Thursday, 10 June 2010


Brian Jongseong Park, who wants to offer some advice to the National Institute of the Korean Language on recommended Korean spellings of names of World Cup squad members, asked about the pronunciation of Kagisho Dikgacoi in the original language. This is the name of a South African footballer, who also plays for Fulham FC in the UK.
A quick internet search seems to indicate that it’s a Tswana name, although the ‘c’ in the spelling suggests a non-Tswana origin, if it does indeed stand for the dental click found in Zulu and other languages. My guess for the original pronunciation would be [kaˈxisʰʊ dɪ(k)xaˈǀoi] based on the scant information I've been able to glean on Tswana (or with [χ] instead of [x]), but there are a few puzzling areas. […]
Also, although this is irrelevant to my question, how is the dental click [ǀ] usually approximated in an anglicized pronunciation? Or are words that have this sound that have found their way into English so rare that there is no usual approximation?

Being no expert on Tswana, I approached the BBC Pronunciation Unit. My former student Jo Kim, now working for the Unit, told me
Our own recommendation for this name is:
kuh-HEE-soh dick-ACK-oy (-h as in hot, -oh as in no, -oy as in boy, stressed syllables in upper case)
(That is, kəˈhiːsəʊ dɪˈkækɔɪ.)
This is established anglicisation and the pronunciation given to us by Fulham FC Press Office, who consulted the player himself and wrangled up this English pronunciation between them. This was the anglicisation preferred by Mr. Dikgacoi according to the press office but I wasn't able to speak to the player himself.

A South African contact at the World Service told us that this name is Tswana. I spoke to a Tswana speaker on the phone (so I was unable to see anything!) but I certainly heard this: ka'xisʰo dik'xaǀoi

Wikipedia gives a quite different anglicization, namely diːˈxɑːtʃwɑː. Jo continued:
The 'dee-KHAA-chwaa' pronunciation was actually suggested to us by a colleague at ESPN [an American cable TV network, JCW] at one point as the “correct” pronunciation. I did hear audio of some Anglophone sports commentators based in Africa calling him by that pronunciation but I suspect that 'oi' being pronounced as 'waa' is a gallicization, perhaps due to the abundance of French names in South Africa.

So: in Tswana ka'xisʰo dik'xaǀoi; in English kəˈhiːsəʊ dɪˈkækɔɪ. (Americans would probably prefer kəˈhiːsoʊ dɪˈkɑːkɔɪ.)

Jongseong also wanted to know about the usual anglicization of clicks in borrowed words. I’ll look at that issue tomorrow.


  1. First of all, thank you Professor Wells, for this informative post!

    I encountered the pronunciation of 'oi' in the name as 'waa' in a number of videos online. If it is indeed a gallicization, it's somewhat surprising as Dikgacoi otherwise does not look anything like a French name, although that may be less obvious to South Africans.

    As for French names in South Africa, the 'oi' in Francois is pronounced as in French but Du Toit is pronounced [dəˈtɔɪ], so an 'oi' even in a French name doesn't always trigger a French-style pronunciation.

  2. It really was catastrophic to change the perfectly good old IPA symbols for dental and lateral clicks to ǀ and ǁ, wasn't it? Especially for the fonts used in this blog!

  3. I'm a bit surprised that the BBC Pronunciation Unit didn't start from the phonemic structure of the Tswana name, but if one accepts their method then their answer is definitive.

    If the problem is to establish the Tswana phonemes, however, then there's an excellent Setswana phonology (in English) from the University of Botswana, available from Amazon etc. It's a bit expensive - 15 to 20 pounds for 65 pages - but very clear and straightforward. It actually gives you two parallel phonologies, one using the traditional voicing-place-manner terminology and the other in terms of distinctive features (fortunately they produce the same answers!). It uses IPA, and part of its remit is to teach elementary phonetics. It seems to me an excellent publication, a fine example of how to do a basic phonology.

    A brief look at it yielded the following information about consonants:

    - 'k' represents /k/ (unaspirated).

    - 'g' represents /X/ (uvular), or [x] for some speakers.

    - 's' represents /s/.

    - 'h' represents /h/.

    - 'd' respresents [d] or [l], which are allophones.

    - 'kg' represents /qh/ (uvular, aspirated), frequently [qX].

    - 'c' represents the dental click. However, clicks are found only in loan-words and exclamations, and are not used by younger speakers.

    Assuming that the informant substituted [l] for the click, this squares with JCW's report, except that 'kg' should have been /qX/ rather than /kx/. No doubt the phone-line is to blame.

  4. The informant used not [l] (lateral) but [|] (dental click). In the older IPA notation, this click would be written [ʇ].

  5. Thank you, Derek, for the further information.

    For the record, the spelling I ended up recommending to the National Institute of the Korean Language is 카히소 디카코이 ('Kahiso Dikakoi' in Revised Romanization).

    Note that while Korean has a three-way distinction of plain, aspirated, and tense consonants, we use only two of the series when representing foreign sounds: unvoiced sounds are mapped to aspirated consonants regardless of aspiration in the original language, while voiced sounds are mapped to plain consonants.

  6. Speaking of Anglicization of click consonants, and given that the World Cup is in South Africa, I have not figured out the proper anglicized pronunciation of "Xhosa". The "xh", IIRC, represents and lateralized dental click, which would probably give /l/ or /d/ in English, but I have always heard it as /koʊsə/ or /hoʊsə/, or even [zoʊsə]. What's the right pronunciation?

  7. Taylor: see next blog entry.

  8. I note that Wikipedia no longer says diːˈxɑːtʃwɑː

  9. I thought at first you must have altered the Wikipedia entry yourself with lightning speed, David, as I checked the character code in the entry almost as soon as you had posted that. But checking back I see that Jongseong's apparently identical transcriptions of the day before were the right way round already:

    > Wikipedia currently has [kǀétʃʷʼajo], not [klétʃʷ'ajo].<

    So Wikipedia didn't need altering! But of course it's quite impossible to see the difference either in Wikipedia on this blog unless you copy it and change the font. As I said on Thursday re Dikgacoi,

    > It really was catastrophic to change the perfectly good old IPA symbols for dental and lateral clicks to ǀ and ǁ, wasn't it? Especially for the fonts used in this blog!<

    We have seen since in spades how catastrophic. JW has long been using | for ǀ, as Jongseong has done since the post of his I quoted above. What a farce that we should be reduced to this ad-hockery! What on EARTH possessed the Africanists working on Khoi-San languages to lobby for the Nama orthographic symbols when the IPA had perfectly good ones already in its best iconic tradition, and what on EARTH possessed Ladefoged et al to get the IPA to adopt them?.

  10. Sorry, my last post doesn't belong here. It relates to the continuation of this discussion the next day, Friday, 11 June 2010: "anglicizing clicks", where I have re-posted it in context.

  11. The BBC commentator tonight is calling him /dɪˈkaʃwi/.

    Another name with a click, Gaxa, is being anglicised with /k/.

  12. This is the name of a South African footballer, who also plays for Fulham FC in the UK.