Wednesday, April 15, 2009


The Wall Street Journal (!) had a very interesting little piece on the pronunciation of names. Apparently even by looking at name spellings from immigration to the second generation it is clear that the pronunciation of family names changed. In my own family the French "s" at the end of the name was dropped in the United States in the 1840s or so. This effectively changed the spelling to match the English pronunciation of the name.

Perhaps the most interesting thing in the article is the fact people are using the internet to try to catalog and explain pronunciations. The first discussed is This page is really a series of recordings of people saying their own names. The link is by name spelling, so that you look up the name and hear a person say the name. Potentially very interesting if you are running a graduation, or are an announcer. Of course, there are numerous families that have different pronunciations within the family, but it would give you a place to start from.

The second page is This page is more ambitious in that it is trying to get to a point where you can guess at a name (i.e. I heard the guy say "thriewnjfikjihjf", how do I spell it?) but also relies on user input. Interestingly, this page also has a broader scope in that it includes city names (both entries for the Chi are from South Siders. Good grief) and country names. The founder of the page got the idea when she moved from India to San Jose, CA, and did not know that "J" was "h" in San Jose, so you can see her motivation.

The question I have is not whether people know how they pronounce their own name (they do), but whether they really understand the phonetic spelling that both pages utilize. It seems likely that if linguists ever utilize these pages they will need to back out the errors. Still, it is nice to know once and for all how to pronounce Nguyen.


Blogger I LOVE YOU said...


12:38 AM  
Blogger tiger said...

I love it! Very creative!That's actually really cool.

8:22 AM  

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