Wednesday, June 19, 2013

pronouncing words from Spanish

American and British pronunciations of Spanish (loan)words: I’ve had notes for this post in my ‘drafts’ folder since 2006 (when I did a similar post on French loanwords). But today Ben at Dialect Blog posted on the subject. Impetus to get (a)round to saying what I have to say about the subject, don’t you think?  I’ll mention what Ben’s covered, but will supplement it rather than repeating it—so do read his post. 

There are two obvious reasons why American and British English speakers pronounce Spanish words differently when they need to pronounce them in English, and these result in different kinds of differences between AmE and BrE Spanish pronunciations.
First, there’s a lot more Spanish in the US than in the UK. A substantial part of the US used to be Spanish colonies, Puerto Rico is as close to being a US state as a place can be without being a US state (though Washington DC could argue with that statement) and there’s lots of immigration from Latin America. Of the 91% of US high schools that offer "foreign language" instruction, 93% offer Spanish, according to a 2009 Center for Applied Linguistics study (link is pdf). In contrast, in 2001 there were about 55,000 Spaniards living and working in the UK and more recently there have been more than 200,000 British people living at least part of the year Spain (but they're coming back in droves now.), not to mention lots of people holidaying/vacationing there. In the UK, French is the most widely taught language (EU report--link is pdf), though its numbers are going down and the number of teens taking Spanish is going up.  So there's certainly contact between Spanish and British people, but there's nowhere near the same number of people involved or amount of contact between Spanish and English speakers (or their cultures) in Britain compared to the US.

The amount of Spanish in the US means that even the most monolingual Americans hear and see quite a bit of it. If you went to Mass at 9:00 in my little northeastern hometown, you heard it in Spanish. (No big deal worship-wise if you consider that a decade before I was going to Spanish Mass, everyone was hearing their Mass in Latin.) If you go for fast food, you might need to know what pico de gallo is. It's natural to me as an American to pronounce a double-L as a 'y' sound if I see a word that ends in a or o.  One of the hardest things for me to learn in South Africa was to 'granadilla' as gran-a-dill-a even though I so wanted to say gran-a-deeya. (Never had to pronounce it in the US--we say passion fruit.)

Without this repetitive experience of Spanish spelling and pronunciation, the pronunciation of Spanish borrowings can be patchy in the UK. An ex-boyfriend's British father pronounced fajita as fadj-eye-ta (rather than fuh-hee-ta). Jalapeño tends to come out as ha-la-pee-no or even djae-la-pee-no, rather than the ha-la-pay-nyo or ha-la-pen-yo that Americans tend to say--since in the US they are likely to know what the ñ is for (or to have heard lots of people say it). And I've yet to hear an Englishperson say the edible salsa without the first syllable rhyming with gal. (I seem to recall hearing some BrE speakers use a more 'back' vowel in the dance salsa, but still use the more 'front' vowel in for the condiment.) At Dialect Blog there are other examples: paella and cojones. Maybe the food pronunciations will change soon. "Mexican street food" (which is considered to sound nicer than "Mexican fast food") is the big new-restaurant trend in Brighton these days; I counted three newish burrito places in a quarter-mile radius last week. But maybe this won't matter. No one seems very bothered about finding out the Thai pronounciations of any of the Thai dishes we've been scoffing/scarfing here for the past decade.

Of course AmE pronunciation of Spanish is not Spanish pronunciation. It's just a bit more Spanishy than BrE pronunciation, much of the time. One doesn't, for example, roll the 'r' in burrito in AmE.

The best example of unSpanish UK Spanish pronunciation, though, was pointed out to me by a New Yorker in the UK, who was amused by Brightonian pronunciations of the Spanish island Ibiza. The pronouncers in question were studiously lisping the 'z', but pronouncing the first syllable with a very un-Spanish 'eye' vowel. Britons are very studious about lisping  esses in Spanish words. 
Which brings us to the second reason for differences in Spanish pronunciation: the British mostly have contact with European Spanish and Americans with Latin American varieties. And, as you can imagine, there's every reason for those to be at least as different as AmE and BrE are. I’m having a bit of an experience of the differences as I listen to five-year-old Grover’s Spanish lessons. Having learnt generic Latin American Spanish with a Brooklyn accent in high school, in order to help Grover, I have to learn to harden my ‘j’s, lisp my ‘s’s and conjugate verbs for vosotros (Latin American Spanish has ustedes for plural ‘you’, with different verb forms). This has an effect on AmE/BrE pronunciations of recent loan words from Spanish. Dialect Blog discusses this in relation to rioja

Please add your examples in the comments. And Spanish speakers, I want to know: can you tell the difference between a British and an American accent when we attempt to speak Spanish?

Some other items business (read: self-promotion) before I go:
  • I'm in the latest Numberphile video, talking about math vs maths (again!). Have/take a look!
  • I'll be giving my 'How Americans Saved the English Language' talk at Tunbridge Wells Skeptics in the Pub on the 4th of July. Expect (verbal) fireworks! And cake! 
  • If you're on Twitter, I'm there, of course, giving a Difference of the Day five days a week and lots of links to Britishy-Americany-Englishy-language-y things. I also give a much smaller number of links via my Facebook page, so 'like' it if you'd like to get the occasional bit of news from me in your pages feed.

74 comments:

Fnarf said...

So many terrible examples from British colonialism, starting with the island of Grenada (pronounced greh-NAY-da instead of greh-NAH-da).

But there are appalling examples in America, too, like Los Angeles (loss-ANN-djuh-luss or even loss-ANG-gu-luss instead of lohs-ANN-hell-ess). I was just reading the other day about how old-timers in that city's neighborhood of Los Feliz are annoyed by newcomers saying "lohs-feh-LEESS" instead of the traditional (white) pronunciation "loss FEEL-iz".

And all white people in America pronounce that other popular chile pepper "hab-an-YERR-oh" even though there is no enye in the word "habanero"

Anonymous said...

The British pronunciation of "salsa" (with the a as in gal) is closer to the Spanish, than the AmE "saulsa." But that really just mirrors the BrE/AmE distinction on "pasta"

ek said...

Not true that all white people in American pronounce habanero as "hab-an-YERR-oh". To be fair, I can't really say much about how common the two pronunciations are, but I can say you are definitely wrong, Fnarf, in the absoluteness of your claim.

ek said...

Also, on salsa, I don't think it mirrors the BrE/AmE distinction on "pasta" because, in "salsa", there's a tendency to round the vowel (in the AmE pronunciation) due to the influence of the l that follows.

The "saulsa" transcription that the anonymous commenter gives reflects this. (At least, I assume that how the U gets in there.)

"Pasta" would never have that rounding. So, while I could argue that in an American accent, the pronunciation we use for pasta is closer to the Italian than if we used the vowel of "gal" (and that argument has been made by those who know better than me), it doesn't necessarily follow that the same (except Spanish) is also true for "salsa".

Brenda said...

This is a fantastic topic! I'm an American who has studied Spanish for about fifteen years. About ten years ago, I spent a semester in Mexico with a diverse group of international students, including many Brits. It was really interesting for all of us to compare our exposure to the Spanish language- as you said, generally, English-speaking Americans have a strong familiarity with Mexican Spanish. (Even now, living in Minnesota, I speak Spanish every day, because hey, the US is actually the 5th-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world.) The students from Europe tended to have a very Spanish-from-Spain type of pronunciation, while Americans almost never learn that. It's been amazing watching the integration of Spanish words into the American vernacular. One thing I take exception to is the American pronunciation of "cojones." Most Americans pronounce it as "ka-HO-nays," [cajones] which actually means "drawers" in Spanish (like drawers in a dresser).

Fnarf said...

I think the US is now the second-largest Spanish-speaking country, having passed Spain and Argentina. By 2050, there may be more Spanish speakers in the US than in Mexico.

Ek, I may have exercised a little hyperbole, but I don't think extreme literalism is any better. I hear and see "habañero" [sic] all the time -- there's a restaurant a few hundred yards from where I'm sitting that spells it that way on their sign. I have personally been "corrected" for saying the word the right way.

Emilio Márquez said...

Hi! I’m a Spanish speaker,
“… can you tell the difference between a British and an American accent when we attempt to speak Spanish?”
Well, not usually –unless the words I’m listening to are no more recognizable as Spanish. (In any case, some people here will probably find the English pronunciation of Spanish words more acceptable than my own local variety!)

Geoffrey said...

I am American.
I have been told that when I speak French, I have a British accent; when I speak Spanish, I have a French accent.

I have also seen it spelled fajaita in the US.

Orin Hargraves said...

I don't know how Americans say 'Lanzarote' because it's a place they don't often visit, but when I first heard the Cockney prons, with a glottal stop before the last syllable, I knew it would never do.

Anonymous said...

On British pronunciations of Spanish, I remember at the time of the Barcelona Olympics a considerable discussion as to whether commentators should say "Barthelona" or "Barcelona", as the city is in Catalonia. The latter won.

nineveh_uk @ LJ

Ed @ Lexicolatry said...

Hi Lynne,

You said that in getting used to European Spanish you were having to learn to lisp your esses. However, in standard Castilian Spanish you don't lisp S at all, only C (when before an I or E) and Z.

Therefore, words like salsa, sierra, sorprender, etc., don't have any lisping sound at all - just the usual essy sound : o )

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, when I was in New Mexico I've only heard the pronunciations that you describe as British, like djaelapeeno or fadjeeda, and they were definitely local people who used the pronunciation. (Fun fact: When Spanish guests pronounced all the Spanish names on the menu the waiters didn't understand them).

Max Wheeler said...

The major pronunciation difference in Spanish borrowings into AmE and BrE involves what vowels Sp. /a/ and /o/ map on to. In BrE to the TRAP and LOT vowels respectively (maintaining among other things the short quality of Spanish vowels). In AmE on to PALM and HOME. The /o/ difference is especially evident in the frequent plural -os.

lynneguist said...

Ed: As far as I know, one only "lisp"s between vowels--it's the same process that renders 'd' more like 'th' and 'b' more like 'v'. So I wouldn't have tried it in any of those words (was just making a simple statement for the purpose of exposition). British pronunciations of Spanish tend to do it all over the place, though....

(Max will correct me if I'm wrong!)

I disagree that general British 'salsa' is more like Spanish, but I will give you (or anyone) that AmE 'salsa' doesn't have the Spanish vowel either. We had a similar conversation at the French post.

Unknown said...

Most of the Spanish pronunciation I know is down to Spanish au pairs and holidays there, so Latin American can sound...really odd.

But there's nothing like watching British and European clubbers all collectively wince and snigger when they hear American singers & DJs pronounce Ibiza as Ib-ee-za.

Mind you, best is still football fans: most unlikely bastion of how to correctly say unfamiliar words - hearing someone with a seriously broad Black Country accent correct a presenter on Radio 5 Live on how to say Jose Mourinho. 'José, not Hosé, he's Portuguese, get it right.'

Mo said...

Lynne; I think you're right that Brits speaking Spanish tend to 'over-lisp'. Having learnt that Castilian Spanish involves lisping some 's' consonants, there's a tendency to lisp the lot of 'em just to make sure.

James said...

Fascinating topic! I'm a Californian who, after living in Mexico and Central American, has spent the past twenty-two years in Seville.

I agree with Ed about the so-called lisping of esses. In standard Castilian Spanish, it is the zees (zeds) that are pronounced that way (θ)(also cees before vowels), not the esses. There is a variant pronunciation called ceceo in certain parts of Andalusia in which the esses are pronounced as(θ), but this is often stigmatized/stigmatised.

Eddie Foster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ed @ Lexicolatry said...

I agree that British speakers lisp all over the place when feigning a Spanish accent (usually for the purpose of bad jokes) - I hadn't noticed it particularly with Spanish speakers from Britain, although I know some drop the lisp altogether in favour of the S.American style, both because there are more S.American speakers but also because it's easier.

It's not correct that it's only between vowels: 'cielo' and 'feroz' would both be lisped. Also, some Spanish speakers think it sounds funny with S.American Spanish doesn't differentiate between two words by the pronunciation. For example: 'siervo' (servant) and 'ciervo' (deer) are pronounced quite differently in C.Spanish, but approximately the same in most S.American Spanish.

Of course, when it's done correctly, it's not lisping at all, any more than it's lisping when 'think' is pronounced correctly in English.

lynneguist said...

OK, thanks for the corrections, which will improve my efforts toward five-year-old-level Castilian Spanish!

Max Wheeler said...

James is right about /θ/ and /s/. The Spanish "lisp" is a bizarre and completely false stereotype. Spaniards don't lisp any more than speakers of other languages with /θ/ and /s/, such as English, Greek, Welsh ... They do have an apico-alveolar /s/, which sounds rather different from a typical BrE or AmE laminal /s/, though apico-alveolar [s] is normal in English after /t/, as in 'gets'.

lynneguist said...

Yes, my point wasn't that the Spanish lisp. But that is how it is characteri{z/s}ed by English-speakers often.

Ben T-S said...

Like you, Lynne, I grew up near a small Northeastern town with separate masses (although in this case, the Latino population was large enough to warrant its own church!).

I think what remains to be seen is whether Spanish will remain a de facto second language here, or whether it will fade the way that American German did. Although Spanish will almost certainly remain a presence in the Southwest, I don't know that its position in the North is as secure. I find it delightful to drive to small New England or Pennsylvania towns these days and find that half the population speaks Spanish, but for such situations to continue for generations would require the Latino population to remain in a permanent state of semi-assimilation, which strikes as a poor bet, historically-speaking.

So it will interesting to see if Americans' "correct" intuitions about words like "paella" will hold in the future, or if a hundred years from now American English-speakers will find all those /ll/s and /j/s as inscrutable as German umlauts.

Moe said...

I don't know if this applies to your question but my British husband pronounces 'taco' as 'tack-o' instead of 'tah-co'. It annoys the crap out of me - though after reading this post, I'm wondering if I'm the one saying it incorrectly.

Marc Leavitt said...

Lynne:
I can't speak to the British/American Spanish pronunciation bit with authority, but when I worked in France and overheard a conversation, I could always peg the nationality by accent. I suspect the same applies to Americans and Brits pronouncing Spanish.

David Crosbie said...

Lynne

As far as I know, one only "lisp"s between vowels

I immediately thought 'What about izquierda?'

To check my belief I googled pronunciation spanish izquierda and found several sites with sound files. Many sites had (ith-) — alone or with the alternative iz. This one identifies the nationality of the speakers.

Just as I was about to post, I thought 'What about vez?'. Going back to the same sites, I found even a Mexican pronouncing it with a final lisp.

Finally, I looked at an amusing but old-fashioned booklet called Spanish Pronunciation Illustrated.

OK, some of the information in the booklet may be true only of conservative speakers, but the sight of un cigarillo, un zapato, el cine etc reminded me of initial 'lisped' consonant. Back to the Forvo site and sure enough, all the Spanish speakers had two lisps in cerveza while 'the rest of the world' had mostly two s sounds, or sometimes s followed by z.

I was taught a little Spanish at school (in Britain), and later used some (British) self-study materials. What I think is universally taught in Britain is that lisping θ (th) is a separate sound in the variety of Spanish to be learned — i.e. Castilian, though the term is not always used. It's easy to pick up if written texts figure in our learning, since the lisp sound corresponds to
• letter-C before letter-E and Letter-I
• letter Z elsewhere

(The distinctive pronunciation corresponding to CE/CI spelling is familiar from other Romance languages and — in part — from English. This plus becomes a minus when we start confusing Spanish with Italian or French.)

Young people (and some older people) who visit Ibiza pick up that θ sound is common in the pronunciation of Spaniards, but choose not to sound too foreign with the initial vowel. This is not new. The same vowel was long in popular use for Italian — shortened to 'Eyetye'. I reckon we'd have done the same with Iran, except that we said 'Persian'. (Iraq was less spoken of until recent years.)

What happens to s sounds after a stress and between vowels is quite another matter.

The late Michael Flanders deliberately confused this lisping TH-sound with the 'voiceless' TH-sound (this, then, other etc) which may correspond to final letter-D (Madrid). In the introduction to his song on the spoof sport of olive stuffing:

And each year, in fiesta time, people come to watch this traditional sport from as far afield as Cadeeth, Madreeth, or by air ferry from Leeth - as I myself deeth.

David Crosbie said...

CORRECTION

the 'voiceless' TH-sound (this, then, other etc) which may correspond to final letter-D (Madrid).

How stupid of me! The sound is, of course voiced.

vp said...

Moe said...
I don't know if this applies to your question but my British husband pronounces 'taco' as 'tack-o' instead of 'tah-co'. It annoys the crap out of me - though after reading this post, I'm wondering if I'm the one saying it incorrectly.

It's possible that you're both saying it "correctly" (i.e. with the closest vowel available in your respective phonemic inventories).

Your husband's "tah-co" might be too long and too back. Your "tack-o" might be too high. (Just wild guesses, on the basis that you're from the US and he's from the UK).

David Crosbie said...

Fnarf

So many terrible examples from British colonialism, starting with the island of Grenada, (pronounced greh-NAY-da instead of greh-NAH-da).

I fail to see what's terrible about it. And in any case, the same pronunciation is used for Grenada Mississippi where British colonialism had no effect.

I'm sure that millions of African American use pronunciations that you dismiss as 'white'.

Why are you so appalled by spelling pronunciations? It's what has always happened when most people learned of a place through its written form. All ethnic groups have done it. And it applies to all foreign languages — not just Spanish.

It's even more natural when the authentic pronunciation is impossible with English speech sounds. Los Angeles in Spanish pronunciation requires a consonant sound which can only be acquired by learning Spanish.

A Spanish pronunciation of Los Feliz is just plain inauthentic. Forgivable, of course, on the lips of Spanish speakers but pointlessly anachronistic from English speakers. No wonder the locals feel they're under attack. To describe them as traditional (white) is to marginalise them in a way that I'm sure they find distasteful.

Emilio Márquez said...

As regards my previous comment: … no more recognizable as Spanish... than if they were English.
As to lisping: Remember that Spanish /d/ is also normally pronounced [ð] except when it occurs in absolute-initial position, after n and after l. Thus, cada día de mi vida (“each day of my life”) would be [kaða ˌðia ðe mi ˈβiða].

Niki-K said...

Hi, Lynne. I am a native speaker of Spanish, Southern Cone variety (meaning Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay) - I am from Uruguay, and not only "from" but living in, and working out of, as a linguist (certified translator of English). Okay. Having said that, I am good at detecting regional accents, and I can always tell apart Britons from Americans, even when they are pronouncing (or mispronouncing, haha) Spanish. Here in the River Plate area (Argentina and Uruguay) the "S" sound is not lisped, at all, whether as "C", "Z" or "S", everything is pronounced as "S". Therefore, the C, Z and S in "masa" (mass, or dough), "maza" (mace, truncheon)and "cenicero" (ashtray)sound exactly the same. Double "l", as in "calle" is pronounced always as "j" ("cahje", the "e" as in "emerald").
As for other terms, such as "cojones", it is not used at all; not part of the local slang.

David Crosbie said...

Emilio Márquez

As to lisping: Remember that Spanish /d/ is also normally pronounced [ð] ...

That's what Michael Flanders was playing with. Hence the rhymes Cadiz, Madrid, Leith, did — all rhyming with teeth.

Although θ for s is regarded as a 'lisp' in English, I've never heard the term extended to ð for z.

mollymooly said...

There are a lot of "foreign" words where A has the TRAP vowel in BrE and the more PALM vowel in AmE. I would suggest that exotic is more "exotic" but for the fact that PALM = LOT in AmE.

Wikipedia lists the following, but states that many more words (Spanish or otherwise) could be added:
annato, Caracas, chianti, Galapagos, Gdańsk, grappa, gulag, Hanoi, Jan (male name, e.g. Jan Palach), Kant, kebab, Las (placenames, e.g. Las Vegas), Mafia, Mombasa, Natasha, Nissan, Pablo, pasta, Picasso, ralentando, San (names outside USA; e.g. San Juan), Slovak, Sri Lanka, Vivaldi, wigwam, Yasser

mollymooly said...

There are a lot of "foreign" words where A has the TRAP vowel in BrE and the more PALM vowel in AmE. I would suggest that exotic is more "exotic" but for the fact that PALM = LOT in AmE.

Wikipedia lists the following, but states that many more words (Spanish or otherwise) could be added:
annato, Caracas, chianti, Galapagos, Gdańsk, grappa, gulag, Hanoi, Jan (male name, e.g. Jan Palach), Kant, kebab, Las (placenames, e.g. Las Vegas), Mafia, Mombasa, Natasha, Nissan, Pablo, pasta, Picasso, ralentando, San (names outside USA; e.g. San Juan), Slovak, Sri Lanka, Vivaldi, wigwam, Yasser

mollymooly said...

^^ that PALM is more "exotic" ^^

Emilio Márquez said...

David Crosbie

Thank you David, yes. Er... I suppose we sound as if we were constantly licking our teeth?

Lexie Kahn, Word Snooper said...

I agree with mollymooly on Brits and "foreign" words. In college I had a professor of Spanish literature who was British. When he spoke Spanish he would pronounce all the A's with the PALM=LOT sound, but in English he would give the same words the TRAP vowel. I could never get used to the way he said "Pablo Picasso" in English. I thought the first name was going to be "pablum."

Muireann said...

American here, raised first in the UK and then in Texas, where Spanish is the first language more than it is the second. My former husband was a Brit and his Spanish pronunciation was notable for two things: short vowels, and also an inability to perform the elision in "-ua." So, for instance, the country Nicaragua was Nee-car-AH-gwa for me, and Nick-ar-AG-yoo-uh for him.

He also pronounced pasta PASS-tuh and mafia MAFF-ee-yuh — the same short vowels.

biochemist said...

A hot new ingredient in British cooking is chorizo - a coarse garlic sausage. My Spanish sister-in-law taught me to pronounce the z softly in that word and in garbanzo (chickpea) - sorry, I can't put that into linguistic lingo.
Nevertheless, TV cooks always pronounce it 'tchoritso', perhaps thinking it is Italian? I believe we also use an Italianate z in Mozart's name - he would have used a softer z than we do....

Little Black Sambo said...

So many terrible examples from British colonialism, starting with the island of Grenada (pronounced greh-NAY-da instead of greh-NAH-da).

But there are appalling examples in America, too ....


Gosh, you've had a sheltered life!

ek said...

The interesting thing about pronouncing "chorizo" with an Italian z sound (ts or dz) is that "cho" is a letter combination that doesn't appear in Italian, and "ch" where it does appear (before e or i) is pronounced like a k. Still, I can understand the temptation to pronounce it that way.

David Crosbie said...

Many French words taken into English were first used by a substantial educated body of speakers who actually knew French. That's not at all true of words from Spanish, at least not for words which spread beyond areas like Texas.

In Britain, Australia etc and in large parts of America, only a very small minority of speakers know Spanish. The words 'borrowed' are rarely as 'highfalutin' as French expressions of nuanced abstraction. Rather, they tend heavily to be nouns denoting concrete entities: people, plants, animals, manufactured objects. We've needed the words because there weren't existing English words to denote the objects.

So these words got their standard pronunciations initially from speakers with no knowledge of Spanish reading account of exotic things. Naturally, they applied spelling pronunciation. I suppose it's now less unusual to encounter Spanish words in their spoken form, but even so the pronunciation that takes hold generally, that 'gets the vote' so to speak, is the one that still makes sense when you read the word.

Spelling pronunciation works pretty well for Spanish, apart from a few exceptions:

1. Letter A
• Early borrowings like Grenada, grenade, esplanade, tornado, potato etc have changed along with native words in the so-called 'Great Vowel Shift'.

• British and American English have different equivalents. We Brits have to choose between a TRAP vowel and PALM vowel, and we're very resistant to certain combinations — one of them being AH (ɑ:) before the two consonants ls in salsa. If we'd borrowed the word earlier, we'd have treated it like waltz and called it SOLL-suh.

2. Letter U
• In many British accents this is often pronounced like you of yew. Hence our pronunciation of Nicaragua.

4. Letter combination OS
• This is different in BritE and AmE, but it's not confined to Spanish words. We Brits generally expect GOAT vowel before Z-sound vs LOT vowel before S-sound. The way you pronounce cosmos sounds alien; we have that final sound-combination in rare cases like close (= 'near') and latinate adjectives such as morose — in both cases corresponding to -ose spelling. Without the 'silent E', we take an -os spelling to rhyme with loss. Hence our pronunciation of Carlos etc. (The word gross is such a violent anomaly that we never draw analogies.)

5. Letter combinations CI, CE and letter-Z
• This a problem only when Brits and Americans are attempting to speak Spanish. Brits attempt Castilian Spanish, which retains the separate sound (phoneme) which these letters represent. This TH (θ) sound has been lost in the South of Spain and in the Western Hemisphere, merging with the s sound, so Americans don't learn it.

[The best test of independent (phonemic) status I can suggest is that cien 'hundred' and sien 'temple (of your forehead)' are different words which actually sound different in Castilian.]

Ibiza is a rare exception where even Brits who don't know Spanish have adopted the Castilian value for Z. It's spoiled, of course, by the imposed EYE pronunciation — a spelling pronunciation reinforced, I suggest, by a popular pronunciation of Italian.

Dru said...

In British English to pronounce Barcelona or Madrid other than as they are written - i.e. as though they were in English - is just about as pretentious a solecism as talking about Paree, München, Wien or for that matter Lisbõa. They are both well known cities with familiar and standard English pronunciations, even if their inhabitants may pronounce them differently. There is a standard rule which is that one calls a place what it is in English when you are speaking English, and what it is in its own language when you are speaking that language. They are not Barthelona or Mathreeth unless you are speaking Spanish.

To me, the same applies to Nicaragua. Pronouncing it with a soft or a disappearing 'g' or in some other peculiar and pretentious way rather than Ni-ca-rag-yew-a, as it is written, is nearly as bad as saying Paree.

vp said...

@Biochemist:

I believe we also use an Italianate z in Mozart's name - he would have used a softer z than we do....

/ts/ is as correct in "Mozart" as it is in "pizza". Orthographic Z can represent /ts/ in both German and Italian.

vp said...

@Dru:

To me, the same applies to Nicaragua. Pronouncing it with a soft or a disappearing 'g' or in some other peculiar and pretentious way rather than Ni-ca-rag-yew-a, as it is written, is nearly as bad as saying Paree.


Would it be bad "lan-gyew-age" ?? :)

David Crosbie said...

The spelling pronunciations (British and American) of Nicaragua persist because the people who say the word and hear it spoken are broadly the same people as those who see it written.

But a hundred years ago Nicaragua was on the lips of virtually all Americans — including the illiterate and those whose reading matter didn't include newspapers or atlases. They had just sent in the marines.

So the spoken word Nicaragua was out there in immediate use and in the more enduring oral tradition of folk and popular song. In 1928 it showed up in the record of Johnson City Blues by the white North Carolina singer and musician Clarence Greene:

Down in Nicaroga
As far as I could go
On the darnedest bunch of soldiers
That you ever saw


Hear it (if you wish) here.

ek said...

To me, the same applies to Nicaragua. Pronouncing it with a soft or a disappearing 'g' or in some other peculiar and pretentious way rather than Ni-ca-rag-yew-a, as it is written, is nearly as bad as saying Paree.

As has been noted in an earlier comment, and as is the topic of this blog post, there's a U.S./U.K. difference here. There's nothing peculiar or pretentious about a speaker of AmE pronouncing it with the standard AmE pronunciation. It's the /ˌnɪk.əɹˈæɡ.ju.ə/ pronunciation that for us would be peculiar.

David Crosbie said...

Ek

There's nothing peculiar or pretentious about a speaker of AmE pronouncing it with the standard AmE pronunciation.

Indeed not. What many find peculiar and pretentious is an English speaker — whether American or British —attempting to say nikaˈraɣwa.

vp said...

Funnily enough, I've just been watching the highlights from Mexico v. Japan in the (association) football Confederations Cup.

One of the English commentators keeps pronouncing "Chicharito" (the nickname of Mexico striker Javier Hernandez) as "Chick-arito". It's as though a lack of confidence about Spanish spelling has led to a "hyperforeign" pronunciation. I'm reminded that my (English) mother used to think that "macho" should be pronounced "macko".

The video is here. The "Chick-arito"s start around the 03:00 mark.

Dru said...

Here's a mystery which I don't understand. Seville, the town where the barber comes from, is normally pronounced Səville', with the emphasis on the second syllable. The oranges though, are pronounced Sev'əl with the emphasis on the first syllable. It's spelt the same way in both contexts. Yet it's pronounced differently depending on whether you're talking about the place or its product.

Presumably, the locals call it something that sounds something like Seveeya. But it would be a dreadful affectation to pronounce it that way in any other context than if you were speaking Spanish.

David Crosbie said...

Dru

The OED shows a long (perhaps unexpectedly long) history for the adjective applied first to olive oil (1436) and then to those bitter oranges (1593).

During the early centuries of use, I doubt whether all that many English speakers knew of the city of Seville. Indeed, the spellings Sevil and Seville aren't recorded until the seventeenth century. And the initial consonant letter was usually C.

It wasn't just spelled like civil. Shakespeare makes a pun of it in Much Ado about Nothing where Beatrice says:

The Count is neither sad, nor sick, nor merry, nor well; but civil count, civil as an orange, and something of that jealous complexion.

biochemist said...

Chorizo -
vp, the z was the point of my comment - pronounced 'hard' in the UK, but like the theta sound or the Welsh -dd in Spain.
My German colleagues use a soft z in Mozart, like Elizabeth, not like pizza.
And I was trying to represent the ch- sound as in 'chair' rather than 'k'

firecat said...

On the subject of applying Spanish pronunciation incorrectly, my family tells a joke about Californians mispronouncing the name of Juab (a county in Utah) as "hwab". The correct pronunciation is "jew-ab."

On the subject of deliberately odd pronunciation, I had a literature professor in college who insisted on pronouncing "Quixote" as "quicks-oat".

vp said...

@biochemist:

My German colleagues use a soft z in Mozart, like Elizabeth, not like pizza.

What part of Germany are they from? Standard German has /ts/ in Mozart.

Peter Mork said...

The New Rochelle pronunciation:
http://youtu.be/YDOQx6F3kNs

David Crosbie said...

Firecat

On the subject of deliberately odd pronunciation, I had a literature professor in college who insisted on pronouncing "Quixote" as "quicks-oat".


It's a perfectly natural spelling pronunciation. The OED lists it as the second British pronunciation of the noun Quixote meaning 'a man who behaves like Don Quixote'. The first pronunciation is the traditional KWIK-sut. The third is anglicised Spanish ki-HOH-ty.

The order would seem to be the order of frequency when the entry was last revised. I suspect the Spanish-like pronunciation has become more common in recent years.

The order they give for American pronunciations is ki-(H)OH-di, ki-HOH-tay, KWIK-sut.

Dru said...

How do you pronounce 'quixotic' then? I've never heard anyone say 'ki-ho-tik other than as a joke, and I hope I never do.

lynneguist said...

The adjective is pronounced as English, because it is English. The name is pronounced more Spanish because it is a personal name. Though this is an extreme case, adjectives often differ in pronunciation from their related nouns--usually because the stress pattern for the word changes when a suffix is added.

I remember my surprise the first time I heard a literature-type (American in this case) say Don Djyu-an instead of Don Hwan. Of course, it's how Byron rhymed it. But to me 'Don Juan' sounded like a suave operator, while Don Dju-an sounded like it was being read by a six-year-old.

David Crosbie said...

Lynne

The adjective is pronounced as English, because it is English. The name is pronounced more Spanish because it is a personal name.

Yes, but I don't think anybody says MOHT-sart for the name and moh-ZART-ian for the adjective. We can manage to pronounce Mozartian with a non-English sound value for letter-Z. What stops us doing the same with the letter-X of quixotic is partly historical inertia and partly because even an English h sound is much, much more removed from any associations with letter-X.

I think the reason for the change in pronunciation of Don Quixote and Don Juan is that they're not just personal names but literary names. For a very long time, more people knew the names though reading than though conversation. And those who knew the Spanish pronunciation were more likely to be among those who had read the book. As the proportions changed, steadily fewer people used the spelling pronunciations.

The change was slower with Quixote because we hardly ever encounter the name for anybody else (apart from some parodies). It was quicker with Juan because it's a name we encounter very frequently in speech and writing.

Both changes were quicker in America because, as you said, a much larger proportion of people are familiar with Spanish spelling and pronunciation.

Autolycus said...

David Crosbie's comments apply also to "Englished" place names - better known in writing than in everyday speech (plus the fact that an English person not quite achieving a properly Spanish-Spanish pronunciation of Don Quixote sounds like someone commenting on the attractiveness of an ass).

I suspect there are also quite wide variations in Spanish accents. To judge from one brief visit to Argentina, it's very different there from "standard" Castilian - the "ll" seemed to come out more as a ZH sound, and words like "mismo" sounded more like "mihmo", almost as though the speaker had a cleft palate.

Alon said...

@Autolycus: debuccalisation of /s/ (other than between vowels) is common to most Southern American accents, but rehilamiento (the realisation of /ʝ/ as [ʒ] or [ʃ]) is characteristic of the River Plate region only. So yes, you are right in that Spanish accents vary widely. It could hardly be otherwise in a language spoken in such a wide geographical area.

MP said...

I've been to American restaurants with my in-laws and have heard all the examples you've brought up. May I humbly add the "quesadilla" (kway-sa-dill-ah) and the inexplicable "quinoa" (kween-o-la).

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

Goodness, I go away for a couple of weeks and come back to not one, but two blog posts!

I thought it was pronounced "Take-oh" (I have never learnt Spanish, although I can usually make head or tail of it as I know French)!

One interesting difference is that when someone talks about a tortilla, I think of a potato omelette, but I believe that in the USA - and Mexico - it refers to what I call a "wrap" for sandwich filling.

Clydesdale Jefferson said...

Is the AmE long vowel pronunciation carried over into other languages e.g. not just Del Poetro but also Joakavitch for Del Potro and Jokovic? Is it over self-enforcement of a rule about long vowels before single consonants?

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Redboots - that's another borrowed difference between Spain and Mexico: I don't know what they would call the egg-and-potato dish in mexico; in the US it's fairly rare, but when you do find it it's called Spanish tortilla or tortilla espagnole to distinguish it from the the flat, saucer-sized, cornmeal things from Mexico. US grocery stores stock more flour tortillas than cornmeal since the taste is less foreign and corn tortillas have no shelf life whatsoever. The dinnerplate-sized ones used for sandwich fillings can be called wraps here too.
MP - the (mexican) spanish pronunciations aren't *universal* in the US, just vastly more prevalent than than anglicized versions. You could probably expect older or more rural speakers to say something like "kway-sa-dill-ah", but that pronunciation would get you laughed at in most of the country.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

I once tried serving a Spanish tortilla wrapped in a Mexican one (well, in a wrap, anyway), only it didn't quite work... And, of course, are they not also some kind of hair-covering in Spain?

Here, one would pronounce it as written quite unironically - to say "tor-tee-ya" would probably be considered rather affected. I am not sure how we pronounce "quesadilla", as I have never had occasion to do so!

Gilmoure said...

re: tortilla. My New Mexican mother, who grew up in the mountains where the old people spoke the "funny lisping Spanish" (and where some of the old men prayed on Friday nights, wore scarves over their heads, and spoke a "really funny Spanish"), makes tortillas in a Horno (or-noe) for Christmas and a potato-egg-veggies skillet dish (tor-te) for dinner.

When she was teaching (English as Second Language) and presented a paper down in Mexico City, she noticed lots of smiles. She asker her friend in the audience why everyone liked her paper. "It wasn't your paper. You sound like a hillbilly!"

For what it's worth, when I took Spanish at a Florida university, I had a devil of a time understanding the Puerto Rican professor's Spanish.

Johnny E said...

Any observations from the TV coverage of the arrest of Miguel Angel Trevino Morales? Reporters seemed to be going into overdrive trying to pronounce all the Spanish names and places correctly, would be interesting to know how well they did.

Anonymous said...

According to wikipedia the Catalan pronunciation of Ibiza is [əjˈvisə], the first syllable of which may have influenced the /aɪˈbiːθə/ pronunciation.

Anonymous said...

Born in California (can't really speak Spanish) and married to a man originally from Mexico, I've learned a few Spanish words nonetheless.

My husband pronounces both Los Angeles and Los Feliz "white": Lahs An-ge-less and well, Los Feliz gets pronounced two ways by us--Lohs Fee-liss and Lahs Fee-liss, but NEVER it's "correct" way, Lohs Feh-leess. But Las Vegas is always Lahs Vay-gas.

What was funny was my husband having a problem with Cahuenga. He says it's because it's an Indian name. Btw, it's Cah-hwen-gah, not Cah-hu-en-gah.

Many can't pronounce Yosemite. Not Yoh-seh-mite, but FOUR syllables: Yoh-seh-mih-tee, accent on the second syllable. And La Jolla is Luh Hoy-uh, at least to native (white) Southern Californians.

Anonymous said...

@Gilmoure

Your description of the old men makes me think that they are descended from Marranos--Jews that hid from the Inquisition, and came to the New World. They may be speaking Ladino, which sounds similar to Spanish.

vp said...

The British pronunciation of "Ibiza" with /θ/ can lead, in accents with TH-fronting, to something like /ɪ'biːfə/.

I've just come across an example, here.

A wonderfully twisted journey from Catalan /s/ to Estuary English /f/, don't you think?

David Crosbie said...

Radio and TV new bulletins are currently full of reports of two young women form Scotland and Ireland supposedly working in Ibiza but detained in Peru with large quantities of cocaine.

Virtually every journalist said ighBEEthuh (ˌaɪˈbiːθə). The pronunciation has become BrE Standard. It can no longer be regarded as working class or ill-informed.

Anonymous said...

re:
Many can't pronounce Yosemite. Not Yoh-seh-mite, but FOUR syllables: Yoh-seh-mih-tee, accent on the second syllable. And La Jolla is Luh Hoy-uh, at least to native (white) Southern Californians.

Actually, the correct Spanish spelling is "La Joya". Local lore has it that real estate developers changed the spelling to make it seem "more Spanish".