Zoë

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Luna Gioconda

Member
Bosnian Croatian-Serbian
Goedendag!

I live in The Netherlands and am to choose the name for my daughter. Zoë is the father’s favorite (father is Dutch). I need help to understand a few things about this name and would love to know what would you say about.

1. How do you exactly pronunce it in Dutch?
I guess that the most common pronunciation of Zoë (= zəʊi) has been taken/borrowed directly from English. In fact, as far as I know, an ë in Dutch should be pronounced as “e” and not as “i” (I know the reason of the trema, that’s not the confusing part). Provided that what I just wrote is correct, how exactly would you pronounce something written as Zoë if you were to follow strictly the Dutch spelling rules? (imagine you forget everything about English pronunciation..)

2. I am not so much into the English pronunciation, so instead of “zəʊi”, I would rather say “zoi”, or “zoii”. Wouldn’t that to the ears of a native Dutch speaker sound just as “zooi”?
(Doesn’t the diminutive of Zoë sounds a bit too much as “zooitje” anyway? I have been told that “zooi” is an old fashioned word, not much in use these days - is it correct?)

3. In my native language, we would pronunce it exactly the way it’s written: Zoe (with short vocals). But I hear the Dutch these days saying “zoo eh!” all the time. I am afraid that the way I and my original family would call the daughter would sound kinda silly to the Dutch ears (and to hers as well, one day). Doesn’t Zoe sound a bit too much as “ZOO-EH!” to you?

Any response, suggestion or opinion would be highly appretiated!

Dank je wel!
 
Last edited:
  • Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    For most Dutchmen: ['zoʊ.eɪ]
    In Flanders: ['zo(ʊ)e]

    When two vowel sounds are next to each other, there is either a glide in between or a glottal stop. In this case, there will be a glide in between /o:/ and /e:/. Whether it is [w] or [ʊ], I don't know. The glide is too short to tell for me.

    2. I am not so much into the English pronunciation, so instead of “zəʊi”, I would rather say “zoi”, or “zoii”. Wouldn’t that to the ears of a native Dutch speaker sound just as “zooi”?
    (Doesn’t the diminutive of Zoë sounds a bit too much as “zooitje” anyway? I have been told that “zooi” is an old fashioned word, not much in use these days - is it correct?)
    The English pronunciation of Zoë doesn't sound like zooi to us.

    Even the (British) English word news /nju:z/ sounds different from nieuws /niws/ to us, even though both diphthongs could be written as /iu/.

    In English, it is a "rising" diphthong /ju:/: the first part is very short and the second part is longer. In Dutch, it is a "falling" diphthong /iw/: the first part is longer than the second part of the diphthong.

    The Dutch woord zooi needs to be thought of as /zo:j/. It is a "falling" diphthong, not a "rising" one!
     

    Luna Gioconda

    Member
    Bosnian Croatian-Serbian
    Thank you so much, Red Arrow!
    Raising and falling diphthongs, it sounds as such a tiny difference to my ears, it takes effort to hear it. But it’s good that it makes Zoë and zooi two different things!

    I am surprised that Dutchmen have adopted so massively the English pronunciation of the name. I find it somehow disrespectful to the Dutch language, or its spelling system - especially now that I know that in Flanders you pronunce it the right way, or at least the way it’s supposed to be done in Dutch. How to explain to the little Dutch Zoë, while she is learning to write, why there is an ë and not an ï at the end of her name? Ehm.. :confused:

    @merquiades: indeed, it’s a Greek name. Pronounced Zo’í in Modern Greek, but with the final ‘e’ in all the other languages - a part from English (I ‘ve been told on Greek forum here that’s a sheer coincidence). Thanks for the pronunciation links. I see (=hear) that it gives the version with ending ’i’ for Flanders and both versions, with last ’e’ and ‘i’, for The Netherlands, which is a bit strange and doesn’t correspond to what Red Arrow says and to what I hear people saying here in The NL.
     
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