Pronunciation: /ju:/ vs /u:/ (student, coupon, lacuna,...) - AE

valdemar

Senior Member
Español mexicano
Pronunciation: ju vs u: (student, coupon, lacuna, aduce, presumably,...)

I don't know why but I had the perception that the 'u:' pronunciation is American and the 'ju' pronuciation British. Now it's being recurrent that I hear a lot of Americans pronouncing 'ju'. So I'm wondering if there is a pattern to follow, I mean maybe just people who live in the north or the south do this, this depends on indivudual choice, or it reflects a specific status, etc. Also if people do this as a standar, meaning if someone prononunce 'student' with a 'ju' sound then their pronounce all the words the same way, and viceversa. I appreciate all your comments (Both AE and BE).
 
  • JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    As a generalization, you are right.

    I am mixed on this. I still retain most of my BrE -you instead of -oo (stupid students produce Tuesday tunes etc) but my first inclination for lacuna was lack-oo-nuh, definitely way out across the Atlantic! However, accuse is the -you sound, as I think most AmE would be. I suspect BrE is always one way (you) when there is a difference available, but some AmE will use the -you, even if the majority use the -oo.

    If coupon were spelled cupon, there might be some room for either in my book, but the ou (as in coupe) means, for me, it should always be -oo, and any -you sound is simply wrong.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Mod note: I have edited the title and put in diagonal strokes (slashes) to indicate the use of phonetic symbols.
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    [...] I suspect BrE is always one way (you) when there is a difference available, but some AmE will use the -you, even if the majority use the -oo. [...]
    I'd go with BrE being mostly one way, JS, but there are regional exceptions. East End Londoners usually say 'stoopid, 'Toosday', 'toons', etc, and I've known some (but only some) people from other parts of South-East England who do it.

    Ws:)
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Thanks Ws. Do you think those examples are recent and :eek: AmE-influenced, or of ancient local origin? (I often say s-chewpid, so no opporchewnity for u: , but that's a separate thread or two!)
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Not all that recent, no. My first memories of hearing it were in my early teens. It's also on a tape I have of BBC recordings, made in the '70s I think, of local accents. The 'Cockney' accents of a teenager and a grandpa both had the 'oo' pronunciation, so that would take it back to early 20th century, and I'm guessing it goes a fair bit further back. Since AmE influence on BrE is essentially post-1940, I'd favour the 'ancient local origin' theory.

    Ws:)
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I am surprised at the prevalence of -you in coupon. I wonder where it comes from, given its absence in soup, group, loupe, toupee, coupe, pretty much all other ou words that are u: I wonder if any BrE speakers say cjupon?
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I've only ever heard Americans say /kju:/ for coupon. Not BrE speakers. Interesting because it is not historical and because it shows a pattern reversal.
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    I am surprised at the prevalence of -you in coupon. [...]
    And I'm fascinated by the ~2% who have "other" pronunciations. The mind boggles at what "other" might be! (And who is that one person in Idaho? ;)).
    [...] I wonder if any BrE speakers say cjupon?
    I'd be inclined to agree with those who say it's never heard in BrE, except that my maternal grandmother always pronounced it that way. She was from rural Oxfordshire and had never travelled — though there were a lot of Americans stationed round there during the war and I've no idea what my Gran got up to!

    There's quite a long thread on the pronunciation of 'coupon', with some interesting theories on the /juː/ pronunciation:
    - coupon like Houston : written ou = /juː/
    - coupon like cupid : influence of preceding c (though your coupe example counters that, JS)
    - coupon (/juː/) like stupid (/juː/) :an overcompensation by people who dislike 'stoopid'.

    What does seem clear though, valdemar, is that words spelt with 'ou' aren't in the same basket as those spelt with 'u'. Where such words came into English from French (or are cognate with the French equivalent), it would seem logical that the pronunciation was close to the French: so
    /juː/ for the 'u' words, // for the 'ou' words. How pronunciation evolves locally, however, often defies all logic.

    Ws
    :)

     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I've only ever heard Americans say /kju:/ for coupon. Not BrE speakers. Interesting because it is not historical and because it shows a pattern reversal.
    I had an old headmistress, Oxford educated in the early 1920s; she pronounced coupon as if it were French. I note that the word is relatively recent in English (1822 - restricted meaning; 1864 extended; 1906 wider use -> OED) and is (it appears) directly taken from the French.
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    [...] she pronounced coupon as if it were French [...]
    Do you mean the 'cou', Paul? (which is only slightly different from the normal BrE pronunciation (/k/) — or the whole thing including the nasal "on" (/ɔ̃/) rather than English "on" (/ɒn/)? (which would be outside the scope of this thread).

    But yes, I have indeed met people who like to affect an excessively French accent even when pronouncing 'borrowed' words that have been established in English for a couple of centuries!

    Ws:)
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    But yes, I have indeed met people who like to affect an excessively French accent even when pronouncing 'borrowed' words that have been established in English for a couple of centuries!
    I would venture to suggest that the old Oxford headmistress took the view that the word had not yet been established long enough to have earned a nostrified pronunciation. To her, it was still a foreign word and therefore she was jolly well going to pronounce it foreign. I'd call that principled, not affected. She deserves credit, not ridicule.
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    I'd say your suggested explanation is most probably right, Edinburgher. And yes, I'm all in favour of giving foreign words their correct pronunciation. And no, there was no ridicule intended. I draw a distinction between "an affected accent" (which has come, through usage, to have a negative meaning) and "to affect", which I used here to mean "to assume" (and in the context of people I have met).

    Whether the headmistress's pronunciation was excessive would depend on how she pronounced "coupon" relative to the accepted pronunciation of the time. I'm still curious to know how she pronounced it, and where it fits (as an example of BrE usage) compared with /k/ and /kj/. (She'd have been pretty much contemporary with my Gran).

    Ws
    :)
     

    Phil-Olly

    Senior Member
    Scotland, English
    There's quite a long thread on the pronunciation of 'coupon', with some interesting theories on the /juː/ pronunciation:
    - coupon like Houston : written ou = /juː/

    But isn't it amusing that, whereas in the US, stupid, students, produce, Tuesday, tunes etc (and don't forget news) are all generally pronounced with the /u:/ sound and here in the UK /ju:/, Houston behaves in completely the opposite manner on both sides of the Atlantic (We have a Houston near Glasgow - also a common surname - and it's always 'Hooston')
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Good point, Phil-Olly. And that makes me realise that I should've applied the US habit and written "Houston, Texas". My apologies to the noble inhabitants of Renfrewshire for the oversight.

    Ws:)
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    Sorry, but I don't quite understand how a person can pronounce the "u" in student like "ju" (as in juice)

    I pronounce student with a "chew" sound, similar to the "ju" in juice, as do 99.9999 per cent of Irish people. St-oo-dent is typically American.
    The words Youtube, Tuesday, and student contain the same "chew" sound in my accent.
     
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    aprendiendo argento

    Banned
    Slovenian
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    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    But isn't it amusing that, whereas in the US, stupid, students, produce, Tuesday, tunes etc (and don't forget news) are all generally pronounced with the /u:/ sound and here in the UK /ju:/, Houston behaves in completely the opposite manner on both sides of the Atlantic (We have a Houston near Glasgow - also a common surname - and it's always 'Hooston')

    Just for the record, the street in New York City (from which SoHo - south of Houston - is derived) is pronounced "house-ton."
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    This thread would have been simpler if "coupon" had not been in the mix :(. The discussion you vs. oo sound for the vowel u is distracted by how ou is pronounced?
     

    ejchri

    New Member
    English - American
    As far as American English goes, coupon is the odd man out in the pronunciation of /[ju] variants. The pronunciation of coupon is used roughly as often as is the /ju/ pronunciation. See this dialect map.
    I smiled when I noticed that mplsray was a Minneapolitan. Born and raised in Minneapolis myself, attending public schools there and the University of Minnesota, and being in roughly the same age bracket as mplsray, at the beginning of reading this thread I had silently sound-tested myself on how I naturally pronounce coupon. You know what I mean, where one thinks of a phrase or sentence including the word in question, to "hear" oneself using it. Somewhat surprising even to me, I realized that I sometimes use the -you pronunciation and other times the -oo sound. That duality indicates to me that I must have frequently heard both variants often enough that both are natural to me. In my opinion, that would imply that using one vs. the other isn't probably predominantly regionalized in nature, or at least not as typically regional as, for example, Boston-area speakers dropping r's in the BrE manner, or y'all (you all) being almost entirely a usage from the southern United States.
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    It matters what kind of consonant precedes the vowel sound.
    In my (American) English, the "you" and "ooh" sounds are merged into "ooh" after a coronal consonant (made with the tip of the tongue: /t/, /d/, /n/, /l/, /s/, /z/):
    So a "tutor" sounds like someone who toots ("tooter"); "duty" sounds like the last name of "Howdy Doody";
    "new" sounds like the beginning of "noodle"; "lute" is the same as "loot"; "super" begins with "soup"; "presume" contains "zoo"; "stupid" begins with "stoop".

    But the merger doesn't happen after consonants made at the lips (/p/, /b/, /f/, /v/, /m/) or at the back of the mouth (/k/, /g/, /h/):
    So the "you" sound is alive and well in "pew" (not "poo"), "beauty" (not "booty"), "feud" (not "food"), kitten-speak ("mew") but not cow ("moo"),
    and "view" would never be confused with the ending of "rendezvous".
    "Cute" never sounds like "coot". Some Am.Eng. speakers might confuse "Hugh" with "you", but never with "who".
     
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