Re: Anglophone Deficiencies

Malin wrote a post on English speakers and pronunciation.

Anglophone Deficiencies by Malin

I love stuff like this. Spaniards, Serbs, Finns, and Germans actually do 'muck-up' every sentence thrown at them if the sentence is in a different language. Each language has its own phonotactics, that is, which arrangements of sounds are acceptable in a given language. Perhaps sociolinguistically, English speakers are more obnoxious about it because of all the diphthongs and Americans; I don't really know though.

For example, English doesn't allow /kn/ while German does; Russian allows /zv/ while English doesn't. Serbian, Romanian, and French allow word-initial /s/, while Spanish (generally) epenthesizes an /e/ before word-inital /s/.

The example Malin gives from Polish is spot on. When a Pole says /ˈpi.vɔ/, an English speaker will 'translate' that into something more like /ˈpi.voʊ/ (if they're American) or maybe /ˈpi.vəʊ/ if they're using the Received Pronunciation.

Marin says the following.

Throughout the anglophone's entire life, they have spoken with people using very different sounds by perpetually translating those noises to their own noises, according to a set of rigid rules.

Exactly, this is what everyone does and why 'foreign accents' are a thing. A German speaker speaking in English may pronounce 'Euro' not like the English /ˈjuːɹoʊ/ (/ˈjɝoʊ/ if yer American), but rather like /ˈɔʏ̯ro/ (maybe /ˈjuʏ̯ro/ ?) out of habit.

I noticed that in my variant of English, Catholic "Mass" and "class" rhyme — /mæs/ and /klæs/ is how I'd pronounce those two words. My accent isn't very 'posh' 😆.

Basically, this phenomenon of 'translating' sounds from one language to another is not unique to English. I had a phonology professor from Eastern Europe who told us about the trouble she had with tense and lax vowels, i.e. it was harder for her to distinguish /ˈbiːt͡ʃ/ "beach" from /bɪt͡ʃ/ "bitch" because the language she was 'translating' with didn't have a phonemic difference between /i/ and /ɪ/.

As for pronouncing Cantonese, yeah, some sounds are rare in European languages, like /kʷʰ/, but I think all of the vowels from Cantonese show up in European languages (not the checked tones though, (my Sinolinguistics is not good)).

🏠 Home
📯 Posts

📧 Email me!

caustic.talus.0q (at)