mouth shut here but I was just thinking the same: I've always pronounced "ballet" the French way, with the accent at the last syllable - it is a French word after all. But I was quite surprised when watching the Canadian series "Footsteps" just a few days ago, I heard so many people pronounce it "bal'-ley". Still there was no consistency here - some were saying "bal-ley' ", some "bal'-ley". The second version sounds funny to me but who am I to complain :yahoo: .
I see that dictionaries give both forms as correct.

Best,
Iza

#3 carbro

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Posted 30 April 2005 - 08:55 PM

I believe the British call the form ballet. They tend to anglicize many French words that Americans say more francophonically. Who but the Brits would pronounce Beauchamps "Beech-am"? :rolleyes: :yahoo:

#4 Old Fashioned

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Posted 30 April 2005 - 08:57 PM

Hmm, reminds me of a discussion in my English class we had awhile ago. We were discussing the difference between iambic- where a short accent is followed by a long- and trochaic- long followed by short. Someone mentioned the iambic is most commonly used in the English language and the trochaic is profound in French, although I don't think it's a very good generalization since I came up with plenty of words in the French language with either an iambic or trochaic pronunciation. *scratches head*

By the way, Canadian French can sometimes sound like an entirely different language from French French. :yahoo:

#5 Mel Johnson

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Posted 01 May 2005 - 03:48 AM

NEW york CIty BALlet forms a nice trochaic trimeter. san franCISco balLET, forms a double dactyl. I think the American rule is, whatever sounds best in context.

And don't get me started on fossil languages like Canadian French and New York Dutch!

As to the use of the trochee in English:

Once upon a midnight dreary
As I pondered weak and weary....

and

By the shores of Gitchee-Gumee
By the shining Big-Sea-Water....

#6 chauffeur

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Posted 01 May 2005 - 05:41 AM

Oh geez, I saw the subject heading and thought: "There's somewhere they're saying it 'bal-LET'?" Pour another cup of coffee.

But this discussion explains why when we spent time in Australia last year we found we were pronouncing most place names wrong. Our instincts, as Americans, were to put the accent on any syllable except the first one, and the Aussies almost always put it on the first. Case in point: a local river was called "Ginnenderra." We gussied it up by saying "gi-NIN-der-rah" and the locals soon set us straight: it was the much more straightforward, less fancy sounding "GIN-en-der-rah."

#7 Treefrog

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Posted 01 May 2005 - 07:21 AM

Why does NEW york CIty BALlet sound better than new york city balLET?

Or why does San franCISco baLET sound better than SAN franCISco BALlet? (which is, if I'm not mistaken, as much a trochaic trimeter as the first pronunciation of NYCB)

I guess what I'm asking: is this a NYC regionalism (is it American BALlet Theater or American BalLET Theater?) or an NYCB affectation, or something else entirely? What is common elsewhere in America, not to mention current and former members of the British Empire?

My dictionary, incidentally, does list both pronunciations, with balLET coming first. (Oddly enough, my Oxford Concise dictionary does not give pronunciations at all! What good is that?)

#8 Farrell Fan

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Posted 01 May 2005 - 07:45 AM

I must veer off-topic to note that the pronunciations that bother me most at the moment are 'Elec-TORE-al" and "May-YORE-al" for Electoral and Mayoral. Now back to balletto.

#9 Helene

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Posted 01 May 2005 - 09:05 AM

I guess what I'm asking: is this a NYC regionalism (is it American BALlet Theater or American BalLET Theater?) or an NYCB affectation, or something else entirely?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I've always heard the "Ballet" in American Ballet Theater pronounced another way: both syllables are stressed equally, with the voice rising a bit on the first syllable of "Theater."

#10 carbro

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Posted 01 May 2005 - 12:36 PM

NEW york CIty BALlet forms a nice trochaic trimeter.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Why does NEW york CIty BALlet sound better than new york city balLET?My dictionary, incidentally, does list both pronunciations, with balLET coming first.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Hello!!!! :tiphat: The name of the place is New York! When NYCB's full name is spoken, the strongest stress is on CIty. At least in these parts.


is it American BALlet Theater or American BalLET Theater?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

The first usually, probably to avoid the awkwardness of an accented syllable following an accented syllable.


I must veer off-topic to note that the pronunciations that bother me most at the moment are 'Elec-TORE-al" and "May-YORE-al" for Electoral and Mayoral. Now back to balletto.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I fully agree. Nails on the blackboard! :) And we're now in for a few months of a heavy dose of both!!! :angry2:

#11 Tiffany

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Posted 01 May 2005 - 04:30 PM

I've heard southerners pronounce ballet as balLET, and I've heard people from northern states pronounce it as BALlet. I like the BALlet pronunciation better, maybe just because its new to me. BALlet sounds more sophisticated after hearing balLET for most of my life.

#12 Mel Johnson

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Posted 01 May 2005 - 04:31 PM

NEW york CIty BALlet forms a nice trochaic trimeter.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Why does NEW york CIty BALlet sound better than new york city balLET?My dictionary, incidentally, does list both pronunciations, with balLET coming first.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Hello!!!! :) The name of the place is New York! When NYCB's full name is spoken, the strongest stress is on CIty. At least in these parts.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


And these parts are less than sixty miles from THOSE parts. When you say the NYCB name softly, most often you'll hear a stress on the initial syllable.

Furthermore, nobody I know in San Francisco, or San Gabriel, or San Pedro, or San Diego or even Santa Monica puts a primary hard stress on the SAN. Even the last-named gets glided over.

#13 Marga

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Posted 01 May 2005 - 07:54 PM

Oh geez, I saw the subject heading and thought: "There's somewhere they're saying it 'bal-LET'?"  Pour another cup of coffee.

If you meant "let" as in "let me come in!", then, of course there's somewhere they're saying "bal-LET" -- a big somewhere, as in all over Europe. In Estonian we add a second T (ballett) to make sure you get it right! :) (and, of course, the "ll"s are somewhat palatalized and the "a" is pronounce "ah").

As far as the topic alluding to English speakers only, I remember most how markedly Betty Oliphant pronounced BALlet. Of course, she was an Englishwoman, and her emphasis was quite "uppity" sounding, as if any other way of saying it was simply unacceptable.

#14 Gina Ness

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Posted 01 May 2005 - 08:08 PM

Well, I'm a native San Franciscan and a former dancer with San Francisco Ballet, and that's how I pronounce it! :)

#15 Mel Johnson

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Posted 02 May 2005 - 02:26 AM

That makes another trochaic trimeter.

But we're getting farther and farther into the realm of phonetics, and Henry Higgins is never around when you need him. I think if you look at the way you say San Francisco, the first stress is less than the second, which is a strong emphasis. That's why I made the distinction "primary hard stress". As in "San'-fran-cis"-co". The only time I've heard the San get the same emphasis as the cis, Jeannette MacDonald was singing it:

SAN-FRAN-CIS-co, open your Golden Gate,
You make no stranger wait....

Even Tony Bennett says:

I left my heart in San' Fran cis" co....


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