Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Barista pronunciation?

Just heard a bit about that chain that is the McDonalds of the coffee world on CNN radio news where the announcer pronounced the now-common word barista with lax [ɪ] rather than tense [i] (so that the middle part of the word sounds like wrist rather than having the vowel in Reese). I've never heard this before. I'm wondering if this is a sign of the phonological integration of the word into English.

Image from here.

11 comments:

Ollock said...

That's kinda odd. I usually hear words ending in -ista with [i], though admittedly it's not very high frequency -- I read them more than I hear them.

Also, I'm curious about frequencies of pronunciations for the name of Windows's new operating system, Vista. I find it most natural to use the lax vowel, despite studying Spanish for years where /bista/ is a common noun -- while I know a few other people who consistently use the tense vowel (but not, interestingly, [b] for < v>). I don't watch a whole lot of TV news, but ISTR they used the lax vowel when I did watch. Could be mistaken on that.

Mr. Verb said...

Yeah, I haven't heard "Clintonista" with a tense vowel.

The tense vowel in Vista sounds odd, but I think I've heard it.

JD said...

Won't be long till the stress moves and it sounds just like 'barrister'. Not that 'barista' is a word we hear often here in the UK.

As for Vista, I pronounce it as I would the common (in two sense of the word) English noun – with the lax vowel.

Mr. Verb said...

Thanks. Yeah, I was wondering if we should start checking Bostonians for this new homophony. I'm betting that v[i:]sta is a distinctly American variant -- and I wonder how common it is even here.

Wishydig said...

Odd. I've never heard 'Clintonista' without the tense vowel.

A friend -- himself a barista...baristo? -- reports that he says [bə'ristə] but has heard [bə'rɪstə] as well as [ba'ristə] and of course...['berɪstə].

Mr. Verb said...

D'oh! That's a glitch. Of course, I meant to say that it's always with [i].

Vance Maverick said...

Wishydig, barista is correct for men and women in Italian. The -ista suffix (exactly our -ist suffix) doesn't vary with gender -- e.g. Il Conformista.

mighty red pen said...

Okay, Mr. Verb, Bostonian weighing in here (and I'm not even going to pretend to be a linguist so bear with me, please): We say "bareesta" and "vissta" (even me, and I'm a spanish speaker). I think I've probably heard "barissta" (I think what you are calling lax vowel, right?) but have chalked it up to the person not knowing how to pronounce it.

Mr. Verb said...

Thanks MRP. Your transcription is clear and your sense matches what we're getting here. Of course the Boston thing was hoping to get a speaker with the -issta pronunciation, to see if it's the same as barrister.

Beau Chevassus said...

Just recently I started working at a casino. Every employee says "burr-ist-uh" instead of "bah-ree-stuh." Why do they insist on growling it? I'm pretty sure one person started it then everyone else began saying it like him.

The same with "orientated." I'm fairly certain that one person messed up the word "oriented" and everyone else followed suit. I've never heard "orientated" in the States until a couple months ago. Now everyone says it.

Mr. Verb said...

Hey, if that's what folks are doing in Seattle, it's probably headed our way. Orientate is a different story, though ... maybe one to post about.

Thanks.