Although listeners may forgive a radio or TV news anchor who occasionally garbles the name of a Turkish diplomat or a Chinese airport, they may feel offended or even question an announcer’s credibility if the name of their home town is mispronounced. It is, of course, difficult to determine the correct pronunciation of places that are not listed in dictionaries, atlases, or other reference books. In fact, there are parts of Illinois which borrow the names of larger, world-famous places but feature uniquely Illinoisan pronunciations.
This online Pronunciation Guide for Illinois Place Names is a compilation of all counties, cities, villages, communities, parks, creeks, and rivers in the state of Illinois, and the pronunciation of these names as preferred by local residents. The first edition of the Guide, titled Pronunciation Guide for Illinois Towns and Cities and assembled by Don Brown and Frank Schooley, was released in 1948. A revised edition was published by the Division of Broadcasting of the University of Illinois in 1957. The Illinois News Broadcasters Association (INBA) followed this up with A Pronunciation and Location Guide for Cities, Counties, Rivers and Parks in Illinois in 1998. The INBA released a revised version of the booklet in 2012.
This online version is the fifth edition of the Pronunciation Guide. Preferred local pronunciations—in the case of such Illinois communities as Cairo and Marseilles, Vienna and New Berlin—have been given precedence over accepted pronunciations for cities of the same name in other states or countries. This expanded web edition compiles the preferred pronunciation of places in the state based on administrative division (counties, cities, townships, towns, and villages), waterways (lakes, rivers, and creeks), state parks, and natural landmarks (summits, trails, ridges, cliffs, and others).
The preferred pronunciation is given in two ways. First, we offer users a specialized phonetic cypher or pronunciation key. Second, we added the audio component to the name. To hear the pronunciation spoken aloud, one only needs to click on a name; users do not need to struggle with a menu.
We used the 2012 edition of the Guide as the basis of this compilation. We then supplemented it with information from the 2017-2018 Illinois Municipal Directory published by the Illinois Municipal League, and the waterways and landmark directories of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. We checked with county clerks and residents to determine the pronunciation actually used and preferred by the inhabitants of a given community.
The Agricultural Communications Program and WILL Public Media collaborated on this project. This Guide was made possible by a teaching enhancement grant from the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.