ALEXANDER VELTMAN.

Having spent the better part of two days creating this Wikipedia article, and having worked harder on it than on most of my college papers, I’m damn well going to post it here. This guy was pretty much forgotten by the time he died and has never had a revival, only a few lonely voices raised in his defense (the usually reliable D.S. Mirsky gave him the wrong first name, rendered his last name as “Weltmann,” and was off by ten years in his death date), but he was extremely popular in his heyday, he was one of the pioneers of Russian science fiction and wrote what may have been the first time travel novel anywhere, Predki Kalimerosa [The forebears of Kalimeros] (1836), both Tolstoy and Dostoevsky praised him (his Serdtse i dumka [Heart and head, 1838] was one of Dostoevsky’s favorite novels), and I say he deserves to be better known. As far as I know, the only translation into English is A. F. Veltman, Selected Stories, ed. and trans. James J. Gebhard (Northwestern University Press, 1998), which I’ve just ordered; somebody should translate Strannik or Koshchei bessmertny. And if anybody knows how to upload the image from the Russian article into mine, that would be great, and I thank you in advance.
For those who read Russian, here’s the original of the Bukhshtab quote I open the Reputation section with: “В истории русской литературы нет другого писателя, который, обладая в свое время такой популярностью, как Вельтман, так быстро достиг бы полного забвенья.”

Comments

  1. I added the whole Writer template box, if you want to add more data, just keep adding | xxxxxx = or let me know.
    From the description of his works I get the feeling that the Strugatsky brothers must have been fans of his.

  2. Thanks! Just out of curiosity, why did you add a disambiguation line? Are there any other Veltmans you know of?

  3. Hat, what do I have to do to get you into the Yiddish literary scholarship racket?

  4. Oops, didn’t mean to. Feel free to remove it, it’s your baby 🙂

  5. Wow, this post is already the top Google hit for his name, and my Wikipedia article is #2. The power!

  6. I’m way out of my depth here, not having read it, but is Приключения из моря житейского a prototype for the Dostoyevskian psychological novels we all know, or is Pereverzev exaggerating? (The claim gets a reasonable number of hits, most of which, from what I can tell, are copies of the same entry from some old dictionary of literary bios.)

  7. He became assistant director of the Kremlin Museum of Armaments….
    Just by itself, that seem like a premise for a novel. One imagines the protagonist becoming obsessed with increasingly weirder weapons until he either goes insane or starts murdering people with archaic weapons. (Or both, I suppose, but I don’t think that we should jump to the conclusion that someone who goes around murdering people with archaic weapons is just by that fact necessarily insane.)

  8. marie-lucie says:

    JE: Imagine what Dan Brown could do with this! perhaps you can beat him to it.

  9. Renowned tsar Alexander III staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery. He lunged for the nearest weapon he could see, a falchion. Grabbing the blade, the heavily built forty-six-year-old autocrat stared at the blood suddenly springing redly from his hand.
    A voice spoke, chillingly close. “Do not move.”
    On his hands and knees, the monarch froze, turning his head slowly.
    Only two sazhens away, the high forehead of his attacker stared at him over his long Roman nose and cleft chin. His neckband was of a crimson color that reminded the stricken tsar of something, something he’d seen very recently. “Blood,” he thought….

  10. marie-lucie says:

    LH: YES, just the thing! You got it!

  11. Tim May says:

    That made me laugh out loud. (The first line alone…)

  12. Here’s a link to the current version for use in case the Wikipedians mutilate your beautiful effort.

  13. Hat, what do I have to do to get you into the Yiddish literary scholarship racket?
    Speaking of which (albeit not relevant to Veltman)
    http://www.tabletmag.com/arts-and-culture/books/33328/keeper-of-the-flame/
    the most interesting (for you) paragraph of which is this:
    According to observers, what most outraged people in the Yiddish world about Grade is that many of them loved her late husband’s work and wanted as much as she did for it to reach a wider audience. But her strategy was different from theirs. Grade was apparently more afraid of poor translations and bad adaptations (which she thought had already diminished her husband’s reputation) than she was of no translations or adaptations at all. One of the few people she trusted at the end of her life, a Bronx psychiatrist named Ralph Speken, said, “In order to translate Chaim Grade you have to be at his level, and only Inna was.” Grade translated two of her husband’s books on her own, but Speken and others believe that an untold number of untranslated manuscripts are likely sitting in her apartment.
    The Yeshivah is the best Yiddish novel I’ve ever read (in English; my Yiddish isn’t anywhere near the level needed to read novels untranslated).

  14. the monarch froze, turning his head slowly.
    How could he turn his head if he was frozen ? Perhaps “froze, then turned his head slowly”. Dan Brown should have his stuff copy-edited by Hat, who clearly knows an awkward phrase when he sees one.

  15. LH: Needs more eyebrows.

  16. “froze, then turned his head slowly, eyebrows arched in horrified, wild surmise”

  17. Bathrobe says:

    Couldn’t we have a goat as the protagonist? Tsars are so passé — old hat, as it were.

  18. Bathrobe says:

    Hat, between your income-earning activities, wide reading, bedtime reading (to your wife), blog-writing, blog comments, and everyday life, where do you find time to write an article on Veltman? I have suspected all along that Language Hat is two or perhaps three people.

  19. How could he turn his head if he was frozen ?

    That’s Brownian prose for you.

  20. Why do so many people read Brown thrillers ? Is it a kind of fashionable, literary slumming ?

  21. If Veltman’s name is of German origin, it suggests Feldmann rather than “Weltmann”.

  22. No, Feldmann would become Fel’tman.

  23. marie-lucie says:

    Then why is the name transcribed Veltman, not Vel’tman?

  24. Hat, what do I have to do to get you into the Yiddish literary scholarship racket?
    Oh, indeed! The Hat would sweep all before him with his brim-feather.
    Z.D., do we know each other? Always nice to see Yiddishists one doesn’t know. Hope springs etc.

  25. marie-lucie says:

    Veltman, not Vel’tman
    Sorry, I see that it is indeed Вельтман = [vel’tman].

  26. Feldmann would become Fel’tman
    Just a note on “Standard” German in Germany: in final word position, a written “d” is usually spoken as “t”. So Feld is pronounced Felt.
    This is a feature of the language that creates difficulties for Germans when they speak English, where voiced/unvoiced consonants are equally important in final word position. They pronounce IT-technical words like “tag” as “tack”, and “log” and “lock” both become “lock”. This is very confusing for me, because the final g/k at the end of a short English word can be the crucial distinction between two nearly homonymous words.
    Another example is “dog” and “dock”. Most Germans, even when they speak English well otherwise, turn the “docking station” for a notebook into a “dogging station”.

  27. Thanks for the explanation. I was wrong, though; actually, Feldmann would become Fel’dman (Фельдман) in Russian (in writing), though it would be pronounced /fel’tmən/, since Russian has the same kind of final devoicing as German. (If you google Фельдман, you’ll get a lot of hits, including Morton Feldman.)

  28. Why do so many people read Brown thrillers ? Is it a kind of fashionable, literary slumming ?
    Presumably for the same reason people watch American Idol – because everyone else is doing it. It’s not considered fashionable or literary slumming anywhere as far as I know – I don’t think hipster irony has sunk quite that low yet.

  29. Nice article. And also speaking of Yiddish, what are the Yiddish passages of Strannik like? I tried to see if it was available online but struck out. Doesn’t mean it isn’t available online, though. I’m pretty curious to see those Yiddish passages, especially if they’re in Cyrillic, since transliteration always does interesting things, like preserving dialectal pronunciations and other nuances of pronunciation that alanguage’s own writing system might hide. (For instance, Cyrillic-written Yiddish would distinguish between soft and hard “l,” which Hebrew-letter Yiddish wouldn’t.)

  30. Why do so many people read Brown thrillers ?
    I bought “The DaVinci Code” because it was recommended to me and because it involved the templars. “The Lost Symbol” I read to know what Geoff Pullum will be talking about.

  31. Thanks, Vanya!
    The Yiddish is weird; it looks like he was mostly extrapolating from German. Interesting. There are also some transcription errors; I’m presuming “Kausen Sie” should be “Kaufen Sie” (after all, it’s translated as Купите). This also shows what I mean about extrapolating from German.
    (My brief investigation can be replicated by searching for Идиш in the book.)

  32. Thanks for reminding me to add a Moshkow link to the article. I read the start of Strannik, and it looks delightful.

  33. Bathrobe says:

    “docking station” for a notebook into a “dogging station”
    How would these get confused when they aren’t final? Do Germans get them mixed up inside words as well?
    Incidentally, in English the difference isn’t conveyed only by the consonant. The vowel length can make a difference, too, depending on the dialect (by which I mean that in most varieties of English, the /o/ in “dog” is longer than the /o/ in “dock”, although there are possibly dialects where this is not the case).

  34. Some of the “Yiddish” is actually just plain German; for example, “Эх вэрдэ энен этвас цаэн!,” which I make out as “Ich werde ihnen etwas zeigen!” (I never would have figured out “цаэн” if it wasn’t for the translation: Я вам кое-что покажу!)
    I don’t think I could come up with a better example of a simple German sentence that comes out entirely differently in Yiddish (other than the first word). It’s an especially nice example, too, because in the parallel Yiddish (איך װעל אײַך עפּעס װײַזן) every word is Germanic, but only ich/איך and etwas/עפּעס are cognate–and the latter two cognates only slightly resemble each other. Point being: this is nothing but German, fobbed off as Yiddish.
    I’m assuming the annotations of “Идиш” are modern; I would be shocked to find the word “Yiddish” used this early in any language, much less Russian.
    Bathrobe–
    There are indeed such dialects; roughly speaking, from the Great Plains westward, and in some areas to the east (Western PA, eastern New England) these two vowels are merged. Here’s a way to test for the merger: ask you victim/informant to say “hot dog.”

  35. Bathrobe says:

    I’m not totally sure we’re talking about the same thing.
    In many dialects of English, the pronunciation of “bag” and “back”, “rid” and “writ”, “rode” and “wrote”, “bod” and “bot”, can be distinguished by the different vowel length. Vowels followed by a voiced consonant are longer — often noticeably so. This is possibly most noticeable in the case of /æ/.
    Since I don’t have ready access to people living west of the Great Plains, I’m not sure what “hot dog” is supposed to sound like. Are the two vowels identical, or different? In my own speech they are the same vowel, but I think there is still likely to be a slight difference in length between the /o/ of “dog” in “hot dog” and that of “dock” in “hot dock”. I was guessing that Scots or Indian English might not have the distinction.

  36. Bathrobe, in all the word pairs you offer, I pronounce the vowel more or less the same; the only difference is the transition to the following consonant, and it’s the consonant that causes the difference.
    For instance, I pronounce “hot dog” something like “haut dawg”.
    I live in Florida; basic foundation is Boston with influences of New York and Southern.

  37. Bathrobe says:

    I think “dog” is a red herring. In the U.S. it appears that in many dialects it has a different vowel from “hot”, i.e., it has shifted away from “dog” to “dawg”. This variant pronunciation is irrelevant to what we’re talking about.
    I think the key point is what you call “the transition to the following consonant”. In my English, at least, the vowel is lengthened by a following voiced consonant. That is, the difference in consonants is at least partly physically expressed by the vowel. I’m not sure whether or not this applies in North American varieties of English.
    However, I’ve found in the past that non-native students can radically improve their comprehensibility if they stop treating the /d/-/t/ difference as one of consonants and learn to differentiate the vowels. A student who pronounces /bæg/ and /bæk/ with exactly the same vowel length will continue to sound strange and will at times be misunderstood. When he/she changes /bæg/ to /bæ:g/, his/her English really does gain greatly in comprehensibility — at least, it does for me. Perhaps the transition is expressed differently in North American English, but the vowel is still very important in differenting pronunciation.

  38. Bathrobe says:

    By /d/-/t/ difference, I meant voiced/unvoiced difference.

  39. I grew up on the great plains (but east of the Rockies) but would pronounce the vowels in hot dog differently, something like haht dawg.
    Sometimes on the internet or in texting, an attractive person will be referred to as “hawt”.
    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=hawt
    Maybe that is the accent meant.

  40. non-native students can radically improve their comprehensibility if they stop treating the /d/-/t/ difference as one of consonants and learn to differentiate the vowels.
    Not only the students, BR, but their would-be coaches. Your point about the vowels has just opened a fifth dimension in my head. Up to now, I’ve been telling my German colleagues “you have to come down hard on the final (voiced) consonants in short English words, not leap lightly on to the next word as in German”. It hadn’t occurred to me that the Anlauf (approach [as in high-jumping, “run-up” ?]) is decisive. I know that I am schriftzentriert, but what a stupid mistake to have made. After all, it was the total word sound that was bugging me, not “an individual letter”.
    How would these [“docking”, “dogging”] get confused when they aren’t final? Do Germans get them mixed up inside words as well?
    I don’t know the reason. I think that somehow the throat configuration voicing of the following “ng” cluster is dragging the preceding “ock” into an “og”. How’s that for accuracy in phonetic description ? I hereby dub it the laryngeal retroaction phenomenon.
    actually, Feldmann would become Fel’dman (Фельдман) in Russian (in writing), though it would be pronounced /fel’tmən/, since Russian has the same kind of final devoicing as German.
    I thought of Feldmann because Feld + Mann makes sense. Even if the German original (assuming there was one) started with a “V”, it would be pronounced “F”. “Standard” German “v”, *nowadays* at any rate, is always pronounced “f” except in Fremdwörter such as Aversion. Only recently I discovered that for years I had been mispronouncing nerven (get on the nerves of), using “v” instead of “f”.
    In terms of my German-origin speculation, I don’t know where the Russian “v” in Вельтман might come from.
    Morton Feldman
    My hero. The Russian WiPe article on him that you linked has some remarks on Hommage à Samuel Beckett, but not even the English one says anything about Crippled Symmetry. I’ve listened countless times to different recordings of both.

  41. Maybe there was a German original like Veldmann that turned into Вельтман by “transliteration”. The result is a potentially misleading “v”. Like the misleading “g” in “Gitler” (Adolf) or его. Like the misleading everything in English and French orthography.

  42. Bathrobe says:

    I think that somehow the throat configuration voicing of the following “ng” cluster is dragging the preceding “ock” into an “og”.
    It sounds like the problem is slightly different from that of “dog/dock” (final consonant issue). In dog/dock, the two consonants are pronounced the same (due to the devoicing of /g/).
    But in this example, “docking/dogging”, I suspect the sound is actually differentiated, but the difference is not clearly audible to English speakers. Could the intervocalic /k/ sound be insufficiently aspirated, leading English speakers to hear it as /g/?

  43. “Bag” is the shibboleth for the Northern Cities Vowel Shift. For areas affected, “bag” used to have the vowel of “back” and rhyme with “tag”, but now it rhymes with “vague” — something like “bayg”.
    This shift is very recent (last 40 years) and a friend of mine and I are a natural experiment. We both went from Minnesota to the west coast for college 40 years ago, but I stayed there whereas he came back almost immediately, and he shows the vowel shift and I don’t.

  44. Maybe there was a German original like Veldmann that turned into Вельтман by “transliteration”.
    No, I’m very familiar with Russian transliteration of German names, and they don’t change d to t.
    I’m a Feldman fan too, but nothing like you! I have a few CDs that I enjoy, and I once went to a concert.

  45. Could the intervocalic /k/ sound be insufficiently aspirated, leading English speakers to hear it as /g/?
    BR, if I hear it as English “g”, then it is English “g”, for Pete’s sake. It’s English these Germans are supposed to be speaking, my native language. By what other criterion would I judge what I hear, except by what I hear ? To write “to hear it as /g/” is to glue a scientific silk appliqué onto a perfectly good sow’s ear.
    There are difficult issues in this who-hears-what topic. I challenge you to an epistemological showdown ! Or an ontological one, if you prefer. My second-order observer will be in contact with yours.
    Remember that I speak German and English equally well. If French people were speaking French to me, you would have a point. French words often sound to me like something other than they are. I am convinced that the French just pretend to understand each other when speaking.

  46. That’s why they gesticulate so much. Hand-waving, to distract attention from the fact that they don’t understand each other.

  47. Bathrobe says:

    What I meant was, it’s possible that they are distinguishing between unvoiced and voiced according to the lights of their native language. Unfortunatel, the English /g/ – /k/ distinction involves more than voicing. /g/ is usually an unaspirated voiced stop. /k/ is usually an aspirated voiceless stop. Just turning the voicing on and off isn’t enough; they need to turn the aspiration on and off, too.
    I recently had occasion to talk with a young Dutchman. For some reason pumpkins came up in the conversation (I think it was because we were nibbling on pumpkin seeds), but when he said it, it sounded like ‘bumpkin’. Naturally, he denied that he had made such a ridiculous error. When I checked, I found out that Dutch /p/ is an unaspirated voiceless consonant, the sort of sound that is likely to sound like /b/ to an English speaker. He was adamant that he was making a clear distinction and accused me of not being able to hear properly 🙂
    So you are right, if the /k/ sounds like a /g/, they are not pronouncing it right, simple as that. On the other hand, from their point of view they are producing the distinction that is required: voiced vs voiceless — it’s just that you’re not picking it up!

  48. Bathrobe says:

    Hmmm, it appears that German has aspirated voiceless stops, so that puts paid to that theory.
    The Wikipedia article on Aspiration (phonetics) did have this intriguing paragraph:
    “Alemannic German dialects have unaspirated [p⁼ t⁼ k⁼] as well as aspirated [pʰ tʰ kʰ]; the latter series are usually viewed as consonant clusters. In Danish and most southern varieties of German, the “lenis” consonants transcribed for historical reasons as ‹b d ɡ› are distinguished from their “fortis” counterparts ‹p t k› mainly in their lack of aspiration.”
    Not sure what to make of it.

  49. Bathrobe says:

    Of course, the other possibility is that “g” is pronounced like an unaspirated “k”, which might sound like a /k/-coloured /g/ to an English speaker…

  50. Nick Clegg, Britain’s new deputy PM, speaks Dutch.

  51. And he has Russian ancestors.

  52. Dutch /p/ is an unaspirated voiceless consonant, the sort of sound that is likely to sound like /b/ to an English speaker.
    Then what does the Dutch b sound like? Spanish also has an unaspirated p but the b sounds more like a cross between b and v.
    That is, baso would be pronounced the same as vaso, but paso, although unaspirated, I would still hear as p, not b.

  53. Bathrobe says:

    Dutch /b/ is an unaspirated voiced consonant. The distinction between /b/ and /p/ is based solely on voicing. If you have a sensitive ear you can hear the difference, but for most English speakers (including this one), they sound very similar, almost indistinguishable. English speakers really need that aspiration to distinguish the two.
    Obviously the Spanish is not just a straight voiced/voiceless distinction. The /b/ differs not only in voicing but presumably also in mode of articulation (fricative rather than stop).

  54. The distinction between /b/ and /p/ is based solely on voicing.
    D’oh. And I just got done drilling my students on past tense and how to decide whether to pronounce -ed as t or d.
    I don’t think the Spanish /b/ is fricative, but there are plenty of Spanish experts around these parts who will correct me if I’m wrong. Wikipedia says the Spanish [ β ] is “Like [b], but with the lips not quite touching.” I don’t think that’s right either. I just got my Mexican landlady to pronounce “beso” for me (we did the alphabet today) and her lips were definitely together. She can’t pronounce /v/ at all, so not fricative. I’m pretty sure I would be able to tell the difference between “dame un peso” and “dame un beso”, but it must be in the voicing.
    There was a similar story floating around Jordan–Arabic has no /p/ sound at all. An Arab was telling a story about a “pastor”, but the American thought he was talking about a “bastard.”

  55. Spanish varies so much country to country that generalizations are impossible. I had a friend tell me once that “Vallejo” (the Peruvian author, not the California word) was pronounced something like “Vashecko”. That may not transcribe the Argentinian pronunciation usefully (this was 40 years ago), but the difference from every other native-speaker pronunciation was pretty striking.

  56. I just got my Mexican landlady to pronounce “beso” for me (we did the alphabet today) and her lips were definitely together.
    That’s because it’s at the start of the word. The fricative comes between vowels. I’m pretty sure we’ve been through this before.

  57. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma: I would be able to tell the difference between “dame un peso” and “dame un beso”, but it must be in the voicing.
    Yes. In this context, the b of beso comes after a nasal consonant in “un beso”, so it is a stop, as in English. It is also a stop if you say “beso” (or other b-initial word) in isolation, when [b] is the first sound that comes out of your mouth (as LH wrote). If you ask your landlady to pronounce “dame un bueno beso” at normal speed (she will probably laugh and wonder why you are asking, so she will be relaxed), the b of “bueno” (coming after the nasal) will be a real [b], but that of “beso” (now placed between the vowels o and e) will be a fricative, pronounced with the lips slightly apart ([v] is not the only possible labial fricative). This is a fact of Spanish pronunciation, and not just of Spanish but also of Occitan (at least).
    To practice this sound, try repeating to yourself bababababa.. as fast and as long as you can and pretty soon you will be pronouncing the same fricative as in “un bueno beso”.
    JE: I had a friend tell me once that Vallejo” (the Peruvian author, not the California word) was pronounced something like “Vashecko”.
    JE, what was your friend’s native language? Some people hear the Spanish “j” as [k]. I don’t know about the initial V, but using “sh” for Spanish “ll” seems to be typically Argentinian: “Me shamo X” for “Me llamo X”. It is disorienting when you first hear it.

  58. Bathrobe says:

    And of course, /v/ in English is a labiodental, not a bilabial.

  59. marie-lucie says:

    yes, Bathrobe, but I didn’t want to be too technical.

  60. Bathrobe says:

    Actually, my comment concerned Nij’s remark that I just got my Mexican landlady to pronounce “beso” for me (we did the alphabet today) and her lips were definitely together. She can’t pronounce /v/ at all, so not fricative.
    She probably can’t pronounce an English /v/ because it’s labiodental, whereas the Spanish sound would be bilabial. In other words, she may not be able to produce a good labiodental fricative (à l’anglais), but this does not mean she can’t produce a bilabial fricative (à l’espagnol), depending, as others have pointed out, on the environment (intervocalic, not initial).

  61. bruessel says:

    Nitpick Central here: I believe the expression is à l’anglaise, à l’espagnole, à la française …

  62. marie-lucie says:

    bruessel does not just believe, he knows, and he is right.
    But Bathrobe is right in his description.

  63. Thank you, Hat, m-l, and Bathrobe. My landlady is very motivated to pronounce the /v/ since her name has a V in it and she can’t tell people how to spell her name without it. I don’t expect her to be able to say it the first time, but in time her pronunciation should get closer and closer, as she listens to me and other native speakers, and becomes more aware of the sounds. I have already drawn pictures of lips and teeth all over her worksheet–also for the “th” sound in “three” that Hispanics have so much trouble with, some tiny drops of split flying out to show it’s aspirated. Maybe it’s not an officially approved ESL technique, but I’ve found that if you can get students to laugh a little and relax, they will not feel so self conscious about practicing the pronunciations.
    I don’t mind googling the technical terms; I’ve pretty much gotten used to them by now anyhow. I’m assuming the /b/ and [b] notations are the same, for indicating IPA.
    using “sh” for Spanish “ll” seems to be typically Argentinian
    When I was in high school we had an exchange student from Chile who pronounced “y” like “j”. So yo sounded like jo. The double l letter “ll” also has the same basic pronunciation as “y”, so if y shifts to j, does ll shift? Lately I have noticed Mexican students (including my landlady) also pronouncing y as j, but it’s more of a French j [ ʒ ]. This makes it sound like they are saying “Jew” instead of “you”. Maybe this is what JE’s friend was hearing in the Argentinian pronunciation of “Vallejo”.

  64. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma: I’m assuming the /b/ and [b] notations are the same, for indicating IPA.
    Not quite. / / means a sound that a speaker intends to say and is conscious of speaking and hearing (the “phoneme’), [ ] is the actual, precise sound pronounced. So for Spanish, both the bilabial stop [b] and the bilabial fricative [ β ] (“Like [b], but with the lips not quite touching”) are understood as the same by a native speaker. A Spanish speaker pronouncing “baba” very carefully might say [ba-ba], but in normal speech it will come out as [baβa]. Unless such a person is well-trained in phonetics, they would never ever say [βaba], although if they heard it they would think it was just a funny way to say “baba”.
    There is a similar example in English with words like “pretty” or “Patty” which have a /t/ in the middle: British people will pronounce a definits [t] sound, but for North Americans it will be a sound closer to a sloppily pronounced [d]. Yet if being asked “Did you mean Patty or Paddy?”. most such people will say “I said Patty, not Paddy”, or the opposite, using a more definite [t] sound for “Patty”.
    Argentinian pronunciation:
    We had an Argentinian colleague here teaching Spanish, and she said yo as [dʒo] and me llamo as “me shamo”.
    It is true that in most Spanish y and ll sound the same, but there are places where they do not. I have spoken with Bolivians who used the Old Spanish pronunciation for ll (similar to [ly] though not quite the same). It is possible that this difference sill existed in Argentina some time ago, and that the original sounds [y] and [ly] evolved differently into [dʒ] and “sh” respectively.

  65. I don’t know how advertisers on the nationwide Spanish-language cable channels decide what dialect(s) to use for their voice-overs, but /dʒame/ seems pretty common there (in phone carrier ads and various final calls to action with 800 numbers on the screen).

  66. Bathrobe says:

    Thanks for the correction. I knew it was risky using French, but at least there is a safety net at Language Hat — there is always someone who knows enough to tell you the correct form.

  67. Screwing up French genders has been one of the special privileges of anglophones since Le Mort Darthur at least.

  68. Stephen Bruce says:

    According to the biography by Yuri Akutin, the family’s name was actually originally Вельдман:

    Вельдманы {Фамилией “Вельдман” и сам писатель подписывал свои первые произведения. Так его именовали и в официальных документах до середины 1820-х годов.}, дворяне из Швеции, владели некогда островком в Балтийском море {См.: Т. Пассек. Из дальних лет. Воспоминания, т. III. СПб., 1889, с. 278.}.

    If the name does come from German, then “Weltmann” is an unnecessary but maybe not unusual Germanization (compare Alexander Herzen and Sergei Witte). But is it from German Welt or something Swedish?

    In my understanding, Russian consonants only undergo devoicing word finally and before voiceless obstruents, so Вельдман and Вельтман would be distinct, like the beginnings of администрация and атмосфера (I can’t think of a true minimal pair). So why did Veltman change the spelling? Was he simply correcting a conservative or erroneous spelling of a name that was already pronounced Вельтман, or did he maybe intend an association with Welt?

  69. An excellent question, and of course you’re right about the devoicing — I was clearly too wrung out by my two-day struggle with Wikipedia and history to think clearly.

  70. David Marjanović says:

    “Weltmann” would be a very strange name indeed, but of course that doesn’t exclude that such an interpretation was desired later. I have next to no idea about Swedish.

  71. Trond Engen says:

    Family names ending in -man(n) are common in Swedish two-part onomastics, but the element Velt- or Veld- is non-existent. But I guess it could be a Dutch name entering Russia after being bestowed with a reading pronunciation in Sweden (or Denmark or Britain, for that matter).

  72. WELTMANN, m. , komposition des frühmittelalterlichen dt., die wie die jüngere sinnverwandte bildung weltmensch (s. dort) zunächst in geistlichem sinne verwandt wird, in neuerem sprachgebrauch jedoch die vorwiegende bedeutung
    [Bd. 28, Sp. 1650]

    ‘mann von weltkenntnis, -klugheit und -gewandtheit’ (s. u. 3) hat. an die stelle der nur selten gebrauchten pluralform weltmänner (s. u. 3 b und c) tritt vornehmlich weltleute (s. dort).
    1) ‘bewohner dieser welt, mensch’ (vgl. ae. weoruldman Grein-Köhler 822 u. Bosworth-Toller 1196, ne. worldman Murray 10, 2, 3, 306 sowie aschwed. värulds man Söderwall 2, 2, 1063):
    er (Jesus) ouh mit horouue iz (das auge des blindgeborenen)
    biklan,ni gieiscôta (hörte) êr thaz uuoroltman
    Otfrid III 20, 157 P.;

    ioh thu mir bist in minnôn fora allên uuoroltmannon ebda. V 15, 6;

    wiltu Rothere minnen,
    den wil ich dir schire bringin.
    iz nelevet niehein werltman,
    der mer so leve hette getan Rother 2238 de Vries.

    ähnlich, wenn auch mit dem umfassenderen begriffsgehalt von ‘weltbürger’ in gelegentlicher neuerer anwendung (vgl. weltmensch 3): ein autor ist ein weltbrger, der ber die handbreit land seines vaterlandes hinweg ist, und es ist ein kstliches ding, ein weltbrger, ein brger der stadt gottes, ein eigentlicher weltmann zu seyn Hippel s. w. 12 (1835) 24; die eintheilung dieser abhandlung mache ich … in dreifacher qualität: 1) als privat- aber doch geschäftsmann, 2) als staatsmann, 3) als weltmann (oder weltbürger überhaupt) (1793) Kant w. 5 (1838) 368 H.
    2) weltlicher.
    a) ‘weltlich gesinnter, weltling’ (vgl. ae. weoruldman Bosworth-Toller 1196, ne. worldman Murray 10, 2, 3, 306 sowie aschwed. värulds man Söderwall 2, 2, 1063): carnalium vueraltmanno (10.-11. jh.) ahd. gl. 2, 182, 5 St.-S. und ebda. 257, 40;
    diu werlt strîtet sêre
    nâch guote, witze und êre.
    ich weiz wol daz nie werltman
    der drîer dinge genuoc gewan
    Freidank bescheidenheit 95 Bezzenberger;

    der Kuntz … ist ein welt man, gehet zm bier vnnd zm wein vnnd lebt wie ein ander weltmann, jnnerlich aber ist er Christ Joh. Nas eins vnd hundert (1567) 3, 191a; wer zu sehr sorgfltig ist vmb den himmel, der kompt in verlust dessen, was er auff erden hat, sagt der weltmann Lehman floril. polit. (1662) 1, 244;
    wer pracht und übermuht in speis’ und kleidung treibet,

    wer öhl im munde hat und schwerter in dem herzen
    und was dergleichen mehr: nun sagt mir fein geschwind,
    wenn der ein weltmann ist, was ist ein höllenkind?
    J. Grob epigr. 156 lit. ver.;

    o wie schwer ists, dasz ein welt-mann selig werde? er komme denn durch creutz zum verständnisz des evangelii Chr. Scriver seelenschatz (1737) 4, 13a; dieser herr … war, wie man’s zu nennen pflegt, ein weltmann; das will so viel sagen, als ein mann, der seine auffhrung in dieser welt so einrichtet, wie jemand, der, in der vlligen berzeugung, dasz es keine zuknftige giebt, von der gegenwrtigen allen nutzen ziehen will, den er nur immer ziehen kann Bode Thomas Jones (1786) 5, 280; wenn den argen weltmann das gefühl seiner schuld einmal übermannte, so schenkte er renten … an das kloster G. Freytag ges. w. 18 (1888) 327; so noch von Adelung (1801), Campe (1811) und Mozin (1856) gebucht, im modernen sprachgebrauch jedoch unüblich.
    b) ‘mann von weltlichem stande, nichtgeistlicher’ (vgl. ae. weoruldman Bosworth-Toller 1196, an. veraldarmaðr Fritzner 3, 911 sowie adän. verds[ens]mand Kalkar 4, 800; værilz man ordbog over det danske sprog 26 [1952] 1224 s. v. verdensmand und aschwed. värulds man Söderwall 2, 2, 1063; verldsman Hellquist [31948] 1397): gleichwie S. Ambrosius auch zum bischof zu Mailand berufen ward, ob er wol ein laie und weltmann war (1539) Luther tischr. 4, 463 W.; er (der praeceptor) solte … gedencken, dasz sie (die eltern) keinen mönchen, sondern einen weltmann ausz mir machen wolten
    [Bd. 28, Sp. 1651

  73. David Marjanović says:

    What about Dutch veld “field”?

  74. But it is pronounced ‘felt’ in Dutch, there is no way Russians could fail to notice the difference.

    If it was Dutch Veltman, it would be Russified as Fel’dman or Fel’tman.

    18-19th century Russian was full of such words.

    As the contemporary anecdote goes:

    В эрмитажную оперу, куда никого не приказано пущать ниже штаб-офицерского чина, залез простой фельдфебель. Вы, ваше высочество, изволите знать, что есть фельдфебель? Это старший солдат. Лакей, приставленный проверять при входе и записывать чины, спросил его: “Ваш чин?” – “Фельдфебель”, – браво ответил солдат. “А что это за чин?” – спросил незнайка-лакей. Солдат молодцевато подтянулся и молвил: “В русской армии только три фельда: фельдмаршал, фельдцехмейстер и фельдфебель. Так сам рассуди, каков это чин”. Тогда лакей с честью и поклонами пропустил находчивого солдата.

  75. I love it!

  76. George Gibbard says:

    Some (conservative) Dutch speakers do pronounce v as [v]; Booij (The Phonology of Dutch, in Google Books) says “For many speakers of standard Dutch, in particular in the western part of Holland, the voiced-voicelessness distinction between /f/ and /v/ and /x/ and /ɤ/ [sic] is neutralized at the beginning of a word, and sometimes also intervocalically (word-finally, obstruents are always voiceless). In these cases, the voiceless variants are used. Note, however, that even for these speakers there must be an underlying distinction between voiced and voiceless fricatives, at least morpheme-finally, because this distinction still plays a role in the selection of the proper past tense suffix of verbs: /də/ after voiced segments, /tə/ after voiceless obstruents, for examples, ledge [lɛɤdə] ‘laid’ versus lachte [lɑxtə] ‘laughed’, and draafde [dravdə] ‘raced’ versus mafte [mɑftə] ‘slept’.”

  77. George Gibbard says:

    legde [lɛɤdə] ‘laid’

  78. Trond Engen says:

    SFReader: But it is pronounced ‘felt’ in Dutch, there is no way Russians could fail to notice the difference.

    If it was Dutch Veltman, it would be Russified as Fel’dman or Fel’tman.

    18-19th century Russian was full of such words.

    I know. That’s why it would have to have passed through Swedish or another Latin-script language, acquiring a reading pronunciation along the way.

  79. Stephen Bruce says:

    I enjoyed that anecdote too! But according to Vasmer those фельд- words could also have come from German: фельдмаршал: “Через польск. feldmarszaɫek или непосредственно из нем. Feldmarschal(k), нидерл. veldmaarschalk.”

    Cyrillicization of initial Dutch v seems inconsistent. Russian Wikipedia’s transcription page gives в as the standard, and this is followed in the names Ван Дейк, Де Врис, Виссер, etc. The South African veldt is вел(ь)д (though apparently also степь!). But Vlissingen (Flushing) is usually Флиссинген, and vaarwater (shipping route) and vlag (flag) became фарватер and флаг.

    Veltman would probably have enjoyed our attempts at deciphering his name…

  80. Trond Engen says:

    Oh, so the Swedish detour isn’t necessary anyway?

    Why this difference between Dutch and German? It’s not just lack of knowledge in recent transcriptions?

  81. What’s the German name of Vlissingen? I’d expect it to begin with /fl/ on phonotactic grounds.

    the names Ван Дейк, Де Врис, Виссер, etc.

    To say nothing of the famous Estotian psychologist Ванъ Бинь.

  82. David Marjanović says:

    Фельдфебель

    Now that’s interesting, because it’s Feldwebel. Perhaps overapplication of foreign [f] as a hypercorrectivism?

    Note, however, that even for these speakers there must be an underlying distinction between voiced and voiceless fricatives, at least morpheme-finally, because this distinction still plays a role in the selection of the proper past tense suffix of verbs: /də/ after voiced segments, /tə/ after voiceless obstruents

    Meh, they’ve just lexicalized the selection. I don’t think they’re applying a rule at all.

    Why this difference between Dutch and German? It’s not just lack of knowledge in recent transcriptions?

    It pretty much must be for the South African veld, because Afrikaans has merged /v/ into /f/.

    What’s the German name of Vlissingen? I’d expect it to begin with /fl/ on phonotactic grounds.

    It doesn’t have a separate German name; but you’re right that very, very few native speakers of German can deal with [v] at the beginning of any consonant cluster at all. Plus, we’re already used to pronouncing v as [f].

  83. It doesn’t have a separate German name

    You astonish me. Throughout the entire history of the Holy Roman Empire, the Germans never developed an equivalent of English Flushing for an important town right next door?

  84. Apparently they used to have a German spelling, but for some reason lost it:

    Meteranus Novus, Das ist Warhafftige Beschreibung Deß Niederländischen …
    https://books.google.com/books?id=gmRDAAAAcAAJ – Translate this page
    Emmanuel van Meteren – 1640
    Fliessingen/ Etliche vom Adel im Niderland ha< ben einenAnschtag auff Fliessingen/der jhnen nicht angeht. 97 Fliessingen wil die Spanische Besatzung nicht …

  85. There you go: Vlissingen > Fliessingen > Флиссинген. Very natural.

  86. David Marjanović says:

    You astonish me.

    I had never heard of the place.

  87. David Marjanović says:

    Ha! Flissingen, come by purchase to “Printz Wilhelmen von Uranien”. Wikisource, 1654.

  88. Either German form is a perfectly good predecessor of the Russian one.

  89. but why assume German intermediary?

    Russian in 18th century borrowed directly from Dutch and entire Russian naval terminology is straight from Dutch.

    боцман, буксир, адмирал, верфь, гавань, галс, док, дрейфовать, камбуз, катер, каюта, киль, кильватер, клипер, компас, крейсер, лавировать, лоцман, матрос, мачта, найтов, рейд, стапель, трап, трюм, фал, шкипер, шлюз, штурвал, штурман, ют, ял, etc

    note also фал (halyard, from Dutch ‘val’)

    of course, it is theoretically possible that the borrowing was from German ‘Fall’, but there are historical grounds to suggest borrowing from Dutch.

    It made no sense to borrow naval terminology from German in 18th century, because at the time there was no German navy (and no Germany)

  90. To account for the otherwise mysterious /f/ in Флиссинген, since Russian doesn’t have a problem with words beginning in /vl/ (and so no reason to change it to /fl/), but German does.

  91. David Marjanović says:

    How old is the regional Dutch merger of the voiced fricatives into the voiceless ones?

  92. There is no mystery if we recall that the Dutch pronounce ‘v’ as ‘f’ and that Russians borrowed Dutch loanwords from speakers themselves, not from books.

    Speaking of Vlissingen, the town was visited by tsar Peter the Great in 1698.

    For some reason, it is called Флисинг in Peter the Great’s archives.

    Resemblance to English Flushing is striking. Perhaps the Dutch omitted the final -en in colloquial speech, so Russians heard something like Flising

  93. George Gibbard says:

    Wikipedia says, re Flushing, Queens, New York City:
    When Queens County was established in 1683, the “Town of Flushing” was one of the original five towns which comprised the county.
    I would suggest that this too is unlikely to come by way of German, and so would show Dutch v > [f] by the 17th century.

  94. George Gibbard says:

    Hmm, I’m not thinking, that shows nothing because English doesn’t normally allow vl-, duh.

  95. George Gibbard says:

    And I suppose English speakers might have been familiar with vl- as the equivalent of standard English fl- in dialects along the south coast of England.

  96. George Gibbard says:

    That is, Americans currently have no problem saying /ˈvlædəˌmiɹ/ but we can’t assume the initial cluster would have been licit for 17th-century speakers.

    Do German speakers change the initial cluster in this name?

  97. David Marjanović says:

    Sometimes.

    the Dutch pronounce ‘v’ as ‘f’

    Some of them do, not all.

  98. From what I can make out, no local variety of Dutch except in Friesland consistently devoices initial /v/, and the further south you go, the more stable the distinction is.

  99. David Marjanović says:

    Do German speakers change the initial cluster in this name?

    Oh, I had managed to forget that we helpfully spell him with W. 🙂 While there’s ample precedent for pronouncing v as /f/ even in loanwords (which ones depends on the region), there’s none for doing that with w.

    In the Slavic -ow ending of many northeastern German surnames and placenames, the w is ignored altogether: Buckow is /ˈbuːkoː/, Virchow is /ˈfɪrxoː/…

  100. I’ve certainly heard Americans saying Vladimir with an epenthetic vowel, more or less “Valadimir”.

  101. @David Marjanović: I probably need to be corrected, but I was taught long ago that North German -ow is the equivalent of Hochdeutsch -au and is thus distinct from Slavic -ow, though maybe some assimilation has taken place.

  102. @John Cowan: They’re speaking Ukrainian without even knowing it!

    What really wows me, though, is the adaptation of Polish surnames into American English. The most noticeable trends are that w becomes /w/ and that -owski becomes /aʊski/; in addition, word-medial cz often becomes /z/ (e.g. Ted Kaczynski, Jane Kaczmarek), ch often becomes /tʃ/ (e.g. the Wachowskis), and -wicz is usually said as if it were -witz. The thing is that so many of these changes seem attributable not to the limitations of English phonology, but rather to simple orthographic confusion; I have to imagine that we’d get much more authentic pronunciations if these names had been filtered through Russian first. I knew a girl in high school whose last name was Czajkowski, pronounced /tʃəˈkaʊski/; how many people will realize that she has the same name as the composer?

  103. That’s why poor ol’ Bill Safire called for a better system for transliterating Polish into the Latin alphabet.

  104. David Marjanović says:

    I was taught long ago that North German -ow is the equivalent of Hochdeutsch -au and is thus distinct from Slavic -ow, though maybe some assimilation has taken place

    Eh, “distinct”… -au is used to create High German versions of Slavic placenames in -ovo, -ova, -ov. Warschau and Krakau come to mind immediately, also Mährisch-Ostrau. Oh. Moskau by I don’t know what analogy.

    Au(e) means “lushly vegetated land along a river” and therefore shows up often in placenames of German origin, making it easy to interpret into placenames everywhere.

  105. So Moskau = musk-meadow?

  106. La Horde Listener says:

    Y pronounced J. “She was wearing her Jell-O shirt.” “Jell-O?” “Yeah. You know, Jell-O.” He pointed to a mustard bottle. I made a face. “The color yellow?” He nodded. My native Spanish speaking coworker allowed me to teach him to s l o w down and sound it out “ee-EH-loe” and it worked it did it did.

  107. Moskau is surely closely analogous to English Moscow, which is historically /mɒskoʊ/, though I use the semi-spelling pronunciation /mɔskaʊ/ except when speaking of Moscow, Idaho.

  108. David Marjanović says:

    So Moskau = musk-meadow?

    No, because musk is Moschus, with /ʃ(ː)/.

    …which makes the history of that word really interesting. *10 seconds later* Oh. Wiktionary links to Grimm’s, which sort of suggests that that’s a spelling pronunciation of a Latinization of “late” Greek μόσχος.

    Y pronounced J. “She was wearing her Jell-O shirt.” “Jell-O?” “Yeah. You know, Jell-O.” He pointed to a mustard bottle. I made a face. “The color yellow?” He nodded. My native Spanish speaking coworker allowed me to teach him to s l o w down and sound it out “ee-EH-loe” and it worked it did it did.

    Yep, that’s happening *handwave* all over Latin America. In Chile you can hear [j], [dj], [ɟ], [d͡ʑ] for y/ll from the same person depending on how slowly and how deliberately they speak, and in (whichever parts of?) Argentina the process has famously advanced all the way to [ʃ].

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