Pronunciation of "Ngaio"

James Harbeck jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA
Sat May 9 02:42:17 UTC 2009

I actually knew someone at one time whose name was Ngaio (she was not
Maori), and I seem to recall that she pronounced it [naio]. But I
also know (having learned this directly from Maori speakers) that the
Maori pronunciation starts with a velar, not alveolar, nasal, and not
a prenasalized stop either. I really do think eventually English
culture will start to get the hang of word-initial velar nasals as we
get more words and names brought in with them. But I'm not slapping
any money down on it.

Another Maori tip, tangentially: "wh" is a voiceless bilabial
fricative, so it sounds to most people like a [f]. So, for instance,
the first syllable of whakaraerae is not like "whack" but rather
close to a more vulgar English word. And Ngati Whatua is ['Nati
'fatua] if you allow the [f] to be really the vls bilabial fric (I
don't know what the plain text conventional substitute is for the
proper IPA symbol, the phi).

James Harbeck.

The American Dialect Society -

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