Tuesday, May 8, 2012

On an Interesting Pronunciation Point


In general, South Africans tend to take their pronuncialtion from the English, but every now and then a word sneaks in with the American pronunciation. A very good example that not many people seem to know about is the word "mall". The majority of South Africans tend to pronounce it the same as the word "maul", which is indeed a homophone, at least to the Americans. Pronounced the English way, "mall" should almost (but not quite) rhyme with "shall". In non-rhotic accents (that is, accents which tend to drop the letter 'r' if it's followed by a consonant), it it even almost rhymes with gnarl.

The reason, as far as I can tell, is that the Australians got the wrong pronunciation from the Americans, and then South Africans gradually copied it from there. Why the Americans can't pronounce half the words in the English language correctly, no one knows (if I were talking aloud now, this would be followed by a loud clearing of the throat and something like "laziness" mumbled under my breath).

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