Friday, June 10, 2011

Alex Trebek Phonetically Verbs a Noun

Is it just me or did Alex Trebek verb a noun on Tuesday evening?

When the contestants were unable to provide the question for the clue, Alex gave the response, "What is incline?"

I can't remember the exact wording of the clue, but it went something like this: "Another name for a slope leading onto or off of an expressway."

The context of the clue made it clear that "incline" was a noun ("a" is a determiner, so "slope" must be a noun; thus, incline is a noun); however, Alex gave primary stress to the second syllable of the word.
noun/ˈinˌklīn/
verb/inˈklīn/

In the above phonetic transcriptions, a raised vertical line indicates primary stress and a lowered vertical line indicates secondary stress. These phonetic markers are called suprasegmentals.

English has many noun-verb homographs. The nouns in these pairs are almost always articulated with primary stress on the first syllable, just as their verbal counterparts are articulated with primary stress on the second syllable.

Here are some additional examples of noun-verb homographs with the noun followed by the verbs.

conflict
/ˈkɑn ˌflɪkt/ --- /kən ˈflɪkt/
rebel /ˈrɛ bəl/ --- /rə ˈbɛl/
permit /ˈpɚ ˌmɪt/ --- /pɚ ˈmɪt/
record /ˈrɛ kɚd/ --- /rə ˈkɔrd/

*On the other hand, maybe it is just Alex Trebek's dialect. He was born in Canada and spent much of his early life there.

3 comments:

Andrew said...

I think the issue is that "what is" isn't a meaningful phrase on Jeopardy, it's just a noise you have to make before giving your answer. I imagine it's hard to speak naturally with that rule.

Laura Payne said...

Good point Andrew.

Carol Covin (Granny-Guru) said...

I don't buy it. I think it just slipped out, unintentionally. Affect, address, ally, absent. Out of context, it is a lot harder to remember the proper stress.

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