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:
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.
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
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.”
“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)
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
Section 3: Eastern European Languages
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”
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:
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”
“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!
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.
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)
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.
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
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
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)
Last edited by canaanbananarama
on Sat Dec 18, 2010 5:51 am, edited 1 time in total.