LINGUIST List 6.1001

Tue Jul 25 1995

Sum: Sri Lanka

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. MARC PICARD, Summary: Sri Lanka

Message 1: Summary: Sri Lanka

Date: Sun, 23 Jul 1995 11:52:52 Summary: Sri Lanka
Subject: Summary: Sri Lanka

 A few weeks ago I asked the following question:
> Could somebody please tell me how Sri Lanka is written and
> pronounced in Spanish? Is the pronunciation uniform across Latin
> America?

 My reason for asking was that one of my students, a Peruvian, told
me it was pronounced /esrilanka/. Yet I seemed to recall that a Mexican had
once told me it was /sirlanka/. As you will see below, I was wrong but only
partly. Here are the responses I received:

En reponse a ton mail sur la prononciation de Sri lanka en espagnol, je
peux dire qu'en amerique du sud (Chili, Argentine), on prononce et on
ecrit Siri lanka.

My Latin American friends tell me 'Sri Lanka' is pronounced just as one
would expect: sri lanka (with the dental-alveolar [r] and the velar nasal.)
They say it is spelled as you have spelled it.

en respuesta a su pregunta sobre la escritura y la pronunciacion de Sri
Lanka en espanol, le puedo decir lo siguiente :
En cuanto a la escritura, si no me equivoco, se mantiene el original Sri Lanka.
Sin embargo, en cuanto a la pronunciacion, existe la tendencia general a
intercalar una i de apoyo entre la s y la r : [siri].
Ello no excluye que ciertos individuos, considerandose mas "cultos" y mas
"sabios", hagan el esfuerzo de pronunciar [sri]. Esfuerzo que rompe con la
tendencia del espanol de evitar toda s liquida. Esfuerzo, por consiguiente,
considerado "no natural".
Con respecto a la pronunciacion en Latinoamerica, no puedo decirle gran
cosa. Pero imagino que tambien se ha generalizado la tendecia fonetica a
intercalar la vocal i.

I pronounce it [ezRi' la'Nka], R = trill, N = velar nasal in normal speech.
In rapid speech the [z] assimilates to the following rhotic producing a
sound of intermediate quality (this assimilation is a well known fact of
Spanish phonetics in nonaspirating dialects described, for instance, in
Navarro Tomas' standard Manual). In slow speech [esRi'], without voicing. I
am from Spain. In aspirating dialects, it is [ehRi'] ~ [eRi'].

 I am from Seville (Spain). I write the name of the country
as SRI LANKA. And I pronounce it /sri lanka/. (I might also pronounce it
as /esri lanka/; but this is due to the fact that we don't like sequences
/sC/ as onsets of words. You may have already realized that if you have
listened to Spanish people speaking English. Many of the them would say
/espein/ instead of /spein/).

In Argentina Sri Lanka is pronounced: [siri lanka]. The [r]
sound is according to IPA: is a post-dental percusive
sound. The [n] is velar.

I just called my daughter who is a writer at La Jornada, a local
newspaper. She works in the Economics section. She said that their
spelling is just like English, although she supposes that some
"purist" publications probably change the k for a c.
She wrote Sri Lanka on a piece of paper and asked the 5 people who
were in the office to pronounce it. She confirmed my own suspicion
that people pronounce it as if it were in Spanish --two of them
with a rather marked e at the beginning, which is what Spanish
phonology would require with st- , for instance. The rest of us
tend to sonorize the s- , but that would be expected in Mexican
Spanish anyway. So, her conclusion (and mine --we're both speakers
of Spanish as a 1st lang) is that it's pronounced "normally."
She has worked with a number of Argentine journalists and never
noticed that they did anything worth noting, which means that
they probably pronounce it just about the same.

 As far as spelling, Sri Lanka is the Spanish orthography for
this Asian country. As far as phonetics, the only thing worth noting
is that we insert an 'e' [e] sound at the beginning of the word Sri.
Spanish does this with all words beginning S + any stop consonant.

In Spain, the name of the state is written as in English: Sri Lanka (the
geographical name of the island is Ceilan -- with an accent on the 'a'). The
pronunciation (in TV and broadcasting) varies: some people says [sRi'lanka],
some others [esRi'lanka] (R stands for the multiple trill of -rr- in
Spanish, the same sound as in perro).

 Hear in Spain we use to pronounce the name of the old island
 of Ceilan in two different ways. The most common pronunciation
 is [esrri lan,ka] (I use double r for the spanish hard r and
 [n,] for the velarized nasal sound). There is another pronunciation,
 not so common as the former: [siri lan,ka]. I do not know the
 origin of this one.

 So there you have it. My impression is that /esrilanka/ is more
common in Spain, and /sirilanka/ more prevalent in South America, but this
is obviously not absolute.
 Many thanks to all those who responded.

Marc Picard
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