or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Say It

From a Slate.com music review:

The 25-year-old neo-folk harpist with the beautifully eccentric voice has wowed critics with her second album, the almost-unpronounceable Ys.

Almost unpronounceable? It's "fleece" without the "fl-", "east" without the "-t". What's so hard about that?

Admittedly, an English speaker probably wouldn't get the pronounciation right simply by looking it, because English has a different set of rules than does French: we'd be more likely to pronounce it "whys", or perhaps "is". But that doesn't make it unpronounceable, not by a long shot, because once you know the rule for pronouncing that simple syllable, you'll never get it wrong again. It's not some hideous mouth-filling tongue-twister.

Answers.com's definition of "unpronounceable" is "Difficult or impossible to pronounce correctly". Fair enough, but by that measure, pretty much every language is unpronounceable by most non-natives. The entirety of English certainly is, because unless you're thoroughly inducted into its mysteries, you can't, say, look at "though", "through", thought", "bough", and "cough" and tell how to pronounce them.

If you know the rules of French, or if you've heard the word before, then pronouncing "Ys" is a snap. If the word "unpronouceable" means anything, because practically any string of letters is pronounceable by someone somewhere, it ought to mean "having a correct pronunciation, and difficult to pronounce correctly, even if you theoretically know how". Closer to unpronounceability would be one of those majestic German compound words such as "Betäubungsmittelverschreibungsverordnung", which really is a real word (I found it here) and not something someone made up just to show off the German propensity to make insanely long compounds.


Blogger Bright Beak said...

Personally, I find most Welsh words to be unpronounceable. Other languages, not so much an issue once you have learnt the majority of the rules governing pronounciation. English has its issues, obviously, but certainly not "Ys"! At least that is comprised of English letters and not letters/glyphs from other languages (or even completely fictional). To my eyes, it is more a pronounciation puzzle, as there are a variety of ways to pronounce Ys, depending upon regional differences and cultural influences in one's pronounciation proclivities. :)

Ok, that is my limit on grammar & spelling & typing extension today. :)

bb - babbling as per usual!

Sunday, November 19, 2006 6:26:00 PM  

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