Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

The People Will Uprise!

Posted by Neal on December 5, 2010

Governor-elect John Kasich has been quite blunt about some of the things he’s going to do after taking office — quite a change from the consistently, persistently, insistently vague answers he gave during the campaign about issues like how he would balance the state’s budget without raising taxes. This week he talked about a couple of his predecessor’s executive orders that he plans to rescind; specifically, orders that allowed home-care providers and child-care providers to join unions. I’m not sure what the big deal is about allowing these workers to join unions, but Kasich feels strongly about it. He’s said the orders will most likely be “toast”. His less than diplomatic statement has angered these people, and the leader of one of the home healthcare unions had this to say:

“Act as a reckless and irresponsible governor, and plan to be a one-term governor, because you are just going to cause workers in the state to uprise,” she said. (link)

Nice backformation, I thought. From the phrasal verb rise up, we get the gerund-headed compound noun uprising, and from there via the usual process of stripping off the -ing, we get a brand-new backformed verb: uprise. The Corpus of Contemporary American English has an attestation from 1991, but don’t trust it:

Even some of them, they ask the Iraqi people to uprise, to go up and get rid of Saddam Hussein, but when Iraqi people go and have uprising in all parts of Iraq, they walked away and they said this is an internal affair, we don’t interfere.

Notice how the even is used to comment on the entire sentence, meaning more or less, “It’s was even true that some of them asked the Iraqi people…”? Semantically, it’s sensible, but syntactically, it just doesn’t work. In English, we have to put the even after the subject: Some of them even…. This is clearly a passage from a non-native speaker. When I checked it, I found that it was uttered by a (one assumes) Iraqi named Mahmoud-Osman-Kur. However, this 1993 example from Rolling Stone is more believable:

Oh, this is going to upset people, ignite people. They’re going to riot, they’re going to uprise.

When I checked the OED, I was surprised to find uprise as a verb going back to the 1300s. However, it had a more literal meaning of physically rising up with attestations talking about the sun rising, people rising out of bed, and people rising from the dead. There was also a figurative meaning of attaining a higher social position or position of greater power. The current meaning of “rebel” isn’t listed.

I’d be interested in hearing the word pronounced. Does it have stress on both up and rise, the way that its source uprising does? Or is the up unstressed? If it is, then I’d expect the p to reassociate itself from the end of the first syllable to the beginning of the second one, in accordance with Maximal Onset, making the word homonymous with apprise. If this word is in your active vocabulary, let us know how you say it.

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7 Responses to “The People Will Uprise!”

  1. Dw said

    “Uproot” and “uproarious” both have the /p/ in the first syllable. The Principle of Maximal Onset fails to apply across a transparent morpheme boundary.

    • Neal said

      Are you sure you’re not mi-staken? :)
      Seriously, my diagnosis would be that the up in uprootis in fact, stressed. Personally, I pronounce it as a spondee. Therefore, since it contains the lax vowel [ʌ], the final [p] is not eligible to reassociate with the next syllable; it’s needed to close off the stressed syllable with a lax vowel.
      But as for uproarious, I can’t claim to stress the up in that. Furthermore, I know it’s not reassociating with the second syllable, because I don’t aspirate it (i.e. pronounce it with a puff of air after it). So that’s a curious case.

      • dw said

        I don’t stress the first syllable in “uproot”. I looked it up in the Wells LPD and he gives the syllabification with /p/ in the first syllable and stress only on the second syllable.

        The division of “mistake” into morphemes “mis-” and “-take” is not transparent for me, nor, I suspect, is it for most people. Compare “miscalculate”, which is clearly syllabified “mis-calculate”, because the /k/ of “calculate” is aspirated.

      • Neal said

        OK, point taken. I guess up will stay intact for speakers regardless of whether they put stress on it.

  2. I would say “UPrise”, with the stress on “up”.

  3. Ran said

    It seems just impossible to me that it would be pronounced with unstressed “up”. What would cause that?

    BTW, I’m disappointed that Williams didn’t speak of Kasich’s “downfall”. Real missed opportunity there.

  4. Alacritas said

    I know this post is a bit old, but at any rate this word is definitely in my vocabulary (I didn’t even realize it was a back-formation!), and I pronounce it with stress on the first syllable: ['ʌpɹaɪz]. Definitely not homonymous with “apprise”.

    On the other hand, I have “uproot” with stress on the second syllable: [ʌp'ɹut] (I’m pretty sure the syllable boundary is after the /p/ because it’s unaspirated).

    PS How do you show syllable boundaries in unstressed syllables in the IPA? With a secondary stress marker underneath the line, or…?

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