Universal Pronunciation Guide

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Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

Whenever I'm moderating, I dread Opera tossups. They are just a string of words in languages that I don't speak (French and Italian) and, especially for French, that I don't know how to pronounce. I'm sure most Francophones squimmer when I try to pronounce a French word I've never heard before, and I feel bad for them. I'm sure people who read my History tournaments feel the same way about the long-ass Hungarian names I put in there, and who really knows how to pronounce Chinese anyway?

In theory, pronunciation guides solve these problems, but these are time-consuming to put in and make tossups longer. Also, just because you know that [foreign dude] wrote [foreign book] and can write that as a clue doesn't mean that you know how to pronounce either his name or the name of the book, so even question authors might not be able to write a good pronunciation guide.

My idea: we should make a general document that explains how to pronounce things in languages that tend to be used in tossups. ACF or some other organization can approve it, and TD's can send their moderators a link to it before any tournament. Like, there'd be a section on how written French is pronounced, a section on Chinese, a section on Finnish of course, etc.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

Of course, if this happens, it is HUGELY important that the project not get hijacked by pedants and phonology nerds. The guide should be simple, should not require an upper-level Linguistics course to understand, and should be accepting of the fact that it is difficult for people to learn how to pronounce sounds that aren't in their native language(s).
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant »

Nothing to add to this, but a single guide to reading stuff from foriegn languages that regularly come up would be terrific.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Nicklausse/Muse »

As a Francophone who often listens to non-Francophones read questions, I would greatly appreciate this. (Italian too, but people screw it up less.)
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Terrible Shorts Depot »

I swear to God, if someone tries to make me learn IPA for this, I'll start throwing things.

That's an angry way of telling the linguists not to touch this.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Important Bird Area »

In theory, this is a great idea.

In practice, it is 1. likely to overwhelm moderators and 2. 100% certain to be hijacked by pedants and phonology nerds.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by AKKOLADE »

Terrible Shorts Depot wrote:I swear to God, if someone tries to make me learn IPA for this, I'll start throwing things.

That's an angry way of telling the linguists not to touch this.
You are so, so right. I DO NOT KNOW WHAT THE A MELTING INTO THE E MEANS AND I AM NOT GOING TO LEARN IT
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by alexdz »

Pronunciation guides would be very helpful. Unfortunately I'm one of those "phonology nerds" to which you all seem to be referring. I don't think IPA would be a helpful tool, but I think a standard would be good.

P.S. The ligature of a and e that you describe is the "a" sound in "cat". We linguists call it "ash".
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by grapesmoker »

I really do hope that people that do know something about phonology help out on this. Not to nerd it up or anything, but just to let the rest of us know how to correctly pronounce things. I'm sure it can't be that hard to create a reasonable pronunciation guide for a few commonly used languages that doesn't require one to be a linguistics expert to use.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Nicklausse/Muse »

I swear to God, if someone tries to make me learn IPA for this, I'll start throwing things.

That's an angry way of telling the linguists not to touch this.
As Guy has not yet weighed in on this, I can't guarantee that you're not going to need your throwing implements, but I don't think IPA would be the best standard either, in this case.

On the other hand, if you go the route of using small words to phonetically spell out a larger word, please make them small words with unambiguous pronunciation.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Louis XIV and Twenty Million Henchmen »

Nicklausse/Muse wrote:
I swear to God, if someone tries to make me learn IPA for this, I'll start throwing things.

That's an angry way of telling the linguists not to touch this.
As Guy has not yet weighed in on this, I can't guarantee that you're not going to need your throwing implements, but I don't think IPA would be the best standard either, in this case.
Even the NAQT pronunciation guides aren't completely transparent – a first-time moderator isn't going to know that "aa" stands for /æ/ until someone tells them, for instance. Why not make pronunciation guides resemble an actual established thing (while obviously refraining from going all-out)?
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Nicklausse/Muse »

Even the NAQT pronunciation guides aren't completely transparent – a first-time moderator isn't going to know that "aa" stands for /æ/ until someone tells them, for instance. Why not make pronunciation guides resemble an actual established thing (while obviously refraining from going all-out)?
I am from a NAC high school (horror!) so I have been spared that pronunciation guide. It seems like it would be really frustrating to deal with.

One major problem I can foresee with IPA is that, while some of the IPA letters are the same as English letters, not all are, and some moderators will read IPA x or j as English x or j.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by alexdz »

We could go modified-IPA. Instead of IPA <j> I'd suggest <y>. For IPA <x> (which is the sound in Loch), I think a regular <k> is close enough.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Nicklausse/Muse »

Modified IPA would probably be better. In the same vein, we don't really need moderators attempting [ʁ] if they're not familiar with a language that uses it, and the difference between [θ] and [ð] is probably not so crucial that [th] is not an acceptable replacement. (And [sh] for [ʃ], etc.; [h] for [χ] where appropriate)

Up to this point it's not so different from English, but what about vowels?
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Steve Watchorn »

In physics, and probably other subjects, as well, there is also the issue that there is sometimes a "common" pronunciation that everyone knows, which is not the true pronunciation. This is especially true for proper names. A common example is "Huygens," which I had always heard pronounced by physicists in classes and elsewhere as "HI-ghenz." I also heard, however, that a more correct pronunciation is closer to "HAY-yenz" or something like that (knowledgeable people, feel free to correct me). In some cases like that, going for the specifically correct pronunciation might actually throw some knowledgeable players off, though I am not sure if that is often enough to derail the kind of effort described in this thread. Some sources might have "usual" pronunciations guides for names like that, but it would be something to watch out for.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by alexdz »

Nicklausse/Muse wrote:Up to this point it's not so different from English, but what about vowels?
That will be the hardest part to figure out. English has more vowels than most languages, and we need notations for the following:

beet (I'd suggest "ee")
bit ("i")
bait ("ay")
bet ("e")
bat ("a")
but (this is the schwa...not sure what a good alternative here would be)
bought (this is also a hard one to notate...maybe "aw")
boot ("oo")
book (any suggestions here?)
boat ("o")
boy ("oy")
bite (hard not to get this confused with bait "ay")
bout ("ow")
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by AKKOLADE »

alexdz wrote: but (this is the schwa...not sure what a good alternative here would be)
bought (this is also a hard one to notate...maybe "aw")
bite (hard not to get this confused with bait "ay")
How about "uh", "aw" or "ah", and "eye", respectively?
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by grapesmoker »

I don't think we need to worry about "correctly" pronouncing Huygens; everyone knows what is being meant when they hear that incorrect pronunciation and it's just better to stick with that since we'd just confuse people by trying to switch. This is much more about stuff that people look at and have no intuitive understanding of how to pronounce.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo »

I have an incredibly hard time with Greek names from myth or ancient history. How was i supposed to know that Iphigenia was pronounced iff-ah-gen-EYE-ah until i saw it in an NAQT question just a couple weeks ago? This is what i would need a lot of help with.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Susan »

Carangoides ciliarius wrote:I have an incredibly hard time with Greek names from myth or ancient history. How was i supposed to know that Iphigenia was pronounced iff-ah-gen-EYE-ah until i saw it in an NAQT question just a couple weeks ago? This is what i would need a lot of help with.
I suspect that this is an area where a lot of mispronunciations are at least comprehensible (for example, what were you saying? Iff-uh-gen-EE-ah or something like that? I would guess that a lot of mispronounced versions of "Iphigenia" are, at least, understandable). For some other mythologies, particularly Celtic, I think that strict adherence to correct pronunciation might baffle a lot of people who have only ever read words like Cathbad and Emer and whatnot.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo »

myamphigory wrote:
Carangoides ciliarius wrote:I have an incredibly hard time with Greek names from myth or ancient history. How was i supposed to know that Iphigenia was pronounced iff-ah-gen-EYE-ah until i saw it in an NAQT question just a couple weeks ago? This is what i would need a lot of help with.
I suspect that this is an area where a lot of mispronunciations are at least comprehensible (for example, what were you saying? Iff-uh-gen-EE-ah or something like that? I would guess that a lot of mispronounced versions of "Iphigenia" are, at least, understandable). For some other mythologies, particularly Celtic, I think that strict adherence to correct pronunciation might baffle a lot of people who have only ever read words like Cathbad and Emer and whatnot.
Perhaps, but i often even accent the completely wrong syllable. For instance, i used to pronounced it iff-ah-GEEN-ee-ah because in most English words, you accent the syllable immediate prior to a dipthong at the end of a word (mania, Westphalia, etc.). To this day i still have no idea how to say even some of the most simple Greek names, let alone the complicated ones like in ancient history that i can't even spell.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Sir Thopas »

While vowels are thornier (as others have noted), I think that English consonants are versatile enough to count for most sounds that you would find north of the Kalahari. One exception: "kh" is pretty unambiguously [x]. We should use this.

For example, Hungarian digraphs. Those who know what's up can pronounce their palatals. For everyone else, this is a perfectly fine approximation:
<gy> as "dj"
<ty> as "ch"
<ny> as "ny"
<ly> as "y"
<cs> as "ch"
<sz> as "s"
<zs> as "zh"

Other languages could be handled similarly.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by at your pleasure »

What about listing multiple pronunciations where there's a common-but-incorrect pronunication(for instance, GO-ethe versus GER-ta,), so moderators know to accept the correct pronunciation as well?
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Louis XIV and Twenty Million Henchmen »

Nicklausse/Muse wrote:
Even the NAQT pronunciation guides aren't completely transparent – a first-time moderator isn't going to know that "aa" stands for /æ/ until someone tells them, for instance. Why not make pronunciation guides resemble an actual established thing (while obviously refraining from going all-out)?
I am from a NAC high school (horror!) so I have been spared that pronunciation guide. It seems like it would be really frustrating to deal with.

One major problem I can foresee with IPA is that, while some of the IPA letters are the same as English letters, not all are, and some moderators will read IPA x or j as English x or j.
Yeah – as people have already said, digraphs would make more sense for a lot of sounds, and <y> could be used for /j/ because /y/ could be represented by <ü> or something. I was mostly thinking about vowels, specifically æ and front rounded vowels (well, umlauts could be used for those too)…also, dictionaries use schwas in pronunciation guides, so I don't think there would be a problem with just using them. I'm not advocating springing ɯ or ɤ on unsuspecting moderators.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by themanwho »

Replacing an incomprehensible string of characters with an indecipherable one defeats the purpose.

What you're looking for is a string of letters some sophomore volunteer who is probably inexperienced at reading out loud can look at and sound out an unfamiliar word easily and relatively quickly. It doesn't have to be consistent from one packet to the next, it doesn't have to be a "standard" that makes a packet harder to write and increases the likelihood that it's going to be late. Your goal is to help the unfamiliar.

Truth is, the standard would be best developed by those who are going to use it, not by those who don't need it. Or, again, without input from linguists, pedants, and phonology nerds.

Like this: Rod Blagojevich ( Blah-goy-uh-vich ) . Close enough, and perfectly helpful. Whether the first syllable should be "blah" or "bluh" makes no difference. Also, ignore the temptation to indicated the accented syllable. Just one more thing for a novice reader to have to navigate.

Flagging questions with hard-to-pronounce words so they can be reviewed before the match might not be a bad idea either, although that runs the risk of making things more complicated.

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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by grapesmoker »

themanwho wrote:Replacing an incomprehensible string of characters with an indecipherable one defeats the purpose.

What you're looking for is a string of letters some sophomore volunteer who is probably inexperienced at reading out loud can look at and sound out an unfamiliar word easily and relatively quickly. It doesn't have to be consistent from one packet to the next, it doesn't have to be a "standard" that makes a packet harder to write and increases the likelihood that it's going to be late. Your goal is to help the unfamiliar.
I'm glad someone gets it.

Look, guys, I know it's fun to talk about phonology and all, but that's really not the point of this thread. The point is to come up with a pronunciation guide that is clear, concise, and allows for someone unfamiliar with the language to read questions effectively. Whether someone pronounces "Iphigenia" as iff-ee-gen-EYE-a or iff-ee-gen-ee-a is totally immaterial since it's perfectly clear what's being said in either case; this has never confused anyone. What's confusing is when you have words that feature non-intuitive pronunciations (Goethe is an obvious example) or lots of silent consonants or weird consonant combinations (like in Hungarian). Digraphs, whatever they are, don't help non-linguists any more than if I were to write out a formula for a non-physicist, so forget those things and focus on putting together a nice cheat-sheet that can be handed out to inexperienced moderators.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

I mean, I'm pretty sure that--operating off the principle that we don't want to deal with digraphs, or that we're content to get it to a certain level of approximation, and we don't need to make things 1% harder to read for a 2% improvement in pronunciation past a certain point--linguistics nerds and pedants (I'm certainly the latter, and when I was closer to my most recent phonology lecture I was certainly the former) will do a better job than people who, uh, don't know things. I'm totally on the side of people who want to prioritize readability; I say this as a person who runs high school tournaments and who frequently has to stretch a little to find moderators. But for a given value of readability, there are more and less accurate ways to do this--and it's those devilish pedants who will get us to the more.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Sir Thopas »

grapesmoker wrote:Digraphs, whatever they are, don't help non-linguists any more than if I were to write out a formula for a non-physicist, so forget those things and focus on putting together a nice cheat-sheet that can be handed out to inexperienced moderators.
Really? You don't think what I wrote about Hungarian made it comprehensible instead of just a jumble of comical-looking clusters?

I think Myron misses the point when he says that people should go by their gut feelings on the fly. You'll run into problems if you try and create a 1-to-1 correspondence between vowel sounds and ways to represent them. Try and map the following (I haven't consciously matched them up, and don't actually have any one "solution" in my mind):

ay
ai
ey
ow
ou
eh
ee
i
ah
a

"bat"
"bite"
"bait"
"boat"
"bout"
"bet"
"beet"
"bit"
"bought"
"baht"
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by grapesmoker »

Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:I mean, I'm pretty sure that--operating off the principle that we don't want to deal with digraphs, or that we're content to get it to a certain level of approximation, and we don't need to make things 1% harder to read for a 2% improvement in pronunciation past a certain point--linguistics nerds and pedants (I'm certainly the latter, and when I was closer to my most recent phonology lecture I was certainly the former) will do a better job than people who, uh, don't know things. I'm totally on the side of people who want to prioritize readability; I say this as a person who runs high school tournaments and who frequently has to stretch a little to find moderators. But for a given value of readability, there are more and less accurate ways to do this--and it's those devilish pedants who will get us to the more.
I'm not seeing any evidence of this assertion in this thread. I see a lot of people invoking quite technical terminology, talking about putting in symbols specific to their discipline, and generally missing the point. I'm not a phonology nerd but somehow I know how to do a decent job of pronouncing foreign words without recourse to symbols like /j/ or [x]. The point is to get people to that stage, not to drown them in a technical morass that they don't understand anyway.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by grapesmoker »

Sir Thopas wrote:Really? You don't think what I wrote about Hungarian made it comprehensible instead of just a jumble of comical-looking clusters?
Sure, it's helpful. What's not helpful is the debate about whether /j / or [x] or whatever is being used to represent this or that sound. The only IPA I'm familiar with is a beer, so that wouldn't help me at all. What helps is just rendering confusing clusters in terms of commonly understood English sounds. But even taking the example of Hungarian, are people really going to be that confused if I say G-yoo-la Andrassy vs. Dj-u-la Andrassy? I suspect no one will care. Even relatively incorrect pronunciations, if consistent, are generally fine.
I think Myron misses the point when he says that people should go by their gut feelings on the fly. You'll run into problems if you try and create a 1-to-1 correspondence between vowel sounds and ways to represent them. Try and map the following (I haven't consciously matched them up, and don't actually have any one "solution" in my mind):

ay
ai
ey
ow
ou
eh
ee
i
ah
a

"bat"
"bite"
"bait"
"boat"
"bout"
"bet"
"beet"
"bit"
"bought"
"baht"
I'm not sure what this has to do with anything. Again, I've been reading quizbowl questions for damn near a decade now, and I'm a pretty good reader, without once ever having worried about phonology. I can handle most foreign language words tolerably well, and I do that mostly by reading things and taking my best guess, which most of the time is more than good enough.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

These aren't for you. You can ignore them. These are for people so retarded that you, Jerry, top-n-for-n-very-small player in the country, wouldn't realize that they were affiliated with anyone who had heard of quizbowl. There are baaaaaad readers out there.

If you rock at reading, power to you, ignore pronunciation guides, do your thing. If you don't, maybe you need something simple and accurate.

Myron has a pretty big burden to demonstrate: that any project to create a simple guide will sacrifice so much simplicity if it makes the barest attempt at accuracy that it's not worth it. (And, apparently, that even indicating stress with all caps or something is too complicated for the additional veracity it adds. I dispute this strongly.)

(By the way, you're right to say that some high-falutin' terminology is being tossed around. That's why this thread isn't itself the pronunciation guide. Flying in airplanes is easier than building them or discussing building them.)
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Susan »

If we're talking about creating a pronunciation guide for pulled-in-off-the-street moderators, I think it would be much more worthwhile to just put pronunciation guides in the packets themselves (of course, how best to do that is a thread in itself). I don't think I'm being unusually cynical when I say that if you hand out a pronunciation sheet with the first packet most of your new moderators won't have even glanced at it by the time they hand back the last packet.

edited to make grammatical sense
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

myamphigory wrote:If we're talking about creating a pronunciation guide with pulled-in-off-the-street moderators, I think it would be much more worthwhile to just put pronunciation guides in the packets themselves (of course, how best to do that is a thread in itself). I don't think I'm being unusually cynical when I say that if you hand out a pronunciation sheet with the first packet most of your new moderators won't have even glanced at it by the time they hand back the last packet.
Heh, I totally misread Bruce's initial post! I thought this was about creating a universal way of writing pronunciation guides (and whatever document was the output of this effort would be available for question writers so that they consistently give "ben-WAH" as a pronunciation guide for "Benoit" or whatever. Yeah, I support in-packet case-by-case pronunciation guides, because no moderator is going to read a document you give him or her. They'll thank you for the email you send him or her, if you are lucky; if you're extremely lucky, they might actually confirm that they're attending the tournament. The rest is up to chance.

I think a worthy project is to create a document towards the creation of systematic, consistent pronunciation guides:

1) Linguists raid online resources for how to pronounce languages that are written in linguistese
2) Linguists simplify them for laymen
3) Document available to writers and editors
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by marnold »

Crazy Andy Watkins wrote: 1) Linguists raid online resources for how to pronounce languages that are written in linguistese
2) Linguists simplify them for laymen
3) Document available to writers and editors
As this thread demonstrates, a project like #2 isn't going to work, or at least certainly isn't going to work without non-lingustics people keeping it on course. Perhaps this is to be expected of an activity populated by the kind of people quizbowl attracts: they love their particular areas of expertise so much they can't focus on what is and what isn't a good idea. The Classical Music Mafia made this abundantly clear during their brief period of dominance and I'm glad Bruce, Jerry and Myron are trying to head off the Linguistics Junta.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Sir Thopas »

grapesmoker wrote:But even taking the example of Hungarian, are people really going to be that confused if I say G-yoo-la Andrassy vs. Dj-u-la Andrassy? I suspect no one will care. Even relatively incorrect pronunciations, if consistent, are generally fine.
People will be confused if you spend 10 seconds figuring out what the hell it even says on the page, as I've encountered many times before with, say, Hungarian names. Sometimes it takes (really bad) moderators a long time to even formulate a really bad approximation.
I'm not sure what this has to do with anything. Again, I've been reading quizbowl questions for damn near a decade now, and I'm a pretty good reader, without once ever having worried about phonology. I can handle most foreign language words tolerably well, and I do that mostly by reading things and taking my best guess, which most of the time is more than good enough.
Sure, because you know in general how words are pronounced. My set of vowel sounds was for Myron's putative "write what you think works on the fly inconsistently" pronunciation guide, not for actual words already in the set. Do you really think it's not at all helpful to make sure we don't write both "bite" and "bait" as [bayt], or something to that effect?
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by grapesmoker »

Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:These aren't for you. You can ignore them. These are for people so retarded that you, Jerry, top-n-for-n-very-small player in the country, wouldn't realize that they were affiliated with anyone who had heard of quizbowl. There are baaaaaad readers out there.

If you rock at reading, power to you, ignore pronunciation guides, do your thing. If you don't, maybe you need something simple and accurate.
Dude, you misunderstand what I'm saying. This isn't about me and how good I am at reading, it's about exactly the thing you are saying, which is helping bad readers pronounce things better. And bad readers aren't going to care all that much about a whole bunch of symbols they don't understand anyway. You need something very simple and straightforward.
Myron has a pretty big burden to demonstrate: that any project to create a simple guide will sacrifice so much simplicity if it makes the barest attempt at accuracy that it's not worth it. (And, apparently, that even indicating stress with all caps or something is too complicated for the additional veracity it adds. I dispute this strongly.)
I don't read him as saying that. I don't really see where you get that from his post. He's saying, focus on creating something simple that people will be able to use very easily. And I concur, that's exactly what we should be doing. I guess I'm more optimistic about the possibility that moderators might actually read something handed to them at the moderator meeting (remember when those used to happen? It's true, I was there!).
(By the way, you're right to say that some high-falutin' terminology is being tossed around. That's why this thread isn't itself the pronunciation guide. Flying in airplanes is easier than building them or discussing building them.)
I took this thread as an attempt to come up with some ideas that would help readers unfamiliar with hard-to-pronounce foreign words pronounce those words. Then it turned into an extended discussion of "which set of technical symbols are we going to use?" I am the last person to denigrate someone else's expertise in another field; what I'm trying to say is that the technical discussion doesn't even seem to come that close to addressing the needs that this thread was created to address. If I'm wrong about that and this leads to a productive creation of a nice pronunciation guide, that would be awesome, but what I suspect will happen is that like a whole bunch of other threads where specialists congregate, the larger point will be missed and the whole thing will devolve into technical nitpicking.

In the spirit of taking my own advice, this has gotten a little too meta for me, so I'll check out and let people get back to doing whatever they want to do with this thread.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by grapesmoker »

One last reply...
Sir Thopas wrote:People will be confused if you spend 10 seconds figuring out what the hell it even says on the page, as I've encountered many times before with, say, Hungarian names. Sometimes it takes (really bad) moderators a long time to even formulate a really bad approximation.
Guess what, they're going to spend 10 seconds doing it anyway unless the pronunciation guide is right there in the text. And since we're never going to have a tournament done two weeks before the deadline so we can go in and write pronunciation guides for all the problematic words, we'll never get around that problem anyway. The best we can hope for is that people can acquire some general semblance of understanding for how to pronounce those words in a tolerable way.
Sure, because you know in general how words are pronounced. My set of vowel sounds was for Myron's putative "write what you think works on the fly inconsistently" pronunciation guide, not for actual words already in the set. Do you really think it's not at all helpful to make sure we don't write both "bite" and "bait" as [bayt], or something to that effect?
I mean, I am assuming basic literacy here. Someone who just plain sucks at reading isn't going to be helped by this project; this is presumably for people who don't get confused over the distinction between "bite" and "bait," but are confused by how to pronounce "Marseillaise."
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Sir Thopas »

grapesmoker wrote:Guess what, they're going to spend 10 seconds doing it anyway unless the pronunciation guide is right there in the text. And since we're never going to have a tournament done two weeks before the deadline so we can go in and write pronunciation guides for all the problematic words, we'll never get around that problem anyway. The best we can hope for is that people can acquire some general semblance of understanding for how to pronounce those words in a tolerable way.
Andy and I, if not Bruce, are advocating a guide for foreign words that go to editors which expedites the guides that they put directly into questions. Any enterprising reader (which you call upon in your best case scenario) can use this guide themselves. The guide would be in plain English phonetic terms, not IPA or anything undecipherable like that.
I mean, I am assuming basic literacy here. Someone who just plain sucks at reading isn't going to be helped by this project; this is presumably for people who don't get confused over the distinction between "bite" and "bait," but are confused by how to pronounce "Marseillaise."
I must be getting my point across woefully—if you have someone who encounters a really weird Icelandic word, where the vowels are not at all intuitive, we give them a pronunciation guide. Let's say the guide contains [ow]. Is the reader supposed to pronounce this as in low or as in fowl? If the former, how do we represent the latter? And vice versa. I'm suggesting we make things as unambiguous as possible on the top level so readers can be as correct as possible in interpreting the guide they get on the page. I'm not suggesting that people don't know how to pronounce "bait"; without basic ability to read out loud properly in English (which some moderators I've encountered do, in fact, seem to lack), none of this will help.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

How about this: Guy and I--and Rebecca, Miriam, anyone else who's interested (and hell, both of you seem to know a great deal more about linguistics and phonology specifically than I do)--will produce this document, with some snappy title like "HOW TO STOP CREATING UNHELPFUL OR WRONG PRONUNCIATION GUIDES." Since pronunciation guides (even complicated ones with crazy symbols) will be put in tossups by editors whatever we do, they might as well be good!

We will post it for public consumption whenever it gets finished (since I am currently working on upwards of six projects, let's not get too optimistic on timescale; that said, I won't be especially valuable to this project). If it sucks, people will tell us why and suggest ways to improve it (that involve a non-terrible tradeoff of accuracy for ease of use). Even at its suckiest stage, it will be better than the random hodgepodge of a standard we've got now.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by alexdz »

I think the point Guy makes is exactly the problem. We need some consistent set of symbols; however technically "inaccurate" they might be to an IPA nerd like myself, I can still decipher a pronunciation guide in whatever set of symbols you choose to use - just tell me what they are. I just served as the pronouncer for the regional spelling bee here in Columbia and the guide I had was in nothing that resembled IPA at all.

I think IPA is awesome and I wish more people knew it, but there's no point in forcing something even as watered-down as a Webster's dictionary pronunciation guide on an inexperienced moderator. What we need is a very simple, but most importantly a consistent, way of notating sounds on a page.

Personally, I think a background in linguistics and phonology is helpful in that regard, but if the consensus is to keep "phonology nerds" out of it, then I will.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by nobthehobbit »

alexdz wrote:Personally, I think a background in linguistics and phonology is helpful in that regard, but if the consensus is to keep "phonology nerds" out of it, then I will.
Personally, I think that "phonology nerds" will be helpful in this endeavour, so long as we eventually translate the technical language to plainer characters.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

Hence my proposal upthread. If you're interested in this project (warning: it will involve a google doc and lots of talking), email me at [email protected].
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Cody »

Sir Thopas wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:Guess what, they're going to spend 10 seconds doing it anyway unless the pronunciation guide is right there in the text. And since we're never going to have a tournament done two weeks before the deadline so we can go in and write pronunciation guides for all the problematic words, we'll never get around that problem anyway. The best we can hope for is that people can acquire some general semblance of understanding for how to pronounce those words in a tolerable way.
Andy and I, if not Bruce, are advocating a guide for foreign words that go to editors which expedites the guides that they put directly into questions. Any enterprising reader (which you call upon in your best case scenario) can use this guide themselves. The guide would be in plain English phonetic terms, not IPA or anything undecipherable like that.
I mean, I am assuming basic literacy here. Someone who just plain sucks at reading isn't going to be helped by this project; this is presumably for people who don't get confused over the distinction between "bite" and "bait," but are confused by how to pronounce "Marseillaise."
I must be getting my point across woefully—if you have someone who encounters a really weird Icelandic word, where the vowels are not at all intuitive, we give them a pronunciation guide. Let's say the guide contains [ow]. Is the reader supposed to pronounce this as in low or as in fowl? If the former, how do we represent the latter? And vice versa. I'm suggesting we make things as unambiguous as possible on the top level so readers can be as correct as possible in interpreting the guide they get on the page. I'm not suggesting that people don't know how to pronounce "bait"; without basic ability to read out loud properly in English (which some moderators I've encountered do, in fact, seem to lack), none of this will help.
If the guide contains ow, then a reasonable assumption is that it's the ow in fowl (how else would you say ow aloud?), with the ow in low being represented by an.. o, or oe perhaps, certainly makes sense. the whole point of a pronunciation guide is to use strings of letters that can stand on their own. Keep it simple and it will work fine.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

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The problems arise when you have someone who writes something like [bow-house]. If you're unfamiliar with the word, is it bow as in theatre or bow as in present?
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by canaanbananarama »

As a person whose vocation it is to approach languages from a practical perspective and speak them without worrying much about linguistics and a scientific approach, I would be glad to help with this. I certainly have spent some time in the past helping experienced moderators fumble around eastern European languages; I taught Jonathan Magin how to pronounce Hungarian and Polish once. One thing that I think people might enjoy (I've always wondered why such a site doesn't exist on the Internet) is included with in the pronunciation guide, actual sound recordings of moderators who speak/know these languages pronouncing the actual words. I think Bruce or I would be happy to approximate sounds like the "rz" in Polish by a clickable sound file that teaches you how "Rzeszow" or "Szczecin" are pronounced. One problem that will be interesting to see is that a lot of people have experience reading names as they say them. Until I was about five, I thought the Reading Railroad in Monopoly was pronounced like the English verb. Going back to Poland; how correct do we actually want to be? I tend towards obnoxious correctness, which advantages players who understand Polish or have made efforts to find pronunciation guides for cities other than Warsaw or Krakow (on the latter, I generally pronounce it the English way, because players might be thrown off by the Polish). But Lodz, for example, I pronounce the Polish way, which is nothing like "loads" as one would pronounce it based on English. I also generally pronounce the "sh" in Budapest and Bucharest (Bucuresti in Romanian, the i is relatively silent at the end of words) just out of habit. There are several words that I think should be pronounced correctly. For example, the dictator's name "Enver Hoxha" is much simpler to pronounce when you realize that "xh" is an English "j" sound and the name is one of the most basic words in Turkish ("hoca" = "master, teacher"). However, I've confused people with that, to which I just explain after a round that it's "Hoja" and I'm not going to say "Hoks-ha" just for the benefit of people who have read the name on a page...the "c" in Turkish is a straight "j" and I know people who go to Turkey with the name John get in some confusion because "can" means "dear" and can be used as a first name in Turkish.

Again, I will gladly offer services in this venture, and would like to suggest that sound files be created for words that commonly come up in quizbowl. I'd be happy to write sections on languages that I know (Albanian, south Slavic languages, Arabic, Turkish). From a language perspective and seeing how Irish myth is on the rise, Irish Gaelic is one of the most difficult languages to logic out and I would love to see a section on it. This would all just be for furthering knowledge among moderators; I'm not suggesting that every moderator master pronunciations of non-Western languages. But it would be a helpful resource. I remember a time when I read a tossup which included the name of an Ethiopian king named Iyasu and Jerry buzzed in with something relating to the Japanese Ieyasu and it would have helped him to know that Iyasu is a common Ethiopian monarchical name and thus spare him a neg which at the end of the tossup was clearly on the wrong continent.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Sir Thopas »

canaanbananarama wrote:One thing that I think people might enjoy (I've always wondered why such a site doesn't exist on the Internet) is included with in the pronunciation guide, actual sound recordings of moderators who speak/know these languages pronouncing the actual words.
Enjoy.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Sir Thopas »

SirT wrote:If the guide contains ow, then a reasonable assumption is that it's the ow in fowl (how else would you say ow aloud?), with the ow in low being represented by an.. o, or oe perhaps, certainly makes sense. the whole point of a pronunciation guide is to use strings of letters that can stand on their own. Keep it simple.
That's why we're suggesting to codify an unambiguous one for editors to be able to refer to instead of having to reason it out for themselves each time.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by cvdwightw »

For "i as in bite" I typically use a -ye or -y_e, e.g. "VYNE-il" for vinyl and "DYE-awl" for diol. This obviously runs into problems when trying to add a pronunciation guide for Ayn Jalut.

I'm very concerned about the degree to which regional accents will play a role in this guide. For instance, I and just about every other native Californian pronounces "cot" and "caught" as homonyms, which I understand most of the rest of the country does not (this difference complicates my real, practical non-quizbowl life for reasons that are irrelevant to this discussion). Based on Guy's list above I am under the assumption that he and other non-Californians would like separate "acceptable markings" for the vowels in "cot" and "caught;" I contend that while doing this would make life much easier for East Coast moderators, it would to some extent confuse rather than help California moderators (how do I pronounce this vowel that I never use in my daily life?).
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by alexdz »

I really don't think a distinction between cot and caught is one we need to worry about. It's important to remember simplicity here: we aren't seeking a narrow transcription of the exact acoustic detail of every sound. We just want to hear something approximating the correct pronunciation of some difficult foreign words.

I'm in a Regional and Social Dialects of American English class right now, and we frequently discuss the cot/caught merger (which is what you describe). It's widespread and gaining ground even in areas where it traditionally was resisted. I really don't think the difference is salient enough, especially in a foreign- or scientific-word context, to cause any actual confusion.
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Re: Universal Pronunciation Guide

Post by Sir Thopas »

Yeah, if we're going for a system that is decipherable because it looks like normal speech, then moderators with the cot-caught merger (or the Northern Cities vowel shift, etc.) would just read it in their regional variation. I don't see how it's an issue.
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