Kofi Annan


Abdul is right in his comment on “Kofi Annan and Edward Stourton”: the news readers can’t deal with the sounds and phonotactics of other languages – and the Pronunciation Research Unit doesn’t expect them to. As he points out, the syllable-final -h of the name Fahmi can have two solutions: ignore it, and say /fa:mi/, or replace it with /x/ as in “loch” or “Bach”. This is the practice followed by all languages when borrowing: use the nearest sounds of your own language in order to approximate the sounds of the borrowed word. Professor John Wells is discussing this problem in relation to English loan-words in Japanese on his blog at the moment.
In an earlier post, I was critical of Mishal Husain precisely because she does not follow this practice when it is a question of a name from a language she knows intimately. When she is speaking English, she should not introduce “foreign” sounds – it is disconcerting to the listener.

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