American Negro Folklore (1968)

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Mon Feb 14 05:43:56 UTC 2005

>You know, for years I've wondered why it is that, even though it's
>spelled correctly, so many people mispronounce the name of Sri Lanka as
>"Shree" Lanka instead of as "Sree" Lanka.
>-Wilson <just kidding>

In seriousness, how would one choose between /sri/ and /Sri/ in "Sri
Lanka"? Reputable English dictionaries show both, so I don't think one can
be faulted for either. I've said /Sri/ as long as I can remember, don't
remember why; Singhalese speakers have not corrected me, but that's not
conclusive. The Worldwide Web of Lies and Errors includes assertions both
ways. I couldn't find a recording of the name spoken by a Sri Lankan
authority right away; I was able to find the name in Sinhala script, and
orthographically it seems to correspond to /Sri/, but that's not
necessarily decisive either without further information.

Of course I don't think an ordinary (even educated and careful) English
speaker should consider himself obligated to pronounce the name of some
Siberian village just as the natives do, or even to pronounce "Paris" as a
Frenchman might, or to say such things as "Deutschland" or
"Zhong[1]guo[2]". But I think the major dictionaries should provide native
pronunciation approximations or recommendations at least for large entities
such as nations.

-- Doug Wilson

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