Tuesday, 29 March 2011

queries

I get quite a few emails from people asking about names that are not in LPD.
Sometimes I can give a quick and straightforward answer. This is usually for names that have only come into the news (or to my attention) since the current edition was prepared. So when Lucas Guevara asked me about the name of the film actors Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal it was easy to reply that their surname is pronounced ˈdʒɪlənhɑːl (particularly since that information is available anyhow in Wikipedia).

Fortunately the pronunciation in Swedish of this originally Swedish family name is not relevant here. (I would guess ˈˈjʏlənhɑːl.)

Emanuele Saiu wanted to know how to pronounce the name of the South American language family Zamucoan. I replied
I don't really know. Probably with the stress on -co-. Compare Minoan.

Sometimes my ignorance is displayed to all. Khosrow Tavakoli said
I couldn't find the correct pronunciation of these two well-known brand
names:
Raymond Weil
Moschino
I had to reply
I am not familiar with these names. They are not "well-known" as far as I am concerned. But then I don't buy luxury goods.
As a German name, Weil would of course be vaɪl. As an Italian name, Moschino would be moˈskiːno, anglicized (BrE) as mɒˈskiːnəʊ.

Other correspondents are more demanding, even peremptory. One such, writing from Poland, sent me a shopping list of 36 words and names, of which I recognized only two. I suggested politely that she do her own research. A few days later she wrote again
Few days ago [sic] I asked you for help with some foreign words. You advised me to do some researches [sic] and I did so. Unfortunately I did not found [sic] answers for [sic] my questions. I spent much time [sic] on doing it. I would like to ask you again for help. Could you send me recordings how to pronounce these words? Or some directions how I should pronounce them. … I need it for my phonetics classes.
The many errors in her English suggest to me that she is probably a student rather than a teacher. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, though, I said, tongue in cheek,
If you haven't time to do the research yourself, why not get your students to do it? Find out which language each word is from, and what English context it is used in (if any). Track down the phonetic information about the original language, and find people who use the word/name in English (if any), to ask them how they say them.
It is utterly unreasonable to expect me to do this work for you unpaid.

There are limits to my helpfulness.
_ _ _
Tomorrow I shall be busy with family matters. Next posting: 31 March.

32 comments:

  1. Swedish Gyllenhaal is probably a spelling variant (nowadays rather archaic) of Gyllenhål ˈjʏ̀lːənˌhoːl.

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  2. For what I seem to remember from my History of Swedish Spelling classes in the old days when I was a student brotwart is right. 'aa' can't be anything but a terribly old spelling of 'å', which is like GOT or SAW or something like it.

    As for Brands and Actors, I find it sad that literally nowhere, not even in John's Dictionary, can we find the pronunciations of various personages of Plato's dialogues, such as Euthydemos or so... . Or other Famous Ancient Greeks, such as Eubulides, or Archilochos, or so.. . Howjsay.com has got a few of them, but far from all, and to boot only in the audio form. Brands are important to peremptory Polish readers and most of us anyway, ancient Greeks are not, clearly... .

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  3. Brands are important to peremptory Polish readers and most of us anyway, ancient Greeks are not, clearly... .

    Well, that's the point, isn't it?

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  4. @Wojciech: It's cardinal , optionally slightly diphthongised (oːə̯), whereas the letter o, if representing a long vowel, is normally pronounced . An open ɒː (similar to the English GOT vowel) is the standard phonetic realisation of phonemic /aː/.

    In Danish, the letter å stands for a vowel that is more open and somewhat fronted (approximately ɔ̟). That's probably what's causing the confusion.

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  5. Ad Lipman

    well, I believe we---those very few of us---to whom Ancient Greeks do matter (and I am not speaking on behalf of any silly and arrogant Elitism) should not be just passive lookers-on, but start doing something. Such as, for instance, include the corresponding pronunciations in our dictionaries. Even if unpaid-for, or not-directly-paid-for. Those exotic brands which John rightly refused to record for the peremptory Polish student (I think she was one) were not worth-while, least of all worth John's while; Euthydemus et Cie. are, I submit....

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  6. Ad brotwart,

    Well, in the Swedish that I once studied /a:/ was not ɒː but ɑ:, a very 'dark' one, to be sure, but still, with a recognisable a-like quality. The letter 'o' was famous for its ambiguity as between, sometimes o-like, sometimes u-like, one striking inconsistency of the Swedish spelling. As for Danish, I am not so sure as I never studied it systematically, but methinketh it is still, that was the reason why they introduced it after ww2, an o-like vowel, maybe sometimes more open than the Swedish sound, but never a-, not even ɑ-like, is that wrong?

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  7. Wojciech

    Brands are important to peremptory Polish readers and most of us anyway, ancient Greeks are not, clearly... .

    But how many Polish readers want to know how English speakers handle ancient Greek names?

    Surely the appropriate pronunciation for Poles would be the old Polish spelling pronunciation for Latin — before the Vatican told them to change (if, indeed, that happened in Poland).

    Your Russian neighbours take the pronunciation of Ancient Greek names directly from Greek, but for Western Christendom (at least in the countries I know about) they are mediated through Latin.

    My wife informs me that Russian makes a distinction between names know to the early Slavonic Orthodox Church such as Ἀθῆναι ➔ Aфины (a'finy) and names learned later though secular scholarship such as Θησεύς ➔ Тесей (te'sej).

    If anybody (including native speakers) want to know how educated English speakers used to pronounce of a classical nаmе, there are many old reference works. A contemporary descriptive work such as LPD can hardly report certainty when actual speakers are so very uncertain.

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  8. Ad David Crosbie

    "But how many Polish readers ..."

    Those Polish readers who for better or worse use English for various purposes, and that in contexts in which those Greek names crop up, not so few, I'd think... .

    "Surely the appriopriate..."

    Sorry, I don't geddit adall, can you please be more specific and/or explicit?

    "Your Russian neighbours..."

    Russians are not our direct neighbours, btw; yes, this looks like correct, but it does not help us re pronunciation of Greek names in English.

    "My wife informs me...".

    Yes, Fiodor is Theodoros, for instance, I am not sure if the intermediary of the Church was necessary for Athens, I think they got it directly from the Greeks, substituting 'f' for 'th', just like they do in Cockney.

    Interestingly, there is a similar Bavarian form: Feodor.

    "If anybody...".

    Well, the problem is that those reference works are, as you say, OLD... . And for this reason difficult to find, to get hold of. Those in Poland who are really interested in such things are as a rule not so rich as to jet every second weekend between their Polish domiciles and the Libary of the British Museum. This might seem strange from the English point of view, given the class structures of the English society, but in Poland this is so, sadly... . And non-old reference works, including (even more sadly) the magnificent Dictionary by John pass by the Greeks in noble taciturnity...

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  9. @Wojciech:

    Well, in the Swedish that I once studied /a:/ was not ɒː but ɑ:, a very 'dark' one, to be sure, but still, with a recognisable a-like quality.

    Swedish /aː/ is definitely rounded (ɒː) (very much like GOD), also in the standard language. In modern urban varieties it is usually less open, i.e. even more o-like.

    The letter 'o' was famous for its ambiguity as between, sometimes o-like, sometimes u-like, one striking inconsistency of the Swedish spelling.

    True. As a rule of thumb, though, you should expect long o to be /uː/ and short o to represent /o/.

    As for Danish, I am not so sure as I never studied it systematically, but methinketh it is still, that was the reason why they introduced it after ww2, an o-like vowel, maybe sometimes more open than the Swedish sound, but never a-, not even ɑ-like, is that wrong?

    Å is o-like in that it's an open-mid vowel. But is (perceivable) fronted an in some contexts even unrounded. But Danish phonology is a mess anyway - or a phonetician's paradise...

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  10. Ad brotwart

    So Swedish has been a-changin' for a time, it seems.... and rather fast.

    You're saying the long Swedish a is not like the short Hungarian a (length apart)? So their 'day' sounds like the English 'dog', more or less?

    In the times when I learnt Swedish --- times immemorial now --- the Swedish sound of 'sj', 'stj', 'skj' was reasonably like the English 'sh', not the same of course. And there was the indescribable sound of 'khw' or something like it coming into fashion. My Swedish (ns) teachers warned me against that pronunciation. It was 'vulgar', they said. These days, next to no one says 'sh' for 'sj' and its ilk, it's 'khw'. Can you recall anyone saying 'sju' or 'stjaerna' or 'skjorta' with a sh-like onset, instead of 'khw'?

    Danish phonology is a terrible mess, I agree. But Danes seem to understand one another well, don't they?

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  11. Ad David Crosbie

    Concerning the English pronunciation of Greek names: of course the point is that it is interesting not just to _Polish_ learners or English-as-a-second-language users, but to anyone outside of the Anglophone world. _Polish_ chaps are in no way particularly in need of instruction, as compared to anyone else in a non-English-speaking country.

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  12. @Wojciech:

    Yes, Swedish dag sounds more or less like British English dog.

    Second yes, ɧ (or its variants such as ɧʷ) is the normal way of pronouncing /ʃ/ - but there are exceptions. The Finland Swedes have ʃ (or similar sounds).
    I wouldn't say that Swedish has been changing very fast - the attitudes towards certain linguistic variants have, and previously stigmatised forms have been accepted as part of the standard variety (or varieties, if we consider Southern Swedish and Finland Swedish as separate standards, which is probably appropriate).

    Danish, by the way, is changing really, really fast, especially in the vowel system. So stay tuned, and check what's become of å by 2030 ...

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  13. Ad brotwart,

    Thank you. I'd say one heard ʃ more often when I was young, now one hardly hears it at all, maybe apart from Finland and Skaane.

    I very much hope I shall no longer be around by 2030, so may the Danes develop whither they will... .

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  14. Wojciech

    Those Polish readers who for better or worse use English for various purposes, and that in contexts in which those Greek names crop up, not so few, I'd think... .

    But what is wrong with pronouncing names that are foreign to both English and Polish in the same way that they would pronounce them when speaking to fellow Poles?

    This would pose no problem for many educated clerics. Perhaps the way the clergy used to pronounce Latin two hundred years ago is no different from the way they pronounce it today. Or perhaps it's different but forgotten. In that case it would make sense to follow the rules of the present-day Church. Virtually all the names are in their Latin spelling.

    If the Polish readers are using an English translation of Plato as a substitute for the Greek original, it does not harm for them to use whatever pronunciation suits them personally. That's what many English speakers do with Latin and Greek.

    We pick and mix from what were standard pronunciations 150 years ago, 'reconstructed' pronunciations as learned (usually imperfectly) in school and Vatican pronunciations of Latin. With Greek names, it can be doubly complicated — with one set of options for Latin pronunciation of Greek and another set of options for Greek pronunciation of Greek.

    Any two English speakers discussing Plato's Dialogues may share a set of pronunciation or they may have to negotiate and understanding. Surely the same could obtain for an English-speaker and a Pole discussing the Dialogues in English.

    Although I can't read it with any ease I have a copy of Harry Potter i Kamen Fillosoficzny, which I browse from time to time. There is not so much pseudo Latin as in later books, but I did find wingardium leviosa. We say this as if it were real Latin. Don't you do the same?

    "Your Russian neighbours..."

    Sorry about that. Your Eastern Slavonic neighbours. I'm sure Belorusian and Ukranian do the same as Russian.

    I think they got it directly from the Greeks, substituting 'f' for 'th', just like they do in Cockney.

    They substituted the sound, but not the letter. Letter ѳ 'feta' was used for Greek θ 'theta' initially by the Church and for somewhat longer than I thought — extending to the unChristian word миѳъ myth.

    I was wrong to conflate the status of this letter with that of another that was also abolished after 1917 — letter ѵ which duplicated for the sound i for Greek letter υ in the churchy word for synod, but not in the unchurchy words for syntax etc.

    The fact remains that ф for ѳ for early representation of θ gave way to т for later representation of θ.

    A quaint result of all this is that the electronic instrument we call the theramin is named after its inventor Lev Feramin.

    Well, the problem is that those reference works are, as you say, OLD... .

    OK, so consult some old Polish works and apply a set of simple rules to produce the old-fashioned English pronunciation. There is no more recent standard pronunciation of Euthydemos and too few confident speakers of the various alternatives to allow for a meaningful poll.

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  15. Ad David Crosbie

    I thought there was such a thing as a standard pronounciation _in English_ of 'Euthydemos', or 'Archilochos' or 'Eubulides' or such. I hold on to the idea that names even if non-native should be pronounced in each language the way they are pronounced in IT, not as they are in some other language or not even in the language they come from. Some English chaps I met claimed the 'correct' English pronunciation of 'Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique' implied sounding the 't' of 'et', (even though it is not sounded in French) --- otherwise you sound (they said) foreign=ish, snobby, something else you should not... . Is that wrong?

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  16. You can't possibly take such English chaps seriously!

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  17. Wojciech

    I thought there was such a thing as a standard pronounciation _in English_ of 'Euthydemos', or 'Archilochos' or 'Eubulides' or such.

    There's a former standard, much of which you could adduce from the customary sound values assigned to letters, together with the rules of stress that John has outlined on this blog.

    For example, the pronunciation of eu, thy and mos is exactly what you would expect. The placement of stress and the pronunciation of dem are interconnected. John has recently stated the rule — I'll see if I can locate it.

    I base my own pronunciation on the same rule — except that, unlike John, I don't always remember it perfectly. If my memory serves my right, it imposes stress and 'length' on dem, making it 'di:m.

    The problem with including all the names from Greek history and literature in a work such as the LPD is that there's a huge number of them, and they're very seldom pronounced.

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  18. Wojciech


    Some English chaps I met claimed the 'correct' English pronunciation of 'Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique' implied sounding the 't' of 'et', (even though it is not sounded in French) --- otherwise you sound (they said) foreign=ish, snobby, something else you should not... . Is that wrong?

    It's certainly wrong as a phonological rule. It's a pragmatic rule for the task of speaking to people who might be inverted snobs. But even then it's far too narrow a formulation. The pragmatic rule I suggest would be something like this:

    If your French pronunciation is not indistinguishable from a native speaker and if you are unsure of the audience reaction, then modify your pronunciation slightly more towards anglicism than you instinctively would.

    In some social situations I would modify the pronunciation of Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, but in different ways

    • giving a more English quality to the vowels
    • not attempting French ʀ
    • imposing English-style word stress and syllable timing

    These three would easily outweigh the effect of not pronouncing a /t/ in et.

    That's a pragmatic rule for speaking to fellow English-speakers. I have a similar rule for speaking to foreigners in their own language:

    Don't use you best pronunciation when asking a question, lest your hearers overestimate your fluency and give you an answer that you can't begin to understand.

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  19. This, I think, is John's latest word on rules for the pronunciation of Classical names Laocoön.

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  20. To get back to Gyllenhaal, I agree with brotwart that it is probably a spelling variant of Gyllenhål, and with his transcription, /ˈjʏ̀lːənˌhoːl/, as well. But just to confuse people there are some names used in Swedish (though admittedly very rare) where the spelling 'aa' stands for long 'a' /ɒː/ rather than being a variant of 'å'. Aasarum /ˈˈɒːsaˌrɵmː/ is reportedly a variant spelling of Asarum. This also applies to Finnish names used in Swedish, as in Karhuvaara ˈkarhʉˌvɒˑra.

    The spelling 'ae', which I think is Dutch-influenced, also represents long 'a' /ɒː/ in cases like Claes /ˈklɒːs/.

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  21. Raymond Weil may actually be French Swiss, in which case remɔ̃ vɛːj or something very similar might be the native pronunciation. It would certainly be interesting to find out how English speakers who are familiar with the brand tend to pronounce it.

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  22. Q: How do you pronounce Classical Greek names in English?

    A: Very confidently.

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  23. The English-language advertisements such as http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ys24krIq3cQ consistently pronounce Raymond Weil as /ˈreɪmən ˈwaɪl/, or with Raymond somewhat closer to French pronunciation.

    The man himself is indeed French Swiss; here's an interview of him: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-NJgyV-qjU He frustratingly never says his own name in this interview, but the usual pronunciation of Weil in French is indeed /vɛj/ so that would be my guess as well. I've never heard people discuss luxury watch brands in French, though, so that's just a guess.

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  24. I am not sure this is the right place to raise a question. I am one of big fans of your works.
    I have recently bought your book on English intonation. I enjoyed it a lot. by the way
    I have read your posting on the 'resolution of syllabic consonants' which is in the blog.
    In that, the remark of sounding 'childish',
    I found it difficult to follow.

    does it refer to the use of syllabic consonant(nasal, lateral release)

    or shewa + nonsyllabic consonant( tendancy to avoid nasal, lateral release)?


    for your reference, there's an article written by a japanese scholar, Toshihiro Oda, where the author suggests that the use of syllabic consonants should be found in more formal context and the one with non-syllabic consonant in casual speech.


    best regards

    Jehyuk Chung from Seoul, South Korea
    e-mail : glorios71@gmail.com

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  25. Ad David Crosbie,

    thank you for the explanations. I'd be grateful if you found the rule formulated by John. (Even if 'unpaid for', you'd pay a great service to us benighted non-anglophones...) Is it, like, stressing Greek words according to Latin stressing rules, wildly different from the Greek ones? So, Euthydemos would we 'you-thigh-DEE-mos' or possibly '..-mers' even though in Greek it's stressed on the third-but-last.

    Re Orchestre etc. --- your advice to 'impose English-style word stress and syllable timing' sounds to this poor non-native English speaker sufficiently intimidating to discourage him from ever using that name (a periphrase like 'John Elliott Gardiner's' or something like it would be enough). But lemme try: Awkester reyverlyousyawnair ay romarngtic?

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  26. 'thigh' (θaɪ) is possible, but I'd probably make the y short (θɪ). As for the orchestra, I think most English people would give final stress to Révolutionnaire and Romantique. Orchestre might be pronounced like the English word, but hopefully most would stress the second syllable. Try ɔːˈkɛstrərɛvəluːsiəˈnɛəreɪrɒmɒnˈtiːk, ˈɔːkɪstrə-, -luːʃə-.

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  27. Wojciech

    Sorry I didn't address to you personally my message with the link to Laocoön.

    There you'll find John referring to:

    1. Geek vowel length
    2. Latin stress
    3. The Great Vowel Shift in English

    Applying these to

    Ευθύδημος

    1. η becomes 'long e' in Latin, then in English
    2. The long penultimate vowel accepts stress
    3. 'Long e' has the value of its letter name — i:

    [I may have the rules in the wrong order, but I think this is right]

    Εὑβουλίδης

    1. ου becomes 'long' u' in Latin then in English [I think]
    2. 'Short i' shifts the stress back onto the antepenultimate
    3. e 'Long u' has the sound of letter name — ju:

    Ἀρχίλοχος

    1. Penultimate ο becomes 'short o' in Latin, then in English.
    2. The short vowel shifts the stress back onto the antepenultimate.
    3. The Great Vowel Shift affected only 'long vowels' — so LOT not GOAT

    Note also that χ becomes Latin digraph ch, which in Modern English has the value k.

    I'm not 100% certain of all this: the Latin stress rule may not be quite as I remember it. But if you use these pronunciations when discussing Plato with English speakers, very few will have the confidence to challenge you.

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  28. Ad Thomas W

    Thank you, very funny. But they sound (in English) terribly Danish; on purpose so? Or are they overdoing the Danish accent (in order to mock it?)

    Ad mallamb

    Well, I don't want to sound racist, but in my perception the English are an extremely strange (eccentric) nation, so to be in the safe side I prefer to take seriously everything they say, however weird it might seem. If they say they think things are thus and so ... well, let's pretend they are so, for friendship's sake.

    Ad Steve

    thank you. I imagined, though, that the French e' (accent aigu) tended to become 'ay' in English, no?

    Ad David Crosbie

    Thank you for your extensive and exhaustive explanation. I think I've got it. The Greek 'upsilon' becoming the vowel of 'win' when not stress, right?

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  29. Woiciech

    In Modern English spelling of English words, Y became a variant of I. After the Great Vowel Shift 'long' Y and I were both used with the value reflected in while 'short' Y and I retained the value reflected in modern ɪ (or unlengthened i).

    Latin words — and hence also Greek words — with Y in the spelling retained it in English spelling, and the symbol was read aloud with its usual English sound value.

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  30. Ad David Crosbie

    thank you. Someone has claimed that the 'y' (upsilon) in 'Euthydemos' is short, so youthiddEEMers'. I was trying to find out why (it be short): now it looks like: because it is not stressed. Roight? Fings ain't easy, as we see, for us non-anglophones at least.

    (Actually, in Greek it was EuTHYdemos, third-but-last stressed, but according to the rules of Latin accentuation the long "e" in the penultimate shifted stress onto it).

    I have various reasons to be fussy about Greek names in English, it's not just a gusto or fancy of mine.

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  31. @Wojciech: There was no stress accent in ancient Greek. The marked accent was a pitch accent with three different pitches. In modern Greek it's a stress accent. In the 1980s they got rid of all the pretty but no longer functional accents and started writing modern Greek with only the acute. This is why it's impossible to write Ancient Greek on a business Word program, annoyingly. Rodger C

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