Purging Western Words from Turkish.

Over at the Log, Victor Mair posted about the latest silly governmental attempt to control language, in this case Erdoğan’s campaign against foreign influences in Turkish; he quotes an article in The Economist:

Mr Erdogan started by ordering the word “arena”, which reminded him of ancient Roman depravity, removed from sports venues across the country. Turkey’s biggest teams complied overnight. Vodafone Arena, home of the Besiktas football club, woke up as “Vodafone Stadyumu”. Critics wondered what the Turkish language had gained by replacing one foreign-derived word with another. […]

Because so much abstract vocabulary had come from Arabic and Persian, this in effect created a new language. From one generation to the next, the country’s cultural history was cut off. Mr Erdogan seems to want to turn the clock back, complete with imperial nostalgia and resentment towards the West. In 2014 he proposed introducing mandatory high-school classes in Ottoman Turkish, which survives today only among linguists, historians and clerics. The plan was shelved after a popular backlash.

The offensive against Western loanwords will probably meet a similar fate. In an interview, the [Turkish Language Institute]’s head, Mustafa Kacalin, clarified that it would apply only to “bizarre” foreign words incomprehensible to most Turks. The limits became clear in Mr Erdogan’s own speech on May 23rd, in which he denounced loanwords by using a loanword. They were not, he said, “sik” (“chic”). Many Turks no doubt consider the whole thing a load of bosh—from the Turkish bos, “nonsense”.

As Thomas Shaw says in the comments, the quotation from The Economist misspells the Turkish: “it should be şık and boş. Also Erdoğan, of course […].” (In the following comments, Y thought for a moment he was at the Hattery, which was amusing.) We discussed Atatürk’s original Turkish language reform back in 2012.

Comments

  1. Vodafone Arena … Stadyumu

    Sports venues change their names frequently, but usually because of a change in sponsor. The name used by the fans doesn’t keep up.

    In my (now) home town, we had the locution for the professional rugby ground “Jade Stadium at Lancaster Park”; Jade being the sponsor; Lancaster Park being the venue from long before the professional era.

    There are those who still say “Jade Stadium” even though Jade long ago ceased being sponsors, and the stadium is now the other side of town. (Lancaster Park having been completely munted in the earthquakes ~7 years ago.)

  2. SFReader says:

    Re: şık /sik

    I should hope Mr. Erdogan said şık, because sik means penis!

  3. Remember, it’s the Economist that can only handle English, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. Turkish special characters are right out.

  4. marie-lucie says:

    In my last few years of teaching French I often had Turkish students, who were amazed to discover many Turkish words in French, like restoran ….

  5. I am sure you and Prof. Mair had a good chuckle at my expense that evening over beers, at that bar where language bloggers congregate.

    (What would that mythical pub be called? The Wörter und Sachen, maybe?)

  6. munted

    New to me.

  7. A. Uysal says:

    https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/bosh.

    For plan, talk, idea , action etc. worthless or/and empty.

    In every country you may meet lots of loaned words. Also they change the meaning. In one book by Arundathi Roy there were more than one hundred English words used with a different meaning

  8. The Economist misspells the Turkish
    It took me a while to figure out that Kovaks must be Kovács in the audio version of another issue.

  9. @Lazar munted

    Yes, little-known in NZ before the quakes. (I think that Dictionary.com entry is incomplete: it’s also Australian slang. https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/munted)

    But I can assure you it is the only apt word for what the quakes have done to the whole City and to so many houses (and lives and livelihoods).

  10. The Wiktionary entry for munter gives its pronunciation marked UK (it’s actually a very broad Northern English accent — [ˈmʊnʔə], complete with a common Urban Northern British intonation contour).

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/munter#Pronunciation

  11. Lars (the original one) says:

    My first reaction was “Is she Danish?” Add a [d̥] after the [?] and it’s extremely close to the Danish pronunciation of munter (glottal gesture included, the word has stød).

    The British term may be a borrowing from (Low) German (whence Scandinavian got it as well), and may ultimately be derived from *men- ‘think’ by way of *mendh- ~ ‘agitated’ in that case. (Hellquist 1922 agrees with Wahrig Herkunftswörterbuch on that).

  12. David Marjanović says:

    German munter “awake”, “lively”, presumably saved from the High German Consonant Shift by the following /r/ (like Butter).

  13. munted /’mʌntəd/ adj. Colloquial 1. (of a thing) broken beyond repair: this bike is munted. 2. (of a person) not performing or functioning well, as a result of exhaustion, intoxication etc. Source: Macquarie Dictionary: Australia’s national dictionary.

    Alas, the dictionary doesn’t provide an etymology for this word.

  14. Lars (the original one) says:

    I have been trying to figure out how the German adjective munter could most plausibly become munted in Australia, assuming that that is the origin of course.

    But seeing that several disparaging British terms for people take the form of agent nouns, such as tosser and wanker, it’s not hard to imagine the transition from he’s munter in the sense of well soused to he’s a munter — which obviously is one who munts and ends up in a munted state. QED.

  15. David Marjanović says:

    assuming that that is the origin of course.

    No, I think they’re cognate: on the English side, “agitate” (the *mn̩dʰ- mentioned above) became “destroy”, so that a munter is a destroyer. For the /t/ in English we’ll have to blame what’s presumably about to be called Kümmel’s First Law (step 2 on p. 228 of this paper in German).

    What happened in German is actually harder to explain, but there are other adjectives in -ter that aren’t synchronically derived from verbs. Heiter (“sunny” of mood or weather) comes to mind.

  16. Huh, I didn’t know ‘sik’ meant ‘dick’! *I* was laughing because it’s also the imperative form of “to fuck”!
    I think it must be the case that French’s ‘chic’ became ‘şık’ rather than ‘şik’ to avoid the similarity. I remember when I was first learning Turkish I wondered how they managed to refer Sikh people. The answer was disappointingly logical: ‘Sih’.

    Looking now at seslisozluk.com, I see I’ll have to be more careful about dicks. I already knew you can’t call cucumbers by their official name, hıyar — you have to resort to the euphemism salatalık instead. Now I see that kamış means ‘dick’ too! I always use that word when I mean a drinking straw! I’ll have to switch to ‘pipet’ I guess… or *another* French-in-Turkish word I just learned on seslisozluk.com, ‘şalümo’!

    @m-l: according to Nişanyan’s etymology book, French is the #2 source of foreign loanwords in Turkish (behind Arabic, but ahead of Persian). I too am always pleased when I recognize a ‘normal-looking’ Turkish word is French. E.g., I use to mishear the word for toothpick as ‘kurdan’, which looks extremely Turkish. I was so suprised when I learned that: a) it’s ‘kürdan’; b) it’s directly from French! In fact, the word setting off Erdoğan’s ire, ‘arena’, came to Turkish through French…

  17. marie-lucie says:

    r: the word setting off Erdoğan’s ire, ‘arena’, came to Turkish through French…

    But arena is not a French word! The closest I can think of is l’arène (fem), the working part of a (Roman type) arena, or (figuratively) the political stage where debates, etc take place in public.

  18. True, and I’ll bet Turkish got that one from English.

  19. Munted is still missing from the OED after the March 2017 update — an inexplicable and unexcusable omission. Munter is recorded as British slang for ‘unattractive person, esp. a woman’ (earliest attestation 1999) plus the comment: “It is uncertain whether there is any connection with the slightly earlier use of munter in Australia and New Zealand to denote a loutish individual.”

  20. Here we have brief discussions of [ˈmʊntˢə] in Manchester (2004) and [ˈmʊnʔə] in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria (2005):

    http://sounds.bl.uk/Accents-and-dialects/BBC-Voices/021M-C1190X0004XX-0301V0 [22:03–22:30]
    http://sounds.bl.uk/Accents-and-dialects/BBC-Voices/021M-C1190X0011XX-0101V0 [5:44, 7:20–7:30]

    And

    https://sesquiotic.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/munted-munter/

  21. Discussing this topic on another site, I saw a Turk lament that the purge of Perso-Arabic words back in the day had simply opened the door for English and French words to take their place.

  22. Green’s Dictionary of Slang is typically thorough, but is unsure of the etymology, giving for munted “[1990s+] (Aus. teen) general negative description, ugly, unpleasant, [2000s] (N.Z.) destroyed, defeated, wiped out.” < ? munter, itself “[1990s+] (UK juv.) a very ugly, poss. also promiscuous woman.” < ? mount “[1970s+] (US black) a promiscuous woman, who is ‘ridden’.”

  23. On urbandIctionary.com I also see mounted in the sense of ‘drunk, fucked up’. I don’t know why Green didn’t include that as a possible source.
    I don’t know enough about Oz/NZ accents to understand how mounted becomes munted.

  24. Ксёнѕ Фаўст says:

    I second purging ‘arenas’; they’ve also spread in Poland like wildfire and I find the word (I wanted to write ‘calque’ but I don’t know if it can be called so as the names often use English syntax anyway; it’s better to say the venues have English or mixed-language names) idiotically pompous and nauseatingly commercial. In Polish arena is the level, enclosed area where (e.g. sporting) events take place, not the whole building. By a combination of snobbery, cosmopolitism and greed Polish is being ousted from many places where it used to be taken for granted.

  25. But note also this possibility:

    munter
    The Oxford English Dictionary defines this as: “British slang: An unattractive person, esp. a woman […] Origin unknown”.

    I think it is a development from a Gypsy word munt ‘to weep’ and the following is the entry from my Dictionary:

    munt v to cry: “His mither could hardly look at her laddie, and his faither would munt whin he deeked [looked] at his bonnie laddie’s maun [face].” 20-. munting v crying, weeping 20-. munty adjective tear stained: “‘Crying like that for any old [burnt] boot! Look at your munty face.’”. 20-. Compare MULTING which may be a variant of this. [origin obscure; perhaps a development from Romany, as attested by Borrow, munjee ‘A blow on the mouth, seemingly a Cant word’]

    NOTE: Probably the Scots slang munter ‘an ugly, unattractive person or thing’ is a development from this.

  26. I wanted to write ‘calque’

    How about ‘trace’, as an English calque of the French calque?

  27. Piotr: how do you semantically go from ‘weeper’ to ‘ugly’? Is there any evidence for intermediate stages? Is there much Romani in Scots otherwise?If so, from what periods?

  28. per incuriam says:

    @Ксёнѕ Фаўст
    I second purging ‘arenas’

    Amen. And I’m a little shaky on the doctrinal niceties of why a change in terminology is to be disparaged if prescribed by an elected official but accepted as part of natural evolution if it emanates from the corporate sector.

  29. SFReader says:

    -Huh, I didn’t know ‘sik’ meant ‘dick’! *I* was laughing because it’s also the imperative form of “to fuck”!

    According to a popular anecdote, a couple of Ukrainian girls on vacation in Turkey found out that asking for sok (Russian word for juice) produces awkward reaction from Turkish waiters (because it literally means “shove it up”).

    So they came up with ingenious idea – use Ukrainian word for juice instead – “I want sik!”

  30. Piotr: how do you semantically go from ‘weeper’ to ‘ugly’? Is there any evidence for intermediate stages?

    Pauline Cairns Speitel seems to suggest something like ‘tearful’ –> ‘ugly’ (Look at your munty face!). I’m not saying I buy it, but she’s a serious lexicographer and she knows more than most people about Scots and the Scottish Travellers, so perhaps she will be able present some more evidence when this stuff is added to the DSL.

    Is there much Romani in Scots otherwise?If so, from what periods?

    Quite a lot, often mediated by the Lowland Travellers’ Cant (in which some 30% of the lexicon derives from Romani). There is one well-known Romani loan in the examples above, deek ‘look’. Here’s an example from Leith (Irvin Welsh, Trainspotting):

    Draw the curtains, block out the sunlight, block out your own fucking brainwaves, and deek him sniggering like a moron wi a joint in his hand at everything that comes on the poxbox.

    And here (the same source) deek becomes a verbal noun:

    That meant ah’d git hit fir fuckin back charges fi the shoap oan a video ah hudnae even goat a deek at.

    (Leith slang also uses gadge lie dude or guy.)

    Quite a few Romani-derived words borrowed into local slangs have diffused into mainstream informal English (at least in the British Isles, often in Australia and New Zealand, and sometimes globally), e.g. chav, minge, and of course pal. The Scottish Lowlands and the Northeast of England are among those areas where borrowing from Romani has been especially common.

  31. Rodger C says:

    I remember when I was first learning Turkish I wondered how they managed to refer Sikh people. The answer was disappointingly logical: ‘Sih’.

    Which, I believe, misunderstands the use of kh in that word. Mario Pei made the same mistake somewhere.

  32. You mean because it’s an aspirated stop in the original? Turkish also renders Khyber as Hayber, so I think that’s simply their convention.

  33. marie-lucie says:

    Many years ago I saw a Russian version of Hamlet with French subtitles. I distinctly remember hearing his mother call him Gamlet ! . That was before I knew of the Russian h > g rule. Can someone explain its origin?

  34. The old word sikke “coin” seems to have fallen completely out of use because of the embarrassing phonetic proximity to sik “dick”. Now madenî para (literally, “metal money”) or demir para (“iron money”) is used if para alone won’t do, or else bozukluk, “change” (literally, “broken (money)”). Sikke is still registered in dictionaries, but use of the word in the check-out line at the supermarket will result in a lot of frozen stares and sideways glances.

    A joke from the always useful site ekşi sözlük, found while surfing to see what people think about the word sikke nowadays :

    -Cevat’lar tarlada para bulmuş.
    -ne parası?
    -ya eski para
    -nasıl eski para?
    -ya eski para hani çok değerli olurlar, kup içinde olur.
    -anlamadım abi
    -ya altın para varmış ya eskiden!
    -ne altını abi?
    -sik altını! sik! sikke ulan sikke!

    Cevat and his family found some money in the field, apparently.
    What money was that?
    You know, old money.
    What kind of old money?
    Old money. You know, valuable. In a jar.
    I don’t understand, mister.
    You know, there was gold… the old-fashioned kind!
    What kind of gold, mister?
    Dick gold! OK? Dick! Coins, man, coins!

  35. Ксёнѕ Фаўст says:

    In southern East Slavic the historical [ɡ] shifted to [ɦ] and henceforth [ɡ] and [ɦ] (and by extension the similar [h] in loanwords) were perceived as variants of the same phoneme (and they were both still spelled with ‹г›). The glottal pronunciation, regularly found in Ukrainian and southern Russian, must have been rather prestigious at one time, as seen in sporadic instances of a written ‹г› corresponding to a spoken [x] or — I think — even [ɣ] in standard Russian (the velar fricatives being an approximation of the southern glottal sound).

  36. marie-lucie says:

    Thank you Ксёнѕ Фаўст .

  37. In earlier loanwords and Russianised proper names the replacement of foreign /h/ by /g/ was normal, since [ɦ] was a common allophone of /g/ in a large part of the Russian Empire. When the regional fricative realisations ([ɦ ~ ɣ]) were banned from the normative accent, the perceived mismatch between the original pronunciation and the Russian spelling-pronunciation as [g] increased and became problematic. Now the closest match was /x/, and this is indeed the normal modern substitute for /h/ in loanwords and proper names. Cf. Уи́льям Ге́нри Га́ррисон for William Henry Harrison, but Ха́ррисон Форд for Harrison Ford. Habits change: Russian used to replace Greek theta (post-Classical [θ]) with /f/ (even though a special Cyrillic letter was formerly used to show the disctinction between theta and phi), but English th is never treated like that (Ма́ргарет Тэ́тчер).

    It reminds me of Einar Haugen’s classic example of loanword adaptation — Spanish virgen [ˈbiɾxen] –> Taos [ˈmiːlxinæ̃]. Perfectly reasonable, considering the different phoneme inventories and phonotactic patterns: at the time of the borrowing Taos had no initial voiced stops and no rhotics. It has acquired them since through prolonged interaction with Spanish, so if they had to re-borrow virgen today, they would be able to come up with a closer approximation to the original.

  38. Xerîb: so abi doesn’t obey vowel harmony?

  39. Another kind of strange phonetic adaptation can be found in Arabic, in which a lot of older borrowings of Greek or Latin origin use the emphatics , , q instead of the expected t, d, k – for example ʾīṭāliyā, ʾafrīqiyā, ʾaflāṭūn, qānūn. The reason, I’m told, is that these words were transmitted through Aramaic, in which the Semitic simple stops alternated with fricative allophones (as in post-exilic Hebrew), making them unsuitable for the task. Arabic had no such problem, but nonetheless carried on the Aramaic practice – though unsurprisingly, they’ve dispensed with it in newer borrowings.

  40. marie-lucie says:

    Thank you too, Piotr!

  41. In Hebrew the former emphatics came to be used in all foreign words, and so they are used in the normative spelling of native (i.e. Germanic) words in Yiddish. Consequently, most of the originally unemphatic stops are now used only in Hebrew borrowings, which are spelled in Yiddish exactly as in Hebrew, with the exception of Soviet Yiddish.

  42. Xerîb: so abi doesn’t obey vowel harmony?

    Y : Abi [aːbi] “older brother” (also used as a friendly but respectful term of address for a male of equal or usually greater age, which I translated very loosely as mister, because the second guy in the dialogue is playing innocent and speaking respectully in order get the other guy’s goat even better) is a contraction of ağabey, a compound of ağa “agha” and bey “bey”. Nişanyan’s online etymological dictionary notes that the spelling abi for this word did not appear in the dictionary of the Türk Dil Kurumu (Turkish Language Association) until 2009. Some prigs still spell it ağabey.

    Being only a dabbler in Turkic linguistics, I don’t know how old the use of this expression ağabey is in colloquial Anatolian Turkish as the standard designation for “older brother”. Azerbaijani uses another word, dadaş, although Kazakh uses аға (ağa) in the sense “older brother”. The word in the Orkhon inscriptions is eçi, however, and Turkic ağa recalls Classical Mongolian aqa, “elder brother” (a word that is also in Tungusic languages). As a recent contraction, there is no reason for abi to respect the laws of vowel harmony, which in any case are violated everywhere else in the language, even in the now standard colloquial pronunciation of the word for “brother, sibling”, kardeş, originally karındaş “womb-fellow, ἀδελφός” — which is formed, moreover, of native Turkic elements too! (Redhouse indicates that the non-harmonic pronuciation existed already in his time in column B, page 686 here.)

  43. SFReader says:

    Significant part of Russian educated class apparently spoke with south Russian or Ukrainian accent, causing them to render H as G reflecting their own pronunciation. At some point the south Russian yoke was overthrown and now H in borrowings seems winning. The victory is not conclusive yet – you’ll encounter both Harrison and Garrison in modern Russian texts, but Hitler is still uniformly Gitler.

  44. A little illogically, Hans Heinrich Hock has a Russian Wikipedia article as Ганс Генрих Хок.

  45. you’ll encounter both Harrison and Garrison in modern Russian texts
    Which isn’t helpful at all when it comes to Гаррисон Кейллор, for example.
    Also, Хельсинки but Гельсингфорс to refer to the same city.

  46. “The glottal pronunciation, regularly found in Ukrainian and southern Russian, must have been rather prestigious at one time…”

    It appears to have been the standard Church Slavonic pronunciation until the early 19th century, possibly due to the overwhelming influence of Ukrainian- and Belarusian-born, Kiev-educated Orthodox clerics over the Russian church following the Khmelnitsky wars. From Lomonosov onwards, the OCS vocabulary was the basis of the high register in secular Russian literature, so it is not surprising that the the fricative g was reserved for the high style and the plosive g, for the middle and low styles, at least in poetry. This got all mixed up later: 19th century Russian poets used the rhyming opportunities afforded by this obsolete distinction regardless of register (rhyming мог-мох and мог-зарок).

    It does not mean the fricative g was socially prestigious in any way. The social standing of the Russian clergy, even of the bishops, to say nothing of the parish priests, left much to be desired.

  47. minus273 says:

    I think I have read it in a 19th century grammar that г in loans are to be pronounced the “Latin” (= Ukrainian) way, and in other words pronounced as a hard g.

  48. David Marjanović says:

    There’s no trace of [ɣ] in Bulgaria or Macedonia, is there? 🙂

    The reason, I’m told, is that these words were transmitted through Aramaic, in which the Semitic simple stops alternated with fricative allophones (as in post-exilic Hebrew), making them unsuitable for the task.

    A simpler option is available: k and t are aspirated in Arabic (as no doubt formerly in Aramaic and Hebrew), the emphatics are not.

    Likewise, Greek /p t k/ show up in Georgian as ejectives because they’re not aspirated.

  49. Likewise, Greek /p t k/ show up in Georgian as ejectives because they’re not aspirated.

    As they do in Amharic and Chechen:
    παρασκευή -> пIе:раска
    παπάς -> p’ap’as

  50. Although a special letter is not usually used (though I have heard some manuscripts have specially modified ܦ symbols), an emphatic version of p ܦ existed in Classical Syriac to render Greek borrowings with π. The emphatic nature of this p ܦ is suggested by the fact that it spreads emphasis and triggers the assimilation of the mediopassive affix -t- ܬ to -ṭ- ܛ . For instance, to cite a well-known example, manuscripts of Bardaisan (154–222 CE) have the form ܐܬܛܦܝܣܬܿ etṭpiset “I was persuaded” from the verb ܐܦ̣ܝܣ apis, “he persuaded”, from Greek πεῖσαι, aorist of πείθειν “to persuade,” where the second t is written emphatic (to render a probably completely assimilated emphatic [eṭṭpiset]? — compare ܐܛܛܣܝܡܬܿ ettsimet “I was placed” from ܣܡ sām, “he placed”). In many of the Neo-Aramaic languages, internal phonological developments have led to the rise of other instances of an emphatic p phoneme.

  51. David Eddyshaw says:

    I recall many years ago discussing with a Saudi (completely non-linguistic) friend the absence of pharyngealised consonants in English and discovering that he equated English /s/ before back vowels with his pharyngeal ص – in fact he expressed some incredulity at my claim that English didn’t have pharyngeal s-sounds – he could hear them.

    It was definitely /sˁ/ that we had this conversation about, BTW: if it had been the stop series I wouldn’t have been so surprised.

    I’ve never tried this with other Arabic speakers. Might have a go tomorrow after wishing a colleague a belated Blessed Eid-al-Fitr.

  52. David Marjanović says:

    he could hear them

    He blamed the backness of the back vowels on the surrounding consonants. After all, that’s how it works in Arabic, and in other languages with small vowel systems.

    Also, I wonder if the open vowels of English (PRICE, PALM, STRUT and HOUSE or however it’s called) are actually pharyngealized.

  53. “There’s no trace of [ɣ] in Bulgaria or Macedonia, is there?”

    Only as an allophone of [x].

  54. David Marjanović says:

    That’s interesting, though, because in Serbian /x/ seems to simply disappear in front of voiced plosives (at least).

  55. David Eddyshaw says:

    @David Marjanović:

    Also, I wonder if the open vowels of English (PRICE, PALM, STRUT and HOUSE or however it’s called) are actually pharyngealized.

    I think you could be on to something there. There seems to be a lot of confusion in the many African languages with ATR harmony over just exactly what it is that characterises the [-ATR] sets, which acoustically (at any rate) generally resemble English lax vowels. It probably differs from language to language, and to make matters more complicated yet, has probably changed over time in the history of individual languages. They do seem to be creaky at any rate in some languages. (Definitely not in Kusaal, though, which has creaky vs plain contrasts on both “tense” and “lax” vowels.) Unfortunately what actually constitutes creakiness phonetically also seems to vary from language to language …

  56. There’s no trace of [ɣ] in Bulgaria or Macedonia, is there?

    No, but the H-area where *g is lenited to a velar or glottal fricative (South Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Slovak, Czech, Upper Sorbian) reaches also some northwestern dialects of South Slavic (Slovene and Čakavian Croatian). Though Standard Slovene has [g], in the regional dialects one finds the whole spectrum of lenited reflexes, from [ɣ] to [ɦ] to zero (plus [x], [h] when devoiced).

  57. There is one well-known Romani loan in the examples above, deek ‘look’.

    Which also made it into 19th/20th century (military) English via Hindi as “dekko” = look.

  58. It appears to have been the standard Church Slavonic pronunciation until the early 19th century, possibly due to the overwhelming influence of Ukrainian- and Belarusian-born, Kiev-educated Orthodox clerics over the Russian church following the Khmelnitsky wars.

    I seem to recall reading that during Khrushchev’s time in office something similar happened – high-ranking Russian Communists started mimicking his Ukrainian accent and pronouncing v as w, resulting in a weird hybrid called “Politburo Ukrainian”. (And, I presume, stopped suddenly once he was dethroned.)

  59. “I seem to recall reading that during Khrushchev’s time in office something similar happened – high-ranking Russian Communists started mimicking his Ukrainian accent”

    This sounds like the urban legend that people imitated Stalin’s Georgian mistakes in Russian. (Or that continental Spanish ceceo comes from a king with a speech defect). Sociolinguistically, such stories are very hard to believe.

  60. You’re mixing up two very different things. The idea that continental Spanish ceceo comes from a king with a speech defect is hard to believe because it involves an entire population; it is not at all hard to believe that a small group of people who constantly interact with one very powerful person might take on some of his speech mannerisms.

  61. SFReader says:

    There was a rather radical spelling reform proposal for Russian in 1963 which was rumored to follow South Russian speech patterns of comrade Khrushev – eg, zayats (hare) was to become “zayets”, etc.

    The reform plan was dropped after Khrushev fell from power in 1964.

  62. “It is not at all hard to believe that a small group of people who constantly interact with one very powerful person might take on some of his speech mannerisms.”

    If a powerful politician speaks a non-standard regional variety of a language and is conscious of it, then he would be likely to interpret any attempt by his metropolitan subordinates to imitate him to be taking the piss. Surely anyone working under Krushchev would have been aware of that danger.

  63. I’m pretty sure that’s not how the psychology of powerful people operates. Imitation of the boss is a timeless constant in human affairs, I have seen it at work myself, and if it were interpreted as “taking the piss” and punished it would have died out long ago.

  64. It depends what you imitate. I doubt if any boss would appreciate a deliberate imitation of his speech defect.

  65. An accent is not a speech defect, though.

  66. Exactly. Southern/Ukrainian-type g’s would have sounded normal and homey to Khrushchev.

  67. marie-lucie says:

    Southern/Ukrainian-type g’s would have sounded normal and homey to Khrushchev.

    But if that was the only feature adopted by the subordinates, it might sound to K that they were mocking him by aping this one feature of his speech.

  68. Again, I’m pretty sure that’s not the way the mind of the Big Guy works. If someone were ostentatiously mocking some aspect of his speech? Sure, off to the Gulag with him. But just a tendency to sound homey and familiar? Everybody’s good.

  69. Lazar: You mean because it’s an aspirated stop in the original? Turkish also renders Khyber as Hayber, so I think that’s simply their convention.

    But the kh in Khyber (خیبر) is not an aspirated stop [kʰ] but a voiceless velar fricative [x]. That’s the point I think Rodger C was making: the Turks took the English “Sikh” to be a romanization of سیخ when in fact the original is سکھ.

  70. Rodger C says:

    Yes, thanks.

  71. But the kh in Khyber (خیبر) is not an aspirated stop [kʰ] but a voiceless velar fricative [x].

    Oh, I overlooked that – I was assuming it had /kʰ/. Still, though, I don’t think we can be sure that Sih was a mistake on the Turks’ part, rather than a sort of customary equivalence – maybe based on Indo-Aryan /kʰ/ mapping to Arabic /x/, and Arabic /x/ then mapping to Turkish /h/.

    (On the other hand, Persian apparently has sīk, which would seem to argue in favor of the mistake idea.)

  72. Persian apparently has sīk, which would seem to argue in favor of the mistake idea.
    Or maybe it’s not a mistake after all:

    The voiceless obstruents /p, t, tʃ, k/ are aspirated much like their English counterparts: they become aspirated when they begin a syllable, though aspiration is not contrastive. The Persian language does not have syllable-initial consonant clusters (see below), so unlike in English, /p, t, k/ are aspirated even following /s/, as in هستم ҳастам /hæstæm/ (‘I exist’).[9] They are also aspirated at the end of syllables, although not as strongly.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persian_phonology#Consonants

  73. David Marjanović says:

    I’ve never encountered an aspirated /tʃ/ in English outside of a Chinese accent. I suspect “aspirated” is meant to mean “fortis”; that would explain the “aspiration” behind /s/.

  74. Or maybe it’s not a mistake after all: The voiceless obstruents /p, t, tʃ, k/ are aspirated much like their English counterparts

    I don’t understand how any of that makes it less of a mistake to render /k/, aspirated or not, as h.

  75. I’ve never encountered an aspirated /tʃ/ in English outside of a Chinese accent. I suspect “aspirated” is meant to mean “fortis”; that would explain the “aspiration” behind /s/.

    Really? Most accounts that I’ve seen say that /ʧ/ gets aspirated in the same contexts that /p, t, k/ do, and that jibes with my subjective impression: it feels aspirated when initial or stressed, and unaspirated when final or, rarely, impure (e.g. exchange [ɪkˈsʧe̞ɪnʤ̥], this change [ðɪsˈʧʰe̞ɪnʤ̥]). Comparing triads like “keep at, key pat, keep hat” and “teach at, tea chat, teach hat” (equalizing their stress), things seem pretty parallel.

  76. I don’t aspirate even in “teach hat.” Unless I slow it down, it sounds the same as the way I say “teach at.”

  77. San Franciscans very distinctly pronounce both aitches in Hetch Hetchy (where their water comes from).

  78. David Marjanović: “That’s interesting, though, because in Serbian /x/ seems to simply disappear in front of voiced plosives (at least).”

    I was just talking to my brother this morning, and I realized I also voice /x/ between vowels. Context: grandparents refugees from (what is now) northern Greece and (what was then) Serbia (Vardar region) after Balkan wars. Half from one, half from the other. From a town mostly populated by descendants of refugees from said regions.

    Voicing /x/ in front of voiced plosives is standard, but I don’t think it is between vowels. And I think I might be only doing it between back vowels. I need to do some research.

  79. David Marjanović says:

    Comparing triads like “keep at, key pat, keep hat” and “teach at, tea chat, teach hat” (equalizing their stress), things seem pretty parallel.

    Do you glottalize in keep and teach? That alone could account for the difference between teach at and tea chat. Non-Scottish British accents can be incomprehensible on bad microphones because only the glottalization gets through…

  80. Or maybe it’s not a mistake after all: The voiceless obstruents /p, t, tʃ, k/ are aspirated much like their English counterparts

    I don’t understand how any of that makes it less of a mistake to render /k/, aspirated or not, as h.

    I was referring only to the mapping of the Indo-Aryan ph, th, kh to the Persian p, t, k.

    I believe sih was motivated by the same desire to avoid the taboo sik, as any mappings that would result in the sequence хуй are studiously avoided in Russian: Anhui -> Анхой, Jujuy -> Жужуй, for example.

  81. Do you glottalize in keep and teach?

    No – as far as I’m aware, that’s more of a British thing.

  82. David Marjanović says:

    Glottalization is more noticeable in Britain, but not absent elsewhere… but I’d love to hear the difference you make. Can you point me to a similar accent in the innertubes?

  83. I believe sih was motivated by the same desire to avoid the taboo sik, as any mappings that would result in the sequence хуй are studiously avoided in Russian: Anhui -> Анхой, Jujuy -> Жужуй, for example.

    Ah, that makes sense. And Жужуй is hilarious!

  84. Жужуй is hilarious!

    That reminds me:

    Брежнев прилетел в Китай с визитом. Выходит на трап, к нему человек подбегает, представляется:
    – Жуй Хуй!
    А Брежнев не понял, обиделся и говорит:
    – Жуй Сам!
    А тот тоже не понял, растерялся и спрашивает:
    – А где же Брежнев?
    http://www.guelman.ru/slava/nemirov/jnuar00.htm

  85. Thanks, that made me laugh helplessly!

  86. Please explain.

  87. marie-lucie says:

    Yes, please!

  88. It’s not going to be funny in English, but: Brezhnev gets off the plane on a visit to China and is met by a man who introduces himself by saying “Zhui Hui!” [which means ‘chew cock’ in Russian]. Brezhnev, insulted, responds “Zhui Sam!” [which means ‘chew [it], yourself!’]. The greeter, confused (thinking it’s a self-introduction), asks “So where’s Brezhnev?”

  89. SFReader says:

    Facebook search discovered six people named Zhui Hui or Hui Zhui.

    One of them is a very pretty Chinese-American girl.

    I should hope she’ll never run into any Russians in her life…

  90. Indeed!

  91. Back in the 90s I was travelling to China with a delegation from several Central Asian republics. Our guide was a nice girl with the last name Hui. You can imagine the ensuing hilarity…

  92. Although xui in Chinese is /xu̯ei̯/, and would be written huei except that there is no /xui̯/ syllable.

  93. And the official Palladius Cyrillic transliteration understandably turns “hui” into хуэй, although all the other -ui rhymes are just rendered with -уй.

  94. January First-of-May says:

    I originally (mis)heard the name of the Chinese snooker player Ding Junhui as Дин Джей Ху, and remembered it as such.
    When I tried to mention said player to my brother (much more interested in sports than me), he corrected – Дин Джунь Ху! And we went with that (though I still used the mispronunciation often as an in-joke).

    Fast forward to about a year later, when my brother wanted to read about said player on Wikipedia. I had already known by then that the pinyin spelling was “Junhui”, so kind of knew what to expect, but still got a bit surprised; my brother was a lot more surprised, however.
    The article was titled Дин Цзюньхуэй.

  95. David Marjanović says:

    except that there is no /xui̯/ syllable

    Also, it seems to me that the pronunciation with -[ɪː] is at least as prestigious as the one with -[ei̯].

  96. The [ɪ] is just the inevitable slurring of /əi/ at conversation speed. -ui rhymes with -ei, and never -i.

  97. David Marjanović says:

    “Slurred” doesn’t necessarily mean “less prestigious”, though.

  98. But “at conversation speed” is pretty much inevitably less prestigious, innit?

  99. David Marjanović says:

    That’s the default situation, but things aren’t always that simple; sometimes slow form fall out of fashion or come to be regarded as characteristic of (drawling?) varieties that lack prestige.

  100. January First-of-May says:

    I’ve never encountered an aspirated /tʃ/ in English outside of a Chinese accent.

    The new (post-vigintennial) version of Justin B. Rye’s Ranto (aka Why Not To Speak Esperanto), in its description of what an “average” phonology would be (TL/DR: entirely unlike Esperanto, but probably not that practical either), mentions “aspirated /ʧʰ/ as in achoo!” (I’m paraphrasing a bit – I think it was more descriptive than that – but the example was definitely this).

  101. it seems to me that the pronunciation with -[ɪː] is at least as prestigious as the one with -[ei̯]

    In which circles?

  102. David Marjanović says:

    No idea.

  103. I’m really scratching my head as to where you get your information from. If the pronunciation you’re describing is what I think it is, [xuɪː] sounds illiterate and provincial. Certainly not standard Mandarin. Unless, as minus273 says, it is just a slurred form in rapid speech.

  104. Googled “how to pronounce hui” and learned that

    “It pronounces like “whee”….

  105. Hurrah for Dr Google and an even bigger hurrah for Quora.

    But “whee” is not the same as [xuɪː] (or [xwɪː], and the audio file linked to clearly gives a glide. So no cigar…

  106. David Marjanović says:

    Probably my memory has been deforming itself over the last… oh, 20 years or so already. 11 since I’ve been in China, and that was just for a conference.

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