Pronunciation of karaoke - regional variants?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by JulianStuart, Jun 25, 2009.

  1. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    The search box at the top leads to the MW dictionary that has three pronunciations provided in audio.

    The first is the one I hear most commonly in the US - carry-OH-key.
    The second one I had never heard and will let those interested experience it first-hand :D
    The third is the original (Japanese) pronunciation - kah-rah-oh-kay (all syllables short and pretty equally stressed).

    Is the third one used in any English-speaking part of the world or is the first one now universal in English-speaking countries?
    I'm sure there are folks reading this who are not native English speakers. How do you pronounce the word?
    Thanks for any input.
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2009
  2. Lagrangepoint

    Lagrangepoint Senior Member

    The Emirates
    English (UK)
    It all depends on the country, whether it is Br. Eng. or Am. Eng. or other. Personally I use the third one. The first pronunciation is rather AE and makes me cringe. However I wouldn't be surprised to find lots of supporters for the first pronunciation.
    I read somewhere that the first American ambassadors to Japan, insisted (through ignorance?) on calling Kyoto <Kigh-Oto> for a long time. probably it still is being used.
  3. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I have only heard the first of these (BE).
  4. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    The first is very common, although the second vowel is a schwa I think (carruh-oh-key). Where I am (Singapore), though, the last vowel is commonly kay (the last two syllables like OK).
  5. Esca

    Esca Senior Member

    USA - English
    I've only heard option 1: "carry-OH-key." Never the second (yikes!!) and never the third. Of course, that's probably because I don't have any Japanese friends.
    I've also never heard the "carruh-OH-key" pronunciation natkretep suggested.
    "Carry-OH-kay" would sound acceptable to me as a variation of option 1.
  6. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    Thanks all! My interest is mainly in how the second vowel sound became an ee sound as in carry-OH-ke(y) It does seem as though a -ru(h) i.e. schwa or -ra(h) sound is rare in the US and some BE countries. Perhaps as one gets closer geographically to Japan, the sound becomes more common?
  7. Esca

    Esca Senior Member

    USA - English
    I think it's hard for English speakers to say the two vowels back-to-back like that "rah-oh." (It would tend to sound like a dipthongised "row" if anything.)
    My guess is that a "y" sound was added to separate the "ah" and "oh," yielding "ka-ra-yo-ke," which would easily morph to "ka-ree-oh-ke" when pronounced quickly.
  8. Snappy_is_here Senior Member

    Kobe, Japan
    "Karaoke" is originated from Japanese.
    We, Japanese, pronounce it "Kah-rah-oh-keh."
    Do we have to pronounce it like "carry-oh-key" when we talk about karaoke with English-speaking people?
    If we pronounce it like "kah-rah-oh-keh," do English-speaking people understand what it is?
  9. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    English English
    You certainly don't have to pronounce it 'carry-oh-key', Snappy ... but that's certainly the way I almost always hear it pronounced here in the UK.

    If you pronounce it 'ka-ra-o-keh', yes, we'll understand ~ there's no other English word even remotely like it:)
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2010
  10. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    I think you should say it as a Japanese speaker would, since your native language is Japanese.

    You may get some strange looks from non-Japanese speakers because they will find it strange that you can't say the word "properly" (to them it's carry-oh-key) even though you can speak Japanese. If they make a comment, you an tell them the real situation! Even that the kara is the same as in kara-te, and they don't say carry-teh!
  11. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    I've never had occasion to mention karaoke in English, and I know Japanese fairly well, so my preferences are conflicted. I don't really know what I'd say if I had to say it. But I think most English-speakers around me have pretty standard substitutions: the final Japanese [e] becomes English , and we don't permit [ao] so we have to substitute a weak vowel, so that makes it [io] in the middle. This isn't a particularly great distortion of the Japanese.
  12. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    I agree with the "we don't permit (find it easy to say) ao" as the reason for the carry version. This happened at the time I began to hear more and more instances of people trying to say the as thuh no matter what follows it - producing just this sound (deliberately introducing some sort of glottal stop). It is actually somewhat surprising that the e at the end is actually vocalized at all - rather than mimicking spoke and broke. (That would have led to carry oak). However, since the word was being spoken a lot, it's not like the typical word that is only ever read and then one must guess the first time one actually says it.

    You should see the discussions in photography forums on the word boke - both meaning and pronunciation :D
  13. I don't think you would have a problem being understood if you pronounce the vowel sounds in the Japanese way. I think you might have a problem if you don't stress the "o" syllable, especially if you say the word quickly. We are not used to words being pronounced with equal stress on every syllable; in fact, when we import words from Japanese or French, we add stress where none existed in the original language (which is why "karaoke" comes out as "carry-OH-kee" in AE).

    On the other hand, it's up to the individual how much to alter pronunciation of words in his own language when he's speaking a foreign language. People would quickly figure out what you mean if you say "karaoke" in the Japanese way, although it might take a moment for them to catch on.
  14. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    Just to extend edgy's input, the word "oke" is actually an English word that was imported into Japanese (the -stra was left off) so it's likely that in Japanese the O gets more stress that it would otherwise have done. We need snappy's comment on that one and whether the stress on the O was imported at the same time. :D

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