31 May 2012


In my previous post, I discussed the spelling pronunciation in Malay of Budapest with [f] instead of [p] at the start of the final syllable.

Of course, we have lots of similar cases of overgeneralisation with the pronunciation of names in English. For example, why on earth do so many people pronounce Beijing with [ʒ] in the middle? In Chinese it has [dʒ], which is a perfectly good sound in English. So why not use it?

The rationale seems to be this: Beijing is an exotic place, so its pronunciation should sound exotic. And that is why so many people put the rare English sound [ʒ] rather than the commonplace [dʒ] in the middle.

Another example, pointed out by my UBD colleague Alistair Wood, is Zagreb, which some people (especially football commentators) pronounce with stress on the final syllable. In Croatian, and indeed all Slavic languages, the stress is on the first syllable, so speakers can never have heard a native speaker producing it with final stress. Furthermore, stress on the first syllable is the most natural way of saying it in English. But some people seem to think that, because it is an exotic place, the pronunciation must be a little bit unusual; and so they give it final stress