In last Friday’s Guardian, Alexander Chancellor commented:
It took the BBC all week to master the correct pronunciation of L'Aquila, the Italian city devastated by the earthquake. Broadcasters as famous as John Humphrys and Fiona Bruce started out by calling it la-QUEE-la, but more surprisingly, even reporters on the spot got it wrong.
Duncan Kennedy, who was described by the corporation as its Rome correspondent, also called it la-QUEE-la, while George Alagiah, who had hastened to Italy to address us from among the ruins, gave it the more rarefied pronunciation of la-KEE-la, as if it were a Mexican liqueur. It should, of course, be pronounced LA-qui-la (with the stress on the first syllable).
The BBC's pronunciation research unit is sadly not succeeding in its proclaimed purpose "to ensure that pronunciations used on the BBC are accurate and consistent".
The fault lies not with the BBC Pronunciation Unit, but with newsreaders and reporters who do not bother to consult the database the Unit provides. The Pron Unit will certainly have the correct pronunciation on file, and as far as I am aware always responds promptly and accurately to enquiries.
The name L’Aquila is not in British pronunciation dictionaries (perhaps it ought to be), but it is in the Duden Aussprachewörterbuch, as ˈlaːku̯ila.
Once upon a time any educated person had some knowledge of Latin. Not any more. But classicists will tell you that the Latin word for ‘eagle’, the origin of this name, is ăquĭla (with a short i). As readers of this blog will know by now, a Latin word in which the penultimate vowel is short and not followed by a consonant cluster has its stress on the antepenultimate. This Latin rule still works for Italian, as long as you know the Latin vowel quantity, lost as such in Italian.
And by the way, the Latin word for ‘songs’ is carmĭna, so this word too was/is stressed on the antepenultimate. As far as Orff’s Carmina Burana goes, insisting on this stressing seems to be becoming a lost cause.