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I am looking for the proper pronunciation of the antiquated word formerly used to describe a native of Texas. The word is "Texian." It was used mostly between 1836 and about 1860 before most people began referring to natives of Texas as Texans. Most people today pronounce Texian like "Alabamian" where the "i" sounds like "e" as in the word "eat". I am not sure that is correct. I suspect Texian is supposed to sound more like "Georgian" with a pronunciation very similar to the word "Texan" used today. In other words, the spelling is different, but the pronunciation is the same or very similar.

According to a writer in 1842, when Texian was in common use, the letter "i" was supposed to be pronounced like an "e soft" according to the vernacular tongue of the British.

What does "e soft" in British sound like? According to John Craig's "A New Universal Etymological, Technological ,and Pronouncing Dictionary" (London, 1849), the word "Texan" is shown as "teks'an" , and the word "Texian," is shown as "teks'e-an".

Can someone help me distinguish the pronunciation of these words? If the "i" is supposed to be like a British "e soft," did Texian sound more like Alabamian or Georgian, or could the "ian" sound like "shun"?


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  • Related: Rules for forming demonyms (names of inhabitants or citizens)
    – livresque
    Jun 26, 2023 at 1:38
  • You’d need to follow up on the references here, but it seems the pronunciation was in fact quite different: Over time, the English-speaking Americans in Texas began to champion the usage of “Texan” instead of “Texian”... The Texas Almanac of 1857 bemoaned the shift in usage, saying “Texian...has more euphony, and is better adapted to the conscience of poets who shall hereafter celebrate our deeds in sonorous strains than the harsh, abrupt, ungainly, appellation, Texan—impossible to rhyme with anything but the merest doggerel.” Jun 26, 2023 at 1:57
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    The closest word phonologically that I can think of is Hessian (originally from Hesse in Germany, now meaning a coarse fabric.) Also, paragraphs would be nice.
    – Stuart F
    Jun 26, 2023 at 8:36
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    Since your edit seems to answer your question, I recommend making it an answer or trimming the lengthy citation you added from Tinfoil (I don't know where the paragraph breaks are there). Answering your own question is always an option, encouraged even!
    – livresque
    Jun 27, 2023 at 20:23
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    @livresque comment upvoted, I agree. The OP's "additional evidence" (2nd lengthy edit which is also thanking users) reads more like an answer and makes the post incredibly long too. The Stack Exchange model actively welcome users to post answers to their very own questions, it's great you found out more information on the origin of Texian but it gets lost in the forest.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 30, 2023 at 8:23

5 Answers 5

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The webpage Texian songs, hymns, and poetry has a number of poems (or songs) on it that have the word Texian in them. In most of these, it's hard to tell whether Texian should have two or three syllables. However, one of them, Up!, Men of Texas, from the Houston Telegraph (1842), is clearly in iambic tetrameter, and uses both Texan and Texian, depending on whether the meter calls for two or three syllables. This pretty clearly shows that the writer pronounced Texian with three syllables.

Here are the two relevant stanzas:

Ye strove before, in honored time,
And well your rifles told the tale:
Will Texans now yield up their clime,
Or let their noble courage fail?
Remember well the Alamo,
And let the name your souls unite,
To deal destruction on the foe
Up! men of Texas, to the fight.

and

Arouse, arouse, your flag's unfurled,
Seek victory or win your graves.
Show proudly forth to all the world
That Texians can ne'er be slaves.
Oh let the memory of the past
To noble deeds your souls incite;
Be firm---be valiant to the last---
Up! men of Texas, to the fight.

(emphasis mine).

And the only reasonable way to pronounce Texian with three syllables in American English is /ˈtɛksiən/.

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    "Texan Hymn" by J. C. Parmenter, however sets Texian as two syllables
    – phoog
    Jun 27, 2023 at 21:18
  • (I should add, however, that "heaven" is frequently set as a single syllable, and I have no idea whether it was ever frequently pronounced that way in speech, so Tex-ian as /teks-jan/ is possibly a bit of license on the part of the composer. Still, -ian is frequently a single syllable, for example in words such as Elysian and Italian, though these are a bit different phonetically. This puts me in mind of "glorious" and "victorious," with -ious usually a single syllable in the 18th century, but not in God Save the King. But surely "nox-i-ous" could only be a joke.)
    – phoog
    Jun 28, 2023 at 11:08
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    @phong: With words like heaven, I believe they formerly were pronounced without a vowel in the second syllable, but with a syllabic n. Walker's pronouncing dictionary (1791) says heaven doesn't have vowel in that syllable, while leaven has one (presumably a schwa). It's almost impossible to sing a syllable without a vowel, so songs, at least, pronounced it with one syllable. I suspect poets took this as a license to make it one syllable in poetry as well. Jun 29, 2023 at 0:47
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Well, per the OED:

Texian, n. and adj.

Pronunciation: /ˈtɛksɪən/

Etymology: < Tex- (in Texas n.) + -ian suffix.

Now, that's the only IPA they provide for this now uncommon term but (a) they do provide an audio file and (b) they are more careful in parallel entries for similar terms like Canadian and Mongolian. Altogether, it's clear that they're only marking the most probable British pronunciation of Texian. Most Americans will say and hear that as something closer to /ˈtɛksiən/ and that some Americans—particularly Suthurnurs—might drawl on the unstressed syllable to something closer to /ˈtɛksjən/ or—when drunk—/ˈtɛkʃjən/, closer to your Georjun guess.

No one—even in Tex(i)an English—is reading it as an actual soft e /ɛ/... although Wiki thinks Texians might've pronounced the first vowel entirely differently: /ˈteəksiən/ or /ˈtejəksiən/.

What your source might've been talking about is how older American accents might've said something closer to a British short i /ɪ/. More likely, they literally meant a short long e: /i/ instead of the full /iː/ you usually get in American English because it's in an unstressed suffix.

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    In defense of the last guess, OP, your other 1840s source includes a pronunciation guide where they call short e /ɛ/ or schwa /ə/ a 'shut e' and make an entirely unimportant distinction between 'long e' /iː/ and 'short e' /i/ for no apparent reason. So... yeah... your sources are telling you it's basically always sounded the way it sounds now... just in an outdated and counterproductive way. And that way sounds like Canadian, not like Alabamian ("Alabam'an") or Georgian ("Georg'un").
    – lly
    Jun 26, 2023 at 5:26
  • ... at least to the Yankees and foreigners writing your books.
    – lly
    Jun 26, 2023 at 5:30
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On the basis of the spelling, we cannot clearly say that Texian was not pronounced in two syllables as /tɛkʃən/ ("TECK-shun"), or even as /tɛksjən/ ("TECKS-yun").

However, both of the sources that you quoted tend to suggest rather that it was pronounced with three syllables, /tɛksiən/, as it is today.

In Craig's transcriptions, the accent mark "´" is placed after the stressed syllable of a word. So the transcription "teks´e-an" implies that the ending "e-an" forms two syllables coming after the first syllable "teks", giving us three syllables overall.

The comments that you quoted by David G. Burnet seem to imply that the difference in pronunciation between Texan and Texian was not small or unimportant, and a difference in the number of syllables seems likely given that this passage refers to the "rhythm" of the name and says it is

better adapted to the convenience of poets who shall hereafter celebrate our deeds, in sonorous strains, than the harsh, abrupt, ungainly appellation "Texan," impossible to rhyme to anything but the most doggerel; and we are sure the accomplished author of Fitful fancies will not insist on a term which even his genius would find difficult to compose to the metrical harmony of an epic.

If Texian was typically pronounced with two syllables as "TECK-shun", it would be harder to argue that it had a different rhythm and different metrical properties from the form "Texan", and that the latter was more abrupt.

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Instances of 'Texians' in newspaper articles published before October 13, 1835

With regard to the earliest print occurrence of Texian, I note that an Elephind newspaper database search turns up four occurrences of the plural form Texians prior to October 13, 1835—the date when, according to the community wiki answer, Texian appeared in print in the New Orleans Bee.

The first instance is from a newspaper in Brazoria, Texas; the next two from Leesburg, Virginia, and Richmond, Virginia (the first citing a newspaper in Opelousas, Louisiana, as its source and the second citing the New Orleans Bee); and the fourth from the same Texas newspaper that later reprinted the Bee's article of October 13.

Here are the four instances.

From a speech by Col. Stephen F. Austin to the Committee of Brazoria, reported in the [Brazoria, Texas] Texas Republican (September 19, 1835):

If any acts of imprudence have been committed by individuals they certainly resulted from the revolutionary state of the whole nation [of Mexico], the imprudent and censurable conduct of the State authorities and the totl want of a local Government in Texas. It is indeed a source of surprise and credible congratulation that so few acts of this description have occurred under the peculiar circumstances of the times. It is however to be remembered that acts of this nature were not the acts of the people, nor is Texas responsible for them. They were as I before observed the natural consequence of the revolutionary state of the Mexican Nation and Texas certainly did not originate that revolution, neither have the people, as a people, participated in it. The consciences and the hands of the Texians are free from censure, and clean.

...

This country [Mexico] is now in anarchy, threatened with hostilities, armed vessels are capturing every thing they can catch on the coast, and acts of piracy are said to be committed under the cover of the Mexican flag. Can this state of things exist without precipitating the country into a war? I think it c[a]nnot, and therefore believe that it is our bounden and solemn duty, as Mexicans and Texians to represent the evils that are likely to result from this mistaken and most impolitic policy in the military movements.

From an untitled item in the [Leesburg, Virginia] Genius of Liberty (September 26, 1835), citing an original story in the Opelousas [Louisiana] Gazette of unspecified earlier date:

The Opelousas (Lou.) Gazette, contemplating the probability of a war between the Texians and Santa Anna, thus compassionately and respectfully speaks of the belligerents:—

"You are welcome to the combat gentlemen. One goos result is certain—the world will lose many bad citizens, and the devil will gain some faithful servants.

"Every body knows that Texas has been to the United States what Botany Bay has been to Great Britain. The emigrants thither, like the followers of king David in the cave of Adullum, have been all those who were oppressed, and all those who were in debt—in other words, vagabonds and refugees from justice. To read the thundering manifestoes of these fellows, who know nothing about republics, and care nothing about liberty, one would think they had been hired to bring the immortal doctrines of Plato into ridicule and contempt."

From an untitled item in the Richmond [Virginia] Enquirer (October 9, 1835), reprinted from an item in the New Orleans Bee of unspecified date:

A. Prize.—The notorious Thompson has been lakei it Inst. The schooner San Felipe had sailed from this port on the 25th of last month [presumably August 1835] for Brassoria, with Colonel Stephen Austin and other Texians, and on the evening of Tuesday following, she heard firing ahead. On nearing the place. Capt. Hurd perceived the Mexican schooner Correo, commanded by Thompson, and an armed sloop engaged in attacking the American brig Tremont, which was assisted by a steamboat. When Captain Hurd advanced, the Mexican ships ceased and retreated; and then the steamboat took much of the cargo and most of the passengers on board, and brought them into Brassoria.

The fourth instance, from in the [San Felipe de Austin, Texas] Telegraph and Texas Register (October 10, 1835), is simply a reprint of Austin's speech of September 8, 1835, in Brazoria, first reported in the September 19, 1835, Texas Republican, as noted above.

So we have two instances of Texians from September 8, 1835, in a speech by Stephen F. Austin. Then we have an instance from a newspaper in Opelousas, Louisiana, at some date before September 26, 1835. And then we have an instance from the New Orleans Bee at some date before October 9, 1835.

It us certainly not impossible that the instance from the Opelousas Gazette was published before Austin's speech—but the facts that Austin departed from New Orleans on August 25 and used the term Texians on his arrival in Brazoria on September 8 strongly suggest that Austin was familiar with the term prior to his return to Texas.

It isn't entirely clear whether Austin learned the term while in Louisiana, picked it up while in prison in Mexico City, or remembered it from his earlier years in Texas. He had emigrated to the Texas in 1825, leaving it in 1833 as a delegate for colonists of U.S. origin who were seeking separate federal Mexican statehood for Texas, was imprisoned in Mexico City, for his advocacy in 1834, and released in a general amnesty in July 1835. According to the Wikipedia article about Austin, "in August 1835 [he] left Mexico to return to Texas via New Orleans." However, the timeline indicates that his stay in New Orleans was rather brief, and he seems to have expected his hearers in Brazoria to be familiar with the word Texians, so I'm inclined to think that it was current among the colonists in his area by 1833.


The earliest Elephind match for 'Texans' in a newspaper story

By contrast, the first instance of Texans that an Elephind newspaper search finds is from an untitled article in the [San Felipe de Austin, Texas] Telegraph and Texas Register of November 7, 1835—the article reprinted from the New Orleans Bee of October 13, 1835 (and cited in the community wiki answer to this question) that assesses the merits of Texians versus Texans, Texonians, Texasians, Texicans, and Texasites as a designation for "the people of Texas."


Early instances of 'Texonians' in Elephind search results

Although the New Orleans Bee asserts in its October 13, 1835 article that "Texonian and Texasite are absurd epithets," Texonians is by eight full months the earliest of the various options it lists (including Texan and Texian) to appear in Elephind search results.

From an untitled item and reprinted in the [Lawrenceburg, Indiana] Indiana Palladium (January 10, 1835), reprinted from the [New Orleans] Louisiana Advertiser of unspecified date:

He [Mr. Butler, the U.S. minister to Mexico] has no objection to their [the British] investing a port on the southern extremity of Mexico [as a naval depot for the British navy], and concludes by pledging the honor of the nation for their [the Americans living in the area of Galveston Bay proposed for the new depot] support and protection, in case the British government were inclined to proceed to coercive measures. The Mexican government had, by the last advices, made no reply; but their partiality for the English, and their hatred to the Texonians, connected with their intestine feuds and the depreciated state of their resources, would, it is generally believed, act as an inducement to their acquiescence.

Three other early instances of Texonians—two from August 1835 and one from October 2, 1835—are worthy of note.

From an untitled item in the Richmond [Virginia] Enquirer (August 7, 1835), reprinted from the [New Orleans] American (July 17, 1835):

It is impossible for Texas to remain long under the dominion of Mexico. The character of the Texonians who are generally emigrants from the U. States, is too essentially different from that of the Mexicans, for them to remain long attached to the uncongenial laws and customs of Mexico. The Texonians are too far ahead of their present would-be-masters,—they know too much of the principles of republicanism, and are too much attached to the free institutions they have been taught from childhood to appreciate and revere, to allow themselves to be trampled upon.

From an untitled item in the Crawfordsville [Indiana] Record (August 22, 1835), reprinted from the Mobile [Alabama] Register (July 20, 1835):

Notwithstanding these conflicting opinions as to Santa Anna's objects, we have reason to believe that actual hostilities have been commenced by a portion of the Americans in Texas. A paragraph in the New Orleans Bulletin of Saturday says, that, captain Moore, of the schooner Shenandoah, in a short run from Brazoria, reports that the Texonians had seized upon the fort at Annahuac, garrisoned by one hundred men, whom they captured and sent to St. Felipe, A portion of the people thought this step was pushing matters to extremities, and one was uncalled for, but all were determined to maintain their just rights should they be assailed by the Mexican powers."

And from "Interesting from Texas," in the Richmond [Virginia] Enquirer (October 2, 1835), reprinted from the New Orleans True American, via the Philadelphia Inquirer:

The Convention was to have met on the 14th September, and it was expected that it would take such measures as will excite Santa Anna to prosecute his threatened invasion. It will doubtless call upon every Texonian to resist, by every honorable means—remonstrances first, and arms afterwards—the usurpation of Centralism.

... The Texonians look with confidence towards their fellow-citizens of the United States, particularly to those of the Western States, for assistance in case of a war with Santa Anna. It is hoped that they will not be disappointed in this expectation.

As all four these instances of Texonians come directly or indirectly from New Orleans newspapers, it seems highly likely that Texonian was the dominant term for "Anglo-American resident of Texas" in New Orleans in 1835, until Texian emerged as an alternative—in all likelihood through its use by contemporaneous residents of Texas such as Stephen F. Austin.

If not for their influence at a critical early time, we might today be referring to the denizens of the Lone Star State as Texonians—and perhaps (by back formation) referring to the state itself as Texford.

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    I realize that tracking the origin of the word "Texian" is somewhat tangential to the question of the word's pronunciation. However, I think the word's place of origin may have a significant bearing on how it was originally pronounced, which is why my answer devotes so much time to addressing two questions: (1) where did "Texian[s]" first appear in print? and (2) what was the most common way to refer to "Anglo-American residents of Texas" in U.S. English in 1835?
    – Sven Yargs
    Jul 2, 2023 at 7:46
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Per OP, @JeffDunn:

I realize modern sources like Wikipedia think the word is pronounced Tex-E-an, similar to Canadian, but some of the sources I have found from the 1880s, after "Texan" became more popular, indicate it might have been just a spelling change which is what led me to believe Texian and Texan might have been pronounced the same way or very similar when Texian was commonly used.

The most important source I have found comes from a writing by David G. Burnet, in 1842. He was a prominent political leader of Texas and strongly favored "Texian." He wrote a rather elaborate defense of the word, which I quote here, with my comment in brackets:

"It is an indisputable fact, that the inhabitants of Texas, literate and illiterate, have almost universally adopted the term Texian, to define their political individuality; and we are not apprised of any rule of language that is violated in doing so - words are but arbitrary signs, at best; and although lexicographers and grammarians have certain established rules for the construction of them, in their several modifications, there is scarcely a singe rule which does not leave room for and recognise, some exceptions - we believe however , there is no fixed rule, governing the conversion and termination of names of places into their personal appellations. If there is, writers of the most approved character, and nations, ancient and modern, have corrupted it, in many instances. Texas ends in -as. We cannot on the instant, recollect any Country or place whose name has the same termination, Paris, ends in -is: and we say Parisian. Tunis, has a like terminus, and we say Tunisian. Examples, in cases the most analogous, are in our favor, but nothing can be more fanciful and without rule than the various modes of affecting such verbal conversions. For Greece, we say Grecian or Greek; Persia, Persian; Rome, Roman; England, English; Britain, Briton; Scotland, Scot or Scotchman; France, Frenchman; Spain, Spaniard; Turkey, Turk; Russian, Russ or Russian; America, American; China, Chinese; & etc, with incessant variations. We therefore conclude there can be no imperative law of language, adverse to the term Texian, which we have almost universally adopted and which is fully incorporated into our public documents. We believe every man has, originally, the best right to determine the orthography and, if you please, the rhythm, of his own proper name; and certainly communities are equally privileged. We fancy that "Tex-ian", the "i" pronounced e, soft, according to the vernacular tongue of our late step-dame

[here I assume he means England! And note that he uses only one dash, to separate Tex from ian, to suggest it is pronounced as two syllables, not three]

has more euphony and is better adapted to the convenience of poets, who shall hereafter celebrate our deeds, in sonorous strains, than the harsh, abrupt, ungainly appellation "Texan," impossible to rhyme to anything but the most doggerel."

So there you have it, except that I suspect his pronunciation of "Texan" is not like we pronounce it today. The key here is the reference to the "i" being "e soft," which I am having a hard time understanding, and, as noted in my brackets, he separates Tex from ian with one dash, indicating the word, to me at least, is supposed to be only two syllables.

All of this is what is leading me to believe that Texian, as he described it, was pronounced very similar to the way we say Texan today, if not identical, and when the newspaper editors made the transition to Texan in later years, it might have been merely a spelling change. Although I must admit, some of the editors in the late 19th century suggested it was both a pronunciation and spelling change, but they were not living in Texas in the 1830s and 1840s, so they may not have known how Texian was pronounced.

Additional evidence (added 6/30/23):

Thanks again for the informative responses. I found the original source for the term "Texian" which inspired its use beginning in late 1835. This source was published in the New Orleans Bee on October 13, 1835. The Telegraph and Texas Register republished the article in Texas, later the same month, and the editor indicated his approval of the term. From that time, the word "Texian" came into predominant use in the 1830s and 1840s, although from time to time "Texans" was also used, sometimes in the same sentence. Here is the entire article, as published in the Bee:

"The proper name for the people of Texas seems to be a matter of doubt or contrariety -- some calling them Texians, while others speak or write Texans, Texonians, Texasians, Texicans - the Mexicans giving it the guttural sound of the Spanish language, as indicated sometimes by x and sometimes by j; Teghians. The sound is not used in the present mode of speaking the English language; although the Irish use it in the word lough, and the Scotch in lech - lake. The nearest approximation is in such words as Christ. Texians is therefore the correct name of the people of Texas; and besides being short, it is perfectly analogous to the usual mode of forming the proper name of nations by the termination in n; as in Greece, Grecian; Persia, Persian. It may also be considered the euphonious abbreviation of Texasian. But Texonian and Texassite are absurd epithets."

Note that "Texian" was considered a short word, and it was analogous to the two syllable examples of Grecian and Persian. (Burnet also used those examples, among others.) To me, this suggests Texian was pronounced (or intended to be pronounced) with two syllables - Tex-uns or Tex-shuns. If anyone has a different interpretation, I would be very interested in your thoughts.

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    Hi Jeff Dunn, this is from your edit and the research that you added to your question. Instead of editing an answer into a question, it is encouraged to write answers as answers, and you will even gain credit/reputation points for it. This is a community wiki that carries no points, and if you choose to copy and repost all of this, which you posted on your edit, I will remove it so the credit will go where it is due. I've been sent to spread the message, hmm?
    – livresque
    Jul 1, 2023 at 8:45

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