Monday, 4 March 2013

canine

I’m about to have one of my front teeth crowned, and my dentist asked me to visit the dental technician for him to determine the appropriate colour match. I did so, and was impressed by his evident mastery of his subject. He took a whole series of photos of my face and teeth, first taking me into the natural daylight outside the building, and explaining to me how the replacement would be built up from multiple layers of porcelain of different translucencies and shades.

What struck me, however, was that he pronounced the word canine as kəˈnaɪn. For this word I’m only familiar with ˈkeɪnaɪn and ˈkænaɪn (the former, I think, predominating); so his version was new to me. Yet for him this is an everyday technical term of his professional speciality.

I see the OED gives all three pronunciations without comment, so perhaps he’s not alone. (Merriam-Webster Collegiate gives ˈkeɪ-, adding ˈkæ- for BrE only.)

This word is one of several that we have taken from Latin, all meaning ‘X-related’, where X is the name of an animal: aquiline, feline, asinine, vulpine and so on. Canine teeth are ‘dog-like’ teeth (Latin cănis ’dog’). It is regular in these adjectives for the suffix to be pronounced aɪn and for the stress to go on the stem. In some cases the Latin vowel length in the stem is preserved: ˈækwɪlaɪn (Latin ăquĭla ‘eagle’), ˈfiːlaɪn (fēles, fēlis 'cat’), ˈæsɪnaɪn (ăsĭnus ‘donkey, ass’), ˈvʌlpaɪn (vŭlpes ‘fox’) and so on — but in other cases, not: bovine ˈbəʊvaɪn (bōs, but stem bŏv- ‘ox, cow’), ovine ˈəʊvaɪn (ŏvis ‘sheep’). Hence the hesitation in canine ˈkeɪ- ~ ˈkæ-, which we also see in equine ˈiːk- ~ ˈek- (ĕquus ‘horse’).

The only case I can think of in which a Latin adjective in -īnus gives an English adjective with final stress does not have a stem designating an animal: marine məˈriːn (măre ‘sea’). It is also the only one in which the suffix is pronounced iːn rather than aɪn.

33 comments:

  1. aquiline, feline, asinine, vulpine: 'in some cases the Latin vowel length in the stem is preserved'. Only fortuitously, I think. The distribution is according to ME open-syllable lengthening/closed-syllable shortening, together with trisyllabic laxing. According to which, canine ˈkeɪ- is regular. (It's the pronunciation I'm familiar with too.)

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  2. What about amandine (with final stress at least as a variant pron) or citrine? They do not designate animals, are based on Latin -īnus and the suffix is pronounced /iːn/

    /pɛtr røːzəl/

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  3. I think the pronunciation of the suffix in riverine is pretty unsettled (iːn ~ aɪn ~ ɪn). I'm not so sure about lacustrine, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear such rare words pronounced in a variety of ways.

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    1. And what about Benedictine (monk, not liqueur)?

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  4. ˈkeɪnaɪn and ˈkænaɪn (the former, I think, predominating)

    I'd say predominating enough for this.

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  5. John:
    Could this be in line with other changes in the pronunciation of Standard British English, like "controversy," where the accent seems (but not always) to have moved to the anti-penultimate?

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  6. The only case I can think of in which a Latin adjective in -īnus gives an English adjective with final stress [...] marine

    Also divine? I'm not personally au fait with vowel length in Latin, but the OED says dīvīnus.

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  7. How do you know in Latin which vowel is long and which is short?

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    1.  I’m not an expert, but among the sources are:
       – poetic rhythm (verse metre)
       – reflex in spoken Latin/Romance languages (mostly ĭ/ŭ > e/o; ī/ū > i/u)
       – reflex in loans from Latin in various foreign languages

       Charlie Ruland

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    2. Also:
      - first-hand reports (Classical Latin authors commenting on vowel length)
      - occasional use of length marks (such as apices) in inscriptions
      - absence of syncope in open medial syllables
      - etymology

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    3. Wonderful! So there is basically no way for me to know the length and thus the stress. It must be an interesting job to be a compiler of a Latin dictionary, though probably a bit less today when some of them copy from the pile of dictionaries already published. It is such a Catch-22: you have to know Latin to know what vowel is open/close in Italian, but you have to know Italian to know the quality of the vowels of Latin.

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    4. In 19th century Germany (or England, to be fair), yes, that would be the method of choice. By meanwhile, some people have taken to cheating - they actually listen to Italians and such. Rather unsporting (E) and unscholarly (G).

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    5. @J.M.R.
      http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/resolveform?redirect=true&lang=Latin

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    6. Thank you, Piotr.

      Lipman, what do you mean? They listen to the Italian pronunciation?

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    7. Just in case this is serious: yes. They listen to the Italian pronunciation in order "to know what vowel is open/close in Italian", rather than study Latin and infer.

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  8. NED (1888) gave only (kănəi·n, kæ·nəin), meaning kəˈnaɪn, ˈkænaɪn.

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  9. OED also has saline: /ˈseɪlaɪn/ /səˈlaɪn/.

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  10. In the beginning of the 20th century, at least, KAY-nine was an American pronunciation. When the BBC was holding meetings to settle on what pronunciations they would use, George Bernard Shaw argued for it on the grounds that his dentist used it. Someone else said, "You must have an American dentist, then." "Of course I do", said Shaw, and they disregarded him. My American dentists say KAY-nine.

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  11. wen aɪ gɹoʊ ʌp aɪm goʊɪŋ t̬ə boʊvaɪn juːnɪvɝːsət̬iː

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  12. I think I've only every heard the KAY-nine pronunciation. There is a pet shop here that specialises in dogs that's called K9. (Thanks, John Cowan, for the comments - I didn't know this was originally American.)

    'It [the word marine] is also the only one in which the suffix [-ine] is pronounced iːn rather than aɪn.' There might be more American pronunciations with iːn, such as Byzantine, I think.

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  13. While I haven't strong feelings about any of the pronunciations and probably don't notice them much in everyday life, I find

    ˈkeɪnaɪn the most natural,
    kəˈnaɪn a bit precious, maybe depending on speaker and context, but anyway nice, and
    ˈkænaɪn just a bit hypercorrect, to sound more like Latin (but not if used naively today, obviously)

    None of them sound specifically American or British to me.

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  14. I'm a native speaker of Portuguese, which is a language very close to latin. I'm pretty happy to see that kəˈnaɪn is also possible, because it is so in Portuguese, in every occurrence of the sufix. And glad to know that it is a "precious" pronunciation. :)

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  15. I'm also very surprised to learn of the possibility of final stress in 'canine', particularly as a noun. (I can't think of any other polysyllabic noun ending in -ine with final stress —apart from ones deriving from non-nouns, e.g. design, decline.) Other animal-derived words I can think of have regular nonfinal stress, e.g., lupine (L lupus 'wolf'), corvine (L corvus 'raven'), cervine (L cervus 'deer'), porcine (L porcus 'pig'), colubrine (L colubra 'snake'), etc. —even when the immediately preceding vowel is short, e.g. caprine [ˈkæpɹaɪn] (L capra 'goat'), sittine [ˈsɪtaɪn] (NL sitta 'nuthatch'), piscine [ˈpɪsajn] (L piscis 'fish'), gorilline [gǝˈɹɪlajn] (from gorilla). (This is also true of unrelated words, e.g. sabine [ˈsæbaɪn], rapine [ˈɹæpaɪn], thalline [ˈθælaɪn], stibine [ˈstɪbaɪn], errhine [ˈeɹaɪn], eccrine [ˈekɹaɪn], Pennine [ˈpenaɪn], acauline [eɪˈkɒlaɪn], etc. —never with final stress. The equine-type variation is also found in unrelated ethyne [ˈiːθaɪn ~ ˈeθaɪn], quinine [ˈkwɪnaɪn ~ ˈkwaɪnaɪn ~ -iːn], azine [ˈæzaɪn ~ ˈeɪzajn ~ -iːn], stenohaline [ˌstenəˈheɪlaɪn ~ -ˈhælaɪn] —each with nonfinal stress.)

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    1. Wait a minute. Quinine, if you are referring to the alkaloid, is kwɪ ˈniːn. Acauline: isn't that ə ˈkɔːl aɪn

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    2. Sorry, I meant [aɪn]-ending nouns. Final stress with [iːn] seems rather common (machine, caffeine, sardine, canteen, Eugene, magazine, tangerine, amandine, langoustine, Cochinchine, smithereens, mandoline, etc.).

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    3. Re: 'acauline', I have [ɒ] as a Canadian, but you're right that it "should be" [eɪˈkɔːlaɪn]. You have an initial schwa though, eh? The (oft-strange) Collins gives [ˈækɔːˌlaɪn]...

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    4. JMR: Except for those of us who say /ˈkwaɪnaɪn/, like me and (according to the dictionaries) most Americans.

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  16. What about arietine? The OED doesn't list the pronunciation. Is it ˈeər i ɪt aɪn?

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  17. Re arietine: I could not find an entry for this word in either Johnson's, Sheridan's or Walker's dictionaries

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    1. Strange.

      I don't know why the OED doesn't add the pronunciations for similar archaisms.

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    2. Probably because none of the lexicographers at OUP ever heard someone pronounce the word ;-)

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    3. I don't see the problem with arietine.

      The OED lists only one use — in a glossary dated 1657 — and it marks vowel length in the source Latin arietīnus.

      By 1657 spoken Latin in England had passed through the Great Vowel Shift along with English. And it was still the norm that people who used learned words were familiar with written and spoken Latin.

      The word is not so much based on Latin as Anglicised with minimum change. It's the sort of word that's easily coined, so for all we know it might have been invented at any time prior to 1657 — more than once even.

      But it doesn't matter. Whenever it was spoken, it would be with the current pronunciation of Classical Latin long i, the sound that became the PRICE vowel.

      (OK this vowel did change in a non-Latin manner in English. But as John related in Accents of English, the only happened when there was a following vowel, as in pairs such as divine~divinity.)

      We can speculate on an alternative history in which arietine did not become obsolete. Most probably, it would have ended up rhyming with the polysyllabic Roman hills Palatine, Esquiline etc. But this history that never happened would have seen the death of widespread knowledge of Latin, indeed the virtual death of spoken Latin. So the pronunciation could have changed in various ways. But it didn't because none of this happened.

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