03 July 2010

Picturesque Regensburg

I am now in Regensburg, which is really beautiful. It is located at the place where the Danube meets the Regen (from which it gets its name). This is a view of the city taken from a boat cruising on the Danube. You can see the cathedral spires soaring over the rooves the houses.The commentary provided on the cruise boat was recorded in excellent English. But one word caught my attention: the speaker stressed picturesque on the first syllable (rather than the third, as is more usual).

Jennifer Jenkins has suggested that English as an International Language can develop its own norms of pronunciation, and there is no need for non-native speakers always to refer to the styles of pronunciation of native speakers. To this end, she says that some things are important for international intelligibility, and some are not.

Many people might agree with this. The problem lies in which things we regard as important. Jenkins suggests that lexical stress is not important, and people can be understood perfectly well even if their English has non-standard stress-placement. I am not too sure about this, as it seems to me that non-standard stress can cause all sorts of problems. In this case, I found picturesque hard to understand with stress on the first syllable.