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

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Oct 20 20:18:32 EDT 2017


> On Oct 20, 2017, at 7:30 PM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> 
> You'll be pleased to know that whatever her ultimate DNA

Armenian, I’m guessing

> , Karoun Demirjian
> is a 100% U.S. American and Harvard grad (cum laude), who has no trace of
> any pesky foreign accent.
> 
> JL
> 
> On Fri, Oct 20, 2017 at 6:29 PM, Salikoko S. Mufwene <mufw at uchicago.edu>
> wrote:
> 
>> Thanks to JL and WB (whose full name I've never seen) for their
>> informative responses. I must point out that the connection (apparently
>> accidental) between /Niger /and the N-word is only in the written modality,
>> not in the spoken forms heard on TV or radio broadcasts. I found it a
>> little bit bizarre that some connection was established at all between the
>> two words. Of the etymologies I just googled, the Tuareg alternative
>> (related to the perhaps indigenous name for the Niger River) sounds more
>> plausible historically than that tracing it to Latin. (If this were the
>> case, the French could have named many of their African colonies likewise!)
>> There's even one that goes to Greek, through Ptolomy's writing, although I
>> wonder whether Ptolomy knew of the region. Well, curiosity can take us in
>> all sorts of directions.
>> 
>> Below is the etymology passage from Wikitionary:
>> Commonly linked by folk etymology to Latin niger (“black”), which likely
>> influenced the modern spelling. Some sources give the term to Tuareg roots,
>> deriving it from a claimed gher n-gheren or egereou n-igereouen (“river of
>> rivers”).[1][2] Older sources derive Niger via a series of mistranslations
>> and geographic misplacements by Greek, Roman and Arab geographers, from
>> Ptolemy's descriptions of the valley Gir (a wadi in modern Algeria), and
>> the "Lower Gir" (or "Ni-Gir") to the south.[3]
>> 
>> 
>> On 10/20/2017 4:16 PM, Jonathan Lighter 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
>>> 
>>> 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
>>>> 
>>>> 
>>> 
>>> 
>> --
>> **********************************************************
>> 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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