South (pronunciation)

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Although the noun and adjective south (the geographical opposite of north', and lying at right angles to east and west) is pronounced in a way that is reflected by the spelling (IPA: /saʊθ/, the vowel '-ou-' can be changed to /ʌ/ (the sound of the vowel in 'up' and 'but') in some words formed from 'south', of which some examples are listed here. You may also want to see Compass points, for some more general information.

  • The adjective southern is always pronounced thus (/sʌð ərn/). So are the first two syllables of the plant name southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum).
    • Southern is also a surname. with the same pronunciation. Users of AWE may come across:
      • Terry Southern (1924-1995), an American writer of novels, essays and films, author of Candy and The Magic Christian (novels, later also films), and the screenplay of Dr Strangelove - amongst many others;
      • R. W. Southern (1912-2001), a distinguished medieval historian, author inter alia of The Making of the Middle Ages (1953)
    • Southey is used in both forms. The poet Robert Southey (1774-1843; Poet Laureate 1813-1843)) preferred 'SUTH-i' /ˈsʌð ɪ/; but other branches of the family use 'SOWTH-i', /ˈsaʊð ɪ/, the pronunciation with which Byron mocked the then Poet Laureate, as may be seen from his contemptuous rhyme:
Thou shalt believe in Milton, Dryden, Pope;
Thou shalt not set up Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey;
Because the first is crazed beyond all hope,
The second drunk, the third so quaint and mouthy.
(Byron, Don Juan, 1 CCV)
    • Joanna Southcott (1750-1814), the self-proclaimed prophetess, is 'South-'.
  • The adjective southerly is always pronounced thus (/ˈsʌð ər lɪ/). This can be heard in the English folk song 'Blow the Wind Southerly' - the most popular recording made by the great English contralto Kathleen Ferrier (1912-1953).
  • The directional adjective southward[s] is pronounced in RP as 'SOWTH-werd[s]' /saʊθ wərd[z]/, but in nautical circles, and usually in American English, is realized with the '-u-' of 'but': SUTH-erd[s], /ˈsʌð ə (or ɔː)rdz/. In the nautical form, the second vowel is commonly reduced to schwa (/ˈsʌð ərd[z]), and the word may be spelled 'south'ards', 'southerds' etc. See also Compass points for information about the words, or -ward - -wards for information about the suffix.
  • The noun southing ('progress - or distance - in a southerly direction') has the same vowel as 'south', although the '-th-' is realized as the voiced /ð/ of 'the' rather than the unvoiced /θ¸/ of 'think'.
  • Place names vary in their realizations.
    • Southwark has the /ʌ/ ('SUTH-erk', IPA: /ˈsʌð ərk/). The name, of a borough in Greater London, on the south bank of the Thames, as recorded in Domesday Book, means 'the southern fort', or, as recorded in Old English documents before the Norman conquest, 'the fort of the people of Surrey'. It has fame in literary history, first as the area where Chaucer's Pilgrims in the Canterbury Tales first met ("In Southwerk [sic in Middle English] at the Tabard [Inn] as I lay"), and second, as a great centre of entertainments in the sixteenth century, it was the site chosen by Shakespeare's company of actors to erect their theatre, The Globe. It burned down in 1613, but a modern replica, 'Shakespeare's Globe', has been built near the original site.
    • The Nottinghamshire town of Southwell too has the /ʌ/, while the Dorset village of the same name is realized like the compass point: /aʊ/.
    • Southampton, Southall (with a schwa in the second vowel, 'SOUTH-el' IPA: /ˈsaʊθ (or ð) ə (or ɔː)l/, Southport and Southsea all have the usual pronunciation of 'South-', /saʊθ¸/, as do place-names with two words, 'South' + another, like South Africa, South America, South Georgia and South Seas.