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Subject: English pronunciation of "recitative"
From: Christopher Weimer <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Christopher Weimer <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 12 Feb 2018 19:33:39 -0500

text/plain (35 lines)

The comments on Will Berger's pronunciation of "recitative" made me curious,
and I did a bit of research.  I actually found a 1968 article, written by
Victor Fell Yellin in a journal called American Speech, which is devoted
entirely to the English pronunciation of the word.  Anyone with
institutional access to the Jstor database can access it here:

To summarize, Yellin points out that Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary puts the
stress on the second syllable (which is how Will Berger says it), and quotes
Webster's note in the entry: "The natural and proper English accent of this
word is on the second syllable. The foreign accent may well be discarded." 
Webster saw the "natural and proper English accent" pronouncing the word
analogously to "recipient," "reciprocal," etc.  Yellin's theory is that the
19th and 20th century decline of English-language opera and its abandoning
of recitative in favor or dialogue, as well as the gradual domination of
English-language musical discourse by generations of continental Europeans
in whose languages the various forms of "recitative" stress the final "i"
sound, led to the English pronunciation of the word giving way to one
analogous to Italian, French, or German pronunciation. 

Christopher Weimer

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