Urdu in English

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Petr Roesel asks if the pronunciation of Salman Rushdie that I gave as the “correct” one is an accurate reflexion of the pronunciation in Urdu.

All words borrowed from one language into another, whether names or not, have to be adapted in order to fit the phonology of the borrowing language. Sometimes, when the borrowing language is a well-established literary language and has its own writing system, it prefers to adopt a pronunciation that reflects the spelling as interpreted by the borrowing language. For instance, the word football has been borrowed by French with the English spelling, but with the second syllable pronounced ‘bal’ (as in ballet), whereas Spanish has borrowed a close approximation to the English pronunciation, changing the spelling to fit: fútbol.

In the special case of names, the BBC always aimed to make a recommendation that was as close to the native pronunciation as was possible while using mainly English sounds. I am not a speaker of Urdu, but I think I am safe in saying that in Salman Rushdie’s name, the two vowels of the first name are both open, that the second is long while the first is short, and that stress falls on the second syllable. In the family name, the first vowel is back and close rather than open, the second front and close, and the stress is on the first syllable. I would expect a French or German speaker to use a uvular R at the beginning of the family name, a dental L, N and D, and a clear L in the first name, where English speakers would have an approximant R, alveolar L, N, and D, and a dark L. While the French speaker would have no trouble with the initial voiceless S, a German might substitute a voiced sound, although Austrians would find the voiceless sound natural to their dialect of German.

As a reminder, the pronunciation recommended to the BBC by friends of the author is salMAAN ROOSHdi (-al as in “pal”, -oo as in “book”, and the stressed syllables in capitals). It is what you might call “Urdu with an English accent”.

8 Comments

  1. Very interesting to see how names are pronounced by speakers of other languages. Consider the French name Durand when pronounced in English as ['djuarInd] (dj is the affricate in John). I heard a newsreader pronouncing the place name Diyarbakr (also spelt Diyarbakir) as [diyaar b@kiar] (-kiar rhymes with “here”). I think this is inevitable. You can’t ask people to consult pronouncing dictionary whenever they come across a foreign name. Besides, if they make an attempt to pronounce them in a “foreign” way this may sound pedantic and pompous. Imagine someone saying: My mobile phone is [zi:m@ns] instead of [si:m@ns] (for Siemens)”!

  2. Thanks for your detailed description

  3. Re: pruh-nun-si-AY-shuhn of Salman Rushdie

    at http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/magazinemonitor/phonetics.doc
    I found a phonetic respelling guide which is used by the BBC under the auspicies of Catherine Sangster. The letter digraph represents the pronunciation of the vowel in . Applied to this will mean that the first syllable of his last name contains a long u-vowel and not a short one as Graham suggests by using the word . The vowel in the latter word is respelled .
    It takes a spell to understand respelling system, doesn’t it?

    Petr

  4. In my previous comment all opening and closing angle brackets are not shown, most probably because angle brackets are part of the html code

    Let me see if they show up if I include them in inverted commas ‘<’

  5. They obviously do. So here is my text again, this time with the angle brackets in commas:

    at http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/magazinemonitor/phonetics.doc
    I found a phonetic respelling guide which is used by the BBC under the auspicies of Catherine Sangster. The letter digraph ” represents the pronunciation of the vowel in ”. Applied to ” this will mean that the first syllable of his last name contains a long u-vowel and not a short one as Graham suggests by using the word ”. The vowel in the latter word is respelled ”.

  6. In vain.

    I wanted to say or write, that the OO in RHOOSHdi is the same vowel as in the word _moon_ and that the vowel in _book_ is respelled by _uu_.
    Yagh!

  7. Hell yeah! This post sounds really good. Reading your blog is useful and interesting. Keep it that way.

  8. From reading the above post blog i must say that it is very interesting to see how names are pronounced by speakers from urdu to english, they will be able to differentiate between different languages that sounds different, and also their pronunciation is also differ.
    All words borrowed from one language into another

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