Archive for Pronunciation

Sino-Japanese

I recall that, as a graduate student in Sinology, one of the most troublesome tasks was figuring out how to romanize the names of Japanese authors, the titles of their works, place names, technical terms, and so forth. Overall, Japanese Sinological (not to mention Indological and other fields) scholarship is outstanding, so we have to consult it, and when we cite Japanese works, we need to be able to romanize names, titles, and so forth to reflect their Japanese pronunciations.

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Two dozen, two thousand, whatever

For Times Insider, David W. Dunlap has an article about some of the more entertaining errors and corrections that have graced the pages of The New York Times: "The Times Regrets the Error. Readers Don't."

Among the goofs is this one from a Q&A with Ivana Trump that appeared in the Oct. 15, 2000 New York Times Magazine:

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What does "Schmetterling" sound like to a German?

I'm prompted to ask this question in response to the very first comment on this post:

"'Butterfly' words as a source of etymological confusion" (1/28/16)

The comment supplies a link to this YouTube video, in which russianracehorse tells "The Butterfly Joke".  A Frenchman, an Italian, a Spaniard, and a German each pronounce the word for "butterfly" in their own language.  The words for "butterfly" in the first three languages all sound soft, delicate, and mellifluous.  Finally the German chimes in and shouts vehemently, "Und vat's wrong with [the joke teller could have said 'mit'] Schmetterling?"

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Shandong lisp

Nick Kaldis writes:

I am wondering if your collective knowledge of Gaomi Shandongese and dialectology can clear something up for me. My late beloved father-in-law, Tóng Jìguāng 佟繼侊, from Gaomi county, would pronounce something like an thi sandong len for "俺是山東人“ [VHM:  MSM pron. ǎn shì Shāndōng rén ("I'm a Shandongese")]. My question is: is the lisp in 是 common in Shandongese? And, is there a specific word for "lisp[ing]" (of the letter/sound "s") in Chinese?

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Pronouncing Poinsettia

If you look up the pronunciation of poinsettia in the dictionary, you'll find two versions, one that follows the spelling in a regular way (/ˌpɔɪnˈsɛ.tɪə/) and one that would more naturally correspond to the spelling "poinsetta" (/ˌpɔɪnˈsɛ.tə/).

A couple of days ago, a journalist contacted me about this. I knew that the word was formed by adding the usual pseudo-Latin -ia to the last name of Joel Roberts Poinsett, just as Clarke Abel's name gave us abelia and William Forsyth's name generated forsythia. And I knew that there is a common (and even dictionary-sanctioned) alternative pronunciation for poinsettia. But why the i-less version of poinsettia and not (for example) a similar version of forsythia?

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Chinese names for the Lena River

[This is a guest post by Jichang Lulu]

The usual Chinese name for the Lena River is 勒拿河 Lèná hé. That's not a particularly felicitous transcription. Lèná rhymes with 圣赫勒拿 Shèng Hèlèná i.e. St Helena; it fails to reflect the palatalisation of the l in the Russian name. An alternative name transcribes the syllable ле with 列 liè, following the usual practice.

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The many pronunciations of "*"

I've heard people pronounce this symbol as though it were spelled "asteriks" or "asterix" (and some folks even write it the latter way).  It gets really tricky when those who do so try to say it in the plural.  And even those who pronounce "asterisk" the way it is spelled seem to have to make a special effort to render the final "s" of the plural audible when they say it.

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More on "Daesh"

We've had a recent post on the pronunciation of this lightning rod of a word.

"Pronouncing 'Daesh' " (11/15/15)

From a colleague:

Guthrie's article* states:

"And the vowel which begins the word 'islaamiyya' becomes an 'a' sound when differently positioned in a word, hence the acronym being pronounced 'da’ish' when written in Arabic, and  the 'a' coming over into our transliteration of the acronym."

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Quinoa: way more than one way to pronounce it

From a colleague:

A question about quinoa. Linguistic, not gustatory or political-economic. How do / would you normally say it?

kee-NO-ah?  kwee-NO-ah?
KEE-no-ah?  KWEE-no-ah?
KEEN-wah?  KWEEN-wah?
keen-WAH?  kween-WAH?
(or? )

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C'est la vie ~

Chris P sent in the following emojis from WeChat:

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Csikszentmihalyi

Two days ago, we contemplated the wonders of the short Polish-American surname Dzwil.  Today we turn to a much longer, but equally wondrous, Hungarian-American surname, the one in the title of this post.

For some seemingly impenetrable Hungarian surnames, it helps an English speaker to have mnemonic devices to produce a passable pronunciation.  An example is the surname of the Berkeley Sinologist, Mark Csikszentmihalyi.  Mark is the son of the Chicago, and later Claremont, psychologist and management specialist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (in Hungarian orthography that would be Csíkszentmihályi Mihály).   Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is the creator of the concept of "flow", a highly focused mental state.

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Dzwil

For the last few weeks, as I walk by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology on my way to work, I've been noticing equipment marked "Dzwil" that belongs to a masonry construction company engaged to firm up the foundations.

Naturally, every time I saw that word I said to myself, "I wonder how they pronounce it".

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The mysteries of 13.5

China is in the throes of hammering out its next five-year plan, on the model of the USSR.  For China, the current one they're working on is the thirteenth, so they refer to it as 13.5.  In Mandarin, that would be shísānwǔ 十三五.  Although the Communist bureaucrats think these five-year plans are hugely important, for the common citizen they are dreadfully boring.  For non-Chinese looking on, they are worse than boring, so — in an effort to explain and hype 13.5 to English speakers around the world, the Chinese Communist Party has sponsored the making of a glitzy-cutesy video that enjoins viewers to "pay attention to the shisanwu!"

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