Gershwin, Churchill, Irving (pronunciation)

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AndrasBP

Senior Member
Hungarian
Hello,

How do you pronounce the /ɜː/ or /ɝ/ vowel sound in English names like
Gershwin, Percy, Ferguson, Churchill, Murphy, Burton, Irving, Shirley?
(Those that have <er>, <ur> or <ir> + a consonant. In most English varieties the three types of spelling sound the same.)

In Hungarian, we use the vowel /ø/ + /r/, as if there was a letter "ö" in Hungarian, e.g. Murphy > "Mörfi".

What about your language?
 
  • TheCrociato91

    Senior Member
    Italian - Northern Italy
    Hello.

    In standard (i.e. non-regional) Italian we don't have the /ɜ/ vowel (or the similar schwa sound), so we have to adapt it by using the seven vowel phonemes of standard Italian: /a, ɛ, e, i, ɔ, o, u/.

    I would say the most common pronunciations for the above words are /ɛr/, /ɛr/, /ɛr/, /ɛr ~ ør ~ ɜr/*, /ar/, /ar/, /ir/ and /ir/, respectively. Naturally, the more familiar with English an Italian speaker is, the more likely he/she is to try and approximate the original pronunciation (although in most non-academic contexts trying to reproduce the original pronunciation usually comes across as pedantic and/or wanting to show off).

    * Like I said standard Italian does not have the /ɜ/ sound or the /ø/ sound (which do exists in some regional dialects, the latter e.g. in the dialect where I live). However, Churchill is such a well known name that I feel many people use either of the above non-Italian vowels to pronounce it in a more "foreign" way compared to other names.

    Here you can find a table which explains how "foreign vowels" (see "vocali straniere") are generally adapted on the basis of "Italian vowels" (see "vocali italiane").
     
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    Perseas

    Senior Member
    Greek

    The hellenized forms of the names above are: Γκέρσουϊν, Πέρσι, Φέργκιουσον, Τσόρτσιλ, Μέρφι, Μπάρτον, Ίρβινγκ (Έρβινγκ is less common), Σίρλεϊ.
    We usually pronounce [e], [e], [e], [o], [e], [a], [ i ] (or [e]), [ i ] , respectively.
     
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    nimak

    Senior Member
    Macedonian
    Macedonian:
    • /ɛr/ in: Gershwin -> Гершвин; Percy -> Перси; Ferguson -> Фергусон; Churchill -> Черчил; Stearn -> Стерн; Bernard -> Бернард; Bourke -> Берк
    • /ar/ in: Murphy -> Марфи; Burton -> Бартон; Turner -> Тарнер
    • /ir/ in: Irving -> Ирвинг; Shirley -> Ширли; Myrtle -> Миртл (л is syllabic /ɫ̩/ here)
    • /r̩/ (syllabic r) in: Byrn -> Брн; Searle -> Срл
     
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    AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Thank you for your replies.

    It's interesting how many different outcomes you have, influenced by the English spelling.
    I wonder if there are any other languages that are like Hungarian in this respect, with only one type of substitution.
     

    Dymn

    Senior Member
    Spanish: -er- is always /eɾ/, -ir- is either /iɾ/ or /eɾ/ (the latter is more common if the speaker is aware of the English pronunciation), and -ur- is either /uɾ/ or /aɾ/ (same, this time because of conflation with the /ʌ/ sound). Irving and Shirley would be /i/, but Angry Birds most probably /e/, and Murphy as in ley de Murphy /u/, but Burton with /a/, and Churchill variable I'd say.

    Catalan, like Spanish, except that er is close-open /ɛɾ/.

    I wonder if there are any other languages that are like Hungarian in this respect, with only one type of substitution.
    I think German is one of them, using ö as well, but you'd have to wait for someone else to confirm.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    How do you pronounce the /ɜː/ or /ɝ/ vowel sound in English names like
    Gershwin, Percy, Ferguson, Churchill, Murphy, Burton, Irving, Shirley?
    In Russian it would depend on the particular name; the history and the orthography are relevant. Russian historically adapted the English "ur" orthographic combination as "ер" /-er-/ due to the long absence of the "ё" letter (/o/ after palatalized consonants is the best approximation which Russian can provide; it still leaves the word-initial positions naturally uncovered, though, so /e/ becomes the last resort). In some cases it ended up as "ер" and in other cases as "ёр". Other English orthographic combinations may be transcribed or simply transliterated. Names of non-English origins have the increased chances of not being transcribed. As a result:

    Churchill - Черчилль (Chérchill') ['ʨɛrʨɪlʲ]
    Burns - Бёрнс (Byórns) ['bʲɔrns]
    Irving - Ирвинг (Írving) ['irvʲɪnk]
    Gershwin - Гершвин (Gérshvin) ['gʲɛrʂvʲɪn]
    Ferguson - Фергюсон (Férgyuson) ['fʲɛrgʲʉsən]
    Murphy - Мёрфи (Myórfi) ['mʲɔrfʲɪ]
    etc.
     
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    nimak

    Senior Member
    Macedonian
    Macedonian:

    /ir/ in Birmingham -> Бирмингем ['bir.miŋ.gɛm], sometimes Бирмингам ['bir.miŋ.gam]
    /ɛr/ in Perth -> Перт ['pɛrt]
     

    Welsh_Sion

    Senior Member
    Welsh - Northern
    I think you will know, @AndrasBP that Welsh does not have /ɜː/ either. I guess those of us who are (fully) bilingual will just say it as in English and no-one would suspect we are non-native speakers. However, those with a more 'marked' so-called 'Welsh accent' will usually substitute schwa + r (and a well trilled voiced alveolar consonant that is for most native Welsh speakers - unlike me) and not leave it just as a long vowel as in English. Think of the def. art. yr 'the' which is quite simply schwa + /r/.
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    and Churchill variable I'd say.
    I've noticed that, generally speaking, most Spanish speakers attribute to that u before r the same quality as if it was a /ʌ/.

    In other words, Spaniards tend to say /a/ and Latin Americans /o/, in the same way when they say /tram/ (Spain) and /trom/ (Mexico) for Trump. I've only heard something similar to Chérchil very rarely. In fact, Chúrchil would be more common, specially among those Spanish speakers who lived at that time.
     
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