Friday, January 12, 2007


Illinois is often pronounced in the Midwest as Ellinois. (You get Wesconsin for our fine state too, on occasion, and ads-l posters have reported Endiana. This lowering of [ɪ] (like bit) to [ɛ] (like bet) looks like the last stage of the Northern Cities Shift and the state name is one of a few words where this has become a stereotype -- melk for 'milk' being another notable one. A following l could be the culprit in both those words, certainly.

Word has filtered back to Verbville from the LSA that a native of what's known here as the Land of Flat reported learning songs as a kid where Illinois was written as Ellinois. Anybody know of this? In poking around for the etymology, I see that Merriam-Webster online gives French forms spelled with e, and traces it back to a Proto-Algonquian form beginning with *elli.

It would be interesting if the word has always had that variant, phonetic conditioning aside. Wonder if there's anything to this?

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