6

In Spanish, the name of this city is spelled Sevilla and pronounced /seˈβiʎa/, but in English it is spelled Seville and pronounced /sɛˈvɪl/.

Having never heard of Sevilla/Seville until I went to Spain for four months, I only ever heard the Spanish pronunciation. Personally, when I started hearing English speakers say "Seville" in the States and in England I couldn't help but wince and thought it was wrong (everybody I knew in Spain, both English- and Spanish-speaking, pronounced it the Spanish way). To me, it sounded like people pronouncing the the l's in quesadilla. But now people call me pretentious for saying it the Spanish way (yet it's not pretentious to say quesadilla properly...), and I've since come to learn Seville is standard English. How did these pronunciations come to be? Did the English one come about just through mispronunciation of the Spanish?

  • 10
    An unresearched guess would be that it came into English through Norman French at a stage before geminate /lː/ had become palatalised (in both French and Spanish). The modern French name is Séville /seˈvij/ which, unless my French sound change chronology is mixed up, would still have been /seˈvilː(ə)/ up until a good while after the Norman Invasion into England. Quesadilla and similar words were of course borrowed from modern-day Spanish, long after /lː/ had become /ʎ/. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 15 '15 at 16:54
  • 2
    Mispronunciation? Perhaps all those Spanish people are just mistaken. – TimLymington Sep 15 '15 at 17:07
  • 3
    @Damon So is saying "Spain" too low class for you as well? Should we be pronouncing "España" instead? – William Sep 15 '15 at 17:29
  • 3
    @JanusBahsJacquet I wonder whether this question doesn’t come down to the same as asking why we don’t pronounce the cities whose real names are [paʁi], [ˈmʏnçn̩], [mɐˈskva], [kʰøb̥m̩ˈhɑʊ̯ˀn], [liʒˈboɐ], and [maˈðɾiθ] that way — not to mention [ˈkaðiθ], [θaɾaˈɣoθa], [baʎaðoˈlið], and [xiˈχõⁿ]. – tchrist Sep 15 '15 at 17:33
  • 3
    Imagine my surprise when my 75-yr. old German aunt visiting the US for the first time, finally asked me (in German because she spoke absolutely no English) what "Germany" meant and why did we keep saying it and looking at her? lol! – Kristina Lopez Sep 15 '15 at 18:14
7

Seville is just the French spelling. That's where we got the word from. And in general, we pronounce foreign words in English in accordance with English norms and not how they were pronounced in their original language. There's nothing wrong with that.

Where I'm from, there are many Spanish names (i.e "Amarillo Texas", "Los Angeles"), and they are pronounced phonetically as they would be in English and not how they are in Spanish.

  • 1
    That does not address the pronunciation. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 15 '15 at 16:56
  • 5
    It does if we assume it was borrowed via French, which is likely. French final -ville retains the /l/, so it would be present in an English borrowing. – John Lawler Sep 15 '15 at 16:58
  • 1
    But that's modern French; when did the /l/ drop? – John Lawler Sep 15 '15 at 18:01
  • 2
    @Lambie: French: ville /vil/; fille /fij/; Séville: /sevij/. The name Séville is not pronounced as with ville on the end. – Peter Shor Jul 8 '17 at 21:52
  • 1
    @Peter Shor Because it came into English through the spelling, not via the pronunciation. Another example that is similar to this is cul de sac. In English, we take that and make it cull de sac. People see words in writing and then apply their own pronunciation logic to them. The Spanish name Ruiz where it's i: becomes Ruez e, because in English for you to get i:, you usually need a final letter e: wheeze or a double ee as in sheep. The sound system usually trumps (god that word is now spoiled) the writing system. – Lambie Jul 9 '17 at 13:08

protected by tchrist Jul 8 '17 at 22:03

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.