Walesa (was Goethe (and was: Which and Falaqa))

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Fri Dec 6 12:42:06 UTC 2002

Why do some 'wrong' foreign pronunciations cause a shudder among the
well-educated and others not even get a wink. Nobody ever shuddered
when Lech Walesa (two Polish letters missing - hook on the 'e', bar
on the 'l') got called stuff far away from the phonotactically
possible English (and very close to accurate Polish) Vah-WEN-sah?
(Stressed syllable in caps.)

Could it simply be that poor old Lech is not part of a literary canon?


PS: Actually, the above string is of course phonotactically
impossible for speakers of more standard dialects of US English. The
representation should be vah-WIN-sah, since SUSE (Standard US
English) lack /E/ (the vowel of 'bet') before nasals.

>Yep, you're told right. (shudder!)
>>  Unless they're pronouncing the name of the street in Chicago, which
>>  (I'm told) is something approximating "go-EE-thee", not "GUR-tuh".

Dennis R. Preston
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics & Germanic, Slavic,
      Asian & African Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1027
e-mail: preston at
phone: (517) 353-9290

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