Thursday, 29 July 2010

two placenames

Two placenames today.

One is Duisburg in Germany, recently in the news because of the tragedy at the Love Parade. In the British media, beside the ‘established anglicization’ (OBGP) ˈdjuːzbɜːɡ, I also heard newsreaders say ˈdjuːɪzbɜːɡ, an obvious spelling pronunciation. In German this place is ˈdyːsbʊʁk, which does not exactly follow the spelling. Personally, given that I learnt German in Kiel in the far north of the country, I tend to pronounce it ˈdyːsbʊɐç (like ˈhambʊɐç Hamburg) unless I remind myself not to.

The other placename is Slaugham, a village just off the main A23 road from London to Brighton, near the intriguingly named Pease Pottage. Driving past, I’ve sometimes idly wondered how this written form is to be interpreted: how do the locals pronounce this name? Does it rhyme with Maugham mɔːm? The answer is no.

Yesterday I was watching a traffic police video programme on television, when the action moved to this area. As the officers in the pursuit car reported their position over the radio I noted with interest that they called it ˈslɑːfəm. So it’s like laughter, not like slaughter. The old BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names says it can be either ˈslɑːfəm or ˈslæfəm, prioritizing the latter.


  1. And here I thought German was logical.

    Thanks for the correction.

  2. Given that Duisburg is in Northern Germany, John's ˈdyːsbʊɐç is probably closer to the locally used pronunciation.

    The Duis- apparently derives from an old Germanic root, but to me at least the spelling Duisburg feels more at home in Dutch. There is an identically named village in the Flemish part of Belgium.

  3. ˈdyːsbʊʁk

    That sounds kind of stilted. ˈdyːsbʊɐk is fine.

  4. John, do you say the diphthong with an [ɐ] or a schwa (or an [ɪ])?

    luke, stilted or with a Swabian (etc.) background.

  5. 'Duisburg' does look like Dutch orthography.

    And I suppose the [yː] came from the /œy/.

  6. >John, do you say the diphthong with an [ɐ] or a schwa (or an [ɪ])?
    In my head it's [ɐ], in rapid speech it could be closer.

  7. Wikipedia too has [ˈdyːsbʊɐ̯k], but the sound file is presumably of the local pronunciation. It has perceptible voicing of the s and certainly ɪ for the second half of the diphthong and ʊ or some sort of o for the first, but it sounds as if there is still some sort of coarticulated ʁ in there in spite of the assimilation to the final ç. It's probably just pharyngalization though.

  8. ˈdyːsbʊɐk is the usual, non-pedantic way of pronouncing this placename unless you are an elocution teacher.