Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Another Turin

Well, it turns out next to no one actually stresses the second syllable of Turin. 'Cept me. But the Columbia Encyclopedia, that great arbiter, backs me up by allowing it as the third of three variant pronunciations. This reminds me of the time when a friend pointed out that I am the only person who voices the "s" in episode. Merriam Webster was on my side, but in all honesty I've been listening for someone else to say 'epizode' for two years now and have yet to hear it.

But I think that part of why I'd never noticed "TURin" before was because the broadcasters have adopted a new pronunciation: /'tɝən/, as opposed to /'turin/. I must have heard the latter my whole life, and, without the vowel reductions to guide me, I misheard stress on the final syllable. Weird.

Anyways, it seems I'm behind the times, and that the real fight is over Turin/Torino, a fight that was started by the mixed signals sent by the IOC, who advise that the games be called Torino 2006, but the city should be called Turin. Their preference for Torino for the name of the games? A marketing decision -- they felt it sounded all cool and Italiany. Missing from the often heated debate was any mention of the fact that the Piedmontese name of the city is Turin. My guess is that no one noticed this because the language has seen better days; according to the Wikipedia article on the subject:

In 2004, Piedmontese was recognised as Piedmont's regional language by the regional administration, although the Italian government does not recognise it. In theory it is now supposed to be taught to children in school, but this is happening only in a limited way... The current state of Piedmontese is quite grave, as over the last 150 years the number of people with a written knowledge of the language has shrunk to about 13% of native speakers, according to a recent survey Efforts to make it one of the official languages of the Turin 2006 Winter Olympics were unsuccessful.

Unlike the article's author, I don't equate a language's vitality with its official recognition or its literacy rate, or whether it is "taught to children in school" -- after all, a non-moribund language doesn't have to be taught to children; they already know it. But I think that what the article's author is trying to get at is that overall Piedmontese is giving way to Italian. I know very little about Italian languages, so I don't know if this is actually true, but if it is it would explain why everyone has been saying that Torino is the "local name" of the city.


trevor@k'alebeul said...

I think tuRIN is standard British pronunciation.

Ben said...

Great - so it's not just me. Whew.

Anonymous said...

As a patriotic Brit can I hope that there are no references to Londres, Londen etc. for the 2012 games?

Ben said...

You're not rubbing it in the collective face of us New Yorkers there, are you?

A good question, though. I'm sure the answer is that of course the Francophone press will call London Londres and the Batavians (is there a word for Dutch-speakers?) will write Londen, thus enabling them to pronounce it the way us Anglophones do. I have no problem with that; Let Jacques keep his Londres and Miep her Londen; I don't want to have to trade The Hague for 's Gravenhagen or start saying Paree. But you're right; your question shows a lack of symmetry in the situation; it would never occur to a Francophone that there was anything wrong or inauthentic about Londres; I think English speakers have a chip on their shoulders and somehow see their langauge as inauthentic. I guess that's the flipside of hegemony.

Gionata Conti said...

Piedmontese is losing out to standard Italian because Turin probably has as many "internal immigrants" as any major Italian city. For decades Italians from the South went to Turin to work in the Fiat car factories so standard Italian had to serve as a lingua franca between groups speaking very different dialects (languages really).

Ben said...

Yet another exapmle of migration destroying local diversity. I say this as someone who, despite being from Chicago, speaks English, not Potawatomi.