LangFocus.

Paul Jorgensen, “university professor, language enthusiast, avid traveler, and an obsessive creator,” has a home page, an Instagram site, a Twitter feed… well, let’s just say he’s plugged in. But his main focus is his YouTube channel (“On this channel I share my love for languages as well as my tips and ideas on how to learn most effectively”); I learned about it via an e-mail from Kobi, who describes it so well I might as well just let him tell you:

By chance I found a YouTube video Basque – A Language of Mystery. Poking around I found the LangFocus YouTube site which provides articles with basic information about various languages. The site owner knows Hebrew, I can confirm that he knows it quite well, and his linguistics makes sense to me as well. There’s a video about Hindi vs Urdu and quite a few others. I have yet to explore it more, and I can tell you that it isn’t too serious but quite well done.

What I watched confirms his final statement, and I might add that the “knows Hebrew” link is to a video in Hebrew about Hebrew in which he says he already made a video about Hebrew in Japanese, and he felt he’d better do one in Hebrew (his second language) as well! That’s impressive; I don’t know any of my foreign languages well enough to feel comfortable making a video in them.

Comments

  1. Because I am conversant in Hindi, I watched his video on Hindi/Urdu video with interest. I’m surprised to say that his pronunciation is… odd. He’s talking about Hindustani, and pronounces the last syllable like the man’s name Stan (sorry, not a linguist, so I don’t know how to denote this vowel sound properly), and indeed uses odd pronunciation for the letter A in his English as well.

    He uses the same A in Sanskrit when it should be a short ‘uh’ sound, and lengthens the final I, which should be relatively short. He also pronounces Devanagari oddly, emphasizing the last A, which is usually silent or near-silent (Hindi/Urdu syllables have intrinsic short A sounds unless they have other vowel markers, but there are patterns in the spoken language for silencing or swallowing the intrinsic A in many cases).

    He also pronounces Urdu as if the first syllable were “er” rather than the long u, which is nearly “or.”

    His pronunciation of Punjabi is so odd! He gets the first U right (un not oon), but emphasizes the second syllable as if it were jabbing you. pun-Jabby!

    Oh, now I’m really irked: He mentions Bollywood movies, but plays a clip of a Tamil film!

    I’m surprised by his mispronunciations, given that Hindi-Urdu are such phonetic languages, and that he’s a language expert. Is it common for linguists to have such idiosyncratic pronunciations of languages that they claim expertise in?

    I suppose we have to give him a break given the number of languages he knows…

  2. Thank you. That was enjoyable.

  3. I’m surprised to say that his pronunciation is… odd.

    It’s not odd, it’s standard English pronunciation. Of course he says the penultimate syllable of Hindustani like the name Stan and uses the same A in Sanskrit; that’s how those words are said in English. If he were giving a talk in Sanskrit, of course he’d use a short ‘uh’ sound, but it would sound silly to say it that way in English. You seem to be exhibiting what I think of as “Nee-cah-RRRA-ghhwah” syndrome. English is English, it doesn’t pronounce words from other languages the way speakers of those languages do.

  4. I have always said Hindustani with PALM. This pronunciation is listed first in AHD5, second in MW, and as the only pronunciation in both the British and American versions of ODO. Macmillan and Cambridge don’t even list the word, presumably because they think it’s obsolete.

    I do say Sanskrit with TRAP, though.

  5. Fine, both are acceptable. My point stands: there’s no reason to get bent out of shape because someone uses an acceptable pronunciation.

  6. Eli Nelson says:

    Yeah, most of the pronunciations Deb mentions are not mispronunciations in English. The use of “stan” in “Hindustani” is probably not as common as “stahn,” and I don’t know why anyone would lengthen the “i” in the last syllable “Sanskrit,” but the rest sounds unremarkable. (Well, I would also tend to place the stress on the the antepenult rather than the penult in Devanagari).

  7. David Marjanović says:

    He also pronounces Devanagari oddly, emphasizing the last A, which is usually silent or near-silent

    I’ve even seen it spelled Devnagri on a Wikipedia talk page.

  8. I say all the Persianate -stan names, including Hindustan, with /æ/. (I think in these words, there’s a general preference for /æ/ in AmEng and for /ɑː/ in BrEng.) The Sanskritic Rajasthan, though, I say with /ɑː/.

    The only thing in the video that I might consider a mispronunciation is the use of penultimate stress in Devanagari. (Devnagri, also a valid thing to call it, is the Hindi form.)

    (Speaking of errant stress, yesterday I saw a video about a young Russian woman – accent and everything – working at an American company, and she stressed her surname, Ignatova, on the penult. I double-checked to make sure that’s not how it is in Russian, and indeed it isn’t. I guess she just says it that way for the benefit of her American colleagues, who aren’t accustomed to ending names with [əvə].)

  9. Wait, no, I’d consider his use of antepenultimate stress in Khariboli to be a mispronunciation too.

  10. penultimate stress in Devanagari

    The default penultimate stress raises its head again!

  11. Eli Nelson says:

    I’m not convinced English has default penultimate stress. For example, I had to learn the position of the stress of “mesmeric” and “cephalic” by looking them up; intuitively, I wanted to pronounce them with stress on the first syllable. People often pronounce “j” as /ʒ/ in Taj Mahal and Beijing, but that certainly doesn’t mean that /ʒ/ is the “default” pronunciation English speakers associate with the letter “j”. It’s what English speakers think is default for foreign languages. I think the same thing is true for penult stress; people learn that it’s the default for Spanish, so they generalize this to other languages where it isn’t true such as Japanese and Hindi/Urdu/Hindustani.

  12. In the video on Basque, Paul’s pronunciation of Pyrenees grated. (As with turmeric it’s a stress thing.)

    I BrE stress the last syllable with minor stress on the first. I’m much travelled in France so probably tend to level-stress all three. From various sources, I see mostly stress on the last, with a few stressing the first.

    Paul, however, stresses the middle. Sounds weird to me. Is it an AmE thing?

  13. I say Pyrenees as [ˈpʰɪɹəˌnɪiz]. All the American online dictionaries that I can find stress it on the first syllable like I do, and all the British ones that I can find stress it on the last like you do. Either way, I’ve never heard of it being stressed on the middle; it’s probably a spelling pronunciation on his part.

  14. Yeah, Lazar has it.

  15. “mesmeric” and “cephalic”

    I say the former with the same initial stress as mesmerism, and I ain’t a-gonna stop now. Aparently all the words in -cephalic are pronounced as if -phallic, but I have always stressed the ceph syllable.

    Pyrenees

    AmE dictionaries agree on initial stress, with an unreduced vowel (aka “secondary stress”) on the final.

  16. I absolutely agree I was being overly critical and easily irked. I’m also jumping in as a non-linguist who is criticizing someone with much more knowledge than I have in the field. I’m just an amateur and a long-time fan of this blog.

    I’m annoyed, but also intrigued because until this video, I’ve never heard an English-speaker who was at all knowledgable about Indian languages pronounce Hindustani, Punjabi or devanag(a)ri with the A in apple. I agree those might be standard pronunciations in American English, but they seem very out of place in a video about language. He looking at and talking about words written in devanagari with vowel markers that clearly indicate specific pronunciations. Hindi/Urdu is so very phonetic, with very little ambiguity when it comes to vowel sounds (except for ai, which, as I understand it, can rhyme with I or May depending on one’s accent).

  17. Believe me, I understand your annoyance! But it’s important to keep things in perspective, and as someone who’s spent an excessive part of his life learning recondite facts about languages and pronunciation, I’ve long ago come to terms with the fact that everybody is almost completely ignorant about such things — and that includes me; it’s just I’m slightly less ignorant than most others. But I still know hardly anything. (Cue Isaac Newton.) And with that perspective, it’s easier to pass over situations when you happen to know a more correct pronunciation than whoever’s talking. We’re all bozos on this bus.

  18. Greg Pandatshang says:

    I always thought of default penultimate as applying to (unfamiliar) roots, rather than to inflected forms of roots with known stress. Some affixes in English behave as if they are marked for stress themselves (usually recessing stress to the previous syllable), but -ic seems to be marked as “Could go either way. I give up trying to keep track.”

  19. Greg Pandatshang says:

    I will admit to a somewhat snobbish pet peeve about getting stress in the right place in Sanskrit words. I use Classical stress rules, of course, not Vedic.

    Gauˈtamə grates. I’ve never seen this oculis meis, but evidently Clay Sanskrit Library, with an eye toward just such a problem, publishes their books using a simplified romanisation that misses out macrons for vowel length but adds acute to show stress location (and also separates roots in compound words with an interpunct).

    Even still, I wouldn’t apply this standard to thoroughly nativised words, like “Sanskrit” or “Hindustani”. The latter is maybe not so common itself, but “Hindu” and the suffix “-stani” are both quite common in English.

  20. Eli Nelson says:

    The odd thing is that by the standard account of English stress, “-ic” is one of the suffixes that attracts stress to the preceding syllable, usually accompanied with laxing of the vowel. (If I remember correctly, Chomsky and Halle propose in The Sound Pattern of English that “-ic” words underlyingly end in “-ical”). There are only twenty or so exceptions with antepenult stress that I know of, although some of them are quite common (such as politic). But apparently, whatever tendency led to this situation is not well-established as a productive rule in my brain. It may be relevant that the middle consonants of “mesmeric” and “cephalic” are resonants: that seems to be a common factor in many of the established exceptions.

  21. Yeah, I had the same feeling about cephalic as you and John Cowan when I first encountered the word. The stress-attracting tendency of -ic does seem to be better established in prescription than in native intuition.

  22. J.W. Brewer says:

    “Hindustani” now has rather an archaic flavor in English, but that doesn’t mean it’s a foreign word rather than a loanword — indeed, it’s Victorian feel (perhaps it’s better spelled “Hindoostanee”?) makes a “‘Nee-cah-RRRA-ghhwah’ syndrome” style of pronunciation even less plausible because one imagines (perhaps incorrectly) our great-great-grandparents not being into that particular sort of affectation.

  23. Exactly.

  24. His Hebrew is that of a good advanced learner. His accent is recognizably not native, but not obviously anglophone. Grammatical errors are slight but frequent, and again, not obviously associated with any particular L1. In any case it’s perfectly understandable. He’s easily good enough to be a guide for Israeli tourists, though not good enough to be a translator.

  25. His English pronunciation is obviously Canadian

  26. @ j a lowe:

    He has a slight foreign accent to me. By looking at his name (on his Instagram page), I would say he’s probably from Norway or Denmark originally.

  27. Fredrico says:

    Si o no esta persona conoces a la perfeccion como pronunciar todas las palabras pertenentes a su tema no debe ser el enfoque de la critica. Sino si o no lo que dijo Paul sobre el tema fue correcto o incorrecto. ¿No tiene valor ninguna el monton de pensemientos y conversaciones generada por su video sobre un asunto desconocido por miles de personas que tienen interes en el linguaje y sus origens? Un genio sazonada con un pedazo de humildad es menos dispuestos a desechar el bebe junto con el agua de baño usado.
    Fredrico

  28. First guy in this conversation must be indian almost surely. All indians have the same attitude: they think they are prefect people and live in one of the worst countries in the world.

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