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Mispronunciations in Ersatz English (colleague)

Having given a name in the preceding post to the species of faux English that abounds in this age of linguistic globalization, perhaps an example is in order, viz. colleague, with the stress on the second syllable instead of the first. This incorrect rendition of the word is frequently produced by non-native speakers of English from South Asia and Africa, who have evidently not assimilated the rule of English prosody (accentuation) that regularly places the main stress of dissyllabic substantives on the first syllable.

It is interesting to learn that historically this word was (according to the Oxford English Dictionary Online) “still commonly accented on the second syllable” in the 17th century, having come into English from French in the 16th (“Etymology: < French collègue, < Latin collēga, one chosen along with another, a partner in office, etc.; < col- together + legĕre to choose, etc.”). Varieties of English, including dialects, typically differ in where they place the main stress of certain words. Cf. ínsurance in Southern American English instead of insúrance. Over time, even in Standard American, a stress that was current in earlier times may recede, e. g. consúmmate (adj.), which has all-but-disappeared from the language except in the speech of especially careful and knowledgeable members of the community.

MICHAEL SHAPIRO

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