18 April 2013

A Nobel Prize

I just read in the newspaper that Simon Cowell hopes one day to win an Oscar.

Well, I am hoping to win a Nobel Prize. I have no idea which category – maybe World Peace? But I reckon that if Simon Cowel can dream of winning an Oscar, I should be allowed to dream of winning a Nobel Prize.

16 April 2013


Why is the Malay word biskut ('biscuit') rather than biskit? If it were derived from the pronunciation of the English word, it should be biskit.

The Malay word must be influenced by the spelling of the English word. People must have seen the word written and not heard it spoken when they borrowed it into Malay. So this is a kind of cross-linguistic spelling pronunciation.

01 April 2013


I was just listening to a recording of a Bruneian female talking to a Chinese female. In it, the Bruneian asks what the Chinese did when she visited Temburong, and the Chinese answers:

rafting and trekking

Subsequently, the Bruneian transcribed the recording, and she wrote down 'checking' for the last word (though she put it in brackets to indicate she was not sure).

In fact, it is pronounced [tʃekɪŋ], so it is not too surprising that the Bruneian heard it as checking.

The problem is that, in many varieties of British English, initial [tr] is pronounced as something that is rather like [tʃ], so train and chain are almost homophones. It seems as if the Chinese student has imitated a British speaker a bit too closely. And the result is a pronunciation that is likely to be misunderstood in most of the world.

This illustrates the fact that it is not very helpful to imitate people from Britain too closely. There are clearer ways of speaking, and using [tʃ] at the start of words like train and trekking is probably not a good idea.