LINGUIST List 8.1100

Sun Jul 27 1997

Sum: anglicization of names

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <>


  1. Larry Rosenwald, anglicization of names

Message 1: anglicization of names

Date: Sun, 27 Jul 1997 12:37:44 -0500 (EST)
Subject: anglicization of names

Hi - I recently posted a summary of responses to my query about
patterns in the anglicization of names; that summary evoked several
further responses, which I thought might interest people. Here they
are, lightly edited - best, Larry Rosenwald

1) From:"" "Catriona Carson"


I have just noticed your posting re anglicization of names. My name is
frequently mispronounced by English speakers to the extent th at their
pronounciation is now becoming acceptable. My name, Catriona, is

the proper pronounciation is katree-ina (sorry, I can't do a phonetic
version on the email but the second half is weak). Like most others
with my name, though, family and friends call me Catrina. The name is
now turning up in the media with the pronounciation Katri:eona (e
represents schwa here). I think it is a good example of a widespread
refusal= to accept non-English European names.

Catriona Carson
University of Strathclyde
From:"" 30-JUN-1997 17:07:00.68

A few years ago when I was a student I wrote a paper in which I
conducted an experiment on this topic.

In sum, 20 subjects were given lists of place names taken from
American Indian sources such that the original pronunciation would be
lost or at least irrelevant to the Anglicization, and also obscure so
that they were unknown to the subjects. The words were carefully
selected to conform to 4 types of syllable structure in 3-syllable
words. The object was to see where subjects would place primary and
secondary stress relative to syllable stucture. The results were
analyzed statistically--the main result is that American speakers will
stress a penultimate syllable 75% of the time no matter what the
weight or configuration of the syllables. Other secondary stress
patterns are favored in rank ordering of the pattern rather than the
syllable configuration.

I still have reams of the initial data.
Marcia Haag

From:"" 1-JUL-1997 13:59:24.54

Dear Larry,

I'm delighted another linguist is asking about anglicization of
names. I am interested in anglicizing strategies in this country
(cf. Ted Kaczynski and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski) and have given
occasional informal talks on "Linguistic Lessons From Ellis Island."
Even more, though, I am concerned with pronunciation of non-English
names by English speakers, a task that many people find frightening
because they are so unaware of other languages' spelling-sound
techniques. The people who need to do this the most on a daily basis
are classical music announcers on the radio.

For the past five years I have been working with announcers at several
classical radio stations to try to determine (1) which foreign names
of musicians and pieces have become anglicized and which remain
"native" and (2) how English speakers can most effectively approach
pronouncing non-English names in an otherwise English context without
being accused of snootiness or pretention and without being scared to
death by diacrit ics and sequences like "sz, cz, cs-, lh," etc., that
is, how to "deforeignize the foreign" by accepting odd-looking
spellings on their own terms and us ing the native spelling as a guide
to English phonetics. The result is my recent book "The Well-Tempered
Announcer: A Pronunciation Guide to Classical Music" (Indiana
Univ. Press 1996). It is both a purely practical list of names of
composers, conductors, performers, pieces, terms and a self-training
manual of the letter-sound correspondence in about 30 languages of
Europe an d East Asia. It is a kind of layman's comparative phonology
of English and the rest of the world linked to native
orthography. Linguists may not find many new phonological or onomastic
discoveries here, but the book is a serious attempt to bring
elementary linguistic insights to a group of professionals that need
them but didn't know that linguistics was the place to find them.
(Musicians typically ask other musicians about pronunciations and the
result is a lot of half-information, misinformation, and anecdote. The
same is true of newscasters and journalists, not to mention the
general public.) For the last three years I have given workshops on
this topic at the nati onal conference of AMPPR (Assoc. of Music
Personnel in Public Radio) and t he book is now available for review
on LinguistList. (Whoever asks to review it should keep in mind that
the audience is non-linguists whose goal is "normal English"
pronunciation, not fine-tuned native phonetics or in-depth analysis. I
also use an English-based transcription system and not IPA, since
announcers told me if the book had IPA in it they'd never touch it!)

I hardly expect that any given announcer will get excited enough to
sign up for Linguistics 101 at their local college, but I do hope that
announcers will equip themselves with enough new knowledge to
establish a reasonable pronunciation of existing names, to take
better educated guesses at new names, and to defend themselves on a
principled basis against the attacks of irate listeners who call up
to complain about one or another pronunciation. Finally, let me ask
all those linguists who listen to classical radio: what gaffs and
lingual missteps have you noticed on your local stations? Feel free
to e-mail me separately.

Robert Fradkin (Semitic and Slavic linguistics)
Dept. of Asian and East European Languages
2106 Jimenez Hall
Univ. of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742-4831
tel. 301-405-4250
fax 301-314-9841


From:"" 2-JUL-1997 00:44:16.53

Dear Larry, I seem to have missed the original query and just caught
your summary of responses. Kim Oller just did a study with bilingual
(and monolingual) elementary school children performing what he called
"phonological translation"--which involved having children pronounce
first a set of names from one language into the other and then a set
of nonsense syllables. He was interested in the nonsense syllables
more than the names, but he did some analysis of the names, too. The
article is "forthcoming" from Applied Psycholinguistics.


Barbara Zurer Pearson
Bilingualism Study Group
University of Miami
Coral Gables, FL 3124-0721
305-284-1760/ fax: 305-284-4795

P.S. it was from Spanish to English and vice versa.


From:"" "Jim/Roz Ladrew" 9-JUL-1997 15:50

Dear Dr. Rosenwald, I read your summary with interest, as the issue
is a large one in my field, Celtic languages. This message will
probably continue in the anecdotal stream, but your query has
inspired me to think of d= oing some serious research in the area.

One situation I have noticed is the male Irish names may be anglicized
as feminine names: Sean (that's acute over the "a") as Shawn
(feminine, as in Shawn Colvin; and of course once a name hits the
popular music market, it may become much more popular).

Another is the attempt to find something English-like in the original
Gaelic, for example, the prevalent U.S. pronunciation of Ca/itli/n as
Kate-Lynn. Ca/itl/in is basically equivalent to Kathleen. It's
interesting that many Irish-Americans seem convinced that Ca/itli/n
pronounced Kate-Lynn is an authentic Irish name when in reality it is a
mispronunciation which is becoming popular.

Also curious I find is the use of the name Colleen, from Irish
"caili/n" which simply means "girl." I've yet to find any example of
"Caili/n" used as a feminine name among Irish speakers but it of
course very popular in the Irish-American context.


Roslyn Blyn-LaDrew, Ph.D.
Dept. of Linguistics
University of Pennsylvania
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue