[Ads-l] [Non-DoD Source] "Niger" or "Niger"?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Oct 20 20:09:36 EDT 2017


> On Oct 20, 2017, at 5:16 PM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> 
> Dear Sali,
> 
> As soon as I recognized the phonetic near-identity of "Nee-jur" and
> "knee-jerk" (which was immediately), I thought it would be trivially
> amusing (and marginally clarifying) to point out the meaningless
> similarity.
> 
> I promise I had no ulterior motive except a spirit of fun. More seriously,
> I find the surprisingly various attempts to pronounce "Niger" correctly in
> English fascinating.  At one point I was aware of only one version. Then
> there were two. Now there are several. Which one will have the most staying
> power?
> 
> I can think of several likely pronunciations of "Nigerien" (which looks
> very odd in English) but must admit I've heard only two (both in the last
> 24 hrs.):
> 
> Nee-ZHAIR-iun
> 
> Nye-ZHEER-iun
> 
> The latter differs by only one phoneme from "Nigerian."
> 
> JL

“Nigerien” doesn’t look that much odder in English than “Canadiens” (for the Montreal hockey team, as noted here earlier), and the pronunciation of the latter, can-ey-dee-ENS, could be adapted for the former, nye-zheer-ee-EN or nye-jeer-ee-EN.  The crucial part is the French-ish stress shift.

LH
> 
> On Fri, Oct 20, 2017 at 3:58 PM, Salikoko S. Mufwene <mufw at uchicago.edu>
> wrote:
> 
>> Dear JL:
>> 
>> I suspect that for a lot of Americans this is the year when Niger is
>> discussed on TV for, let's say, the first time and when they can try to
>> situate on the map. There's variation in perception and reproduction of
>> unfamiliar names, isn't there? When you also add the comparison with
>> "knee-jerk," I start wondering whether you are making fun of the
>> French-based pronunciation or of  the speaker's pronunciation. At the
>> beginning of this thread, I had the impression that people were just
>> interested in the non-Anglo pronunciation of the country name... and we
>> have long come past that academic discussion!
>> 
>> Sali.
>> 
>> On 10/20/2017 12:12 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>> 
>>> Pronunciation by WaPo journalist Karoun Demirjian on CNN:
>>> 
>>> NEE-jur.
>>> 
>>> Cf. "knee-jerk."
>>> 
>>> JL
>>> 
>>> On Fri, Oct 20, 2017 at 9:22 AM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com
>>>> 
>>> wrote:
>>> 
>>> April Ryan, award-winning White House correspondent.
>>>> 
>>>> BTW, the given name "Ryan" is now unisex: (Ms.) Ryan Manion (b.
>>>> ca.1977?):
>>>> 
>>>> <http://goog_153042178>
>>>> http://www.travismanion.org/our-story/tmf-staff-and-board/
>>>> 
>>>> board-of-directors/ryan-manion-board/
>>>> 
>>>> JL
>>>> 
>>>> On Fri, Oct 20, 2017 at 3:59 AM, Stanton McCandlish <
>>>> smccandlish at gmail.com
>>>> 
>>>>> wrote:
>>>>> I've never encountered "Nigerian" for "a native of Niger", only for "a
>>>>> native of Nigeria"; I would think trying to use it for both would be
>>>>> fatally ambiguous, thus "Nigerien".
>>>>> 
>>>>> I've lately heard (in the US anyway) a lot of radio and TV people taking
>>>>> extra care to try (often farcically) to approximate French and Spanish
>>>>> proper name pronunciations, starting in the 1990s (and probably
>>>>> radiating
>>>>> out from the American Southwest).  This has included pronunciations of
>>>>> the
>>>>> names of some other former French colonies, e.g. Montserrat without the
>>>>> "t"
>>>>> sounds and with a nasalized "n".  I would think that eagerness to avoid
>>>>> anything like the pronunciation of the N-word is behind rapid
>>>>> re-adoption
>>>>> of "knee-ZHAIR" in English, but it's actually part of a broader pattern
>>>>> (cf. someone else's comment about Côte d'Ivoire).
>>>>> 
>>>>> See also ready Western adoption of Beijing, Mumbai, and other changes to
>>>>> some Asian placename transliterations to be more accurate, and increased
>>>>> appearance of the proper diacritics on many names in modern newspapers
>>>>> which used to eschew them entirely or almost entirely (I remember one
>>>>> journalism style guide permitted them for Spanish and French but no
>>>>> others).  Also been seeing a lot of Dao De Jing (even Daodejing), Mao
>>>>> Zedong, Laozi, etc., where once we had Tao Te Ching, Mao Tse Tung or Mao
>>>>> Tse-tung, and Lao Tzu or Lao Tze.
>>>>> 
>>>>> All of these proper-naming shifts seem to have happened over a single
>>>>> generation, from the 1980s to 2000s, and are being pushed top-down by
>>>>> publishers, not bottom-up by "the common folk". Most of the shifts I
>>>>> notice
>>>>> are bottom-up ones, like turning "e-mail" into "email", inverting the
>>>>> meaning of "comprise", accepting "less" as applying to count nouns ("15
>>>>> items or less"), and treating "bad" and "good" as synonymous with "poor"
>>>>> and "well", respectively, in the performance senses ("She speaks English
>>>>> really good").
>>>>> 
>>>>> On the other hand, the British war against punctuation, especially the
>>>>> period and comma, is a two-way affair, pushed aggressively by the UK
>>>>> newspaper industry and also loved by youths, who hate all those fiddly
>>>>> punctuation rules and were already ignoring them. It's resisted by
>>>>> British
>>>>> academic publishers and by regular people over about 35.  But I digress.
>>>>> 
>>>>> --
>>>>> Stanton McCandlish
>>>>> McCandlish Consulting
>>>>> 4001 San Leandro St
>>>>> Suite 28
>>>>> Oakland  CA 94601-4055
>>>>> 
>>>>> +1 415 234 3992
>>>>> 
>>>>> https://www.linkedin.com/in/SMcCandlish
>>>>> 
>>>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>>>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>>>>> 
>>>>> 
>>>> 
>>>> --
>>>> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the
>>>> truth."
>>>> 
>>>> 
>>> 
>>> 
>> --
>> **********************************************************
>> Salikoko S. Mufwene                    s-mufwene at uchicago.edu
>> The Frank J. McLoraine Distinguished Service Professor of Linguistics and
>> the College
>> Professor, Committee on Evolutionary Biology
>> Professor, Committee on the Conceptual & Historical Studies of Science
>> University of Chicago                  773-702-8531; FAX 773-834-0924
>> Department of Linguistics
>> 1115 East 58th Street
>> Chicago, IL 60637, USA
>> http://mufwene.uchicago.edu/
>> **********************************************************
>> 
>> 
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>> 
> 
> 
> 
> -- 
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
> 
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

------------------------------------------------------------
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org


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