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Re: OT: Justifying a stress pattern (plus OT: joke last name templates)

From:Mark J. Reed <markjreed@...>
Date:Sunday, December 30, 2007, 14:22
On Dec 30, 2007 12:28 AM, Eric Christopherson <rakko@...> wrote:
> Somewhat off-topic: I was thinking the other day about my last name > and why it's accented on the second syllable rather than the first > (vs. the given name Christopher). I have a theory that maybe it's > because the majority of -erson names in English are accented on the > syllable just before -erson.
It's far more general than that. Adding morphemes to English words often shifts the emphasis. For instance, pick almost any adjective with stress that's not on the final syllable. If you add "-ity" to nominalize it, ithe stress shifts: '[fn]ormal => [fn]or'mality, 'viscous => vis'cosity. 'tranquil => tran'quility; sub'jective => subjec'tivity. This can happen even when a morpheme is removed first: a'nonymous => ano'nymity. There are some general rules of thumb (with exceptions, of course): English words only have three stress levels: primary, secondary, and unstressed. And you can't have more than two unstressed syllables in a row. (Well, "can't" is too strong for a rule of thumb. You can, but it feels unnatural to native speakers.) Because "Christopher" has one stressed and two unstressed syllables, the form *'Christopherson has no good candidate for secondary stress and is rejected. Also, you have the famous antecedent of Kris Kristofferson. :)
> It's also funny that people use Mc-, which, being an Irish and > Scottish Gaelic-derived prefix, doesn't tend to occur along with the > mostly Scandinavian -[s]son/-[s]sen or German -[s]sohn. There is > McPherson, but that doesn't count because the -son is not derived > from its own morpheme.
Well, I think that's intentional. McSillyson is funny precisely because it's unlikely - and unlikely because it's redundant. :) -- Mark J. Reed <markjreed@...>


Lars Finsen <lars.finsen@...>
Eric Christopherson <rakko@...>
T. A. McLeay <conlang@...>