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A change may currently be observed in the pronunciation of the adjective pastoral.

  • The traditional British pronunciation stresses the first syllable (PAST-oh(or er)-rel', IPA: /ˈpɑːst əʊ(or ə)r əl/).
  • A pronunciation with the stress on the second syllable (past-OR-al, IPA: /pɑːst ˈəʊ rəl/), as if the word owed something to 'oral', is recorded in OED (2011) as the second commonest in US English: this version is being increasingly heard in British circles too. Older teachers in the UK are likely to favour the first - it may be wise to humour your teachers and follow their realization of the word.
Etymological note: Pastoral is derived closely from the Latin pastor, 'shepherd', from pāstōrālis, 'to do with flocks and herds': the same root gives us 'pasture'. (In some branches of the Christian church, the minister of a congregation may be called - and addressed as - Pastor.) The two most common meanings you are likely to come across in academic reading are
    • in education: '[to do with] a school's responsibility for the general security, safety and well-being of a student' (less often, in the modern world, '[to do with] a minister of religion's general care of the souls of the congregation').
    • in the arts, as an adjective or noun 'to do with the countryside', 'an [usually idealized] depiction of country life'. Beethoven wrote a 'Pastoral Symphony' (the 6th), and the poet Keats described a rural scene as a "cold pastoral" in the 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' (1820).
    • in Geography and other Social Sciences, pastoral is used as a neutral adjective meaning 'to do with pasture and the animals that consume it' - livestock farming.