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In pronunciation of the name of the New Jersey Turnpike, there is no stress in either syllable of the word "Jersey," as though New Jersey were actually one word. Is this a common phenomenon that occurs in other situations? Not necessarily restricted to the words New Jersey specifically.

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    You don't put the stress on the first syllable of Jersey? Commented Feb 10, 2019 at 23:26
  • @Casc Not in the name of that road. Certainly when saying the name of the state, yes. Commented Feb 10, 2019 at 23:28
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    I don't understand...what is the difference? I think this is possibly localized. Commented Feb 10, 2019 at 23:29
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    Any term such as "New Jersey Turnpike" which is repeated often (and often rapidly) and whose meaning is clear, without having to carefully parse each syllable, will tend, over time, to be run together, with the individual syllables and words losing emphasis. There's absolutely nothing remarkable about this (and because of it there is a Santa Claus).
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 10, 2019 at 23:32
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    According to this page the stress for place name compounds goes on the last word, so adding "Turnpike" to "New Jersey" would move the stress from "Jersey" to "Turnpike". P.S. now I have a sudden urge to rewatch Being John Malkovich :)
    – samgak
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 2:30

2 Answers 2

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That's interesting. I can't think of an exactly parallel example, but it I am familiar with a phenomenon where a stressed syllable that comes immediately before a word starting with a stressed syllable becomes "unaccented". For example, New York is often pronounced with the primary stress or accent on the last syllable ("York"), but in "New York City" there is an accent on the first syllable of "City", and as a result there may be no accent on "York". Another example is that "Chinese" as a stand-alone word is typically accented on the last syllable, but that accent might be lost in a phrase like "Chinese media".

It may be that for some speakers (or some specific phrases), an accent may be lost in longer phrases like this even when it is not on a syllable immediately preceding the accented syllable of the next word.

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To get from NYC to Philly, most people take the "Noojersey Turnpike," thereby realizing the joy of parsimony that dactyls offer over iambs. Thus, Simon and Garfunkel sang of "counting the cars on the Noojersey Turnpike."

In other contexts, the pronunciation may be different. The Noojersey Turnpike is a way to get from here to there, whereas "the newJERSey Turnpike" is the name of a major toll road in the USA. As a very rough rule of thumb, I think the use/mention distinction applies. People tend to use the dactylic version but mention the iambic.

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  • I have indeed thought before that that is a more accurate spelling. Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 0:04
  • Are you saying they don't stress the "Jer" in the song, because I hear it stressed when I listen to that song. Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 8:00
  • @ToddWilcox No, I don't hear that stress. And it's not written that way. The song is in 3/4 time and scans in almost perfect dactylic tetrameter.
    – remarkl
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 13:43
  • @Todd The stress is not entirely clear when sung, but if you recite it like a poem it's disjointed unless you don't stress the first syllable of Jersey. Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 17:41
  • "COUNTing the CARS on the NEWjersey TURNpike, They've"
    – remarkl
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 21:37

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