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I can claim no expertise in either the languages or the peoples of the area of the Bay of Bengal littoral. Today, 15 January 2018, the BBC has been highlighting the plight of the Rohingya people with a series of broadcasts, which started with the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning, and went on until the 10 pm news on BBC1 TV tonight.
Perhaps they will eventually sort out, among other things, the pronunciation of the name. Compared to the other difficulties the Rohingya are facing, this is of course trivial, but it must be puzzling to the audience to hear commentators on the spot and in London using multiple pronunciations. It is the last two syllables that seem to cause the trouble. Mishal Husain, reporting from Bangladesh, is consistently saying /…ˈhɪŋgə/. Charles Carroll, the newsreader, like his Radio 4 newsreading colleagues over the past months, has said /…ˈhɪndʒə/. At least one of the experts interviewed preferred /…ˈhɪŋgjə/.
It may well be that all these pronunciations are ‘correct’ in one or other of the languages spoken in Bangladesh or Myanmar, but it would be more helpful to the listening and viewing audience in Britain if a single one could be established as the “English” way of saying it. I assume that the BBC’s Pronunciation Unit is recommending the pronunciation used by the newsreaders. Wikipedia suggests three pronunciations (/roʊˈɪndʒə, -hɪn-, -ɪŋjə/), but does not say anything about how they arrived at them.
It is probable that there is no way of referring to these people in a non-political way. This would not be the first time. During the break up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, there was no neutral way of talking about the Albanian-speaking province of Kosovo (Serbian spelling, stressed on the first syllable) or Kosova (Albanian, stressed on the second syllable) and its capital Priština (Serbian, first syllable stress) or Pris(h)tina (Albanian, second syllable stress). Also the name of the Gulf Wars of the 1990s and 2000s neatly sidesteps the question of calling the gulf in question either the Persian Gulf or the Arabian Gulf.
We seem to be stuck with the spelling “Rohingya”, although, again according to Wikipedia, they call themselves “Ruáingga” ([rʊˈɜiɲɟə]). There is a long article at on the Rohingya language.

One Comment

  1. Thank you very much for discussing about the Rohingya language on 15 January 2018. I will be very much pleased to give more detailed information about the Rohingya writing system as I have developed Rohingya writing from scratch since 1999. I will be very pleased to discuss about it if you are willing to know more about this language. The writing system has been done using Latin Alphabet including two additional letters from Latin which are ç and ñ – retroflex R and Nasal sound.

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