By Matt Samuel


2019-02-10 23:15:35 8 Comments

In pronunciation of the name of the New Jersey Turnpike, there is no stress in either syllable of the word "Jersey," as though New Jersey were actually one word. Is this a common phenomenon that occurs in other situations? Not necessarily restricted to the words New Jersey specifically.

2 comments

@remarkl 2019-02-10 23:58:00

To get from NYC to Philly, most people take the "Noojersey Turnpike," thereby realizing the joy of parsimony that dactyls offer over iambs. Thus, Simon and Garfunkel sang of "counting the cars on the Noojersey Turnpike."

In other contexts, the pronunciation may be different. The Noojersey Turnpike is a way to get from here to there, whereas "the newJERSey Turnpike" is the name of a major toll road in the USA. As a very rough rule of thumb, I think the use/mention distinction applies. People tend to use the dactylic version but mention the iambic.

@Matt Samuel 2019-02-11 00:04:41

I have indeed thought before that that is a more accurate spelling.

@Todd Wilcox 2019-02-11 08:00:40

Are you saying they don't stress the "Jer" in the song, because I hear it stressed when I listen to that song.

@remarkl 2019-02-11 13:43:23

@ToddWilcox No, I don't hear that stress. And it's not written that way. The song is in 3/4 time and scans in almost perfect dactylic tetrameter.

@Matt Samuel 2019-02-11 17:41:14

@Todd The stress is not entirely clear when sung, but if you recite it like a poem it's disjointed unless you don't stress the first syllable of Jersey.

@remarkl 2019-02-11 21:37:22

"COUNTing the CARS on the NEWjersey TURNpike, They've"

@sumelic 2019-02-10 23:32:08

That's interesting. I can't think of an exactly parallel example, but it I am familiar with a phenomenon where a stressed syllable that comes immediately before a word starting with a stressed syllable becomes "unaccented". For example, New York is often pronounced with the primary stress or accent on the last syllable ("York"), but in "New York City" there is an accent on the first syllable of "City", and as a result there may be no accent on "York". Another example is that "Chinese" as a stand-alone word is typically accented on the last syllable, but that accent might be lost in a phrase like "Chinese media".

It may be that for some speakers (or some specific phrases), an accent may be lost in longer phrases like this even when it is not on a syllable immediately preceding the accented syllable of the next word.

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