[lit-ideas] Re: Donnellaniana

  • From: "" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx" for DMARC)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 24 Feb 2015 12:17:37 -0500

We are considering the proper pronunciation of "Donnellan".

Rumour  has it that Black (who did not know) mispronounced the name of his 
student  (Donnellan).

The student (Donnellan) failed to correct him, and we see  his point. There 
are different scenarios. 

"Professor Black, you are  mispronouncing my surname."

has a rude ring to it.

Perhaps  something like:

"Professor Black: I won't be able to attend the seminar  next Friday: my 
father, John Sedgwick Donnellan [properly pronounced] is in the  area, and I 
am planning to go and see him."

Donnellan taught philosophy  at the Air Force Academy after getting his 
doctorate from  Cornell. (His seminars were mainly a philosophical analysis of 
the phrase 'air  force', with a consideration of the occasional implicature 
contingently attached  to the phrase). 

After his time at the Air Force Academy, Donnellan returned to Cornell,  
and Black kept mispronouncing his surname. He (Donnellan) wasn't sure what to  
do. The bad thing is that everybody was following Black's mispronunciation, 
 including Donnellan!
In a message dated 2/24/2015 11:11:09 A.M. Eastern Standard Time,  
donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx writes:
I don't know. I've met many an English  person who insists on a 
pronunciation of my forename different from my  pronunciation - even though it 
is an 
Irish name and my pronunciation is the  Irish version."
And in fact cognate with the case in point, "Donnellan", where "-an" is a  
mininutive (Literally, "Little Donald"). 
McEvoy goes on:
"Two culprits among the "many" were my ... tutors at Oxford, who kept  
insisting on calling me 'Don-nell' - as opposed to 'Doh-nal'"
Black's vowels weren't strictly _clear_ and Donnellan was never sure  
whether Black meant "DonnellAn" or "DonnellEn", since Black used what linguists 
called a 'schwa'. (This infuriated Donnellan).
McEvoy goes on:

"all the time I was there (none of the students  persisted in this, but 
then they didn't have tenure). My later efforts to  correct Irish people in 
line with the superior intellect of my tutors failed btw  - Irish people 
couldn't give a fig for English pronunciation of Irish names and  eventually I 
desisted having had my head kicked in. Perhaps Black, while in  London, picked 
up some of the natives' obtuseness and arrogance about  pronunciation 
It is also possible that he had met a Donnellan at Baku. Apparently, his  
father was connected with the diplomatic circles there. In any case, by 1912, 
he  (Black's father) and his family (which included his son, Max Black) had 
moved to  London, where Black continued to grow up. 
McEvoy: "Of course, all this tramples over the issue of "should" - but,  
like Mike, why should I care?"
Well, it is noticeable that when Donnellan moved to UCLA (and left Cornell  
for good) HE was able to start pronouncing his surname correctly -- since 
Black  was 'left' back in Sage, Cornell). 
Even in Maryland, where Donnellan studied philosophy before getting  
accepted at Cornell, they pronounced Donnellan correctly. 
It was, in brief, one of those mannerisms by Max ("Now, repeat after me")  
Black that stuck. 
When Donnellan moved from southern California to northern California (where 
 he lived among good horses and fine wine) he kept pronouncing his surname  
correctly, as he should -- (which, to echo McEvoy, surely tramples over the 
 issue of 'should'?). 
* In linguistics, specifically phonetics and phonology, schwa (sometimes  
spelled shwa) refers to the mid-central vowel sound (rounded or unrounded) in 
 the middle of the vowel chart, denoted by the IPA symbol ə, or another 
vowel  sound close to that position. An example in English is the vowel sound 
in the  'a' of the word 'about'. Schwa in English is mainly found in 
unstressed  positions, but in some other languages it occurs more frequently as 
stressed  vowel. In relation to certain languages, the name "schwa" and the 
symbol ə may  be used for some other unstressed and toneless neutral vowel, 
not necessarily  mid-central.

re: R. P.'s scepticism that Donnellan
"pronounced his name 'D'nell-n, because it (somehow) pleased Max Black. ... 
 Black was born in Baku, 
in what became Azerbaijan; he  grew up in  London. Surely, a man with such 
a  linguistic inheritance should not   be an arbiter of the pronunciation of 
Irish  surnames."
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