trauma - pronunciation

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audiolaik

Senior Member
Polish
Hi,

Here's another tricky example of English pronunciation, namely the word "trauma". Since time immemorial, I've always uttered it the following way:

/trɔːmə/ (/ɔː/ as in horse, bought, thought; /ə/ as in computer, mother, father/).

However, to my astonishment, I've just spotted in the Longman Pornunciation Dictionary another alternative, namely

/traʊmə/ (// as in cow, now, mouth).

(Since my pronunciation interests have always revolved around RP or BrEnglish, I've never paid much attention to how our friends from across the ocean actually pronounce certain words.)

According to Mr Wells, the author of the dictionary, the long /o:/ version is a characteristic of BrEnglish, while the /au/ one belongs to AmEnglish. Surprisingly, the latter is also labelled as a BrEnglish alternative pronunciation; the former, the AmEnglish one. (I do hope I didn't mix all those things up.)

Do you, both AmE and BrE speakers, share Mr Well's point of view? Have you noticed this kind of pronunciation swap?

(A shrink might come in handy:))

Audio and AudioJnr
 
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  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Yes. It was always tror-ma in BE until the arrival of various American hospital based soaps in the 1980s(?), then trow-ma started creeping in.

    I feel that tror-ma still has the upper hand but is losing ground.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I've never heard or pronounced it any other way than /trɔːmə/.
    I've seen a fair few US hospital shows, and I would suspect it would have been something I'd have mentally logged, hearing something like this.

    But no... this is new to me (rhyming with 'cow').
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I suspect the trow-ma pronunciation is a misapplication of the German noun for 'dream' (with an 'a' stuck on the end.)

    Cf audio, automatic, auger, etc; all 'or' sounds.
     

    ribran

    Senior Member
    English - American
    According to Mr Wells, the author of the dictionary, the long /o:/ version is a characteristic of BrEnglish, while the /au/ one belongs to AmEnglish. Surprisingly, the latter is also labelled as a BrEnglish alternative pronunciation; the former, the AmEnglish one. (I do hope I didn't mix all those things up.)
    What?! I've never heard it pronounced that way!
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    In the many years since I was a medical student it has remained /trɔːmə/ for me, which is the first pronunciation in the COED. I have often heard /traʊmə/ (2nd pronunciation in the COED) and have always associated that with speakers of AE and with non-medical Joe Public after exposure to American films.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Howjsay has the bought and cloud version but not the drama version :D
    Is the last one a reference to what ribran said before?
    There's a phonetic process in the US which is called the COT-CAUGHT merger, where words of the type (seperate elsewhere) come together and have the same vowel that ribran indicated before, so I instantly thought it was this. Ironically it's always not the COT we have in Britain, due to early LOT-unrounding, but it's the unrounded equivalent of COT.

    (These words in capital letters are called lexical sets and are used to designate vowels, so they might not be the vowels you use in those words).

    So on a little phonetic-mystery tour I saw that Wiki has (as always) a good article on it, as well as a good map that shows results for the US, and Texas, and more importantly indicates a lot results as either being in transition or a completion of this process (see the article / map) so I am not saying anything for definite, but it's easily logical to see how that pronunciation exists in that region, due to a process of phonetic changes native to America (not too sure about Canada).

    If you didn't follow that, 'trauma' (the BE version) is with the vowel [ɔː], which is what is called the "THOUGHT" vowel, but in America also the "CAUGHT" vowel.
    Then there is the vowel LOT (America: COT) which can be designated as [ɑ] or [ɔ] in American speech. So it means a word that would be with the CAUGHT vowel, merges with all the words that would be pronounced (in the 'drama' case) [ɑ] (but in other cases with [ɔ]), so that's how a word like trauma could end up as ribran indicated. Perfectly normal.

    On the note of dictionary standards, it seems we've discovered the main two players.
     
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    Hau Ruck

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Is the last one a reference to what ribran said before?
    There's a phonetic process in the US which is called the COT-CAUGHT merger, where words of the type (seperate elsewhere) come together and have the same vowel that ribran indicated before, so I instantly thought it was this. Ironically it's always not the COT we have in Britain, due to early LOT-unrounding, but it's the unrounded equivalent of COT.

    (These words in capital letters are called lexical sets and are used to designate vowels, so they might not be the vowels you use in those words).

    So on a little phonetic-mystery tour I saw that Wiki has (as always) a good article on it, as well as a good map that shows results for the US, and Texas, and more importantly indicates a lot results as either being in transition or a completion of this process (see the article / map) so I am not saying anything for definite, but it's easily logical to see how that pronunciation exists in that region, due to a process of phonetic changes native to America (not too sure about Canada).
    ^^ I'd say it's exactly that. :) America has definitely "butchered" this word as well as words similar to it. :D You should hear it said in our Midwest and North East. When hearing either of those demographics pronounce it, it even makes me cringe. :D
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Is the last one a reference to what ribran said before?

    Actually, I was referring back to filsmith's
    I'd say "trah-mah".
    This I took to be similar to drama (or a non-rhotic farmer) - I believe it's referred to as a broad a (in contrast to the long a in late). This would keep it out of the cot-caught saga :D (although the bought version of trauma is the caught that is different between cot and caught in the unmerged forms.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    It's always been /trɔːmə/ for me, Mr. Laik. As far as I can remember I've only ever heard Americanpersons say /traʊmə/. Unlike PaulQ [#2], I think the 'traditional' BE pronunciation is holding up very nicely:)
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Interesting that nobody here is admitting to the /traʊmə/ pronunciation (which I've heard before). We'll have to keep waiting. I'd also be interested whether those who use this pronunciation keep the same vowel in traumatic.

    For the record, I always say /trɔːmə/.
     

    ribran

    Senior Member
    English - American
    Interesting that nobody here is admitting to the /traʊmə/ pronunciation (which I've heard before). We'll have to keep waiting. I'd also be interested whether those who use this pronunciation keep the same vowel in traumatic.

    For the record, I always say /trɔːmə/.
    Does anyone else have my pronunciation?

    I think my vowel in traumatic is /ʌ/.
     
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