Anglophone pronunciation of German loanwords

Discussion in 'English Only' started by gjuhetar, Sep 14, 2011.

  1. gjuhetar Senior Member

    Even though the English language is very open to loanwords, average English-speakers are somewhat paradoxically famous for their ignorance of foreign languages, which is quite often reflected in their wrong pronunciation of loanwords or foreign words.
    I wonder if most (educated) English-speakers pronounce German loanwords such as dachshund, wunderkind and zeitgeist in a correct or more German-like way (as dahkshoond, voonderkind and tsight- or even hoont or kint) instead of corrupting or assimilating them by pronouncing dashund, wonderkind and zight-.
  2. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    English does not regard the assimilation of words from other languages into English as a corruption worked by the ignorant, but as a standard process by which the vocabulary of English grows. Dachshund may have started out as a German word, but it is now an English one as well (although I have yet to hear any native English speaker pronounce it as "dashund"; everyone I know woud say "docks/hund" or "docksund", or even "docks/hound".) As it is now an English word, one does not have to worry about whether one is using a correct German pronounciation; one is speaking English, and not German, and so the German pronounciation is irrelevant.

    This same applies, by the way, to words taken from other languages; hubris, data, and hors d'oeuvre are not pronounced in English the way they would be pronounced in Greek, Latin, or French -- but so what?
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2011
  3. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    I would pronounce dachshund, as if it were an English word (which status I now think it has) daxhund

    If I ever said, wunderkind or zeitgeist I would pronounce them as in German, likewise Schadenfreude. However, Autobahn I would pronounce as Ortobarn /ˈɔtəˌbɑn/ rather than Owtohbahn/ˈaʊtɔˌbɑn/
  4. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    As GreenWhiteBlue said, we incorporate other words into English. It's part of what makes English so flexible and rich. I certainly wouldn't say "Pah-ree" for Paris in English, for example. :)

    So it's a judgment, and not a shared judgment, that the words are more correct if they sound more German.

    For me, "dachshund" would be close to "doxin" or "docks-hunt" and "zeitgiest" would start with "zight", not "tsight". "Wunderkind" I would probably say as "voonderkint", although I wouldn't have problems with wonderkinned if someone else said it that way.

    Assimilation of foreign words into English is a centuries-old tradition. You wouldn't want us to change that now, would you? :)
  5. gjuhetar Senior Member

    Thank you all for your answers.
    I know that dashund is an extremely corrupted case.
    Surely I neither pick holes in nor even claim to facelift the Anglophone pronunciation of loanwords, I just want to know how English-speakers actually pronounce them.
    From your answers I think I can infer that zeitgeist is not commonly pronounced [ts] because the sound is not generally allowed in word-initial position in English unlike the not unusual v-pronunciation of wunderkind.
  6. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    My guess is that your dashund comes from a dyslexic reading of the word as daschund :D
    Is this normal in Indian English? I don't really understand your meaning.
    Most English speakers, on encountering a foreign word, are likely to use English words with similar spelling to guide their guesses. So the z is a voiced z as in zed - most people will not know the ts version of the original. Similarly Volkswagen will be easy to say for an English speaker since there are "vole" and "wagon" in English - even though its original will use f and v for the v and w respectively.

    We don't feel the need to learn the languages we borrow from :D
  7. gjuhetar Senior Member

    Sorry for confusing you, Julian.
    It is largely due to my idiolect.
    What I mean is I don't find fault with the Anglophone pronunciation of loanwords and I don't claim that it should be corrected.
  8. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    English English
    Please tell me you're joking, Fabulist.
  9. Pertinax

    Pertinax Senior Member

    Queensland, Aust
    Long-established foreign words tend to be completely anglicized in their pronunciation. E.g. diphthongs are pronounced as they normally would be in English words.

    Relatively recent arrivals, like the three you have listed, tend to be pronounced using the closest English vowel-sounds and consonant-sounds. Yes, I would pronounce them in the German-like way.

    What sounds ridiculous is the attempt to pronounce a foreign placename as you would if you were actually speaking the foreign language. I would not mention this were it not that I often hear a newsreader now trying to make a monkey of himself by doing just that.
  10. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    English-speakers are not alone in having trouble with imported words. Take, for example, the large chain of pizza restaurants called Pizza Hut.

    Germans tend to pronounce it "pizza HOOT," especially since Since "Hut" is German for "hat."

    And, if you will take a look at the chain's stylized logo, you will see that it could be considered either the roof of a small building (a hut) or a hat.


    The fact that "Pizza Hat" has no logical meaning seems to be irrelevant......
  11. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    I agree! I nearly faint clean away when I hear lazy people say Bay-Em-Vay when it should be Bayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft. :thumbsup:
  12. gjuhetar Senior Member

    To avert misunderstanding, let me add that, I am fully aware of the fact that every individual language has its own phonological and orthographic rules, so that it is natural for speakers of any language to adapt foreign words to their own language.
    However, one of the most remarkable things in English is that the gap between pronunciation and spelling is huge, and that is why the pronunciation variation of loanwords in English can be wider than that in many other languages.

    For example, curriculum vitae can be pronounced in at least two ways:
    1) vie-tee is based on English orthography and phonology
    2) vee-tie is based on Latin pronunciation

    Even if the status of foreign words is equally unstable in many languages, giving rise to confusion in spelling and pronunciation, this kind of variation shows up less often in other languages than in English.
    This peculiarity of the English language has made me wonder how English speakers actually pronounce foreign words.
  13. Miss Julie

    Miss Julie Senior Member

    Chicago metro area
    3) "Vee-tay" is generally how you'll hear it in the U.S.! :D
  14. Gwan Senior Member

    Indre et Loire, France
    New Zealand, English
    I think, as Pertinax has alluded to, that there is a difference according to how long the word has been part of the English language. Words that have been around for longer are more likely to be seen as "English" words and accorded their own "correct" English pronunciation, whereas more recent borrowings are likely to be seen as "foreign" words and people are more likely to try to reproduce the pronunciation of their language of origin. (Of course, this is not a hard and fast rule, some words just seem to integrate more readily than others.)

    This is only speculation on my part, but I also have a theory that we privilege some languages of origin over others. It seems to me that mispronouncing French (or unassimilated French loan-words) has long been stigmatised, whereas we have collectively only started caring as much about how we pronounce words borrowed from other languages relatively recently. For example, I seem to hear more people (in a European context) attempting to pronounce things like 'Valencia' or 'risotto' in a (respectively) Spanish or Italian manner more often now that I think would have once been the case, whereas I think pronouncing things like 'Quimper' or 'crème brûlée' in a French manner has long been a sign of being well-educated. I imagine this is due to a shift in which foreign languages are seen as prestigious to learn or are widely spoken in English-speaking countries and also due to broader cultural changes (for example, changes in what sorts of food people are eating or which travel destinations are popular). Perhaps in the future we'll see more efforts to pronounce, say, Chinese or Hindi loan-words, foods, etc. "correctly" more often than we do now.

    (I hope my response is sufficiently on-topic to the original question.)
  15. Einstein

    Einstein Senior Member

    Milano, Italia
    UK, English
    I've heard "dashund" a number of times, but not as often as "daxund".

    A point about representing pronunciation: I see that Americans often represent the European "a" with an "o", e.g. "docksund". This is the nearest American sound, but it should be understood that for BE speakers the appropriate letter is an "a", which in turn would be misleading to AE speakers.

    Then let's call it Bavarian Motor Works! :D
  16. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    This is probably because the British are an island nation and do not have the fuzzy areas of language boundaries from which other peoples suffer.

    Setting aside the history of Saxon, Norman and Latin, whereas mass travel has changed things, in the past, a foreign word would be introduced suddenly and its pronunciation would depend a lot on how an Englishman could get his tongue around it, but the spelling would be dictated by learned people who knew how it was spelled. (I remember my mother spelling faux pas as Fopa as that was a close as she could get to how she pronounced it.)
    We pronounce them how it suits us. We will not have foreigners dictating to us! :D
  17. Miss Julie

    Miss Julie Senior Member

    Chicago metro area
    We pronounce ENGLISH words how it suits us! And therein lies the rub for you English learners. Hang in there! :eek: :D
  18. fuzzy logician Member

    English - UK
    Apart, of course, from the fuzzy language boundaries between English and Welsh, Cornish, Gaelic and Irish! ;)
  19. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    Really? How quaint! But aren't they extinct? :D

    But seriously, those languages are remarkable only for the almost total lack of influence they had on English. It was the case that if they wanted to speak to us, they would do it in English, and when we wanted to speak to them, we told them in English. :reaches for Union Flag::)
  20. Einstein

    Einstein Senior Member

    Milano, Italia
    UK, English
    These distortions are inevitable. Some are based on reading foreign words according to English phonetics while others are based on preconceptions about the foreign language in question. It may be that in the future, with more study of foreign languages, we'll be more willing to learn the correct pronunciation.
    But for now we should at least be aware that our pronunciation is quite probably wrong. Ask a Frenchman if he drives a Wren-Owe or eats in a rest-wrong; don't be surprised if he doesn't understand!
    In the same way, the Spanish shouldn't be surprised if people from other nations don't understand their pronunciation of Fuji and Fujitsu.

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