More foreign pronunciation

The hourly news summaries on NPR this morning were being delivered by Lakshmi Singh, and the top story was the earthquake in Kashmir. I wasn’t able to record a clip in time, but it was interesting to hear Singh’s pronunciation of Pakistan as [ˈpakistan] as opposed to the more usual American pronunciation [ˈpækɪstæn], especially while Kashmir, India, and Afghanistan all seemed to be pronounced with her usual native American English accent (the last of these as [əfˈgænɪstæn]). Given Singh’s name, one might expect some connection to this part of the world, though her NPR bio says that “Singh’s mother is Puerto Rican, her father is from Trinidad”, and implies that she identifies pretty strongly with the Hispanic side of her heritage, having majored in “broadcast journalism and Latin American studies” and being “a regular contributor to NPR’s Latino USA” (a show on which you can pretty reliably count on hearing Spanish-accent pronunciations of Hispanic place names even by native English speakers).

10 thoughts on “More foreign pronunciation

  1. Adam Albright

    In the 7am podcast of the NPR new headlines, Carl Kassell pronounced the adjectival form as [ˈpækɪstani], with an interesting mix of the two. (His bio doesn’t reveal any particular Indian connections)
    I wonder if mixed pronunciations are always “anglo-first”?

  2. Adam Albright

    …and furthermore, today’s NPR “story of the day” (Cuban Microcosm: A Stroll Along Havana’s Malecon) was introduced by Michele Morris* saying Havana as [həvanə] (rather than [həvænə]. The rest of the story was full of hybrid pronunciations at all degrees of exaggeratedness.

    *For some reason, it always sounds to me like she is saying, slightly improbably, “Nichelle Norris”.

  3. Eric Bakovic

    That’s perhaps partly because it is Michele Norris … I never hear her pronounce her first name with an initial [n], but then again I’m always struck that it’s initially-stressed [miːʃɛl] rather than finally-stressed [mɪʃɛl].

  4. Adam Albright

    Oh, indeed (hypercorrection in action!) Yes, the [miːʃɛl] part is striking, too. I wonder if she says a very long [m] in the “I’m Michele”, making it sound subtly like two distinct consonants, which I then perceptually dissimilate? (I only hear it this way in the phrase “I’m [mn]ichele Norris”)

  5. Eric Bakovic

    Could be. FWIW, once or twice I’ve had a few people respond to me introducing myself as “I’m Eric” with “Meric?” (Somehow I doubt that you ever get “Madam?” …)

  6. Bridget

    Please advise me on the proper English pronounciation of the word Bouquet. I have had the discussion with a colleague  who argues that it is pronounced “bookay” by the higher classes and “bo-kay” by the working class. I argue that the proper English and not French pronunciation is what should be used and that it does not connote a class distinction.

  7. Eric Bakovic

    Dear Bridget,

    There are two things that you don’t clarify in your comment:

    (1) What do you mean by “bookay” vs. “bo-kay”? Is it a difference in the quality of the first vowel sound, as in “boot” vs. “boat”? Or is it a difference in the relative stress of the two syllables of the word (BOUquet vs. bouQUET)? I think you mean the latter, but I can’t be sure.

    (2) What do you mean by “proper English pronunciation” vs. “French pronunciation”? In particular, which of the two pronunciations that you allude to do you consider to be “proper English” and which do you consider to be “French”?

    According to the Oxford English Dictionary, there are two alternative English pronunciations of this word, distinguished only by the relative stress of the two syllables: BOUquet and bouQUET. The bouQUET pronunciation, with final stress, is listed first, but otherwise there’s no notation indicating that either of these is distinguished from the other in any particular way. So, if I’m right about the pronunciation difference that you meant to clarify, then your colleague is right that there are two alternative accepted pronunciations for this word, and you’re right that there is no (probably) no class-based distinction between them.

    But I think I understand what your colleague may have been thinking. There are other bisyllabic nouns that have final stress in Standard English, such as “police” (pronounced poLICE), that are pronounced with initial stress (POlice) in some nonstandard varieties of (American) English. (Note that this latter pronunciation is not listed as an alternative in the OED.) To the extent that the standard pronunciation is associated with “higher class” and that the nonstandard pronunciation is associated with “working class”, then the distinction in pronunciation is at least interpretable as class-based; since this is the same as the distinction between bouQUET and BOUquet, I can see why someone might think that the same class-based distinction applies here (but, apparently, it doesn’t).

  8. Bridget

    Hi Eric, thankyou for your response. I actually meant the difference in the quality of the first vowel sound, as in “boot” vs. “boat” and not the stress of the vowel.

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