Archive for Pronunciation

It's "Hammie", not "Ammie"

"Baby Blues" by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott for January 16, 2023:


(source)

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How many syllables in "World Cup"?

I started to ponder this problem because, over in the comments section of "The value and validity of translation for learning classical languages" (12/9/22) where we are having an energetic discussion about how to pronounce "www", Philip Taylor averred, "I pronounce it as 'World-wide web' (i.e., three syllables)".

That took me a bit aback.  Made me stop and think.

It must mean that Philip, and most people, I suppose, think they pronounce "world" as though it had one syllable.  Fair enough.  That's what all dictionaries and online resources I've consulted hold:  "world" has only one syllable.

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More wonders of Google

I was trying to find an old post I wrote about a dictionary of Japanese pronunciations of Chinese characters and put this in the Google search engine:  victor mair language log dictionary japanese pronunciation (no quotation marks).  I was thunderstruck by the first result (out of 188,000):

victor mair language log       –>       ヴィクトル・メアの言語ログ 

Vu~ikutoru mea no gengo rogu

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Mount a chariot

This has always been a bone of contention with me ever since I started studying Buddhology and Sinology in the late 60s and early 70s, when everybody I knew — Chinese and foreigners, scholars and laypersons alike — pronounced 大乘 and 小乘, the Chinese equivalents of Mahāyāna and Hīnayāna, respectively as dàchéng and xiǎochéng.  But that didn't make sense to me, since Mahayana means "Great Vehicle" and Hīnayāna means "Small Vehicle", i.e., modifier + noun construction, so I formed the opinion that, in Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM) they should be pronounced as dàshèng and xiǎoshèng.  Consequently, I began to use these pronunciations — dàshèng and xiǎoshèng — for Mahayana and Hinayana, rather than dàchéng and xiǎochéng.  At first it seemed odd, causing editors and reviewers to "correct" me.  Slowly, however, over the decades, other scholars began to adopt these readings, dàshèng and xiǎoshèng, until now most knowledgeable Buddhist specialists use them, although the lay public, by and large, still pronounce them dàchéng and xiǎochéng.

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Disappearing readings of Sinoglyphs: focus on Bo (–> Bai) Juyi / Haku Rakuten

When I learned Mandarin half a century ago, it was a matter of faith, rectitude, and integrity that one should pronounce 說服 ("persuade") as shuìfú, not shuōfú, because when 說 is used with the meaning "convince; persuade", its pronunciation should be shuì, not shuō, which means "say; speak; explain", the more usual reading.  Now, however, in the PRC, according to my students from there, the pronunciation shuì basically no longer exists, not even when the character 說 is intended to mean "convince; persuade", and not even in many dictionaries.

說 can also be pronounced yuè, in which case it means "happy; delighted", and is the equivalent of 悦 (and compare my remarks on the equivalent meaning / reading of 樂 below).

In addition, 說 can also be pronounced tuō and means the same thing as 脱 ("to free; relieve").

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Omnibus Chinglish, part 2

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Does "splooting" have an etymology?

In the summer of 1990, I spent a memorable five weeks at the outstanding summer institute on Indo-European linguistics and archeology held by DOALL (at least that's what we jokingly called it — the Department of Oriental and African Languages and Literatures) of the University of Texas (Austin).  The temperature was 106º or above for a whole month.  Indomitable / stubborn man that I am, I still insisted on going out for my daily runs. 

As I was jogging along, I would come upon squirrels doing something that stopped me in my tracks, namely, they were splayed out prostrate on the ground, their limbs spread-eagle in front and behind them.  Immobile, they would look at me pathetically, and I would sympathize with them.  Remember, they have thick fur that can keep them warm in the dead of winter.

I assumed that these poor squirrels were lying with their belly flat on the ground to absorb whatever coolness was there (conversely put, to dissipate their body heat).  At least that made some sort of sense to me.  I had no idea what to call that peculiar, prone posture.  Now I do.

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Wilkes-Barre: how do you you say it?

The city of Wilkes-Barre is only about a hundred miles north of where I've been living in the Philadelphia area for the past half century, but I've never had the slightest clue about how the name should be pronounced.  My guess has always been that it is something like "wilks-bare", but I've always been uncomfortable with that stab in the dark.

Now we have a thorough accounting of the toponymic pronunciation problem from "The Diamond City" by the Susquehanna itself:

"How should Wilkes-Barre be pronounced? Are you sure about that?" By Roger DuPuis, Times Leader (8/5/22)

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"Copy editors? Who needs copy editors?" — part 325

From Mark Swofford in Taiwan:

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Translation of multiple languages in a single novel

New York Times book review by Sophie Pinkham (6/21/22):

The Thorny Politics of Translating a Belarusian Novel

How did the translators of “Alindarka’s Children,” by Alhierd Bacharevic, preserve the power dynamics between the book’s original languages?

A prickly dilemma for a translator if ever there were one.  Faced with a novel that is written in more than one language, how does one convey to the reader the existence and essence of those multiple languages?  Because of the linguistic intricacies posed by the original novel and the complicated solutions to them devised by the translators, which are described in considerable detail and critically assessed by Pinkham, I will quote lengthy passages from the review (which may not be readily available to many Language Log readers), focusing almost entirely on language and translation issues.

Every bilingual country is bilingual in its own way. The principal languages in Belarus, which was part of the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union, and which remains in Russia’s grip, are Russian and Belarusian. Russian is the language of power, cities and empire; Belarusian is the language of the countryside, the home, the nation. In neighboring Ukraine, whose history in some ways resembles that of Belarus, Ukrainian is now the primary language. Belarusian, meanwhile, is classified by UNESCO as “vulnerable.”

Translators of novels written for bilingual readers thus face a daunting challenge: how to transplant a text clinging fast to its country of origin while preserving the threads of history and power between its original languages.

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Local toponymic pronunciations in northwestern Ohio and northern Indiana

Continuing my run through the Midwest, among many others, I have passed through the following towns and counties:  Lima, Cairo, Gomer, Delphos, Van Wert, Warsaw, Kosciusko, Hamlet, Wanatah, and Valparaiso.  These names reflect the variety of ethnicities and origins of the inhabitants.  Several of them are locally pronounced in ways that I had not expected:

Lima is Laima, not Leema (one of my students flew to the capital of Peru that same day I went to its reputed namesake in Ohio).

Cairo OH is Kayro, not Kairo; I don't know for sure how the same name of the southernmost city in Illinois is pronounced locally.

Kosciusko is Kaziasko, not Koskiusko.

Valparaiso is colloquially known as Valpo.

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The pragmatic and innovative Choe Sejin — 15th-16th c. Korean phonetician, translator, and interpreter

[This is a guest post by S. Robert Ramsey]


The Statue of King Sejong in Downtown Seoul.

The brilliance of good king Sejong (1397-1450) overshadows another great mind of Joseon Korea, a middle-class man named Choe Sejin (1465-1542).

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Ten different ways to pronounce -ough

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