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

Salikoko S. Mufwene mufw at UCHICAGO.EDU
Fri Oct 20 19:58:00 UTC 2017

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!


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

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

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