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The treatment of syllables and syllable boundaries in Thomas Sheridan's English pronouncing dictionary of 1780

Abstract : This paper examines the conceptualization of the syllable and the principles adopted for syllabification in Thomas Sheridan’s General Dictionary of the English Language (1780). The analysis will be partly based on the remarks in the preface of the work, regarding the definition of the basic units of speech and the placement of stress as well as syllable division. For the most part, however, because Sheridan is not explicit about his reasoning on this topic, we must rely on a statistical analysis of the respellings given in the main body of the dictionary: to this end, we have been engaged in the digitization of Sheridan's dictionary (which should be completed in mid-2013; a significant portion will be available for investigation before then). The aim is to identify patterns, allowing us to gauge the lexicographer's tendencies and preferences, and to some extent, reconstruct a theoretical model to predict his assignment of syllable boundaries.We will contextualize Sheridan's work, and seek to determine where he stands with respect to eighteenth-century orthoepist prescriptivism (Beal 1999, Beal 2004a, Beal 2004b, Beal 2009, Beal 2010, Hickey 2009), and graphocentrism (Chandler 2002); we will also confront Sheridan's choices with some of the contemporary controversies surrounding syllable division in English (among others, Wells 1990, Duchet 1993, Laks 1995), and compare them with the syllabifications given in two contemporary pronouncing dictionaries, the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (Wells 2008) and the English Pronouncing Dictionary (Jones et al. 2006) in order to establish not so much potential similarities as theoretical viability. Another essential point of comparison will be John Walker's Critical Pronouncing Dictionary of 1791; Sheridan had great influence on Walker, and they share similar personal histories : it is only natural to compare their levels of abstraction and syllabification strategies.
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Contributor : Véronique Pouillon Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Monday, October 10, 2016 - 5:07:30 PM
Last modification on : Saturday, June 25, 2022 - 8:57:28 PM


  • HAL Id : hal-01378508, version 1


Nicolas Ballier, Véronique Pouillon. The treatment of syllables and syllable boundaries in Thomas Sheridan's English pronouncing dictionary of 1780. The Syllable, State of the Art and Perspectives, Università degli Studi "G. d'Annunzio" Chieti - Pescara, Apr 2013, Pescara, Italy. ⟨hal-01378508⟩



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