Friday, 23 December 2011

classic rant

I find it really depressing that announcers on our most popular classical music station, Classic FM, have so little idea how to pronounce foreign languages. Surely anyone concerned with classical music needs at least a smidgin of awareness of the phonetics (reading rules) of Italian? And of German, too, I’d have thought.

A currently popular record album bears the title Il progetto Vivaldi 2. The Classic FM presenter called it ˈɪɫ prəˈɡetəʊ vɪˈvældi ˈtuː. I can see that it’s unreasonable to expect an educated Englishman to know the Italian for ‘2’ (due), but can’t everyone see that progetto is the Italian equivalent of the English word project and, like it, has ?

There’s a classical ensemble called Gli Incogniti (‘the unknown people’). How do you think the Classic FM announcer pronounces this difficult name? That’s right, ˈɡliː ɪŋkɒɡˈniːti . Perhaps he thinks gli is related to the English word glee. (It’s actually the form the Italian plural definite article takes before a vowel, and in Italian gl stands for a palatal lateral.) OK, I know we do tend to anglicize incognito with penultimate stress, but in Italian the stress is actually antepenultimate. To the best of my knowledge, the Italian pronunciation of the ensemble’s name is ʎi iŋˈkɔɲɲiti. There's a video of them here.

In other news, a recent contestant on the TV panel game University Challenge referred to Descartes as ˈdeɪkɑː, which is taking the deletion of French final consonants too far. In French, he's dekaʁt(ə).

But I salute our choirmaster’s skill in anglicizing Italian musical terms during a recent practice.
When we come to the ækəˈpeləri bit, I want you all to…
That’s an adjective formed by suffixing -y to a cappella, with word-internal intrusive r.

Rant over. Happy Christmas, everyone. Enjoy the music. Next blog: 27 Dec.

47 comments:

  1. "It’s actually the form the Italian plural definite article takes before a vowel [...]".

    Not always so, John. You can also find "gli" before consonants and semivowels: for instance, "gli scolari" ('the pupils').
    For more on that you can have a look at this article of mine:

    http://alex-ateachersthoughts.blogspot.com/2011/03/ecco-i-gnocchi.html

    "[I]n Italian gl stands for a palatal lateral."

    Not always. Think about words like "glicine" ('wisteria') and "glutine" ('gluten') always pronounced /gl-/.

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  2. What readers outside the UK may not know is that Classic FM is a commercial station. It's not so much 'our most popular classical music station' as the station that's much more popular than the other one — the non-commercial BBC Radio Three.

    [Actually, Radio Three is more broadly cultural, but the bulk of its output is classical music.]

    There are various factors that make Classic FM appeal more widely than Radio Three. An important one is that many find it less intimidating. And something that contributes to this feeling is that the broadcasters don't fuss with pronunciations that deviate too much from English spelling pronunciations.

    Radio Three by contrast, is under much less pressure to entice and reassure listeners. Authentic pronunciation chimes with a BBC tradition of educating and informing — if necessary at the expense of entertaining.

    Many listeners to Classic FM will never have encountered Gli Incogniti before. Some of them may well wish to go out and buy one of their CD's. What are they to say in a shop? Some record store assistants may recognise the Italian pronunciation, but it's a bit of a risk. And if you buy online, a spelling pronunciation is a handy thing to remember so that you recognise the group's name in writing.

    I happen to know the Russian pronunciation of Moussorgsky, but I wouldn't dream of using it in a British record shop.

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  3. Ad Alex:

    from a logician's point of view, your criticism of John's formulation is not justified. He said 'the form the ... article takes before a vowel', not: 'the form the ... article takes ONLY before a vowel'. But you're right, s impura, x, z, gn, pn ... all of these require "gli" instead of "i". Plus: gli dei, the origin of which I do not know.

    Generally:

    I have once known a very educated Englishman who kept telling me that in order to sound truly English, you have to systematically mispronounce diverse foreign names, like for instance, you have to sound your 't' in 'et' in for instance 'Orchestre re'volutionnaire et romantique' (whereupon I started recoursing to something like 'John Eliot Gardiner's ensemble', avoiding the challenge). Maybe he was just pulling my leg, as they say, amusing himself at my expense? Well, the English are such an eccentric nation, anyway....

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  4. progetto, Gabetta, Cappella, have double consonants tt pronounced t, pp p, ll l; g of progetto pronounced as ĝ of Esperanto, the two letters of the international phonetic alphabet dʒ for one sound

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  5. Well, here in Italy we pronounce U2 as /u(d)'due/, so it's just fair that English speakers mangle Italian names too. :-)

    ʎi iŋˈkɔɲɲiti
    Nitpick: hardly anybody would actually pronounce gli as a separate syllable in connected speech. (IIRC stuff like that used to be spelled gl'incogniti until a few centuries ago.)

    gli dei, the origin of which I do not know.
    My hypothesis was that il dio “the god” gave rise to Iddio (cf. Allah), which is still occasionally found, but when this was no longer transparent it gave rise to gl'iddei; then the I was lost. This also explains why the initial D is pronounced as doubled, both in the singular and the plural.

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  6. "To the best of my knowledge, the Italian pronunciation of the ensemble’s name is ʎi iŋˈkɔɲɲiti."

    Close, but, the "o" should be close o rather than open ɔ, at least according to the dictionaries; and, as Army1987 points out, the article would be elided into the vowel that immediately follows it. Thus, ʎiŋˈkoɲɲiti.

    What would a reasonable English approximation of that be? One can't expect English speakers to produce or even to approximate the Italian ʎ, least of all at the beginning of a syllable. There seem to be several choices:

    "gli in-": lɪŋ, li(ː)n, or li(ː) ɪŋ?

    "-cogniti": UK ˈkəʊnjɪti (US ˈkoʊnjəti), ˈkɒnjɪti (US ˈkɑnjəti), or UK ˈkɒgnɪti (US ˈkɑgnəti)?

    I should think that the pronunciation that is closest to the Anglophone interpretation of the spelling would have the greatest chance of being understood and followed. On that consideration, I would favor, for the UK, liː ɪŋˈkɒgnɪti, and for the US, li ɪŋˈkɑgnəti).

    By the way, in the US, the word "incognito" is almost universally pronounced with the stress erroneously placed on the penultimate syllable. Only among my singer friends could I pronounce it with stress on the second syllable without my interlocutors failing to understand me or thinking that I was making a mistake.

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  7. The o is open (ò) in my dictionaries...

    http://www.dizionario.rai.it/poplemma.aspx?lid=48083&r=40034

    http://etimo.it/?term=incognito

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  8. As for anglicizations, what about jɪŋˈkɒnjɪtiː?

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  9. My mum wears a prefume called 'Anaïs Anaïs' by Cacharel. I've had more than one conversation on these lines in the last week or so...



    Me: Have you got a perfume called æneɪˌi:s æneɪˈi:s?



    Shop assistant: əˌneɪ əˈneɪ? Yes...

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  10. I think this is a bit of a snobby post, to be honest. So what if presenters 'mispronounce' foreign words? I'm sure you're not suggesting that we attempt to pronounce every foreign name or word with native-like pronunciation ... so why highlight these examples? As long as we understand what the presenters are saying, and as long as they're reasonably consistent, who cares? Not worth ranting about in my opinion!

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  11. Thanks to Steve for correcting my false correction on the value of the "o" in "incognito": I misread (as I often do) the odd little symbols used in the Penguin Cambridge Italian Dictionary to indicate such things. I think I was also misled by the fact that the stressed "o" in "conoscere" is closed, though it does not correspond to the same syllable.

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  12. I once heard a waitress pronounce millefeuille Milly Foyle, an organist pronounce Lefebure-Wely leɪ'feɪbəreɪ 'welɪ and an announcer on BBC radio say: "And now we have our weekly German programme, ,kɒn'tæktə"

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  13. I'm afraid that listeners to Classic FM get what they deserve. It provides the general public with a crash course in good tunes from classical music, but I think anyone who already has some familiarity with the classics can find a lot more on that station to rant about than its phonetics.

    As David Crosbie points out, BBC Radio 3 has a very different function, and its THEIR mangling of foreign words that sets my teeth on edge. Pace Sally, Radio 3 is a bit snobby to start with, which is why I'm irritated by such routine pronunciations there as "adagio" [əˈdɑːʒiːəu] when there's nothing awkward for an English speaker in either [əˈdɑːdʒəu] or [əˌdadʒəu], both of which would be closer to the Italian.

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  14. Geoff Lindsey

    Radio 3 is a bit snobby to start with, which is why I'm irritated by such routine pronunciations there as "adagio" [əˈdɑːʒiːəu]

    I'm not particularly irritated, but it is rather curious. It seems that nobody bothers to correct Radio Three broadcasters provided that they sound 'foreign' enough. Somehow one feels that a producer might have a quiet word with a speaker who read Italian gli as if it were English glee.

    It seems that there are two flavours of snobbiness:
    1. Disapproval of speakers who read foreign words as if they are English.
    2. Disapproval of speakers who read words in particular foreign languages with inauthentic sounds.

    Classic FM seems to have a policy — de facto if not by conscious decision — of avoiding accusation of both the one and the other.

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  15. 3. Disapproval of speakers who read foreign words, especially those that are established in English, with an authentic foreign accent for no good reason.

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  16. Lipman

    Isn't that inverted snobbiness?

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  17. Not sure, but that's an interesting idea. I think it might be for those who can't pronounce the words as in the source language but secretly, maybe even unconsciously, want to.

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  18. In all honesty, at what point does a word stop being foreign and start being simply borrowed? Incognito seems like a word that's so well understood in English that it's seems like it should be difficult to justify using the pronunciation from the original language; hence, I've never heard an AmE speaker say inCOGnito but I've probably heard everyone I know use this word at some point in my life. Because I really don't know, isn't this essentially an English word now? It even shows up in Merriam-Webster's with the online version giving stress on the penultimate syllable.

    I even have mixed feelings about pronouncing foreign names with foreign accents. The announcers from classical station here always make a point to pronounce Bach as German-ly as possible and I often wonder if it's even correct. If it's not, then why bother? Just say it with a /k/. My composition teacher, who's fluent in Spanish but not Italian, loves to pronounce Italian names with a Spanish accent as if that makes it correct because the languages are more related. I think I'd rather have someone pronouncing these things with as if they're English names unless they actually speak the other language.

    I had no idea progetto was a cognate of project either. They look similar but I've been confused by false cognates while learning other languages one too many times to make that assumption, for what it's worth.

    Interesting rant, sorry my non-expert response is so long. I'm sure I'm way out of my league here.

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  19. JoshMc

    In all honesty, at what point does a word stop being foreign and start being simply borrowed? Incognito seems like a word that's so well understood in English that it's seems like it should be difficult to justify using the pronunciation from the original language

    One point when a word stops being foreign is when it takes on English grammar restrictions. Incognito has become an English adjective — but an adjective of such restricted use that it might as well be an adverb.

    The grammar of incognito back in Italian is very different. Like many adjectives, it can be used with an article as a noun — equivalent to English the unknown one/an unknown one. This noun hasn't migrated to English. If it did, we would talk about the incognito or an incognitowith plural the incognitos or some incognitos.

    But that never happened, so il incognito is Italian only — even more so the plural form gli incogniti.

    Yes, it would be unnatural to say in English that someone was travelling iŋˈkɔɲɲitɔ or that a couple were travelling iŋˈkɔɲɲiti. That's one side of the line between borrowed and foreign but Gli Incogniti is very much on the other side.

    That's not to say that we should look down on people who don't get the foreign sounds 'right'.

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  20. What would a reasonable English approximation of that be? One can't expect English speakers to produce or even to approximate the Italian ʎ, least of all at the beginning of a syllable.
    English /j/ is a perfectly reasonable approximation to Italian /ʎ/ IMO. (And it's not like the distinction between Italian /j/ and /ʎ/ has that much lexical load either -- the former being single and the latter being geminated except in weird situations, and it's not like no native speaker ever mixes them up.)

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  21. NED (1884) had (ădā·dʒⁱo), so the solecism is not new.

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  22. Army 1987

    English /j/ is a perfectly reasonable approximation to Italian /ʎ/ IMO.

    I'm not sure how we can ignore the written form to that extent. I mean I'm not sure we're psychologically able to — not when we're dealing with something that appears on CD labels, concert posters and Radio Times listings.

    But even if we did manage to blind our eyes to the letter L, there would remain (for me, at least) two problems:

    1. ji: ɪŋˈkɔnjɪti: or thereabouts would carry connotation of Ye Olde Tea Shoppe

    2. The absence of any l -like sound would disguise the clue that the word is a definite article. (OK, the same is true of i but two wrongs don't make a right.)

    An anglicised pronunciation has several jobs to do if it is to be useful for those who don't speak the source language. The punters' priorities aren't necessarily the same as those of the phonetician.

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  23. Army 1987,

    David is right, very often there's a better match for a sound in a foreign word, but convention is stronger. And I'm not even talking about traditional English equivalents (Puckee or Pugghee might be phonetically closer to French 'Paris' etc.)

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  24. No more than two months ago, I asked for John's comment on two "problems" of English pronunciation, as it appears on BBC-TV.

    The professor's answer was:
    "My role as a phonetician is to observe and describe what is happening, as
    accurately and objectively as possible. It is up to individual speakers to
    decide what they "ought" to say."

    The above seems to me utterly inconsistent with the present post.

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  25. Kim

    I think we need to make a distinction between these two:

    1. the pronunciations by English speakers of English words known to the great majority of other English speakers

    2. the pronunciation by English speakers of foreign words known to a minority English speakers as written words and to a smaller minority as spoken words — from a language which an even smaller minority of English speakers can speak, and a smaller minority still can pronounce with a degree of authenticity

    In case [1] pronunciation is a democratic matter; anything which is understood and which is adopted by a fair number of speakers is an authentic variant. It cannot be 'incorrect'.

    Yes, there are times when someone who has never uttered a particular word before, and who has seen it only in writing, enunciates it with a pronunciation that is generally neither used nor understood. In these limited circumstances, even the speaker might admit to being mistaken.

    In case [2] any pronunciation that no native speaker would ever use is — in a limited sense — 'incorrect'. But does it matter? Well, inauthentic pronunciations can have disadvantages:

    1. The Anglicised pronunciation may be so different from the native that a native speaker wouldn't be able to recognise the word.

    2. The Anglicised pronunciation may be so idiosyncratic that other English speakers who use other Anglicisations may not recognise it as the same word.

    More seriously, it's hard for an inauthentic pronunciation to become standardised — even as a standard variant. Hard but not impossible: we've had the sample of incognito on this thread, But this is a word of long standing in English. Wwith instant borrowings there's no guarantee that any one Anglicisation will become standard.

    Without necessarily agreeing with his answers, I'm sure John has raised the right questions.

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  26. Thanks, David, for the comment.
    (Unlike many of the posters, I am no professional, nor am I English.)

    I do not consider your distinction between English and foreign or "non-English" relevant. It is as if you considered English "democratic" and all non-English languages "authoritarian". Only in that erroneous perspective can one disregard the ample evidence, in this discussion to begin with, of varieties of Italian.
    I know of no language that would be "undemocratic" in this sense.

    My specific worry was one of homophony, thus of precisely what you call pronunciation being "understood by a fair number". It went thus, in my missive to the professor:

    "The difference between U (as in “you”) and EE (or i, ie, ei, ea etc.) tends to disappear, especially in the “niece ream” (in the “news room”).

    “Suicide bomb” becomes indistinguishable from “seaside bomb”
    “a green future” is pronounced “a green feature”
    “female pupils” becoming “female peoples”
    and sometimes “football”, less dangerously, is given as “fitball”.
    - “a lick at the weather” (pro: look)
    - “the price of feed” (pro: food)
    - “Michelle Fleury; he’s in Washington” (pro: who’s in Washington)
    - “he had had tea much to drink” (pro: too much)
    - “Mr. Toyota, the grandson of Toyotas finder” (pro: founder)"


    Would you agree with me that the Beeb's World News aims at being understood by viewers of non-English nationality?

    Indeed, it seems to me far from certain that even your average Englishman is capable of instinctively discerning amid such homophony.

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  27. Kim, I think you misunderstand David. It's not about whether Italian, or French are democratic. The point is, we English speakers don't get to choose how they pronounce their language. It's not our language.

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  28. I see:
    "our language" = understand it if you will
    "their language" = authority decides for us


    Example (admittedly off the topic of classical music):

    The most unanimously observed feature of French prosody (or pronunciation) is: phrasal stress on the LAST syllable.

    Yet, most English newscasters pronounce the name "Sarkozy" as "Sar-COSY" ("cosy", as of a jovial type).

    No living French authority allows for such high-handedness.

    Whose language is it, Ellen?

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  29. No, their language = native speakers of the language, not us, decide how it's correctly pronounced.

    I'm not saying we should pronounce things like native speakers. Actually, I'm not saying anything at all except that I believe you misunderstood what someone else (David Crosbie) said. Though I agree with what he said.

    Your example is really beside the point, since it isn't either the the two things he was talking about. It's not a foreign word borrowed into English, and it's not quoting something in a foreign language; it's a person's name.

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  30. A person's name... So is "Descartes" (mentioned by John). Even "Vivaldi" is.


    When defence of territory becomes the issue, any sensible man bows out.

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  31. Kim

    I just don't accept your list. Any of it.

    Yes, I accept that you may have heard somebody say founder with something like the same pronunciation that somebody else says finder. But that's two different people with two different accents.

    The finder variant is considered part of a stereotypical British upper-class accent. Comedians make fun of this accent and cartoonists use funny spelling in their captions — typically Prince Phillip saying hice meaning 'house'. But the joke wouldn't work if we didn't understand the parody of an upper-class accent.

    The person who has done more than anyone to allow non-specialists to talk about accents is John himself. He has compiles lists of words that usually sound the same as each other in any one accent — even though the sound that they share in one accent is different from the sound shared in another accent. John calls them 'lexical sets' and gives us a typical word as a mnemonic for each set.

    An easy example is the difference between the sets MOUTH and PRICE. Imagine two speakers — Tom and Jerry, say — with very different accent. Tom saying mouth has the same vowel sound as Jerry saying price, so:

    • Tom saying founder sounds like Jerry saying finder
    • Tom saying noun sounds like Jerry saying nine etc

    BUT

    • Tom saying founder, noun doesn't sound like Tom saying finder, nine etc.
    • Jerry saying founder, noun doesn't sound like Jerry saying finder, nine etc.

    Imagine that one of them — Jerry, say — has a very unusual accent. So it will take us a little longer to understand Jerry than Tom. But once our ears are tuned to Jerry's accent, we won't have any difficulty knowing whether he's saying founder or finder.

    It's slightly less simple with the sets that most of your words belong to: GOOSE and FLEECE. The complication is that some words in the GOOSE set have a vowel sound that starts with a Y-sound — but not in every accent. Still, the principle is the same. Let's have three hypothetical speakers: Tom, Dick and Harry.

    • Tom may pronounce food differently from feud
    • Dick may pronounce food and feud identically.
    • Either of them may pronounce food the way Harry pronounces feed
    • However, not one of them will pronounce food and feed identically.

    This is why you can't write about "The difference between U (as in “you”) and EE in English generally. There's a difference in each speaker's accent, but the two contrasting sounds may be very different.

    Before you can compare in all the different PRICE and MOUTH sounds, all the different the GOOSE and FLEECE sounds made by Tom, Jerry, Dick, Harry, you need an objective way of describing them all and representing them on paper. That's where phoneticians like John and symbolic systems like IPA come in.

    I do recommend studying John's lexical sets (which is quite easy) and the way IPA is used to represent English (which is harder, but not excessively hard). If 'not English' means that you speak another first language, it would be a good idea to learn the way IPA is used to represent your language. If 'not English' means that you’re an English-speaker but not from England it will be a bit harder to study the way IPA is used to represent different accents, but you might enjoy the learning experience.

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  32. As I said earlier, it is not worth gatecrashing unless other participants are willing to take some PRACTICAL considerations into account.

    What I find is that your ivory tower rests on abstractions all the way. (This, of course, in addition to unthinking protection of territory.)

    One abstraction is the crazy assumption that non-English languages obey stringent rules for the English-speaker to emulate.

    (How should "Tchaikovsky" be pronounced: according to our transliteration or in keeping with how each and every Russian-speaker pronounces the name?)

    Another formidable abstraction is the assumption that "too much to drink" and "tea much to drink" cannot be confused, because "each speaker" (due to "accent") makes a distinction.

    The obvious question is:
    What "accent" on the BBC is primarily heard from the mainly young and the mainly female?

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  33. Kim

    How should "Tchaikovsky" be pronounced: according to our transliteration or in keeping with how each and every Russian-speaker pronounces the name?)

    Possibly the former. Not the latter — for a very practical reason; if you use the same first vowel sound as Russian speakers use, then few speakers of other languages will recognise the name. Whether you use a V-sound or an F-sound at the end of the second syllable is, indeed, theoretical — but of very little importance.

    Another formidable abstraction is the assumption that "too much to drink" and "tea much to drink" cannot be confused, because "each speaker" (due to "accent") makes a distinction.

    I don't know why you consider it an abstraction. It's a truth. A profound truth. A truth supported by every possible observation. It could hardly be more concrete.

    If you personally cannot tell whether somebody is saying too much to drink or tea much to drink then it's because the speaker has an unfamiliar accent. You are perfectly free to leave it at that — to decide that the speaker probably has nothing interesting to say, and that you will therefore not bother to attune your ear to his or her accent. But that doesn't alter the truth, the concrete truth.

    Phonetics is a very practical science, and the allied discipline of phonology is more practical than most. They feed into the very practical activities of teaching foreign languages and the engineering of voice-recogntion or voice-synthesis.

    I seriously suggest that you either listen to people who understand something of these very practical pursuits — experts like John or practical teachers like me — or stop asking questions based on such imprecise theoretical abstraction as U and EE.

    The obvious question is:
    What "accent" on the BBC is primarily heard from the mainly young and the mainly female?


    It's not obvious to me. if you can articulate the question — and the unspoken assumptions behind it — in terms that people here can understand, perhaps somebody will answer you.

    I hope this doesn't sound aggressive. I'd like to help, or see someone else help you.

    PS You don't sound like someone who is 'not English'.

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  34. Is i for ай in Tchaikovsky a one-off, or does it follow a rule?

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  35. Anglophones can get into all sorts of trouble through not pronouncing foreign names right.

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  36. Steve

    Common sense, surely. If you write Tchaykovsky, English readers will say tʃeɪ-. Think balalaika, Aitmatov, Laika, Baikal...

    It's unfortunate that unstressed ай sounds so different from stressed ай. But if you try to represent the unstressed sound in English (or any other non-Russian) spelling, it simply makes the name less recognisable.

    Oh dear. I wrote the above thinking that you were talking about the letter i in the English spelling. Did you mean the sound i in Russian pronunciation? If so then the answer is yes, it's perfectly regular if the ай represents an unstressed sound.

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  37. Thanks, David. Sorry for the ambiguity: I was indeed referring to the pronunciation, not the transliteration.

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  38. Ad Steve,

    several English persons have told me that to sound truly English (while speaking English) one is under the obligation to systematically _mispronounce_ foreign (non-anglicised) names. To pronounce foreign names correctly, from an English person's point of view is, following this wisdom, to pronounce them _incorrectly_ from a foreign ('barbarian', from the English POV) point of view.

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  39. David

    No, nothing in what you submit sounds "aggressive", which is indeed relief after another poster who addressed me seeming concerned mainly with her own likes and dislikes.

    The unspoken assumption behind my worry as to the anarchic BBC pronunciation of what you term the GOOSE sound is the following:

    I am truly a foreigner and an "autodidact" in the usage of English. I often listen to the BBC, and Sky, reporting "suicide bombs" as what to my (admittedly imperfect) ear sounds like "seaside bombs". (The world seems to be full of those. Some of the reporters still manage to confuse me!)

    People doing this scary thing are VERY often youngish people, often ladies. I shall be damned if I concede their regional accent to be
    one and the same...

    Of course, I am not asking you - nor John - to fix this for me.

    I just thought that, having mounted one's "descriptive" high horses, one should not readily lapse into establishing "norms", for Italian, Russian, or French.

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  40. The misunderstanding is that most of these changes don't lead to mergers. (Some do.) The preceived mergers are, as David wrote above, actually pronunciations similar or let it be identical to the other word in a different accent.

    So, to simplify, the reporter talking about a sɨːsɑəd bomb won't use the same first word for a resort near the coast but would say səjsɑəd there. sɨːsɑəd just sounds similar to the siːsäɪd in the system taught to you.

    (We bought a toy "laptop", My 3-year-old son repeats "choo choo" as in train when the thing says "turtle", a word he otherwise already has in his active repertory. He also repeats "neat" when it says "newt".)

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  41. I just thought that, having mounted one's "descriptive" high horses, one should not readily lapse into establishing "norms", for Italian, Russian, or French.

    How hard is it to understand that we aren't talking about establishing norms for other languages, we are talking about following norms established by native speakers of the languages. Two very different things.

    And why you, Kim, think I'm talking about my personal likes and dislikes I haven't the faintest idea.

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  42. Ellen

    This I do call abstraction.

    Norms are established by "native speakers" as little, or as much, in foreign laguages as in English.

    In other words:
    If, in English, you gladly accept GEESE (singular) for GOOSE, I recommend you tread very, very softly in other languages.

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  43. Kim

    There was a time when the BBC World Service employed only announcers with accents that were easy for foreign listeners to understand. Those days are long gone and will never return.

    You have a stark choice: either you must attune your ear to the accents that are novel to you, or you must give up listening BBC and Sky. The language isn't going to change back just to make you more comfortable.

    Doctor Johnson toyed with the idea of fixing pronunciation by ridding English of all deviant new sounds. He soon realised the futility:

    With this hope, however, academies have been instituted, to guard the avenues of their languages, to retain fugitives, and repulse intruders; but their vigilance and activity have hitherto been vain; sounds are too volatile and subtile for legal restraints; to enchain syllables, and to lash the wind, are equally the undertakings of pride, unwilling to measure its desires by its strength.

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  44. David, there's a question remaining:

    What/who has given you reason to believe that varieties do not exist in languages other than English?

    I ask this, because I haven't seen you reject Ellen's blind faith in "following norms established by native speakers of the languages".


    Let me wish you a good new year, assuring you that giving up on the BBC and Sky would be a most undramatic choice for me.

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  45. Kim

    What/who has given you reason to believe that varieties do not exist in languages other than English?

    I could never believe such a preposterous idea. I see no evidence that Ellen believes it either.

    Remember that varieties are also norms. Idiolects are seldom unique in more than trivial features or unusual frequency of features.

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  46. Kim, by quoting me out of context, you make it look like "norm" was my choice of word, when it was actually your word choice, which I used in reply to you.

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