Richter - pronunciation

Discussion in 'English Only' started by audiolaik, Aug 15, 2009.

  1. audiolaik

    audiolaik Senior Member


    How do you, BrEspeakers, pronounce the name of C. Richter, the seismologist?

    a) Richter /k/
    b) Richter /x/

    I found the former to be the most widespread form, but the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary says that the latter is also in common use among BrE speakers.

    Thank you!
  2. MichaelW Senior Member

    English (British)
    I pronounce it /x/, I don't think I've heard it pronounced /k/ in the UK.
  3. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    Funny - I would have said the opposite!:) I think that I'd be likely to say "It's 4 on the Rikter scale". I just asked someone nearby (here in the UK) "what do you call the scale to measure earthquakes?" and they replied "the Rikter scale".
  4. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    My personal pronunciation is of the /x/ version (if /x/ represents /ch/ as in German "ich"). Somewhat as it might be pronounced by a German speaker. I may be mistaken, but I have the impression that this is how I usually hear it (e.g. on TV), but one can be surprised when confronted with actual evidence. The OED gives this pronunciation, too.
  5. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    It probably depends on how knowledgeable you are about foreign pronunciation and even how much you care anyway if a word is of foreign origin. I think that "language enthusiasts" such as those on this site are much more likely to say "ri/x/ter" than the average.
  6. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    I agree, Tim. I still pronounce (German electronics firm) Braun as brown, despite them having succumbed to the inevitable pronunciation of "brawn" in the UK.

    I managed to track down one BBC news report, and the announcer definitely said Ri/x/ter. However, the BBC do have their pronunciation rules, and apparently a department who advises broadcasters on how to pronounce things au BBC.
  7. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    I've always said it ['rɪʃtə], with [ʃ] the closest English approximation to German [ç]. But lately I learnt that the American Mr Richter pronounced his name with [k], so I've tried to shift to that. There's a certain awkwardness in this - there's the worry that people who know how to pronounce German will think you don't. Apparently too [k] is the recommended BBC pronunciation:
  8. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    The scale is named for Charles Richter, who was born in Ohio but spent most of his life in California. It is common practice in the United States that German names are not pronounced as German words, but as words in American English. Americans named "Richter" would therefore pronounce their names as "Rickter", as the "|x|" sound of the German ich does not exist in American English. (In the same way, in the United States "Dietrich" is pronounced as "Deetrik", and the name of the popcorn manufacturer Orville Redenbacher is pronounced as "Reddinbocker".) To pronounce Professor Richter's name with the "|x|" sound, as if he were German rather than American, strikes me as a hypercorrection, and wrong.
  9. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    English English
    Hear both. Personally prefer (b). I had no idea the gent in question was an American!:eek:
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2009
  10. Wayland Banned

    I agree Mr Timpeac.

    This is the only pronunciation that most of us hear (as used by radio weathermen) and thus by default would be the way most people that I know would pronounce it.
  11. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    English English
    Now that I come to think about it, I'm fairly sure I also hear /h/ in the middle.
  12. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    I have only heard Richter pronounced with [k], but I have been known to say it with [ç] just for fun. A [x] pronunciation I would assume to be Yiddish or Dutch.
  13. Frank78

    Frank78 Senior Member

    /x/ - is a voiceless velar fricative as in "Loch Ness"

    /ç/ - voiceless palatal fricative as in German "ich" - the closest English equivalent is "sh" I guess

    We would pronounce "Richter" with the latter version. So the BBC might use pseudo-German. :D
  14. brian

    brian Senior Member

    AmE (New Orleans)
    Just a quick point: German ch has two possible sounds, [x] and [ç] (as entangledbank pointed out). The word ich is pronounced with [ç] - softer, not as guttural, more in the front of the mouth - not [x] (except in certain dialects), which is the guttural sound famous in German, Hebrew, etc.

    To illustrate the difference: ich has [ç], but ach! has [x] just like loch ness. The choice depends on the sound that precedes the ch, so indeed Richter would, in theory, be pronounced with [ç], not [x] (except, again, by speakers of certain German dialects who don't use [ç] at all) - because of the preceding i, just like in ich.

    Now that that's settled, who here actually pronounces Richter with [x], and who pronounces it with [ç]? Personally, I've always used [k].

    *In fact, because so many people associate German with [x] (because it's the sound that gives German its "rough" feel) many (possibly most) people with little or no knowledge of German tend to mistakenly pronounce ich with [x] (or [k], for example Kennedy's famous Ik bin ein Berliner). So make sure for this discussion that you're associating ich with [ç], not [x].

    edit: Frank beat me. And used less words.
  15. Frank78

    Frank78 Senior Member

    What would we do to explain the /x/ without the Lochs. :D
  16. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    English English
    Or even: fewer words, Bri:D
  17. Now, I was thinking of saying that, but then I thought "No. It would be ungentlemanly". I was wrong, obviously ;)

    I say |x|. I think there are more than a few Americanised German names that get re-germanified in BrE.
  18. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I enjoyed etb's link in post 7, and thought it was worth paraphrasing in case the link ever fails.

    It's Professor John Wells, of University College London, writing on 30 April 2007 about a minor earthquake in Kent the previous week, which had led newsreaders to make several references to the Richter scale. "As usual", he says, they had mostly pronounced it [ˈrɪxtə] or [ˈrɪçtə]. But because Charles Richter was an American, born in Ohio, "he naturally pronounced his name /ˈrɪktɚ/", and Wells argues that we should do the same (unless we're non-rhotic speakers, in which case we should pronounce it /ˈrɪktə/).

    To quote the last part of the text:


    *Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, author Professor John Wells.
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2009
  19. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Nice erudite reference, Loob. Who can gainsay John Wells? I shall now try to remember to eschew the faux German pronunciation.
  20. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    OED vs Longman/BBC Pronunciation Unit. Fight! Prof Wells' logic is impeccable, of course. I wish him luck with the rest of the English language! Still, like natkretep, I will try and use Dr Richter's own pronunciation from now on, and I will be writing in to the BBC if I hear one of their announcers erring again.


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