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I used to think that sojourn was pronounced with emphasis on the second syllable (So-Journ'), and until now that's how I'd heard it, then I heard from some learned people that it's on the first syllable (So'-Journ), and I checked dictionary.cambridge.org and indeed, emphasis on the first syllable. And that makes me wonder: is pronouncing it So-Journ' a mistake? Is there anybody that pronounces it So-Journ' and is correct to be doing so?

  • A good reference for online dictionaries is the OneLook Dictionary Search. I often use it when I'm trying to see what pronunciations exist for a word. For the verb "sojourn," several dictionaries do indeed list a pronunciation with stress on the second syllable, such as dictionary.com/browse/sojourn – sumelic Apr 22 '16 at 0:36
  • I have heard "sojourn" pronounced several different ways. It's a relatively rare word, so it's not unexpected that there would be a divergence of pronunciations. – Hot Licks Jun 21 '16 at 1:39
  • (It's also a word which has, in the past, gained currency in certain religious sects, and it's not unusual for such sects to have non-standard pronunciations.) – Hot Licks Jun 21 '16 at 1:53
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Often noun/verb pairs are pronounced with contrasting first/second syllable emphasis. There is a really great chart of these pairs that include other noun/verbs like "concert" "exploit" "protest" "dictate" in the article "Variation and change in English noun/verb pair stress," by Morgan Sonderegger and Partha Niyogi, from page 265 of the book Origins of Sound Change: Approaches to Phonologization, edited by Alan C. L. Yu.

Sonderegger and Niyogi say the position of the stress in each word in the noun-verb pair ["sojourn" (n), "sojourn" (v)] has been observed to have shifted over time from [1,1] to [1,2]. In other words, the older stress pattern is to pronounce "sojourn" with stress on the first syllable for both the noun and the verb, and some speakers still use this pattern, but some other speakers now pronounce the noun with stress on the first syllable and the verb with stress on the second syllable.

"Sojourn" is definitely one of those fun words to ask everyone how they pronounce it, but you might want to consider usage more than dialect...

(In ASL many noun/verb pairs are distinguished by a single morpheme, though regional/social variations exist too.)

"You say tomayto, I sat tomahto, you say potayto, I say potahto..."

  • Yes! Sorry about that. On the page prior, there is a paragraph that explains the notation [1,2] is with emphasis on the first syllable and [2,1] indicates emphasis on the second syllable. There's more too it, but mu ipad isn't very compatible with google books so I couldn't quite get at it all. There were some pre-print drafts of the paper on a few academic websites, but the docs wouldn't open for me. A search of the authors might yield more for you. But my gut tells me the difference has to do with noun/verb pairing as well as regional dialect... – Bea Bonmot Apr 24 '16 at 14:47

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