Why linguistically the word of the city of Puyallup is difficult for non Seattleites to pronounce? It only contains sounds found in English.


2 Answers 2


Do you mean hard to pronounce after hearing how it's pronounced or after just seeing it written? If the latter, I must say as a Brit who's never seen that name before, I wonder how to break the word up. Do I say the 'uy' as in Spanish 'muy' or as in English 'buy', for example?


It is locally pronounced as [pjʊˈæləp]. I don't actually know how it's mispronounced: I use [ˈpjʊwjəlʊwp] as a joking mispronunciation. Wiki says that an alternative pronunciation is [pjʊˈɔləp], which I could imagine but I've never heard. There is a certain element of randomness to orthographic vowel pronunciation, especially with native names which are for 99.99% of pastəds meaningless string of letters. Unless you're native, you stand a good chance of mispronouncing Yakima (should be [ˈjækəˌmɑ]). The sequence <all> is usually pronounced [ɔl], so it is predictable that it would be so pronounced by people who don't know better – the standard pronunication with [æ] is what's hard to explain (I suspect that spelling with <ll> rather than <l> is responsible). As Sumelic notes, orthographic all is usually [æl] when morpheme-medial (wallow being a minority pattern), and a spelling al would encourage the worse pronunciation [ɛ] (as in "Chehalis" [ʃəhɛjləs]). [ɔl] is still possible, if you ignore the morpheme-position influence on how <all> is pronounced. Interestingly, [ɔ] is closer to the vowel of Spuyaləpabš Lushootseed. (Wiki is just wrong about the etymology: it means "people of the bend", referring to the bends in the river).

The loss of <y> in the middle doesn't correspond to any general rule, so when people see a consonant in the spelling, they want to pronounce it. The dissimilative loss of [j] is one of those rare cases where difficulty of prounciation actually plays a rule on language change. It is articulatorily challenging to form, deform, and re-form [j] within less that 100 msc so the palatal gesture for the second [j] got attenuated.

Initial stress is possible, just not right for this word. There is is actual variation in pronouncing Swinomish (1st or second syllable), and you find second-syllable stress in non-native pronunciations of Yakima.

  • Does it really have the FOOT vowel in the (open) first syllable?
    – TKR
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 22:55
  • 1
    That's a phonemicization choice: there's no u / ʊ contrast before vowels, and it's phonetically closer to [ʊ]. You could go with <u>.
    – user6726
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 23:02
  • "all" is usually pronounced /ɔl/ when morpheme-final, as in call or calling, but /æl/ when in the middle of a morpheme, as in fallow, shallow, pallid. Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 17:27
  • Puyallup is Southern Lushootseed, and there are a few differences with Northern, but the vowels are the same: /i/ & /u/ (lowered to [e] & [o] around postvelars), /a/ (often reduced to shwa when unstressed), and /ə/. There's quite a lot of variable stress and especially epenthesis, what with the consonant clusters that occur frequently (it's quite common to have 4 or 5 stops, some glottalized, in one consonant cluster, and plenty of folks insert epenthetic shwas where they sound right).
    – jlawler
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 17:36

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