LINGUIST List 12.1595

Sun Jun 17 2001

Qs: Guide to Linguists' Names

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  1. Lotfi, Linguists' Names: A he or she? How should I say the name?

Message 1: Linguists' Names: A he or she? How should I say the name?

Date: 14 Jun 2001 12:08:56 EDT
From: Lotfi <>
Subject: Linguists' Names: A he or she? How should I say the name?

 A he or she? How should I say the name?
 Dear linguists,
 Have you ever had the nasty experience of mispronouncing
 some linguist's (non-English) name , or failing to use
 the appropriate pronoun simply because you didn't know
 the name of the person in question is feminine or masculine?
 If no, you've been lucky, ... very lucky. And if yes, you
 might agree with me that we must do something about it.
 With the urge to study as many human languages as possible
 (and also as deeply as possible, which makes native mastery
 over such languages a definite advantage), a greater number
 of scholars with non-English linguistic and cultural back-
 grounds have got involved in the project. This welcome event,
 by its turn, has inevitably led to the technical journals the
 field flooded with non-English names whose pronunciation do
 not necessarily match their spellings. (I keep saying non-
 English because I assume, perhaps wrongly, that English names
 are accessible enough to other people.) The problem is
 specially painful if your contact with the international community 
 of linguists is primarily through publications (rather than live
 contacts) but at the same time you need to mention such names
 in your classes or have a talk in an international conference
 from time to time.

 Then how to pronounce a name like Krzeszowski, or whether Daiko
 Takahashi is a he or she becomes a great nuisance and may
 actually take much time and energy to find out. I think what we 
 need is a list of 'problem' names on the web so that whenever we 
 come across a case, we can just push a button and hear the name 
 pronounced (or shown in phonetic transcription) and the gender 
 My proposal:
 (1) Could anyone out there tell me if such a
 database already exists?
 (2) In case we don't have such services, perhaps we can make
 one:Any volunteers to help me with such a project?

Ahmad R. Lotfi (the first vowel is a short 'o' which English-
speakers may decide to reduce to some schwa but I prefer NOT to be
replaced by the vowel in the English word 'lot', the second some sort
of long 'i', with stress on the second syllable ;-)
 Ahmad R. Lotfi, Ph. D
 English Dept, Chair
 Azad University (Khorasgan)
 Esfahan, IRAN.

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