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


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?

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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.

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  • Does it really have the FOOT vowel in the (open) first syllable? – TKR Jul 26 '16 at 22:55
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    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 Jul 26 '16 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. – brass tacks Feb 23 '17 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 Feb 24 '17 at 17:36

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