KAWAGUCHI/KAVAGUTI.

My wife and I have been watching a bit of the Olympics, and I noticed one of the Russian figure skaters was named Yuko Kavaguti. Today there’s a NY Times article by Jere Longman about the Russians’ loss of dominance in pairs skating (for the first time since 1960, a Russian pair didn’t get the gold medal), in the course of which Longman writes: “It has now reached the point that the top Russian women’s pairs skater, Kavaguti, is a native of Japan. She modified her family name of Kawaguchi after gaining Russian citizenship.”
No. She did not “modify her family name” any more than she would modify it by calling herself Kawaguchi in an English-speaking country. Her surname is 川口 (which uses nice simple characters and means ‘river mouth’); that name is rendered Kawaguchi in English and Кавагути in Russian, and the latter is transliterated into the Latin alphabet as “Kavaguti.” But it’s the Russian representation of 川口. I don’t expect an English-speaking reporter to know that, so I’m not faulting Longman, but I wanted to clarify it.

Comments

  1. J.W. Brewer says:

    I would say that “Kawaguchi” isn’t simply an “English” rendering; it’s the Romaji spelling. I guess W -> V (Latin V / Cyrillic B) is because Russian can’t handle the former? (Although Chekhov on Star Trek was always pronouncing his V’s as W’s, no?) But the T seems sort of lame. If us Latin-alphabet gaijins can learn to recite that column of kana as ta-chi-tsu-te-to surely it should have been within the capability of the cyrillizers to do something comparable, but per the table in wikipedia’s Cyrillization of Japanese article, they apparently didn’t.

  2. The ch -> t is puzzling, but Russian has odd conventions when transliterating Chinese and Japanese (e.g., Фудзияма for Mount Fuji). Maybe this is one of them.
    There was an earlier discussion of wessels on Languagehat last year here.
    The article seems to say that Kavaguti had modified her name to make it less evidently Japanese. Something to the effect that even Russia’s best is not really Russian at all, but Japanese trying to pass for Russian under a Russified family name.

  3. Er, here.

  4. michael farris says:

    Well phonemically the name is ‘kawaguti’ in Japanese as [tS] is an allophone of /t/ before /i/ or /y/. At least that’s the traditional analysis, though English loans may have made other analyses more reasonable.
    In that light, Kavaguti is a reasonable Russian transliteration.
    In other news, the lady in the German bronze medalist pair is originally Ukrainian. For some reason her name is written Savchenko in German instead of Sawtschenko. Savchenko is a transcription that makes some sense in English, but it makes no sense in German as far as IU can tell. That would be like Kavaguti using ч in her name in Russian.
    In other news, I tire of the citizenship based olympics. More power to international teams representing the country of their choice, boo to the bureaucrats that make changes in citizenship necessary for the olympics.

  5. My favorite comparison between English & Russian renditions of Japanese words is ninja/ниндзя. Not speaking any Japanese, I can’t say whether English J or Russian дзь is closer to the original sound, or whether дзь is closer than дж would be. In that light, I think it’s important to note that “Kavaguti” looses the palatalization of the T that seems to me so crucial in the Russian.

  6. “Japanese trying to pass for Russian under a Russified family name.”
    So why not “Kavaguchina” or something like that?

  7. “In other news, I tire of the citizenship based olympics. ”
    It’s been rotten since the Berlin Olympics. It got even worse and more crass and obvious during the Cold War. All the world got out of that was better steroids technology.

  8. Does anybody here know why the Latin h is often transliterated into Russian as г? Голландия, гемоглобин, Нью-Гэмпшир, etc. What was wrong with x?

  9. John Emerson says:

    Ребекка Линн Хаммон (Hammon) is an American playing for Russia. They probably won’t transliterate the Russian because she’s well-known in the US.

  10. I just remembered that 200-300 years ago Spain was spelled in Russian as Гишпания. The h->г thing seems to be pretty old.

  11. I kind of like the irony that so many Olympic athletes sport names that betray a linguistic heritage from outside the borders of the nation-states whose flags and anthems they represent at that nationalism-laced venue, like the German pair skaters, Savchenko and Szolkowy. But I’m still waiting for the day when athletes of Chinese, Japanese, or Korean heritage compete on each other’s Olympic teams. (Not holding my breath.)

  12. Glossy,
    Hawaiian H also entered Russian in the early 1800s as Г, as in Гавайи.

  13. citizenship based olympics
    Jingolympics.

  14. John Emerson says:

    Why was the H of “Hammon” was transcribed Х instead of Г, I wonder?
    The Czech author Hasek (Hashek, actually) is Gashek in Russian.
    Stravinsky’s Spanish friend supposedly pronounced his name Estravinsky because of the consonant cluster. On the model of Гишпания, would his Spanish name be transliterated back into Russian as Gestravinsky?

  15. John Emerson says:

    Just remember that the Olympics are a peaceful substitute for war. Without the Olympics, the Germans would have invaded Poland several years earlier.

  16. backofbeyond says:

    @Glossy. Russian X is transliterated as Kh because it requires a strong vibration at the back of the tongue. The Latin G does not have that so the hard G sound does not exist in Russian. But, if you pronounce the “H” in the words “hard hat”aloud, then move the back of the tongue up into the “G” position, you will feel that the “G” is about as close to the Latin “H” as the Russian can manage. Also, “G” is the official transliteration form for Latin H. There are a few words that do get transliterated as Kh, for example Sherlock Kholmes, but for the most part the “G” is the best the Russian can do with the “H” sound. BTW, my first name is Homer which was always “Gomer” when I was studying there.

  17. marie-lucie says:

    Years ago I saw a Russian film version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The queen was addressing her son: “Gamlet!”

  18. Mathematicians become used to hearing Gilbert for Hilbert and gomology for homology from their Russian colleagues.

  19. Backofbeyond, subjectively, to me at least, the Russian x sounds closer to the h in Hamlet than the Russian г does. Not the same thing – you’re right about that – but closer. Perhaps this weird transliteration originated at a time when the Russian г represented a different sound, maybe something like the modern Ukrainian г. That’s just a guess though.

  20. I’m glad you cleared that up, since the German TV commentator blithely claimed that the Japanese name was hard to pronounce in Russian and therefore she decided to change it.
    Some German newspapers like “Die Welt” do write Sawtschenko, but they seem to be in the minority.

  21. The author might have meant something like “she changed the official [for sport-related values of ‘official’] Romanization of her name.”
    For example, back in 2008 the results on her shared blog with Alexander Smirnov listed her as “Kawaguchi”, but for the last year or so it’s been “Kavaguti”.
    (Bonus trivium: The title of the blog translates to “Yuko and Sasha in the Land of Polar Bears and Vodka”.)

  22. For what it’s worth, during the short program, the commentators on Chinese state TV said that she had “changed the spelling” (拼写) of her name when she started competing for Russia under Russian citizenship, in the context of a remark that suggested something along the lines of what Wimbrel says in comment #2.

  23. Needless to say, the Chinese are unlikely to have anything charitable to say about the Japanese. And with their highly chauvinistic ideas of Volk and Staat, the Chinese are unlikely to have anything nice to say about people who are perceived as traitors to their race and nation.

  24. J.W. Brewer wrote:
    > I would say that “Kawaguchi” isn’t simply an “English” rendering; it’s the Romaji spelling.
    I would like to think the same thing as well. However, consider the fuller context: her first name. The romanization is Yūko, not Yuko, which is entirely different.

  25. The author might have meant something like “she changed the official [for sport-related values of ‘official’] Romanization of her name.”
    Well, that would be a way of reading it that brings it into line with reality, but I doubt he knew enough about the situation to mean that. My apologies to Mr. Longman if I’m mistaken.

  26. Actually, the discussion has sort of missed the main point here. When she took Russian citizenship, the name on her passport became Юко Кавагути. She had no say in this — this is the way Russian transliterates Japanese (about which below). Now that’s she’s Russian, that means she has to follow whatever Olympic guidelines there are for transliterating her now official Russian name into English. It becomes Yuko Kavaguti. Again, she had no say in it. That’s her name and that’s how it’s transliterated. End of story.
    Using ‘Yuko Kawaguchi’ would make about as much sense as transliterating 赵宏博 as Chzhao Khunbo instead of Zhao Hongbo because his name is transliterated Чжао Хунбо in Russian. Who cares how it’s written in Russian? In other words, Kavaguti is Russian now, her name in Russia is Юко Кавагути, and that’s all there is to it. It isn’t ‘actually’ Yuko Kawaguchi in English, because that’s only when you’re transliterating from Japanese. We’re not. We’re transliterating from Russian, because she’s Russian.
    Russian transliteration uses a system similar to what’s called the Kunrei-shiki system (訓令式), which aims for internal consistency rather than accuracy in pronunciation. This makes a lot of sense, because you can’t control how things are pronounced in other languages. Under this system, 川口 would be kawaguti. That final ‘ti’ is logical, because that combination cannot be pronounced any other way in Japanese. It’s ta-ti-tu-te-to, as opposed to the Hepburn system which is more common, in which it is ta-chi-tsu-te-to, to reflect how it sounds to English-speakers’ ears. Using Kunrei, Mr. Tsuchida becomes Mr. Tutida and Junko becomes Zyunko. And ninja would be ninzya.
    Anyway, the Russians

  27. Does anybody here know why the Latin h is often transliterated into Russian as г? Голландия, гемоглобин, Нью-Гэмпшир, etc. What was wrong with x?
    Isn’t it just a generalization of the transliteration that is completely systematic so far as Czech and Russian are concerned (Книга -> Kniha; Прага -> Praha; etc.)?

  28. Changes in transliteration systems and policies give all of us a hard time over here in the land of vodka and polar bears (polar bears?) Will I muck up the system by switching to Russian? You guys did it. Anyway, my full given name is Michele, which is usually transliterated as Ìèøåëü. But one year the consulates had a new computer system and my name came out Ìè÷åë. Even the consular officer thought it was a ridiculous hoot, and understood that I had undergone a sex change along with a consonant change. But that year I was Mitch.

  29. J.W. Brewer says:

    Another instance of the Russian love of G-ness may be the girls’ name Galina, which *may* (meaning so I’ve heard but googling for confirmation gave sort of ambiguous results) be a slavification of Helena existing side by side with Yelena. One possible explanation for the doublet would be inconsistent use of rough breathing by the Greeks at the relevant time(s) their saints’ names were being adapted in Rus.

  30. Oh — Dmitry Yermolovich, who has written kind of the Bible on name translation/transcription, writes that à was used to transcribe the initial H in German and English names primarily because of the unfortunate sound combination in Russian (Õåðáåðò sounds borderline obscene). But there have been some exceptions over the years, and now there is a slight tendency to dump the Ã.

  31. «Мишель» and «Мичел» are the corrupted Windows-1251 words in mab’s comment, if anyone’s curious about them.

  32. Oh dear. I see I’m still banned from using Russian.

  33. «Мишель» and «Мичел» are the corrupted Windows-1251 words in mab’s comment, if anyone’s curious about them.
    I was. Thanks. Even before your exegesis I was reminded of French television announcers’ habit of referring to Mikhail Gorbachev as Mireille Gorbachev.

  34. Mireille Gorbachev??!!! Are you kidding?

  35. “…primarily because of the unfortunate sound combination in Russian (Õåðáåðò sounds borderline obscene).”
    For the same reason the Argentine province of Jujuy is spelled Æóæóé on Russian maps and in the Russian Wikipedia. The fact that æóé means “chew!” in Russian just adds to the humor. And of course the Chinese surname Hui is always spelled Õóýé:
    http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A5%D1%83%D1%8D%D0%B9_(%D1%84%D0%B0%D0%BC%D0%B8%D0%BB%D0%B8%D1%8F)

  36. marie-lucie says:

    Many French speakers are unable to hear or pronounce the difference between the voiceless Russian “kh” (or German “ch”) and the (usually) voiced Standard French “r”. Also, if the -aïl at the end was pronounced with a diphthong (rather than “-a-il”), the final lmight not be noticeable, and the result could sound (especially to a foreigner) like the female name Mireille (from Occitan Miréio – the Provençal spelling – or Mirelha – the archaic modern Occitan spelling, same pronunciation).

  37. I was. Thanks.

    Ah, good; here’s some more de-corruption:
    ‘Oh — Dmitry Yermolovich, who has written kind of the Bible on name translation/transcription, writes that Г was used to transcribe the initial H in German and English names primarily because of the unfortunate sound combination in Russian (Херберт sounds borderline obscene). But there have been some exceptions over the years, and now there is a slight tendency to dump the Г.’
    and:
    ‘”…primarily because of the unfortunate sound combination in Russian (Херберт sounds borderline obscene).”
    For the same reason the Argentine province of Jujuy is spelled Жужуй on Russian maps and in the Russian Wikipedia. The fact that жуй means “chew!” in Russian just adds to the humor. And of course the Chinese surname Hui is always spelled Хуэй: [and the WP link is to the Russian article for Хуэй (фамилия) .]’

  38. Actually, the discussion has sort of missed the main point here. When she took Russian citizenship, the name on her passport became Юко Кавагути. She had no say in this — this is the way Russian transliterates Japanese
    Actually, that was the entire point of my post.

  39. For the same reason the Argentine province of Jujuy is spelled Жужуй on Russian maps and in the Russian Wikipedia.
    I had never noticed that, but checking my Атлас Мира I see you’re right, it’s Сан-Сальвадор-де-Жужуй. That’s hilarious!

  40. mollymooly says:

    It’s been rotten since the Berlin Olympics.

    Perhaps the very first Olympic boycott was by Ireland in 1936, protesting at Nordies not being allowed to turn out for the Free State.

    Many French speakers are unable to hear or pronounce the difference between the voiceless Russian “kh” (or German “ch”) and the (usually) voiced Standard French “r”.

    I read the suggestion that Irish students learning French should use the Irish “gh” sound as the French r. The writer asserted the sounds were identical, which is not true; however, the “gh” is voiced and hence closer to the French “r” than the Russian “kh” is, so it wasn’t a bad idea.

  41. I see that now. It needs to be emphasized that it wasn’t her choice, though. The same thing has irked me watching the Olympics.

  42. marie-lucie says:

    mollymooly: I read the suggestion that Irish students learning French should use the Irish “gh” sound as the French r. The writer asserted the sounds were identical, which is not true; however, the “gh” is voiced and hence closer to the French “r” than the Russian “kh” is, so it wasn’t a bad idea.
    I presume that the “gh” in question is a voiced velar fricative, articulated not as far back in the mouth as the “French r”. Irish students following this advice will sound like they have an African or Antillais (French West Indian) accent. This type of accent sounds very soft to most French people, to whom it gives the impression that the speakers cannot pronounce the “r”‘s at all.

  43. komfo,amonan says:

    Херберт sounds borderline obscene
    The only non-Russianist in the room would appreciate some explanation on the obscenity of “Херберт”.

  44. marie-lucie says:

    There is more than one non-Russianist in the room.

  45. Indeed, there are many non-Russianists (and five pokers) in the room.

  46. Хер [kher] is a common euphemism for хуй [khui] ‘cock,’ probably the most obscene word in Russian, the prototypical “three-letter word” (as they’re called in Russian). While not obscene itself, it is an unmistakable pointer toward obscenity.

  47. michael farris says:

    I didn’t know that. I guessed the problem with jujuy thru Polish chuj (often spelled huj in graffiti) with the same meaning as in Russian – though in Polish it’s at most the bronze medalist in obscenity behind pizda (the c word) and jebać (the f verb). But there’s no cher? her?
    Early on in my time in Poland I once pronounced a dubious idea to be a ‘lot of hooey’ in class to the shocked delight of my students. I knew the Polish word but I hadn’t realized how close they sounded. I now wonder if hooey in English is a slavic loan……

  48. michael farris says:

    Considering there’s a Vietnamese population in European Russia, I wonder how the name Hui is transliterated. (And in the east where there’s a lot of Chinese immigration I wonder if Hui is a Mandarin name and if so how it gets transliterated.

  49. LOOK NON-RUSSIANIST
    Which one? There are many in this room.
    LOOK JOHN COWAN
    You see a man holding five poc… poek… three pokers.

  50. komfo,amonan says:

    Спасибо! Yes, I know I’m not the only non-Russianist in the room. It’s hard for me to believe that the ‘г’ for ‘h’ is about ‘Херберт’ rather than the reason that ‘г’ is pronounced as /h/ in Ukrainian. But whatever.

  51. Mongolian has borrowed a lot of words from Russian preserving the Г, including, for instance, Голланд. I am sure that Mongolians with good Russian would pronounce it correctly as /h/ or /x/, but I suspect the unsophisticated would pronounce it as a /g/.

  52. I have a feeling that Herbert is a euphemistic slang word for penis, in England.

  53. John Emerson says:

    “Hui” in Chinese is pronounced more like “hway” than “hooie” though.

  54. But I may be confusing Herbert with Percy.

  55. The Percys are, of course, Dukes of Northumberland, whereas the Herberts are Earls of Carnarvon and of Pembroke. “To point Percy at the porcelain” is an Australian expression made popular by Barry Humphries.

  56. …popular in England, I ought to have written.

  57. Mireille Gorbachev??!!! Are you kidding?
    No, I wasn’t; it really did sound that that to my ears. Mind you, it’s been a while since Gorbachev was mentioned in the news every night, and I hope my ears have become better at detecting nuances in French pronunciation since then.
    Anyway, Marie-Lucie has given an expert explanation of how the Mireille pronunciation could arise.
    Years ago, when I knew little French and less Spanish, I was quite surprised when a Frenchman I met in Chile said that pájaro was almost impossible to pronounce. It wouldn’t have occcurred to me that it was a word unusually difficult to say. However, if you assume that both Spanish j and Spanish r sound like French r you do indeed arrive at a word that’s not easy to say.
    I still have a lot of difficulty with saying a French r properly, especially when there are two in close proximity, as in RER or la rue du Docteur Roux (the address of the Pasteur Institute, which also offers practice in distinguishing u from ou, something I can hear without difficulty, but say with a lot of difficulty).

  58. marie-lucie says:

    both Spanish j and Spanish r sound like French r
    You mean that both can be interpreted in French as possible pronunciations for what is written /r/. In general terms, this letter is compatible with a variety of pronunciations: all started like Spanish or Italian (or Scottish, Russian, Arabic, etc) /r/, but evolved differently in different places. Pronouncing the French /r/ “rolled” or “trilled”, as in Spanish, sounds either rural or very conservative (as in uneducated Québec French, for instance). Pronouncing it as a fricative, like Spanish /j/ (= German /ch/, Russian /kh/) will sound harsh but perfectly understandable. So Spanish pajaro contains two sounds which a French person interprets as /r/, hence the difficulty of keeping them apart.
    There is a similar difficulty for a French person trying for an accurate pronounciation of the Arabic word Maghreb, the name of a place where many French residents and citizens originally come from. In current French the word is pronounced /magreb/, with a /g/ followed by a fricative French /r/. In Arabic, the /gh/ would be a similar fricative, followed by a trilled /r/, and the sequence would be interpreted by a French speaker as /rr/.

  59. David Marjanović says:

    Although Chekhov on Star Trek was always pronouncing his V’s as W’s, no?

    Overcompensation for the fact that English has a [w], combined with the very widespread failure to grasp that English has both /w/ and /v/ (a very rare distinction globally speaking) instead of [w] simply being “the English /v/”.

    Фудзияма for Mount Fuji

    Makes more sense than one might think, because the з gets palatalized by the и: the Japanese “ji” isn’t [dʒi], it’s [dʑi], and дзи [dzʲi] is very close to [dʑi].

    Does anybody here know why the Latin h is often transliterated into Russian as г?

    It must be because г is [ɦ] (breathy-voiced version of [h]) in Ukrainian and Belorussian. (Also, in southern Russian it’s [ɣ].) This would nicely explain why this practice is decreasing now that words with original [h] enter directly instead of slowly diffusing east from Germany.
    This [ɦ] also occurs in southeastern Polish (or so I’m told), Slovak, Czech, and Upper (but not Lower) Sorbian, and is derived from [g]; most likely, [ɣ] was an intermediate stage.

    On the model of Гишпания, would his Spanish name be transliterated back into Russian as Gestravinsky?

    No, because Гишпания is Hispania.

    Russian X is transliterated as Kh because it requires a strong vibration at the back of the tongue. The Latin G does not have that so the hard G sound does not exist in Russian. But, if you pronounce the “H” in the words “hard hat”aloud, then move the back of the tongue up into the “G” position, you will feel that the “G” is about as close to the Latin “H” as the Russian can manage.

    All of this is wrong. Check out the Wikipedia articles on “velar consonant” and “glottal consonant”.

    Many French speakers are unable to hear or pronounce the difference between the voiceless Russian “kh” (or German “ch”) and the (usually) voiced Standard French “r”.

    Well, “usually voiced”… in Paris it gets devoiced, and to varying extents becomes a fricative (closer to the velar [x] than to the uvular [χ]), in a varying and probably increasing number of contexts: in front of voiceless consonants, behind voiceless consonants, at the ends of words, and even at the beginnings of words for some people (this includes the voice that tells the stations in the new carriages of the Métro line 13). That doesn’t leave much.
    I’m not the only one to have noticed. I’ve heard intérieur and inférieur pronounced with a Mandarin accent: the r became a lenis [x] ([ɣ̊]) in all four instances. The trope that “the Chinese pronounce r as l” must come from Cantonese.

    And of course the Chinese surname Hui is always spelled Хуэй

    A sudden change from Pinyin to Wade-Giles, one could say. The most prestigious pronunciation of the syllable hui is [xʷʊ̯ɪː], but [xʷei̯] is probably used by a lot more people, as John Emerson said.

    Pronouncing the French /r/ “rolled” or “trilled”

    Pronouncing it as an alveolar trill, that is. Several dictionaries and other sources notwithstanding, it’s still a uvular trill ([ʀ]) in Paris and probably most of France – friction only comes in after devoicing; the voiced uvular fricative ([ʁ]) is used by few people, even though it’s apparently normal in northern Germany.
    (…And now I wonder if that latter phenomenon is connected to the fact that the Low German dialects have turned /g/ into [ɣ].)

  60. David Marjanović says:

    Forgot to mention that ти, too, isn’t [ti] but [tʲi], reasonably close to the original [tɕi]-rather-than-[tʃi]. That said, [tɕ] is in fact how many Russians pronounce their ч…

  61. Although Chekhov on Star Trek was always pronouncing his V’s as W’s, no?
    Overcompensation for the fact that English has a [w], combined with the very widespread failure to grasp that English has both /w/ and /v/ (a very rare distinction globally speaking) instead of [w] simply being “the English /v/”.
    I can’t quite follow what you’re saying; but Norwegians, even ones whose English is otherwise next to perfect, are constantly confusing V & W both in English and words borrowed into Norwegian, although probably not in Tysk.

  62. I was always under the impression that the spelling ‘hui’ is only used as an economising measure in pinyin, as a shorthand way of writing ‘huei’. Similarly for the spelling ‘jiu’ instead of ‘jiou’.
    In terms of Chinese phonology, ‘hui’ is ‘h+wei’ and forms part of the series including ‘gei’, ‘hei’, ‘mei’, etc. There is no pronunciation ‘wi’ in Chinese, so ‘h+wi’ (that is, ‘hwi’) doesn’t actually exist.
    Similarly for ‘jiu’, which is ‘j+you’, not ‘j+yu’. ‘Yu’ of course exists in the orthography, but it’s pronounced like German ‘ü’ (French ‘u’).
    I noticed how most Japanese students of Chinese failed to get this and ended up pronouncing ‘jiu’ with a strangled ‘u’ sound (a Japanese ‘u’ rather than a Chinese ‘wu’ at that). Similarly for ‘hui’, although the results didn’t sound as bad.

  63. It can go the other way, too. In Mongolian, for instance, в can be pronounced /v/ or /w/, but it takes a while to figure out that it doesn’t really matter which one is used, because they are the same thing to a Mongolian.

  64. Yes, they’re the same to a Norwegian. Perhaps that’s what David means.

  65. marie-lucie says:

    Overcompensation for the fact that English has a [w], combined with the very widespread failure to grasp that English has both /w/ and /v/ (a very rare distinction globally speaking) instead of [w] simply being “the English /v/”.
    David means that most languages have either a /v/ or a /w/, not both, so speakers of such languages identify these sounds as variants of the same phoneme (distinctive sound). English is unusual in having both /v/ and /w/, but the main reason is that it adopted many words from French, which has a /v/ (itself from original Latin /w/ – written “u” – which became /v/ before the subdivision of Late Latin into the Romance languages). The other reason is that Old English /f/ became [v] between vowels (as in cnif, cnifas which became knife, knives), so the sound [v] was already used in English (though not distinctively) by the time the French words were adopted, so those words kept their /v/, which did not become confused with the existing English /w/ or /f/. So for instance Old French veal did not get confused with English weal (as in “the common weal”) or feel.
    pronouncing French /r/:
    – for the fricative (usually uvular), voicing is not distinctive, but the sound is normally voiced in isolation or in the absence of a voiceless consonant; similarly, in German, there are voiced (eg /d/) and voiceless (eg /t/) consonants, even though at the end of words the voiced consonants turn into voiceless ones (so final /d/ becomes /t/, and there is no difference in the pronunciation of /Rad/ and /Rat/, but the difference shows up again if a vowel is added);
    – pronouncing it as “trilled”, as in Spanish, etc: of course this is an alveolar trill (pronounced with the tip of the tongue), not a uvular one; and did I not mention that this pronunciation was rural and/or VERY conservative? obviously I was not referring to current Parisian speech, but without leaving Paris you might occasionally hear this pronunciation on TV in interviews with rural elders.

  66. Thanks m-l, I’ll file that in case I forget.
    What does “conservative” mean in this context?

  67. marie-lucie says:

    AJP, in linguistic terms “conservative” means “preserving earlier features”, so “old-fashioned”, if you like. Regions far from the centre of things tend to be conservative, while big cities, “where the action is” and people of various origins tend to mingle, are usually innovative, in language as in other things.

  68. Somehow “old fashioned” sounds more positive than “conservative” does.

  69. Pronouncing it as a fricative, like Spanish /j/ (= German /ch/, Russian /kh/) will sound harsh but perfectly understandable.
    True, so far as the /j/ you might hear in Madrid is concerned, but in Chile, and I think probably most of Latin America, j has a much softer sound.

  70. marie-lucie says:

    AJP, you are right. Blame it on my professional bent: I used “conservative” in a technical sense. A person may speak a “conservative” variety of a language, simply from growing up in a certain area, without being “conservative” or “old-fashioned” in other ways.

  71. John Emerson says:

    On f/v, people slip in both directions, saying “knifes” or “rooves”. In fact, “rooves” may be correct, but I’d always say “roofs”.

  72. Okay that makes sense, m-l.

  73. michael farris says:

    I have knives, hooves (with a change in vowel*) and roofs. Don’t know why.
    Rooves seems like a backformation to me.
    *hoof has the vowel of ‘good’
    hooves has the vowel of ‘food’

  74. Hoof has the same vowel as hooves for me, in case it makes any difference. I knew an architect from Arkansas who said “roof” with that hoof=good vowel. He used to bark it.

  75. marie-lucie says:

    AC-B: Spanish /j/: I have heard Spanish spoken by people from several Latin American countries, and whether their /j/ was “hard” or “soft”, it would still sound like a rendition of “r” to most French people.

  76. hooves has the vowel of ‘food’
    Not for me it doesn’t.

  77. God is great.
    God is good.
    And we bless Him for our food.

  78. Not bless. Thank.

  79. God is great
    God is good
    And we thank him for our hooves.

  80. I suppose it behooves us to thank Him. Couldn’t hurt: What’s-‘is-name’s wager.
    You actually have hooves, goat-man?

  81. It behoves us to thank him for our rooves.

  82. “Pronouncing the French /r/ “rolled” or “trilled”, as in Spanish, sounds either rural or very conservative (as in uneducated Québec French, for instance,
    I thought that was a Montreal pronunciation, and not necessarily “uneducated.”

  83. marie-lucie says:

    vanya, that is true for Montreal and many other places in Canada, but it is more typical of “uneducated” speech, since the educated people are more inclined to imitate what they perceive as “Standard French”.

  84. John Emerson says:

    I have read that speaking Parisian French is required to convince Frenchpersons that you’re educated and classy. That’s increasingly true in the US, I think, not that we ever had a lot of dialects the way they do in Europe.

  85. marie-lucie says:

    In France, “Parisien” is the equivalent of “Cockney” in English – a typically “low-class” dialect with a particular pronunciation and intonation, spoken in some parts of the capital. Edith Piaf spoke that type of Parisien, which you can hear to a certain extent in her songs.

  86. That’s increasingly true in the US
    Though there is a prestige conservative (sense as above) Chicago speech (the one that newscasters aim to use), I’m not sure that someone from California is expected to learn it (by unmerging some vowels, for instance) to sound educated, as opposed to people from Boston, New Jersey or Atlanta.

  87. Хер [kher] is a common euphemism for хуй [khui] ‘cock,’
    Kher is the old alphabetical name of the letter X and the first in the three-letter word. It’s also used in the ‘cross’ or ‘cross out’ meaning – pokherit’. Another, now non-existent, ‘inappropriate’ letter was F (theta, pronounced in Russian fee-ta), not because it was the first in a swear-word, but because of its look – Ѳ. Dirty minds took it to resemble female genitalia and many tried to reregister their names to begin with Ф (phi, in Russian called fehrt). Dostoyesky’s name began with theta. And fehrt, also because of its look, is a bit old-fashioned metaphor for posturing. Gorky writes about Lenin: ‘he stands like a fehrt’ (стоит фертом).
    Love is just a four-letter word – the whole lyric is lost in Russian, because the numbering doesn’t make sense.

  88. Chinese (and Spanish) transliterations have long been a source of jokes and giggles in Russian. But also Mongolian. Read may correct me, but I remember there was a magazine ‘Socialist Agriculture’ which read ‘Социализм худо аж ахуй’ (khudo azh akhui). In Russian it sounds very much like ‘Socialism, so bad you can go mad’, ‘akhuyet’ being the unprintable verb derived from khui-cock.

  89. English W sound is very uncomfortable to Mid- and North Russian tongues, but not to Ukrainians and South Russians who pronounce ‘V’ almost like ‘W’. The fashion used to be to transliterate W as V. So Shakespeare became Вильям, but Collins is already Уилки, Saroyan is Уильям and Tennessee is Уильямс. But there is still resistance to this difficult ‘ooh-eeh’ combination. I’ve looked up a very modern ‘widget’ – it’s commonly transcribed now as ‘виджет’. Wikipedia is Википедия too.

  90. Chinese (and Spanish) transliterations have long been a source of jokes and giggles in Russian.
    And let’s not forget Venedikt Erofeev’s riff on Abba Eban and Moshe Dayan.

  91. John Emerson says:

    Read sometimes tells Chukchee jokes.
    Russians were embarrassed by theta so they used fart instead. OK.
    In the oldest Chinese script the theta-like graph usually means the sun, but there may be an obscene usage of a similar graph of the same type as in Russian. Before the Qin dynasty Chinese script was pure chaos.

  92. J.W. Brewer says:

    From what angle were these dirty-minded Russians observing the female anatomy so as to think that the theta was more suggestive than the phi? I had always assumed that Theodore -> Fedor was because of trouble with the th-sound (the same way Anglophone toddlers often say “free” for “three”); the explanation from taboo avoidance is a new one on me, but since I am Not a Russianist my own ignorance needn’t mean much.

  93. Venedikt Erofeev’s riff on Abba Eban and Moshe Dayan
    That page appears to be blocked in google books.

  94. I had always assumed that Theodore -> Fedor was because of trouble with the th-sound
    It’s not a matter of pronunciation (the Russians never had the /þ/ sound, which is fairly rare worldwide) but of spelling: there used to be a letter fitá used for words borrowed from Greek with theta, but since the pronunciation was exactly the same as the native letter for /f/ (the old name for which was fert), the reform of orthography got rid of it.

  95. Regarding Ti as Chi in the Japanese kunrei transliteration there is a mildly amusing discussion of the origin of “The Town of Titipoo” or Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Mikado”
    According to the wiki
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mikado
    Locals say that Chichibu was the town that Gilbert had in mind when he named his setting “Titipu”, but there is no contemporary evidence for this theory. Rokusuke Ei, a Japanese broadcaster, lyricist and essayist, was convinced that a peasant uprising in Chichibu in 1884 inspired Gilbert to set the opera in Japan. Although the Hepburn system of transliteration (in which the name of the town appears as “Chichibu”) is usually found today, it was very common in the 19th century to use the Kunrei system, in which the name 秩父 appears as “Titibu”. Thus it is easy to surmise that “Titibu”, found in the London press of 1884, became “Titipu” in the opera.

  96. That makes a lot of sense; thanks!

  97. I flatly do not believe this Chichibu theory. Titipu is simply an exotic spelling of Titty-poo, a compound of nursery obscenities. As such, it’s typical of Gilbert’s humor, like naming another operetta Ruddygore (later softened to Ruddigore) in reference to the taboo on bloody. Not that Gilbert couldn’t have it both ways when he wanted to. In response to a young man who insisted on calling it Bloodygore and said “It’s the same thing” when corrected, Gilbert promptly trashed the upstart with “It’s no more the same thing than saying ‘I like your blooming countenance’ is the same as ‘I like your bloody cheek’. It isn’t and I don’t.”
    There’s another story, almost certainly apocryphal, to the effect that a high Japanese official went to see the play during the first run. He had no public comment afterwards, but in his copy of the program a handwritten note was found on the Dramatis Personae page, next to the characters of Yum-Yum, Pitti-Sing, and Peep-Bo, reading “Not Japanese names.” The first full production of The Mikado in Japan in Japanese — in Chichibu, indeed — was not until 2001, due to the taboo on making fun of the Emperor.
    In Gilbert’s 1921 prose version of the operetta, his last published work, he writes:

    “Yum-Yum” means, when translated, “The full moon of delight which sheds her remarkable beams over a sea of infinite loveliness, thus indicating a glittering path by which she may be approached by those who are willing to brave the perils which necessarily await the daring adventurers who seek to reach her by those means”, which shows what a compact language the Japanese is when all these long words can be crammed into two syllables — or rather, into one syllable repeated.

    It certainly does.

  98. marie-lucie says:

    A few years ago I saw a great performance of The Mikado, attended by the Japanese ambassador to Canada, who had come from Ottawa not only to see the show but to coach some of the actors in the fine points of Japanese saber-play.
    Translation of “Yum-Yum”: there is a similar example in Molière’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, during the final pseudo-Turkish ceremony, in which most of the songs are in the lingua franca (the original one), with a “translator”. At one point the fake “Grand Mamamouchi” answers a question with “Bel-men”, which is immediately translated with a sentence almost as long as Gilbert’s translation of “Yum-Yum”.

  99. I have now read (thanks to Microsoft for digitizing it) The Story of the Mikado: an entertaining work, at least to someone who knows the operetta as well as I do. Most of the lyrics are preserved, though Gilbert rewrites the “little list” to present malefactors who annoy children rather than adults — the book is aimed at children as the operetta was not, complete with talk-down-to narrator. Gilbert also inserts some footnotes criticizing the characters for their “bad grammar” and other flubs.

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