A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

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A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by canaanbananarama » Sat Dec 11, 2010 6:52 am

Hey,

So, I remember talking about this project a while ago, but drunkenly I decided to work on it tonight and get started on it. Basically what I'm trying to accomplish is getting a guide out there that's reader-friendly and not too wacky on the linguistic terms and down to earth and whatnot about pronouncing various languages in quizbowl. So far, this is a rough draft that I produced tonight with something like 10-15 languages (right now European and Middle Eastern) and I'd like comments/feedback/if there's anybody who'd like to produce a section that would be better than me at doing so, that's great. There are obviously some gaping holes (no German, Dutch, East Asian languages, Celtic, etc.) but it's intended to be a start towards something better. Apologies for length and formatting (transferring it from word).


A General Guide to Pronouncing Foreign Words (for Quizbowl but useful in other fields)
By Charles Meigs

Section #1: Romance Languages:
1A.) Spanish:
Spanish is taken by a large number of quizbowl students, since it is the second most commonly spoken languages in the United States. It would be snooty of me to not cover basics, but hopefully most of you can ignore this.
The “j”: if you are not a Spanish speaker, you should just think of this “h”. Jorge = WHORE-hey, Juan = HWAHN (although easier as WAHN, because of the “u”). Very few exceptions to this rule include Byron’s “Don Juan,” (JOO-uhn), which is an English poem by an Englishman before people cared to bother about speaking Spanish correctly.
The “h”: always silent except when it’s “ch”; however, in standard American pronunciation of common Spanish names, it is common to keep the “h” and thus unless you’re going for native speaker imitation, it’s fine to say “HAHN-dure-us” or Higuera (HIG-ey-ra) (Spanish: EE-gue-rah). You will not confuse Spanish speakers by pronouncing the usually silent “h,” so pick your preference.
The “ll”: best approximated in standard speech by an English “y,” though this is one of the most confounding letters in dialect. The language of Spain is Caste “y” ano, not Caste “l” ano. However, Castile is usually spelled with one “l” so saying “cu-STEEL” is fine. The name Castillo is pronounced with a “y”. Villahermosa, charming capital of the state of Tabasco, with a “y”
The “x”: Unless it is a standard English pronunciation, your best bet is to pronounce it “h” like the Spanish “j”. During the medieval and Renaissance periods, it became quite confused with “j”-thus you’ll see “Don Quixote” or “Don Quijote,” San Antonio’s county can be spelled “Bexar” or “Bejar”. They all pronounce “h”. The exception you should make to this rule as a moderator is obviously “Mexico” or “Texas,” as unless you are actually speaking Spanish, the “ks” sound is appropriate. However, for other important cities, the rule applies: Oaxaca is “wah-hah-kuh”
Oddities/rarities in quizbowl
The “gue”: You’re almost certain that this is pronounced like the word “gay,” except in two situations. Camagüey, a large city in Cuba, and the surname Argüello (famously borne by the Nicaraguan wrestler Alexis). It is now “gway” because of the diaresis. This is very rare in Spanish; the two examples above are the most prominent.
The Castilian accent: in Castilian “c” before “e” or “i” and “z”, become “th” as in “thought.” So Federico García Lorca’s paternal name is “gar-THEE-uh”. My birthname is Pérez, pronounced in Castilian as “PAIR-eth,” not “PAIR-es”. It’s fairly unnecessary to adopt this eccentricity, unless you believe in the inferiority of the Latin American dialects and various mainland Spanish dialects that do not have this affectation.
1B.) Portuguese
Portuguese is hard to make out to untrained eyes from Spanish. Many of the names and places “could” be Spanish, but aren’t, and the difference “Well, clearly Rio de Janeiro is Portuguese because eñero is the Spanish” is for people who speak either language. Compound that with the fact that many names/words are virtually the same and Brazil, the foremost producer of current Portuguese culture, is such a hybrid of Spanish, Portuguese, and other influences. For example, with the composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, you have an example of a person with a very Portuguese first name and a very Spanish last name. So, don’t make too much of this section, but it’s FYI.
The “j” and “g” in Portuguese: “J” and (“g” before “e” or “i”) are pronounced exactly like “j” in French. That is to say like the second consonant in the word “measure” or “treasure,” which I’ll write as “zh.” In fact Portuguese has a great deal of similarities to French in terms of pronunciation, as you’ll see. Spanish used to sound a lot closer to Portuguese, but went more on its own track in the 16th and 17th centuries. The noted Brazilian author Jorge Amado’s first name is pronounced like the French “Georges” (zhorzh); it’s fairly common and understandable to see the name Amado and think it’s Spanish (it can be), but if you want accuracy, understand when you’re talking about Brazilian/Portuguese figures. On the subject of “ge,” the same applies. It’s Getulio (zhe-TOO-lee-oh) Vargas. Another thing to note, if you wish
The “ch” and “x”: Both of these are pronounced “sh.” To provide some common examples: the name Machado is present in both Spanish and Portuguese. In the Northwest of Spain there is a region called Galicia which speaks a mix of the two languages, described to be as “a Portuguese past five beers trying to speak Spanish.” Machado is a name that exists in both languages. However in Portuguese, it is “muh-SHAH-doe,” not “muh-CHAH-doe” as in Castilian Spanish. God knows how the Galicians pronounce it. So, for example if you saw in a tossup the name João (John in Portuguese) Machado, you would pronounce it “sh.” If you see Juan Machado, “ch.” The “x” is best exemplified in the name of baseball player Mark Teixeira…it’s pronounced “sh” for a reason, and that’s ‘cuz it’s right. Tejera, as in Michael Tejera of the Marlins, is the Spanish equivalent. But it’s not a well common name. And in Portuguese, the name José (not hardly as common as in Spanish) is pronounced “zho-SAY”
Those dastardly ã’s and õ’s: The bloody Portuguese have some of the same nasal vowels that the French do…and these aren’t entirely dissimilar from French “-an” and “-on”. Usually (if they’re marked in quizbowl) they come before e’s or o’s. A simple rule is “aye”, “ow” and “o-way,” even if that’s not how the Portuguese do things. Hence, João becomes (zho-ow), and the popular Lusiads writer is most easily pronounced “Ca-mo-way-s”. Now, note that after all of these vowels, there is a faint “n” sound, and that it can screw up the subsequent consonant, so that you can pronounce Camões (as cam-OH-ensh) and be perfectly acceptable. There may be no “n” visible or a “sh” even, but your moderator is a chowderhead. Protest the hell out of that shit.
The “lh” and “nh”-the rough equivalents to these in Spanish are “ll” and “ñ”. You’ll see this in Portuguese names like Carvalho and Mourinho. Generally, the best bet is to go with “lyo” and “nyo” in each of these cases. Tristan da Cunha (da Cunha is a popular Portuguese surname) is pronounced “coon-yuh”
General rules for awareness that you’re in a Portuguese tossup:
If names that end in “an” end in “ão,” i.e. “Damian” = Damião or “Esteban” = “Estevão”
If you’re running into last names that you thing should be spelled with a “z” at the end, but have an “s”; i.e. Lopes, Nunes, Rodrigues, Martines, Fernandes, Dias
If you ever see the last name “Costa,” “Souza,” or “Silva” goddamned 40% of them have those names

1C. Italian
Italian is one of the most frustrating languages in quizbowl. I mean, there are so many questions about arias and stuff, and we’re so accustomed to Spanish, and Italian looks so similar and is the most similar language pronunciation-wise to Spanish that it’s just easiest to go with the Spanish, right. And for Spanish speakers, it’s pretty easy to pick up Italian; the pronunciation differences ARE slight, but important.
“ch” or “cch”: Assuming you studied Spanish, you might want to pronounce words like “chiusa” as “CHOO-sah”, but it’s “key-oo-sah”. Ch and cch are always “k” sounds in Italian. For reference, Niccolò Machiavelli, you know how to pronounce that, right.
“c” or “cc”: These become the “ch” sounds of English and Spanish. It’s important of course to note, that they’re only pronounced “ch” in front of “e” and “i”…to write Charles in Italian, you’d have to start out “Cia.” As in “ciabatta” bread. Or the “Ciompi” (chohm-pee). There is a distinction between the single “c” and the doubled one, as they mean that you should make the “ch” sound in one or two consonants (Italian has many repeated consonants), but it’s not super important that you know the difference between (poo-chee-nee; educated guess) and (pooch-chee-nee; correct Italian)
“g” before “n” or “g” before “l”-these sounds are similar to “ñ” and “ll” in Spanish. However, with the latter, you do pronounce the “l” sound”. Mio figlio (my son) is pronounced (fee-lyoh). Andrea Bargnani “bar-nyah-nee”
“g” before “i” or “e’: pronounced “j” as an English. As I speak Italian and from what I’ve heard, the “i” sound especially can be unheard. Common examples would include things like “Giacomo,” “Giovanni,” “Giuseppe.” In the case of the American actor Paul Giamatti’s name, people do pronounce the “I” but this is an Americanization; it’s fine as “jah-maht-tee”. “La Gioconda” is “joh-cone-dah.”
Getting trivial:
“s” between vowels: pronounced as “z”, unlike in Spanish. Hence, one would say Borghese (bor-gay-zay), and the common expression “che cosa fai” (what are you doing) (kay koh-zuh fye)
1D.) French
French is one of the most difficult European languages to pronounce for English speakers. Its nasal sounds, the weird rules of when to pronounce consonants and when not, and arrogance of the French people about the bastardization of the language by Anglos make it almost not worthwhile to write this section. Or to not tell you to hold your nose ridiculously when reading a tossup with French languages.
Section 2: North European Languages
2A.) German

Section 3: Eastern European Languages
3A.) Russian
Russian’s fundamental problem for quizbowl moderators is that it’s written in the Cyrillic script and thus transliterations we encounter when writing tossups can be highly different, depending on the Western author commenting in the Russian in question. For example, when you read the word Tchaikovsky, you are pandering to Francophilia (who are terrible transliterators and anything they’ve done in that realm should be destroyed and cast off). His name is Chaikovsky, or Chaikovskiy, if you will. Screw you French, that your language is limp enough to not have a proper “ch” sound and you need to put a “t” in front of his name so you can read it.
Russian, because it is transliterated, is meant for you to pronounce it as is written. Therefore, I won’t spend too much time except noting a couple of things on the language.
The letter “e” – in Russian Cyrillic, there are two letters roughly equivalent to the letter “e”. One mimics standard pronunciation in most languages. Unfortunately, that’s hardly the most common one. If you see “E” in Cyrillic, it’s often a “ye”-though lucky for Western speakers, this is frequently denoted in transliteration: “Yeltsin” and “Yekaterinburg” are some good examples. It’s not always denoted in transliteration, just in very common words, so be careful in your happiness in adding “y” in front of “e.”
There is a letter ë that is often a “yah” sound though sometimes “yoh”: This most notably shows up in quizbowl notables such as Chebyshev, Khrushchev, Gorbachev, Pugachev, and (not in final position), Grigoriy Potemkin. Most English speakers will say these names with a normal “e” sound, though this is not correct. You can substitute some variant of “ya” or “yo” in all these men’s names in these names and be more correct and in fact you will often hear newscasters say “Gorbachoff.” Another common instance of this is the Russian first names “Fedor” and “Petr,” but wait, it’s written Fyodor Dostoyevsky, isn’t it? Yes, because that’s how you pronounce it, but in the case of less significant people you often see “Fedor”…it’s still “Fyodor”
3B.) Polish
Polish is written in the Latin alphabet by St. Masochistus of Gniezno. It’s a torturous language to get through, because things just don’t seem to be in the right place ever. Lots of “z”’s everywhere. It’s the messiest Slavic language written in the Latin script.
“cz” and “sz”-these are simple enough, as they represent (in Polish, not Hungarian, for God’s sake!) “ch” and “sh”. So Czestochowa, home of the Black Madonna becomes (ches-to-ho-vah; more or less, there are two errors here, but this is why Polish is impossible). The “szlachta” is pronounced with a “sh” in the beginning. You’re not committing a grave offense if you pronounce that word like the Yiddish “schlock-tah.”
“ch” – this is the “kh” sound found in Russian words such as “Khrushchev.” This sound exists in a lot of languages-North German, Dutch, Scottish, Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, but if you want to be safe, it’s best to pronounce this as “h”. Unless it’s before a consonant where a straight “k” would be a bit easier (szlachta, the scientist Banach). It’s not correct, but you won’t get penalized or anything. If you really want to pronounce this consonant without knowing it, imagine the most ridiculous hyperbolic pronunciation of “ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-anukkah” and then don’t be retarded.
“rz”-is most easily pronounced “zh” as in “measure” when alone. For example, the large Polish city of Rzeszów could be pronounced (zhesh-off) and nobody would have a problem. When this letter is combined with a “k” before it, the tendency is that “krz” = “sh”. You would know this from mildly successful Polish-American Mike Krzyzewski (commonly pronounced shuh-shev-ski) or Krzysztof (let’s say sheesh-toff) Penderecki.
“c” – this letter is “always” pronounced “ts”. I say always because we’re getting to that section. Many common Polish last names are spelled ending in –cki. From Russian, one would write these names as Goretsky or even (crazy!) Gretzky. But in Polish it’s Gorecki. (etsky, not ekee). Many Polish first names include this letter, such as Marcin (mahr-tseen), or Maciej (mahts-ee-ey)
“j” – this is a “y” in English. The dictator Jaruzelski’s name is pronounced (yah-roo-zel-ski). Words that end in “j” are diphthongs; in this case they extend the previous vowel with an “i” sound (c.f. Maciej, Andrzej)
“ie” – usually pronounced like “ay” i.e. Edward Gierek (gay-rek); there is a slight “y” sound before, but attempting to reproduce this without speaking Polish will make things difficult to understand
“w” – you’re best assuming this: in the beginning or middle words, this is an English “v” (Warszawa-vahr-shah-vah). At the end of words, it becomes softer, an “f” sound. So there’d be no problem with you pronouncing the city name of Wroclaw (Breslau auf Deutsch) as “vrots-lahf.” Except you do. Because:
Polish sucks:
Note: only read this section if you’re hyperinterested in Polish/are amused by confusing the hell out of high schoolers/college students who have just read Polish words in Wikipedia and your pronunciation advantage will take their reaction skills away.
l vs. ł – Here’s where we begin about how Eastern European languages and quizbowl moderating becomes tricky. Now, in most western sources you won’t see this l-bar character messing around. You might think to yourself, well, if there’s one things Slavs can agree on, it’s how to pronounce “Slav.” And the Poles have you. See, many times when you see an l it’s actually ł. And that’s where Polish gets messy. Łódź (notice how many accents there are and lines) would sound like “loads”, right. Wrong, it’s like “woodge.” The ł indicates that the l you think you see is pronounced like a “w”. So, it’s not Wroclaw (vrots-lahf), It’s Wroc ław (vrots-wahf). It’s not King Wladyslaw (vlah-dee-slahf) IV, it’s W ładi s ław IV (vwah-dee-swahf) IV. I’ll go to the next Polish problem before giving the most common example
ą and ę – These are two Polish vowels which are commonly unmarked in transliteration. As I mentioned, I’d show a relatively well-known example of the “l” issue and this, so here goes. Lech Wałęsa, the Great Walrus himself, is symptomatic of these two issues. English speakers would say “wah-lay-zuh,” and that’s fine. People who know about Polish and didn’t see the markings would say “va-lay-zuh” which is fine. But the second syllable makes it “vah-wen-suh.” You don’t have to pronounce it this way; any Pole would say you speak as well as the Walrus himself, but, the e-cedilla becomes an “en” sound to English speakers. It’s kind of an odd nasal thing particular to Polish (it shares it in common with neighboring Lithuanian). As I mentioned above, there were two errors in my listed pronounciation of Częstochowa; that the “ch” was more of a “kh” and that the “e” was actually an “en” (chen-sto-kho-vah).
Ć, ś, ż – letters in Polish that again don’t show up in most transliterations. Therefore, you, as a moderator or reader, have no expectations that these sounds vary from what you expect. Thus you have to either know the name flat out, speak Polish, or give it your best go. You’ll see Kosciuszko, but it’s really Kościuszko (kosh-tyush-koe).
3C. Czech and Slovak
3D. Serbian, Croatian, Slovene, Bosnian, Montenegrin, didn’t we used to have one word for all of this shit?
With Serbian in quizbowl, you’re most likely to encounter personal names as Serbians most frequently come up in history and basketball questions (I love you Serbia, but you’re good at what you’re good at)
“c” vs. “ć” vs. “č”- All three of these letters, because they aren’t in Western European character sets are commonly written the same way. Thus, I will try to explain them in terms of quizbowl importance. Most Yugoslavian names end in “ić”. Petrović, Jovanović, Andrić, etc. This is a patronymic similar to the Russian (Yuri Alfredovich). Most Serbian last names are pronounced with “ch” as the final consonant. The standard “c” (unmarked) is as in Polish, pronounced “ts” (for example: Vlade Divac), but this is unusual.
“dj” vs. “j” – At least in the case of Serbian and Macedonian, the alphabet is still written in Cyrillic. In English transliterations of these languages, or in Modern Croatian, etc., “dj” and “j” distinguish two very different sounds. For example, take the last name of tennis player Novak Djokovic. The “dj” indicates that the sound is a hard, English “j” as in “joker,” his nickname.” The end is of course pronounced “ch,” because this is the Serbian patronymic and virtually 80-90% of Serbian surnames end this way. However, if you saw the name written Jokovic (this is a real name), you would say “yoe-kuh-vich,” because “j” alone = “y”
Getting trivial:
“š” vs. “s” – This one is much harder to figure out, because there are no reliable patterns to turn to. Instead, you have to be aware that the first is “sh” and the second “s”. If you know anything about filmmaking, you’ll know the Czech director Milos Forman. His name is pronounced with an “sh” and it’s the same in all Slavic languages. So, Slobodan Milosevic is really (mee-loh-shay-vich). However, except for the common name Milos, you don’t really want to guess for “sh” (less common) unless you know your Slavic/Turkic origins (i.e. Alipasic, a Bosnian name would be alipashich, because it’s a patronymic from an Ali Pasha)
“ž” vs. “z” – Another tough one to figure out, and this is trivial in quizbowl as well. The first is a “zh” and the second “z.” In Serbian, the most common names you’ll encounter are Željko (as in the actor Željko Ivanek), and Živko. These are all pronounced with the “zh” in measure”. More common to Croatia is the name Dražen (tragically butchered during the first season of 24, Željko Ivanek, how could you let this happen), which is “drah-zhen”, seen in the famous basketball player Dražen Petrović
3E. Bulgarian and Macedonian
Explaining the issues in these languages is very similar to the aforementioned Slavic languages I’ve dealt with, so, I’ll just touch on some important issues with personalities:
Todor Živkov: He was the dictator of Bulgaria before the fall of Communism, and his name is pronounced “zheev-kov”. This may be trivial, because who knows how to pronounce Bulgarian, but would you accept “Zukov” for “Zhukov.” They’re different consonants!
3F. Albanian
Albanian is a non-Slavic language surrounded by Slavic Greeks and Macedonians and Montenegrins and Serbs. It doesn’t come up much in quizbowl, because it isn’t appreciated as much by others as the writer, but a couple of basic tips:
“xh” – always pronounced like the English “j” as in “jeans”. Never say to my face Enver “Hawks-hah”. It’s “Hoh-ja.” Most words in Albanian with this consonant derive from Turkish (Arabic) and are common names in Turkish “Rexhep” (see Recep Erdoğan, Turkish PM), Hoxha (teacher), Nexhmije Hoxha (“star teacher”.
“q” – can be pronounced “ky” or almost “ch” depending on the accent. Shqiperia is the name of Albania in Shqip = Albanian.
3G. Romanian
Romanian is a confusing Latin-like language pronounced by strange people with often thick Slavic-sounding accents. It doesn’t come up that often in quizbowl, so it’ll get a passing mention here.
Ç, ş, ţ – Romanians love their cedillas. Each of these consonants, though frequently ignored in transliteration, means that something is pronounced slightly different! The c-cedilla is a “ch”, s-cedilla is a “sh”, and t-cedilla is a “ts,” as in my favorite Romanian spirit, ţuica. It’s not super important that you know any of this, but, for example, Bucharest is written Bucureşti, which is pronounced “Boo-coo-resht” and Braşov is “brah-shohv”
“ea”-One of the most famous quizbowl names is Mircea Eliade, not to mention Mircea the Great. In Romanian, “ea” is pronounced “ah.” Perhaps you remember the Internet hit “Dragoştea din Tei” (drah-go-shtah). Mircea is two syllables (meer-chah), not three. Just like it’s not “Chay-au-shes-koo” (Ceauşescu)
3H: Magyar/Hungarian
Oh, thank bloody God that we could Germanicize you for most of history. Simply one of the most difficult languages to pronounce, especially in how, given the complexity of Eastern European languages, it manages to confuse you even more.

“Sz” vs. “S” - there are two languages in which s and z fornicate, and these languages are those of the Poles and the Magyars. The results are quite different. In Hungarian, “sz” is your standard “s” and “s” = “sh”. For example the film director István Szabó or Szabó István if you want to be all Hungarian, is pronounced “eesht-vahn sah-bow.” The most distinguished example of this is the town of Székesfehérvár (SAY-kesh…). Thus, János Kádár becomes (YAH-nosh) and Franz Liszt’s last name is (leest)
“gy” – Well, this is a problem. I used to hear about a ballplayer named Charles (nay-ghee), which seemed reasonable enough. Turns out Nagy is the most common surname in all of Hungary, but it’s not pronounced the American way at all. You’re doing better if you pronounce it “Nahj,” which is the Serbian pronunciation of the word. Anyways with this one say “gy,” say “dj,” but be fairly liberal with acceptance of answers. If somebody says “NAHDJ” and you don’t accept it, you’re the one who’s going to look silly because you don’t know the MOST COMMON surname in Hungary.
“ly” – This comes up fairly commonly in quizbowl because of two figures: Zoltan Kodaly and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. The “ly” in Hungarian can just be a diphthong (koh-die) for Zoltan Kodaly or have the full pronunciation. Be lenient and be careful on these, I’ve seen near brouhahas between inexperienced moderators and Ray Luo that I had to say “give them the points” because he didn’t pronounce the “l”; which is correct in Magyar.
“cs” - This is pronounced “ch” in Hungarian. It doesn’t come up so often in quizbowl, but names like Csaba are common Hungarian names and they are pronounced “ch”. The town of Szabolcs is like “saw-bowlch”
“cz” – pronounced “z” in Hungarian. Again, another weird Hungarian inconsistency with Polish. This comes up occasionally in names, though not common quizbowl names.
The o’s and the u’s – Yes, by god, there are these letters, then ones with umlauts, then ones with super-umlauts. Most quizbowl packets don’t print these and given that we’re fairly lenient with vowels, not too much to worry about here.

3I. Greek
The modern form of Greek is transliterated fairly well into English. It shouldn’t prove to problematic for any quizbowl moderator, though I will note one oddity that is of minor importance
How do I pronounce “gamma”? – As a moderator, you should expect that most people will pronounce gamma automatically as a “g,” however in Modern Greek, this is hardly the case. To give an understandable example, assuming you know gynecology and that that word derives from the Greek word “gynekos,” if I answered a tossup in Modern Greek, I would say “yee-nai-kohs.” The gamma in Greek is often pronounced as “y” and thus fairness should be given, I mean, Yanni is “Giannis,” right?

Section 4: Modern Near Eastern Languages
4A. Arabic
This is a highly diverse language with many pronunciations given the locality of the speaker. I intend to address here issues of moderating as relates to classical and relatively standard dialects of Arabic (Egyptian, Syrian). There is first and foremost, as with all languages written in different scripts, an issue of transliteration. In the east, and most common in quizbowl is the English transliteration of words. In the west, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, we are commonly made confused subordinates to the whims of idiotic French transliterators whose language is too restricted to accurately transliterate anything.
With Arabic, the approach taken with European languages would not prove substantive as I hoped the earlier comments did. Here, one is dealing with a language with several sounds that do not exist in any European language and the available transliterations at best approximate those sounds, not really helping them to be pronounced correctly. Many Arabic words transcribed into English or French are so far removed from their mother tongue that they are English words (see Ummayids vs. ‘Ummawiyeen”).
It is thus somewhat fruitless to attempt to describe Arabic pronunciation, since the words as actually pronounced don’t correspond very well with their English norms. I thus will provide some brief examples to help with pronunciation of the Arabic language, but as the language is the native language of few quizbowlers (many who know it are exposed through religious studies, etc.), I won’t go into too much detail.
The “h” sounds - There are three letters in Arabic often transliterated to Arabic. The important thing for people to know is that every single one of these is a distinct sound, and not a silent letter. So the word “mahdi” is pronounced “maaH-di.” There is an h sound in the word; conveniently, the only one that exists in standard English.
The “dh”/”z” sounds – One issue in Arabic pronunciation of common Muslim terms is the issue of the existence of the letters “d,” “D,” “dh,” and “z.” They are four different letters, which, especially get messed up by Turks, who only have two of those letters. For example, the terms “muezzin” and “azan”, meaning the prayer caller and the call to prayer, should be pronounced with “th” as in “the hot babe completely ignored Charlie Dees.”
“j” vs. “g” – This is one common issue, especially with the Egyptian/Sudanese/South Yemeni dialects. For example, two Egyptians you might have heard of are Gamal ‘Abdel Nasser and Naguib (nah-gheeb) Mahfouz (maH-fouDH). In classical Arabic, there is no “g”. The Hebrew letter “gimel” is “djiim” in (most varieties of) Arabic, so many would say Jamal ‘Abdel Nasser, and Najeeb Mahfouz
4B. Turkish
Turkish is not a Semitic language at all, though it has strong vocabulary influences from Arabic, Persian, Greek, and other surrounding languages. It doesn’t come up often in quizbowl, but it is written in the Latin script (since the reforms of Ataturk) and there are a few names and pronunciation rules to take note of.
C vs. ç
C-cedilla, as in Romanian, is a “ch”. However “c” is pronounced as English “j”. For example if I wanted to spell the name “John” in Turkish, I’d spell it Can, which is hilarious to Turks because this itself is a common name (means “dear”) and common suffix among family (Babacan, mamacan, Alican, Volkancan, etc.). A good example will be forthcoming in the next section.
G vs. ğ
G is pronounced always as a hard “g” sound. However, Turkish also has the “yumushak g”. Of some note, only in Turkish is it virtually voiceless or a lengthener of a vowel; in many other Turkic languages it is pronounced “gh” (Turkish: Daa-uh-stahn vs. Dagh-e-stan for Daghestan in Eastern Turkic). A notable figure in history with this character in his name is Mehmet Ali Ağca, the attempted assassin of the pope. The name is pronounced “ah-jah” (it means like “to the tree!” because Turkish names are ridiculous). Hidayet Türkoğlu’s last name is pronounced “toork-oh-loo” because this “g” is virtually silent in Western Turkish (his name means “son of Turk,” and if you ever see oglu in a Turkish tossup, don’t pronounce the “g”).
S vs. ş
The latter is pronounced “sh” and shows up in Turkish words from time to time. However, unlike the two preceding examples, there isn’t a set way to predict it coming up, and thus you have to rely on the person writing to either include the marking or not. In modern Turkish, though if you ever see words like Pasa (i.e. Pasha, just unmarked), you should say “pasha”
İ vs. ı
This will never screw you over in quizbowl, but it is a big deal in the Turkish language. Basically, confusing to all hell, there’s an I with a dot at all times and an I that’s dotless. The one that has no dots is pronounced like “uh” – in Azerbaijani they spell it with a schwa (Ə). Most important things in Turkish use İ (İstanbul, İzmir), but some words don’t (halı, carpet, if there’s ever a common link tossup on carpets)
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Sir Thopas » Sat Dec 11, 2010 11:32 am

Awesome.

Since you so kindly didn't fill in Czech, I'll do so.

As Charles mentioned numerous times but never explicitly stated (unless I missed it), all Slavic languages have retrograde consonant assimilation and final devoicing. This first bit of jargon means that, for example, the word teďka is pronounced like teťka (more on that chupchik later), zpívat is pronounced like spívat, and so on. That second bit of jargon means that teď is pronounced like teť. Most letters are pronounced as they are in English, with a bunch of exceptions. Note that many of these exceptions involve diacritics; much to Avram Lyon's chagrin, people tend to leave these out, so you might just be out of luck.

c: "ts", like in other Central European and Slavic languages
č, š, and ř are similar to cz, sz, and rz (and, as Charles said he'd get to but never did, ci and si and nothing, respectively) in Polish. The only difference is that the ř is damn near impossible to make. If you want to try, it's generally described as a simultaneous rolled r and ž (that is, "zh", which is what rz has collapsed to in Polish). It appears in such names as Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana. You've heard the former name said by an Anglophone before, so you know the dodges people have made.
ch: as in Polish
ť, ď, and ň are the same as Hungarian ty, gy, and ny.
r and l can sometimes be syllable nuclei, so DON'T FREAK OUT if this happens. Note that this is the case in English too, we just don't write it that way. Examples: purview, bottle.
y: the same as i. Actually, there are some issues here which affect the previous consonant (y is "hard" while i is "soft", which means that a name like Antonín is actually pronounced Antoňín), but that won't impede understanding.

Oh yeah, much like in Hungarian, stress is always on the first syllable. There are long vowels which act like long vowels but these will probably be seldom marked.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Sat Dec 11, 2010 12:11 pm

This is really really great.

I would like more help with Greek though, especially, for the names in its mythos that i just can't figure out.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by grapesmoker » Sat Dec 11, 2010 1:42 pm

This is a very useful post, much more useful than arguing about orthography. One point that may be of interest regarding Russian: Russian has a weird letter called ы which I guess is pronounced something like "ee" but with the tongue curled somewhat towards the back of the throat. This is often transliterated as "y", as in Рыбаков becomes Rybakov. I don't really expect English speakers to properly pronounce that letter, but when you pronounce the transliterated version, the "y" is never pronounced like "why," but more like the "i" in "ribs."
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Sir Thopas » Sat Dec 11, 2010 2:13 pm

grapesmoker wrote:This is a very useful post, much more useful than arguing about orthography. One point that may be of interest regarding Russian: Russian has a weird letter called ы which I guess is pronounced something like "ee" but with the tongue curled somewhat towards the back of the throat. This is often transliterated as "y", as in Рыбаков becomes Rybakov. I don't really expect English speakers to properly pronounce that letter, but when you pronounce the transliterated version, the "y" is never pronounced like "why," but more like the "i" in "ribs."
For what it's worth, the same sound is represented in Polish by "y", and, in some English dialects, is the unstressed e in words like "roses".
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by kayli » Sat Dec 11, 2010 3:15 pm

You, sir, are a quizbowl saint.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Avram » Sat Dec 11, 2010 4:28 pm

canaanbananarama wrote: İ vs. ı
This will never screw you over in quizbowl, but it is a big deal in the Turkish language. Basically, confusing to all hell, there’s an I with a dot at all times and an I that’s dotless. The one that has no dots is pronounced like “uh” – in Azerbaijani they spell it with a schwa (Ə). Most important things in Turkish use İ (İstanbul, İzmir), but some words don’t (halı, carpet, if there’s ever a common link tossup on carpets)
No, the Turkish I is equivalent to the Azerbaijani I (and the Tatar, Kazakh, Bashkir and Kyrgyz ы). The Azerbaijani Ə is, just like in much of the Turkic world, "a" as in cat, represented sometimes as "ä" (in some Latin scripts, and in Turkish-based transliterations of Turkic languages). Ə is not present in modern literary Turkish, but it is well-represented in Anatolian dialects. But I agree with Charles that this really shouldn't be a problem for quizbowl.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Sat Dec 11, 2010 4:36 pm

This is an objectively amazing piece of work and I can only imagine how much time and effort Charles must have put into it. A round of applause for him. It will be a joy to read in detail for all of us who get off on phonology, phonetics, and comparative orthography.

That said, two quick concerns:

(1) The worst possible outcome for this thread is that we get bogged down in nitpicking, especially when it comes to vowel sounds. The reality is that most people will never be able to pronounce foreign sounds correctly, even if they try. If you weren't raised speaking a language that contains a given sound, it's quite possible that you'll just never be able to teach yourself how to say that sound, even if you're otherwise an intelligent, sophisticated, and cosmopolitan person.

(2) I still think there are circumstances where it is far better for a moderator to mispronounce a foreign word than to pronounce it correctly, even if the moderator knows how to say it correctly. Irish myth is the most obvious example.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Nicklausse/Muse » Sun Dec 12, 2010 2:04 am

I feel as though I ought to add a few things about Welsh. However, Welsh names don't come up all that often, so rather than give rules and examples, I'll do it in reverse order.

(Without diacritics, as this is how they will probably appear.)

Owain Glyndwr - His surname looks as though it's got no vowels in it, but it's pronounced like "glin-door" - the "w" there is pronounced "u." His first name is like "oh-wine," not "oh-wain," because it's a diphthong of "a" and "i." Shakespeare anglicized this as "Owen Glendower," so if you can't handle the pronunciation, that's probably acceptable.

Lleu Llaw Gyffes
- ooh, lots of things here. English-speakers historically couldn't handle the "ll" sound in Welsh. That's why we have "Fluellen" (Llewelyn) in Henry V, and "Floyd" (Lloyd). And unfortunately, all the other languages with voiceless alveolar lateral fricatives are ones quizbowlers are even less likely to know, so I can't give a great analogy. I don't think anyone will hurt you if you pronounce it as an "l." (It's kind of like the "l" you get following consonants in English, except not following a consonant, and more so.)

The "eu" is like "oi" rather than "oo," and the "aw" is like "ow" rather than "aw." The "y" in "Gyffes," unlike the "y" in "Glyndwr" (or "Gwynedd"), is more like the French or German schwa. But no one will expect you to know when to say which.

"Gyffes" also has a double f, which is how you know it's pronounced "f" and not "v." In "Dafydd," the "f" is pronounced like "v."

Blodeuwedd - another one with the "eu" that sounds like "oi," but possibly more importantly, a double d. The "dd" is a voiced "th," like in "there."

Cymru (Wales) - As may have been suggested by all these occurrences of "eu" sounding like "oi," Welsh apparently noticed that, with "w" representing an "oo" sound, "u" had nothing to do. So it sounds like "ee," making the last syllable "ree." The first consonant is a hard "c," like a "k" - this applies across the language. The "y" is, again, like a schwa.

Oh, and "ch" is like Scots "loch."

Did I miss any really confusing names or important rules?
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Sir Thopas » Sun Dec 12, 2010 11:30 am

Nicklausse/Muse wrote:Did I miss any really confusing names or important rules?
"dd" is pronounced like the soft "th" in "the". So Cardiff is Caerdydd, and is pronounced something like "kare-dith", where the "dith" is the first syllable in "dither".
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Nicklausse/Muse » Sun Dec 12, 2010 11:57 am

I already said that.
Blodeuwedd - another one with the "eu" that sounds like "oi," but possibly more importantly, a double d. The "dd" is a voiced "th," like in "there."
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Sir Thopas » Sun Dec 12, 2010 12:00 pm

Nicklausse/Muse wrote:I already said that.
Blodeuwedd - another one with the "eu" that sounds like "oi," but possibly more importantly, a double d. The "dd" is a voiced "th," like in "there."
Oops, missed that somehow. Carry on.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by women, fire and dangerous things » Sun Dec 12, 2010 12:15 pm

I guess I'll do Finnish, which is fairly simple.

There are 8 vowels in Finnish, including the "ah" "eh" "ee" "oh" "oo" familiar to speakers of Spanish, which are written a, e, i, o, u, just as in Spanish.

The other vowels are the front equivalents of a, o, and u: the easiest is ä, which is pronounced like the vowel in "cat." The ö is pronounced like the vowel in German "schön" or French "peu," and the y is pronounced like the vowel in German "Blüte" or French "chute." Unfortunately, there are no equivalents of these sounds in (my dialect of) English.

You can essentially pronounce all the consonants as if they were English, with a couple of exceptions. As a rule, every letter is pronounced, so you have to pronounce h even before a vowel, so that Ahti, the hero of Finnish mythology, is not pronounced as if it were "ati."

The other important thing to know is that vowel length is distinctive, and there are geminate consonants. This means that, for example, aa is the same as a except pronounced for twice the length of time. Similarly with consonants. Double consonants are hard for English speakers to produce, unless you speak Italian or some other language with geminates, but to give an example, the difference between n and nn is the difference between "unaimed" and "unnamed." Long vowels and geminate consonants are always denoted orthographically by the same letter twice (with the except of geminated ng, which is written "nk"), so it's easy to see where they occur. But of course, it's not an important distinction to be able to make as a moderator, unless you are a stickler for accuracy.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that j is pronounced like English "y" as in "you," not like English "j."
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Sun Dec 12, 2010 12:39 pm

Finnish "r" is always rolled, right? As a non-speaker of Finnish, I found this to be the most notable and distinctive feature of spoken Finnish, especially since r's are never rolled in any other Scandinavian language. If all of the Scandinavian languages are just gibberish to you, the rolling r's give you an ability to pick out Finnish in a way that you won't be able to pick out Danish, Norwegian, or Swedish.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by women, fire and dangerous things » Sun Dec 12, 2010 1:14 pm

Morraine Man wrote:Finnish "r" is always rolled, right? As a non-speaker of Finnish, I found this to be the most notable and distinctive feature of spoken Finnish, especially since r's are never rolled in any other Scandinavian language. If all of the Scandinavian languages are just gibberish to you, the rolling r's give you an ability to pick out Finnish in a way that you won't be able to pick out Danish, Norwegian, or Swedish.
Yes, Finnish r is rolled.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Louis XIV and Twenty Million Henchmen » Sun Dec 12, 2010 2:11 pm

Morraine Man wrote:That said, two quick concerns:

(1) The worst possible outcome for this thread is that we get bogged down in nitpicking, especially when it comes to vowel sounds. The reality is that most people will never be able to pronounce foreign sounds correctly, even if they try. If you weren't raised speaking a language that contains a given sound, it's quite possible that you'll just never be able to teach yourself how to say that sound, even if you're otherwise an intelligent, sophisticated, and cosmopolitan person.

(2) I still think there are circumstances where it is far better for a moderator to mispronounce a foreign word than to pronounce it correctly, even if the moderator knows how to say it correctly. Irish myth is the most obvious example.
I agree with this. In my opinion, pronunciation guides are more important in answer lines, if there's a worry that a player will say something that doesn't look like how the answer seems to be spelled. Or I guess if there's a chance that moderators will just have no idea how to pronounce something in the text of a question, and the writer/editor decides it would be nice to preemptively help them out.

There's also the phenomenon that an otherwise intelligent, sophisticated, and cosmopolitan person – one who even knows a certain language – will have trouble producing the sounds of that language while they're speaking English. At least, it's true for me. I feel like, to say a name like Väinämöinen, I have to be speaking with Finnish prosody – so if I'm speaking Finnish, that's fine, but if I'm speaking English, it's so much easier to say it as though it were spelled "Vainamoinen" and put more stress on the third syllable than the first. The awesome thing is that every English speaker knows what I mean anyway.
Nicklausse/Muse wrote:Blodeuwedd - another one with the "eu" that sounds like "oi," but possibly more importantly, a double d.
Man, that is confusing. If you'd just told me to read that aloud, I would have been totally confident that it was the same "eu" as in neu and dweud. So I guess that must be some weird vestigial spelling from an earlier orthography or something?

It looks like nobody has said anything about German yet, so I'll just say a few things (keeping in mind that my philosophy is as above):
eu and äu are both pronounced "oi", so Euler is "oiler" and the narrator of All Quiet on the Western Front is "boy"-mer, not "bough"-mer.
•If you say the ch in "Bach" like the ch in "chorus", everyone will know what you mean. The ch in the ending "-chen" might be harder to deal with, but I think if you say "hyen" it will be close enough.
•How to pronounce "Goethe" was recently covered in another thread.
Morraine Man wrote:As a non-speaker of Finnish, I found this to be the most notable and distinctive feature of spoken Finnish, especially since r's are never rolled in any other Scandinavian language. If all of the Scandinavian languages are just gibberish to you, the rolling r's give you an ability to pick out Finnish in a way that you won't be able to pick out Danish, Norwegian, or Swedish.
I don't have my IPA handbook here, but I think the Swedish r is /r/. If any of them is the odd one out in that regard, it's Danish, which has the same r as German. Finnish does have single and double r, though (like single and double everything), so a double r as in ymmärrän will be pretty long compared to the single r of rauha, or an r in a language that has rolled r's but no length contrast.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Sir Thopas » Sun Dec 12, 2010 3:29 pm

Repulse class ship of the line wrote:I don't have my IPA handbook here,
haha awesome
Repulse class ship of the line wrote:but I think the Swedish r is /r/. If any of them is the odd one out in that regard, it's Danish, which has the same r as German. Finnish does have single and double r, though (like single and double everything), so a double r as in ymmärrän will be pretty long compared to the single r of rauha, or an r in a language that has rolled r's but no length contrast.
I know that Swedish <r> before a consonant makes that consonant retroflex, and I'm pretty sure final r's are vocalized as in German. Other than that, though, it's certainly possible that it's [r]. I'd imagine that Norwegian, being the straightest-lace of the bunch, just has [r].
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Nicklausse/Muse » Sun Dec 12, 2010 3:46 pm

Man, that is confusing. If you'd just told me to read that aloud, I would have been totally confident that it was the same "eu" as in neu and dweud. So I guess that must be some weird vestigial spelling from an earlier orthography or something?
It's probably just me rounding things down to English in what may not be the best way. It's schwa plus "ee," which I found it easier to describe to someone unfamiliar with Welsh as "oi," but I guess it's like "ay," too.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Edmund » Sun Dec 12, 2010 6:50 pm

Extremely useful. Thank you.

I do not want to tread on Bruce's point about correctness being the enemy of comprehension, and there will be someone out there more qualified than I am to write the below, but, in brief, I hope this helps if there is an intention to compile these. I'm not quite sure how many languages Charles speaks.

Japanese -

IMPORTANT: Japanese does not stress syllables, as far as a non-speaker is concerned. So Yukio Mishima is pronounced with a pacing dah-dah-dah, dah-dah-dah, all equal, not [YUU-kee-oh mi-SHEE-mah]. Familiarity with Romance languages often leads to wayward stressing of penultimate syllables.

Vowels:

a - is closer to "ah" as in "father" than an "a" as in "hat", but not so long. Pronouncing "a" short will not lead to disastrous mispronunciations.
i - is an "ee" as in "peep", but slightly shorter. Before "n" better results are probably achieved from pronouncing it short.
u - is a slightly lengthened "uh". It never contains a "y" sound, so it's "sam-uh-rye" not "sam-yuh-rye". Closing "u" syllables in a word usually swallow the "u" but I can't think of any examples in quizbowl nouns.
e - has been described by a linguist friend as "the sound Canadians make". It is a relatively short e, never long as in the standard English pronunciation of "karaoke" - in Japanese it's [kah-rah-oh-keh] not [kah-ree-oh-kee].
o - technically a fairly short o, but long "o"s which are correctly written as "ou" or "ō" are very often rendered plainly as "o". Tokyo and the first syllable of Kyoto are examples. These are long "oh" sounds. Also the double "oo" (two short o's strung together) crops up as plain "o", as in the first syllable of Osaka. Pronounce everything long "o" and you will not go far wrong.
ai - is an "a" and "i" in quick succession, practically sounding like the vowel in "hi!".
ei - is technically an "e" and "i" in quick succession but practically is an "ay" sound as in "play", so "Meijin" is [may-jin].

All other double vowels are pronounced separately, e.g. "Aoyama" [ah-oh-yah-mah] or "Oe" [oh-eh] (though this is strictly "Ooe"). Glide constructions like "ryu" and "myo" (consonant-y-vowel) are not pronounced with a clear "y" but rather running the two consonants together. So "daimyo" is "die-myoh" not "die-mee-yoh".

Consonants can be pronounced in general as in English. "f", "g", and "h" all differ significantly from English but in a manner of concern to a linguist or speaker, not a moderator. The only important exception is that "r" is pronounced with the tongue somewhere between "d" and "l", not with the lips. So it often sounds slightly like an "l" and in general is less prominent a sound than would be expected.

A double consonant indicates a glottal stop, or, as good, a slight pause or beat before pronouncing the consonant. I can't think of any double consonants in quizbowl words but they're actually fairly common.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Tanay » Sun Dec 12, 2010 7:27 pm

Is it closer to Kenzaburo "oy" or Kenzaburo "o-way"?

EDITED: Never mind! Found it.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by aestheteboy » Mon Dec 13, 2010 12:01 am

Edmund wrote:IMPORTANT: Japanese does not stress syllables, as far as a non-speaker is concerned. So Yukio Mishima is pronounced with a pacing dah-dah-dah, dah-dah-dah, all equal, not [YUU-kee-oh mi-SHEE-mah]. Familiarity with Romance languages often leads to wayward stressing of penultimate syllables.
This is mostly accurate as far as I can tell. However, it really doesn't work in practice; it sounds far too strange and bewildering to not use any stresses to make the correct pronunciation worth it.
Edmund wrote:u - is a slightly lengthened "uh". It never contains a "y" sound, so it's "sam-uh-rye" not "sam-yuh-rye". Closing "u" syllables in a word usually swallow the "u" but I can't think of any examples in quizbowl nouns.
Perhaps I'm misunderstanding what Edmund means by "uh", but "u" is pronounced more like "où" in French or just "u" in Spanish.

Otherwise, the guide looks quite good. The points that I would stress are that 1. all the vowels sound similar to those in Spanish and 2. vowels are pronounced separately, as a general rule (e.g. fumie is "who me a" rather than "who me").
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Mon Dec 13, 2010 2:47 am

u - is a slightly lengthened "uh". It never contains a "y" sound, so it's "sam-uh-rye" not "sam-yuh-rye". Closing "u" syllables in a word usually swallow the "u" but I can't think of any examples in quizbowl nouns.
Is this perhaps a British thing? I don't think I've ever heard anyone say "sam-yuh-rye" here, it's always "sam-uh-rye."
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Coelacanth » Mon Dec 13, 2010 12:11 pm

Repulse class ship of the line wrote:
Morraine Man wrote:It looks like nobody has said anything about German yet, so I'll just say a few things (keeping in mind that my philosophy is as above):
eu and äu are both pronounced "oi", so Euler is "oiler" and the narrator of All Quiet on the Western Front is "boy"-mer, not "bough"-mer.
•If you say the ch in "Bach" like the ch in "chorus", everyone will know what you mean. The ch in the ending "-chen" might be harder to deal with, but I think if you say "hyen" it will be close enough.
•How to pronounce "Goethe" was recently covered in another thread.
A couple of other notes on German which I am recalling from my HS German class 25 years ago:
> Vowel combinations: When you see ei or ie, the rule of thumb is to prounounce the second one long. Thus Matt Weiner would be VY-ner and Norbert Wiener would be VEE-ner.
> As should be obvious from the above, the w in German is almost always pronounced like the English v. The v, especially at the beginning of words, is more like a hard f. When you see "von" in a name it's closer to FFON than VON.
> An a not accompanied by an umlaut or another vowel is a schwa. Pronounce it like the a in, well, schwa. An a with an umlaut not followed by another vowel is a short a like in cat.
> Combining the above, we have FFOLKS-VAHGEN not VOLKES-WAGON.
> au with no umlauts is pronounced like the vowel sounds in How now brown cow. FFAIR-ner ffon BROWN, not WER-ner von BRAWN.
> The prononciation of ig at the end of a word varies regionally. Some areas pronounce it as ich whereas others are closer to an English-like ig. People will know what you mean if you use the latter, so you may as well stick with that.
> z is normally pronounced with sharp ts sound.
> There's almost no such thing as a silent e (or any other vowel) at the end of a word. So words like Danke are two syllables.
> The three main German words for "the" are Der, Die, Das. These are pronounced dare, dee, dass.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Nicklausse/Muse » Mon Dec 13, 2010 8:21 pm

An a not accompanied by an umlaut or another vowel is a schwa. Pronounce it like the a in, well, schwa.
Er, what?
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Mon Dec 13, 2010 8:39 pm

Nicklausse/Muse wrote:
An a not accompanied by an umlaut or another vowel is a schwa. Pronounce it like the a in, well, schwa.
Er, what?
It's true that the a in, for example, Vater is pronounced like the a in schwa. But it's not a schwa itself, it's [ɑ], right?
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Edmund » Mon Dec 13, 2010 8:46 pm

Coelacanth wrote:> An a not accompanied by an umlaut or another vowel is a schwa. Pronounce it like the a in, well, schwa. An a with an umlaut not followed by another vowel is a short a like in cat.
I would agree that "a" is longer than a schwa, and more importantly, ä is more an "eh" sound, as in "hello". So for example "Händel" is spelt correctly like that and is pronounced "hendle" not "handle", though only a German would do so and I don't advocate this.

In general the umlaut lengthens the a, e.g. Bär, meaning "bear", is pronounced roughly the same as the English. Equally, "ö" or "oe" is an "err" sound, so Goethe is pronounced like Gerta, Schrödinger is "shrerr-ding-er", and "ü" is longer than "u" and with a slight "y", so Lübeck is somewhere between [loo-BECK] and [lyoo-BECK].

German, like French but not so much as English, has a lot of special cases that are hard to legislate for.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Wackford Squeers » Mon Dec 13, 2010 10:02 pm

I can't think of any special cases in German, seeing as it was officially standardized during the Empire. Pronunciation rules are followed virtually uniformly. That being said, a few more notes:
>A single "s" is pronounced like an English z.
>Double s or an eszett (looks like a lower-case beta)is pronounced like an English s.
> An "s" followed by a "p" or "t" is pronounced as an "sh", but only at the beginning of a word. Combined with the fact that in German multiple nouns can be combined to form super nouns, cities and personal names like "Darmstadt" are pronounced "Dahrmshtat"
>Vowels a,e,i,o,u are pronounced ah, ay, ee, oh, uh. Single vowels only have one sound.
>When you see "pf", both are pronounced.
> "qu" is "kv", as in the delicious food "Quark", pronounced "kvahrk".
>"Sch" makes "sh"
>"Dsch" is an approximation of "J". The German word for jungle is "Dschungel", pronounced roughly the same, but with a kraut accent.

Rhoticity varies regionally, but no one will be confused if you do "r" like English.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Nicklausse/Muse » Tue Dec 14, 2010 12:25 am

It's true that the a in, for example, Vater is pronounced like the a in schwa. But it's not a schwa itself, it's [ɑ], right?
Yeah.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Tue Dec 14, 2010 1:29 am

Edmund wrote:In general the umlaut lengthens the a, e.g. Bär, meaning "bear", is pronounced roughly the same as the English. Equally, "ö" or "oe" is an "err" sound, so Goethe is pronounced like Gerta, Schrödinger is "shrerr-ding-er", and "ü" is longer than "u" and with a slight "y", so Lübeck is somewhere between [loo-BECK] and [lyoo-BECK].
The best way I've seen the umlaut vowels explained is like this: form your mouth like you're going to say English "ee", but actually say "a" (as in bear or hat), "o" (as in oh), or "u" (long). For the latter two it helps if you move your teeth a little closer together as if you were partway towards saying "r".

Goethe example: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... Goethe.ogg (I'm not sure why the dude says "Wolfgang" the way he does, but the Goethe is rather more accurate than "Gerta", which I personally can't stand)
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Terrible Shorts Depot » Tue Dec 14, 2010 1:35 am

A more efficient way of imagining how ä, ë, ö, and ü are pronounced is to say "beeeeeeeeeeeeeee" and then replicate that mouth shape, since the umlaut is a stand in for an e (ä=ae).

Also, s isn't always a "z" sound. It's only a "z" at the beginning of syllables and, even then, not always. It depends on your accent. Northern accents will pronounce it as a "z" and Southerners won't.

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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Wackford Squeers » Tue Dec 14, 2010 1:49 am

Terrible Shorts Depot wrote: Also, s isn't always a "z" sound. It's only a "z" at the beginning of syllables and, even then, not always. It depends on your accent. Northern accents will pronounce it as a "z" and Southerners won't.
Yeah, that's right. I neglected the syllable thing, but I feel like weird southern pronunciations are irrelevant. I assume anything that comes up in quizbowl is strict Hochdeutsch.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Louis XIV and Twenty Million Henchmen » Wed Dec 15, 2010 7:24 am

Sir Thopas wrote:
Repulse class ship of the line wrote:I don't have my IPA handbook here,
haha awesome
Yeah, it's been two years since I took Phonetics, so it's at my parents' house. But now I am too, and I just looked at the description of Swedish in there and apparently it's /ɹ/. So yeah, I was totally wrong.
Nicklausse/Muse wrote:It's probably just me rounding things down to English in what may not be the best way. It's schwa plus "ee," which I found it easier to describe to someone unfamiliar with Welsh as "oi," but I guess it's like "ay," too.
And it surely varies with dialect too, like everything. I guess it would be more like that in the north?
Ukonvasara wrote:but the Goethe is rather more accurate than "Gerta", which I personally can't stand
Yeah, I prefer "Gerta" with a British (non-rhotic) accent.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Nicklausse/Muse » Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:29 pm

And it surely varies with dialect too, like everything. I guess it would be more like that in the north?
I don't know much about dialectal variation in Welsh, so no idea about north/south, but you're probably right about it varying, in any case.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Cheynem » Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:43 pm

This is a very, very, very informative and helpful thread.

I will say that the best piece of advice in encountering a foreign word when you are a moderator, especially an inexperienced one, is to plow through it and pronounce it as best as you can. Adding incorrect inflection could be worse than merely giving it a phonetic shot. Never get discouraged or upset if people correct or complain about your pronunciations of things--learn from it and move on.

For players, it's great to helpfully and politely inform a reader about how something is pronounced, but there's times and places for it and it should never be done in a snippy fashion (although emotions may cause it to happen, there's never any call for "I would have buzzed early if you had pronounced it right!" being said to a moderator).
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Sir Thopas » Wed Dec 15, 2010 4:33 pm

Nicklausse/Muse wrote:
And it surely varies with dialect too, like everything. I guess it would be more like that in the north?
I don't know much about dialectal variation in Welsh, so no idea about north/south, but you're probably right about it varying, in any case.
I'm pretty sure the north has a bunch more tight rounded/unfamiliar to English vowels than the south does. I think both dialects have quite a bit of vowel reduction, though.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Louis XIV and Twenty Million Henchmen » Wed Dec 15, 2010 5:22 pm

Sir Thopas wrote:
Nicklausse/Muse wrote:
And it surely varies with dialect too, like everything. I guess it would be more like that in the north?
I don't know much about dialectal variation in Welsh, so no idea about north/south, but you're probably right about it varying, in any case.
I'm pretty sure the north has a bunch more tight rounded/unfamiliar to English vowels than the south does. I think both dialects have quite a bit of vowel reduction, though.
The northern dialects are notable for having the vowel /ɨ/, which is the value of U and sometimes Y. In the south, U and I totally merged.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Sir Thopas » Wed Dec 15, 2010 5:34 pm

Repulse class ship of the line wrote:
Sir Thopas wrote:
Nicklausse/Muse wrote:
And it surely varies with dialect too, like everything. I guess it would be more like that in the north?
I don't know much about dialectal variation in Welsh, so no idea about north/south, but you're probably right about it varying, in any case.
I'm pretty sure the north has a bunch more tight rounded/unfamiliar to English vowels than the south does. I think both dialects have quite a bit of vowel reduction, though.
The northern dialects are notable for having the vowel /ɨ/, which is the value of U and sometimes Y. In the south, U and I totally merged.
That vowel is no newcomer to this thread; we saw it earlier in the guise of the Russian ы.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Coelacanth » Wed Dec 15, 2010 6:19 pm

Instead of delving into the minutiae of regional variations of Welsh vowel pronunciation, maybe what this thread needs is some kind of frequency list, so if people want to spend time brushing up on their pronunciation they can focus on Spanish rather than, say, Lithuanian.

In no particular order, a Top 10 might include
Spanish
Portuguese
French
German
Italian
Japanese
Chinese
Arabic
Russian
Latin

A list of other languages which come up from time to time might include:
Hungarian
Welsh
Hebrew
Polish
Greek
Yiddish
Gaelic
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Kyle » Wed Dec 15, 2010 7:29 pm

Coelacanth wrote:Chinese
I'm a bit surprised to find that Chinese has not yet made an appearance in this thread. There is no shortage of quizbowl players who are native speakers of Chinese, but in their absence I guess I'll contribute a few thoughts.

First, there are several different ways of transliterating Chinese characters. The most commonly used is Pinyin, and for the sake of standardization you really should use Pinyin to transliterate Chinese names when you're writing quizbowl questions. The main exceptions to this rule are (1) people who are most commonly known by non-Mandarin names (Chiang Kai-shek instead of Jiang Jieshi, Sun Yat-sen instead of Sun Yixian or Sun Zhongshan); (2) well-known cities in Taiwan (Taipei instead of Taibei, Kaohsiung instead of Gaoxiong); or (3) historical terms that use Wade-Giles instead of Pinyin (Treaty of Nanking rather than Treaty of Nanjing). Otherwise, please use Pinyin.

Second, Chinese has tones, but if you're writing or reading you should ignore them entirely. I know that there was one tournament that included tones on all the Chinese words. Not only is that confusing to moderators who have no idea what the little lines mean, but I actually think it's also more confusing to hear tones when playing.

Consonants

The most important thing when you're trying to pronounce Chinese is to be careful with the letters x, j, q, sh, zh, and ch. These letters come in pairs, with x sounding like sh, j sounding like zh, and q sounding like ch. Technically, x, j, and q are generally pronounced with your tongue behind your lower front teeth and the retroflex consonants sh, zh, and ch with your tongue behind your upper front teeth. They also have some special influence on vowels (the main one is explained below). But don't worry about that. If you can just pronounce "Qing Dynasty" as "ching" instead of "king" and "Xi'an" as "shee-an" instead of "zee-an," then that would be a huge improvement over many of the moderators I have heard in the past!

The c is pronounced like "ts," which we don't have in English as an initial sound, but it isn't too hard to say. Cao Cao, who makes occasional appearances in quizbowl questions, is pronounced "tsao tsao." I have heard moderators say "kao kao" before.

The only other consonant in Chinese that isn't intuitive to a native English speaker is the r. R seems to be difficult in most languages (as well as different accents of English), so I'm not really sure what to say about it, particularly since I still don't really pronounce it correctly. One website advises me that it sounds like the r in the English word "raw," which is sort of an interesting way to explain it. But as a moderator, you probably shouldn't worry too much about it.

Vowels

There are a lot of vowel sounds in Chinese, most of which you can probably figure out. Some of the other languages in this thread have been explained in quite passionate detail, but it seems like overkill to demand that the Chinese vowel u be pronounced [y] when preceded by j, q, x, or y, etc., etc. So I just want to point out two vowels that I think are commonly mispronounced by moderators.

First off, the vowel o in Chinese, as in the word "wo" (I, me), is pronounced like the vowel in the English word "saw" (except rounded). If you're supposed to say a long o, then the word will be written with ou, as in the name "Zhou Enlai," which does in fact rhyme with Moe.

Second, the vowel i is really complicated in open syllables. You don't really have to learn this to be a good moderator, but in the spirit of completeness, here are the possible pronunciations:

(1) If preceded by b, p, m, d, t, n, l, j, q, x, or y, the i is pronounced like the vowel in the English word "sweet." For example, the given name of Liang Qichao, who should definitely come up more often in quizbowl, is pronounced "chee-chow."

(2) If preceded by z, c, or s, the i is pronounced like the vowel in the English word "stick." For example, the first syllable of Zibo, the world's most populous city beginning with the letter z, is pronounced much the same way a mosquito buzzes: zzzzz.

(3) If preceded by one of the retroflex consonants zh, ch, sh, or r, the i is pronounced with your tongue curled in the back of your mouth. It kind of sounds like there's an r on the end of it. It's really hard to do. What should you do as a moderator who doesn't speak Chinese? I guess it would probably be best if you pronounced it sort of like "uh," just to distinguish. So Yuan Shikai's given name would be pronounced "shuh-kai." If you say "shee-kai," then that would indicate that the name you are pronouncing is in fact Yuan Xikai, which really is going to confuse people.

That's it for now. I guess there is a lot that could be said about other vowels or about the combination of syllables into words, but honestly I would be quite content simply not to hear that the Boxer Rebellion threatened the "King Dynasty" or anything about "Kao Kao." So I'll end it hear and others can either add to it or ask more as they so desire.
Last edited by Kyle on Wed Dec 15, 2010 9:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Kouign Amann » Wed Dec 15, 2010 9:11 pm

Coelacanth wrote:Latin
Latin is pretty simple, but there are a few things of which to be aware. The most important thing to keep in mind is that there are two separate schools Latin pronunciation: the ecclesiastical and the classical.

Classical pronunciation is the pronunciation of Latin as scholars believe the original Romans did it. It's the simpler of the two, so I'll begin with it.

CONSONANTS:
Pretty much the same as English. However, the Romans were very mean, tough people, so Latin consonants under the classical system are always as hard as possible. Pronounce all the letters and don't mash them together. "C" and "Ch" are always pronounced as "K," and "G" is always the first sound in "garbage," and never as in "germ." Because of this, "GN" is two distinct hard sounds (i.e., "agnus" is "ag-nuhs," not the smoother "an-yuhs"). "J" is a consonantal "I," pronounced like the "Y" in "yet," and not as in "Jennifer." "V" is always pronounced like "W."

VOWELS:
Unlike ecclesiastic pronunciation, classical pronunciation differentiates long and short vowels. The problem is that, if you don't know the word and the vowels don't have macrons or breves, there's not really a reliable way to tell if a vowel is short or long. I wouldn't worry about this.

Long vowels:
"a" as in "father"
"e" as in "hey"
"i" as in "machine"
"o" as in "bone"
"u" as in "rule"

Short vowels:
"a" as in "about"
"e" as in "bet"
"i" as in "nit"
"o" as in "not"
"u" as in "put"

Dipthongs:
"ae" as in the English first person singular pronoun "I"
"oe" as in "coil"
"au" as in the second vowel sound in "about"
"eu" as in "feud"

"Ei," "ui," and "ii" are two separate vowel sounds pronounced in sequence.


Ecclesiastic pronunciation is the set of pronunciations that has become traditional for use in the Catholic Church. When discussing names of popes, Church documents, sacred music, and other religious-y things, it's probably your best bet to use these pronunciations. When talking about modern scientific terms or actual Roman dudes, places, and goings-on, use the classical. Some words, like "Caesar," have an English pronunciation ("SEE-zer") independent of either system ("KAI-sar" for classical, "CHAY-zar" for ecclesiastical). Use common sense with these.

CONSONANTS:
Thanks to Italian, ecclesiastic pronunciation in general has a good deal more softness than classical. The two most significant modifications come before either "i," "e," "y," "ae," or "oe." Before any of these, "C" and "G" take their soft forms, as in "church" and "germ." Thus, we refer to Mary, Queen of Heaven, as "Regina Caelis," pronounced "Ray-JEE-nuh CHAY-leehs." Before other vowels, "C" and "G" retain their hard forms. "GN" becomes a "nyuh" sound (i.e., "agnus" is "an-yoos," not the harder "ag-noos"). "TI" between two vowels becomes "tsee." JP II's encyclical "Fides et Ratio" is thus "FEE-days eht RAH-tsee-oh." Instead of sounding like a "W," "V" is pronounced like a "V." When between vowels or in words ending in "es," "S" takes on a "Z" sound as in "rose."


VOWELS:
Ecclesiastical pronunciation does not distinguish between short and long vowels. Pronounce all vowels using the long values given above.

Dipthongs:
Two are different. Both "ae" and "oe" become a long "E."
"Ei," "ui," and "ii" don't become dipthongs, but the break between them is less distinctive. Just say it more smoothly.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Thu Dec 16, 2010 1:56 am

Kyle wrote:Otherwise, please use Pinyin.
I fully support this statement (oh god do I fully support this statement), but I would like to advise people to include both the Pinyin and the Wade-Giles transliterations in their answerlines whenever possible. I know at least one team got unfairly docked points at ACF Nats last year because the Confucian concept usually transliterated as "ren" in Pinyin is also written as "jen" in W-G (a fine example of why W-G sucks, because it's pronounced "ren" in both cases).
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Kyle » Thu Dec 16, 2010 2:07 am

Ukonvasara wrote:the Confucian concept usually transliterated as "ren" in Pinyin is also written as "jen" in W-G (a fine example of why W-G sucks, because it's pronounced "ren" in both cases)
Well, the Chinese r kind of sounds like a j, so that isn't even one of W-G's most egregious faults.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Edmund » Thu Dec 16, 2010 10:24 am

Repulse class ship of the line wrote:
Ukonvasara wrote:the Goethe is rather more accurate than "Gerta", which I personally can't stand
Yeah, I prefer "Gerta" with a British (non-rhotic) accent.
It hadn't occurred to me there was more than one way to pronounce Gerta.

In answer to Rob, clearly there is always room for refinement, but the point of this exercise as I understood it was to provide simple prescription for moderators who do not speak the languages in question. To pronounce German well, you need to speak and listen to a lot of German. A moderator who (quite reasonably) does not, but does want to improve pronunciation, will do well to say "Gerta" because it's much, much closer to being correct than to say "gopher". And since we have simply prescribed "ö / oe" (in German) ~ "err", that same moderator will do well at Schoenberg, Goebbels, Röhm, etc.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by cornfused » Thu Dec 16, 2010 9:01 pm

Kyle wrote:
Ukonvasara wrote:the Confucian concept usually transliterated as "ren" in Pinyin is also written as "jen" in W-G (a fine example of why W-G sucks, because it's pronounced "ren" in both cases)
Well, the Chinese r kind of sounds like a j, so that isn't even one of W-G's most egregious faults.
Yeah, that doesn't seem so crazy.


Kyle or others in the know - does Pinyin have a "k" at all? And does Chinese have IPA "k"?
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by kayli » Thu Dec 16, 2010 9:40 pm

cournfused wrote:
Kyle wrote:
Ukonvasara wrote:the Confucian concept usually transliterated as "ren" in Pinyin is also written as "jen" in W-G (a fine example of why W-G sucks, because it's pronounced "ren" in both cases)
Well, the Chinese r kind of sounds like a j, so that isn't even one of W-G's most egregious faults.
Yeah, that doesn't seem so crazy.


Kyle or others in the know - does Pinyin have a "k" at all? And does Chinese have IPA "k"?
I don't know anything about IPA, but there is a k sound in Chinese.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant » Thu Dec 16, 2010 11:12 pm

Ar$oni$t$ Get All the Girl$ wrote:
cournfused wrote:Kyle or others in the know - does Pinyin have a "k" at all? And does Chinese have IPA "k"?
I don't know anything about IPA, but there is a k sound in Chinese.
And it is written "k" in pinyin.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Kyle » Fri Dec 17, 2010 12:32 am

List of wrestling-based comic books wrote:
Ar$oni$t$ Get All the Girl$ wrote:
cournfused wrote:Kyle or others in the know - does Pinyin have a "k" at all? And does Chinese have IPA "k"?
I don't know anything about IPA, but there is a k sound in Chinese.
And it is written "k" in pinyin.
Like Mao's wife Yang Kaihui and Kunming, the capital of Yunnan. But it's romanized as k' in Wade-Giles because k corresponds to the j sound.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by DumbJaques » Thu Dec 30, 2010 1:14 am

If you say "shee-kai," then that would indicate that the name you are pronouncing is in fact Yuan Xikai, which really is going to confuse people.
Is it really, though? Let's be realistic - there's a lot of amazing stuff in here, I really liked reading through it, and it's been quite useful in many cases (particular Charles's stuff about Polish, a language that just hate-bangs me on a continual basis). But there's probably a lot of stuff here that's just not realistically going to cause a big problem, and I'd think that the really important things to keep in mind here might be (no pun intended) getting lost in translation a bit. Like Rob says, everybody's number one priority should be making sure that answer lines don't disallow correct answers in ignorance. I'm doubtful that hearing "shee-kai" would realistically stop anyone from buzzing, and while there's something more of a risk with some shorter names involving the "li" syllable who sound like 8,000 other people in Chinese history, it's frankly just improbable that more than a few people even possess the historical and linguistic knowledge to even be confused in the first place.

If people are trying to provide a pretty friendly but reasonably comprehensive source for people like me who have just always wanted to learn how to pronounce some of these languages (for quizbowl purposes or just general edification), then this thread is outstanding. If you're looking for something that will actually be of use to the moderating rank and file, which would probably be worth putting together as part of a moderator's guide hosts could give out or something, I'd suggest heavily condensing most of the info people have shared so far.


EDIT: Oh yeah, I wanted to say how much I appreciated the people who provided example words and wrote sounds out phonetically. I continue to not understand how to pronounce things in Welsh, in part because I'm too linguistically retarded even to completely figure out the guide in this thread.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Matt Weiner » Mon Jan 24, 2011 4:49 am

I'll second the request for some general principles on pronouncing classical Greek names in English transliteration, especially regarding what syllables to emphasize.
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Re: A Moderator's Guide to Pronunciating Foreign Words

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Mon Jan 24, 2011 7:02 am

Matt Weiner wrote:I'll second the request for some general principles on pronouncing classical Greek names in English transliteration, especially regarding what syllables to emphasize.
Thanks for bringing this up again. I was beginning to think no one agreed with me on the difficulty of pronouncing these words that seem to, at times, have little rhyme or reason for their sounds.
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