Date: Sat, 4 Mar 1995 13:43:34 CST


Subject: r-ful vs r-less aux arcs/Ozarks

Peter McGraw wrote:

The etymology of "Ozarks" is indeed fascinating.

In modern French, of course, there would be no final [s] in the

pronunciation of "aux arcs." I don't know enough about the history of

French to know whether the [-s] was still there in the late 1600s. The

borrowing into English as "Ozarks" would itself be evidence of the final

[s] in the source language if the possibility could be ruled out that the

[-s] was added later as an English plural suffix. If final [s]

was already lost in late 1600s French, then the word would have been

borrowed as "Ozark" rather than "Ozarks". So - could somebody tell me

whether there is other evidence showing whether or not final [s] persisted

in French into the late 1600s?

And D.M. Lance wrote earlier:

As well as we can determine, the word came from French explorers in

the late 1600s who wrote "aux arcs" on maps to indicate where the Arcansa

Indians lived and hunted. Liaison in French phonology would yield a

pronunciation of this abbreviation that would sound very much like "Ozarks,"*

which was the early English spelling.

Concerning the effacement of word-final -s with no vowel following, it was the

leader in the parade of final consonant loss in French and took place, for

the most part, during the Middle French period. But phrase-final, the -s might

be retained until a later period. Thus, in 1531, we have the

following testimony (cited by M. Pope, _From Latin to Modern French_, p.220):

`At the end of a word we only write but do not pronounce _s_ or other

consonants fully, except when a vowel follows or it be at the end of a phrase;

thus we write _les femmes sont bonnes_ but we pronounce _les_ with a sound

cut off, _femme_ without _s_, _son_ without _t_, _bones_.'

However, it remains to be determined whether the final -s was perceived to be

a plural or part of a proper name. In Cajun French, for example, where -s is

systematically absent in plurals, the city of Opelousas retains not only

its final -s but also its introductory plural article. Thus _les Opelousas_

Olezap[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]lusasE and _aux Opelousas_ Oozap[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]lusasE. Depending on how the name

was perceived by individuals, there may have been some variation.

And written records by the French of Southeastern explorations show that

native American groups were sometimes pluralized without benefit of final

-s, thus the presence of an -s might be construed by some to be part of the

name (cf. " ... les Accanca nous dirent de demeurer, parce qu'il y avait ici

une nation de leurs allie's nomme's les Taensa." Minet, 1685). But this is

pure speculation on my part, and arguing against it is the fact that s-ful

_aux arcs_ creates a highly unusual syllable coda for French: OrksE.

Furthermore, the written records also show that the use of abbreviation for

native American names, along with -s plural marking of the abbreviation, was

current elsewhere: les Tchikachas `Chickasaw' les Tchis (Marianne Bienvenu,


Mike Picone

University of Alabama