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Tanatra
06-23-2014, 10:19 AM
Hey everyone. One of the guys in my critique group is also writing a fantasy novel, and "keep it pronounceable" is a recurring theme in his feedback. I can see why this could be an issue to readers (i.e., unfamiliar words can really upset the flow of a story) but I was interested in getting some additional opinions since the two dozen other writers in the group (several of which also write fantasy) have had nothing to say on the matter.

Here are the two terms in question:

Sgurr
Sra'Yx

The former is a ruling title explained in the first chapter, and appears quite often. The latter is the name of a supporting character with a handful of POV chapters.

Quick Useless Trivia: Sgurr is the Scottish Gaelic word for the peak of a mountain. Anyone familiar with the Scottish Highlands has encountered that term. I just pulled the character name out of my ass.

Your comments are appreciated. :)

Brightdreamer
06-23-2014, 10:31 AM
Personally, I prefer being able to "sound out" strange names.

That said, I could deal with the first term, but the second... no, not happenin'. It wouldn't kick me completely out of the story, but I'd stumble every time I saw it.

NRoach
06-23-2014, 10:35 AM
As much as I think I could deal with both of those, the second one would be pronounced "Sra-icks" in my head, I don't know that you'd be doing your sincerity any favours. I see a name like that and I can't help but snigger at the summoned images of Star Trek aliens.

There are far worse words than those you could go for, though; having your characters go for a hike up Eyjafjallaj÷kull, for example.

Liosse de Velishaf
06-23-2014, 10:39 AM
Well, I would classify those as unpronounceable for the average English speaker.


<sgurr> is actually pronounced with an /s/, a /k/, a /u/, and a rolled 'r'. so... "skoorrr". I'd say that that's faily unpronounceable. Depending on the setting, why not just spell is "skur" or "skoor"?


As for the other one, there are basically zero clues as to how to pronounce that. That apostrophe could be anything. Is the "y" supposed to be a consonant or a vowel? There are quite a few possible ways to pronounce it, and unless you're writing in Klingon, I don't know why you'd have a random capital letter. Is that supposed to be two words?

slhuang
06-23-2014, 10:39 AM
For me, it depends how the language is being used and how it feels in the context of the story.

This is one of those really annoying "know it when I see it" types of things for me (annoying because this doesn't help you, OP! :o). If I feel something works in the context of the book, then it works; if something feels utterly silly and messy and pointless, then, well. ;) The thing is, it's really hard to know without seeing stuff in context and alongside the rest of the language in your story, unfortunately. At least for me!

People have different thresholds for language that makes them stumble, so this might be one of those things where you have to decide where on that continuum you're comfortable with (i.e., displeasing some readers) while maintaining the integrity of your story. :)

eta: When you say the others in your group "have nothing to say," did they just not comment, or have you asked them specifically? They might be able to give you feedback on whether it worked for them in context -- maybe they liked the names and just didn't say, or it made no difference, or it irked them a bit but not enough to mention?

Once!
06-23-2014, 10:48 AM
I think it's all about having an invisible author. As a reader if I see an alien word, I like to think that it was invented by ... you know ... an alien. It has to sound sort of realistic. Vaguely possible. Sufficiently credible for the willing suspension of disbelief.

It can jar if I see a word that looks too alien. If it contains too many high scoring scrabble letters it can look as if the author is trying too hard to make it sound foreign. Or his cat walked across the keyboard and plonked down letters at random with his paws.

I would have few problems with your first name, but your second would cause me problems, I'm afraid. Add in the apostrophe and the capital letter in the middle of the word and I'm not seeing an alien word, I am seeing an author deliberately making up an alien word.

ClareGreen
06-23-2014, 12:09 PM
Present me with long, odd words and I'll try to sound them out. The first one caused no problems at all, and the second took a few moments to settle. I can usually find a way to pronounce things (or grumble about when the original speakers of similar languages just wouldn't put those two sounds together), and I lived in Wales for a bit, which helps.

Present the SO with a long/difficult name, though, and he'll use the first few letters and trail off into 'mumblemumble'. I'll see Dostoyevski, he'll see Domumblemumble; I'll see Llantysiliogogogoch, he'll see Llamumblemumble. As a consequence, if you've got characters called Sgurr and Sra'Yx, I'll be fine, but he's going to see two instances of Smumblemumble and get annoyed because he can't tell them apart.

Those of us who delight in long words often forget that there are those who can't - not won't, can't.

PeteMC
06-23-2014, 01:55 PM
I can cope with the first one, but the second would put me right off I'm afraid. Is that even a male or female character?

Alexys
06-23-2014, 04:14 PM
I would be able to slap pronounciations on both of them, although they likely wouldn't be the ones you've envisioned. Then again, I can also more-or-less pronounce "N't'g'r'ch'x", so I may not be the model you're looking for. Liosse's suggestion of transposing the Gaelic word so that it matches English orthography is an entirely reasonable way of handling that one.

If you're really worried, drop the existing words and start over from zero using the first section of the Language Construction Kit ( http://zompist.com/kit.html ). There should be enough information in there for you to get something pronounceable, consistent, and reasonably alien-sounding.

Myrealana
06-23-2014, 06:17 PM
For your consideration: Tk'tk'tk (http://www.asimovs.com/_issue_0503/tk.shtml) Winner of the 2006 Hugo for short fiction.

Xelebes
06-23-2014, 06:41 PM
<sgurr> is actually pronounced with an /s/, a /k/, a /u/, and a rolled 'r'. so... "skoorrr". I'd say that that's faily unpronounceable. Depending on the setting, why not just spell is "skur" or "skoor"?

I looked at it and went "shyoor."

Sra'Yx = Srah-[]-ish

Marian Perera
06-23-2014, 06:50 PM
As much as I think I could deal with both of those, the second one would be pronounced "Sra-icks" in my head, I don't know that you'd be doing your sincerity any favours. I see a name like that and I can't help but snigger at the summoned images of Star Trek aliens.

Unfortunately, same here. It's the apostrophe plus the y-x combination.


There are far worse words than those you could go for, though; having your characters go for a hike up Eyjafjallaj÷kull, for example.

Or Mount Pidurutalagala, in Sri Lanka.

JulianneQJohnson
06-23-2014, 06:58 PM
Sgurr cause me no issues. While my brain may not be pronouncing it in the manner intended, it creates a ready pronunciation and moves along. No worries.

Sra'Yx causes my brain to hiccough. The capital Y confuses me, and I am settling on no pronunciation at all. Certainly I have read published books with names that do this, but that doesn't keep my brain from hiccoughing every single time I get to that name. Makes for a choppy read. After a bit, I get annoyed.

I think it's advisable to go for an unusual name that is more pronounceable. Alien and pronounceable are not mutually exclusive.

Tanatra
06-23-2014, 08:03 PM
Thanks, everyone.

I'm planning on posting the first chapter in SYW sometime this week, but it only contains the first term. Since I can't put both in their proper context, I'll give some more background info:

This is a fantasy story written in the time of the dinosaurs. All of the characters are intelligent, talking dinosaurs (and most are carnivorous).

Sra'Yx is definitely causing some issues. (I was inspired by the character name "Saix" from Kingdom Hearts II when I though of it.) It's obvious that I threw the comma in there just because it looks cool, but it does serve a minor purpose - Sra'Yx is the name of a utahraptor character, and there are five clades of utahraptor in the story. The "Sra" part of his name denotes his clade, sort of like a surname that comes first. In that sense, would Sra-Yx work better?

Sgurr seems like something I can get away with, just going by the responses in this thread. I am loathe to part with it because of the scheme behind the ruling titles:

Katahdin - the king
Sgurr - a council member
Karakoram - the governing body as a whole

Here is where the words came from:

Katahdin - Penebscot Indian for "The Greatest Mountain"
Sgurr - Scottish Gaelic for "peak"
Karakoram - A mountain range in the Hindu Kush



eta: When you say the others in your group "have nothing to say," did they just not comment, or have you asked them specifically

They just didn't comment. Several even said the word "Sgurr" in their critiques, so I figured they had no issue with it. "Sra'Yx" tripped up the one reading aloud to the group both times that chapter was critiqued, though.

jari_k
06-23-2014, 08:55 PM
For your consideration: Tk'tk'tk (http://www.asimovs.com/_issue_0503/tk.shtml) Winner of the 2006 Hugo for short fiction.

Tick tick tick? ;)

rwm4768
06-23-2014, 09:09 PM
I'd be okay with the first. The second...not so much.

slhuang
06-23-2014, 09:22 PM
Katahdin - the king
Sgurr - a council member
Karakoram - the governing body as a whole

Here is where the words came from:

Katahdin - Penebscot Indian for "The Greatest Mountain"
Sgurr - Scottish Gaelic for "peak"
Karakoram - A mountain range in the Hindu KushMy issue is, even without seeing your word origins, the words feel different to me. They don't feel similar linguistically, and though I wouldn't say that's a dealbreaker, it's something that would subconsciously be affecting how I view your world. Not necessarily in a bad way -- some books deliberately mix language origins to get an even more extreme affect than we have somewhere like America, where city names right next to each other can come from wildly different cultural roots. But fantasy readers are savvy enough to pick up on this sort of thing, and if your culture is otherwise homogenous, I think it would ping my radar and decrease my enjoyment to see proper names that are so linguistically dissimilar.


Sra'Yx is definitely causing some issues.

Ironically (ironic because I usually do have trouble with names like this), I had a pronunciation in my head right away -- I read the apostrophe as a glottal stop, which makes sense if both letters flanking it are vowels, and thus I got sra-iks.


In that sense, would Sra-Yx work better?Worse, for me, because I don't read the hyphen as a glottal stop so no longer have a clue as to how to read the Y.

I wouldn't throw in apostrophes just because they look cool -- that's a recipe for disaster -- but if they have purpose, even minor purpose, don't just take them out wholesale; change your naming scheme. :)

Tanatra
06-23-2014, 09:38 PM
if your culture is otherwise homogenous

It's not. It's an amalgamation of a variety of species, carnivores and herbivores alike.

Your comments about Sra'Yx were very helpful though, and I have no qualms at all about renaming the character, especially since he's the only one with an "accessory apostrophe" mucking up his name, so thank you.

Gilroy Cullen
06-23-2014, 09:47 PM
Can I give you a suggestions? Get a feel for difficult yet distinguishable names by reading David Weber's Off Armageddon's Reef and his whole Safehole series.

Yeah, Bynjymyn or something similar is almost every character name. For me, these screwball names make the entire series unreadable, becausemy mind stumbles to just translate the word each time I see it.

robjvargas
06-23-2014, 10:49 PM
JRR Tolkein was a professional linguist, and even he tended away from words too radically different (phonetically) from our own.

If you can create an environment where this kind of punctuation/language makes sense, go for it.

For me, it interrupts the story.

Reziac
06-23-2014, 11:44 PM
Here are the two terms in question:

Sgurr
Sra'Yx


I don't have a problem with 'em -- they'd just have to look and sound right in context. I can even comfortably pronounce 'em, which ought to scare me. ;) I take the apostrophe in Sra'Yx to be a glottal stop, which is kinda how my mouth wants to pronounce it anyway.

I have a city named Izhevsk Yuzovka (Iz'ovka for short). Sounds like an alien gargling razor blades, eh? :eek: Truth is, I got 'em off a 1920s map of Russia. In fact I got all my placenames for that planet off said map of Russia. If you hurt your tongue, blame the Ruskies!


Quick Useless Trivia: Sgurr is the Scottish Gaelic word for the peak of a mountain. Anyone familiar with the Scottish Highlands has encountered that term. I just pulled the character name out of my ass.

Oooh, you learn something useless every day! :D

rwm4768
06-24-2014, 12:03 AM
Can I give you a suggestions? Get a feel for difficult yet distinguishable names by reading David Weber's Off Armageddon's Reef and his whole Safehole series.

Yeah, Bynjymyn or something similar is almost every character name. For me, these screwball names make the entire series unreadable, becausemy mind stumbles to just translate the word each time I see it.

The names were so frustrating in that one. The letter y was everywhere. I might give the series another try at some point, but it felt like a lot of work.

Kaidonni
06-24-2014, 12:07 AM
It certainly helps to have a grounding in the basics of creating conlangs before settling on words. You don't need to go too deep into conlanging; a phonology, syllable structure and naming conventions may be sufficient to give a consistent feel to your words.

In fact, only delve deep into conlanging if you have the itch to figure out how languages work and wish to create one for it's own sake, because it isn't easy; you don't need to be a professional linguist like Tolkien since in this day and age of the internet, there is a treasure trove of websites and communities dedicated to conlanging and the understanding of languages, but it still isn't easy.

One of my potential story ideas/worlds was born of an interest in conlanging and figuring out how a particular culture might work. A lot of people come at it from the other way - they think fantasy, they connect the dots to Tolkien, and they think that they need a complex fantasy language; the truth is, at best most people only need the basics since most of it cannot make the cut. A lot of my work won't make the cut, but it doesn't bother me because it's for it's own sake, the original concept has already woven it's way into the fabric of the worldbuilding and whatever stories I might write - the spirit of the conlang survives regardless of how much gets into my stories.

Hapax Legomenon
06-24-2014, 12:49 AM
If "Sra" is a part of a "last name", why not just Sra Yx?

snafu1056
06-24-2014, 01:45 AM
Karakoram is Turkic, by he way. It means black ridge. You could use kharakorum too. Personally id break it up as kara-koram because people tend to get flustered with long foreign words and its not immediately clear how it should be pronounced.

Liosse de Velishaf
06-24-2014, 03:09 AM
I think I would prefer the dash, or a space would also work, but if the "Yx" is pronounced "iks", then why not just write it that way?

Letters like 'y' and 'c' in English have a complicated history involving various languages of origin and spelling changes.

The use of 'c', 'y', and 'x' in non-English languages annoys me (and apparently many other readers), especially if it's fairly obviously just to look exotic.



I'm also wondering what the point of the easter-egg meanings for your various titles is. What is the relevance of mountains to your political structure among the dinosaurs?

There's also a good chance that "Karakoram" might be confused with "Karakorum", the capital of the Mongol Empire.

AVS
06-24-2014, 03:14 AM
I agree that if it sounds like "Croof Faloney" write it that way, not K'ggth B'thunc'lik. Don't expect the reader to know how to pronounce a (fantasy) language they've never seen before, sound it out for them.

Reziac
06-24-2014, 03:16 AM
What is the relevance of mountains to your political structure among the dinosaurs?

You thought of mountains, I thought of sheep (http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/sheep/katahdin/). :D

Haggis
06-24-2014, 03:20 AM
JRR Tolkein was a professional linguist, and even he tended away from words too radically different (phonetically) from our own.

If you can create an environment where this kind of punctuation/language makes sense, go for it.

For me, it interrupts the story.

This is what keeps me from reading fantasy, Russian novels, and H.P. Lovecraft. I cannot deal with a story if I have to struggle with names. This is not a slam on the genre. I consider it a personal failing. It makes me angry at myself because I know I'm missing out on so much good literature.

Tanatra
06-24-2014, 03:52 AM
I'm also wondering what the point of the easter-egg meanings for your various titles is. What is the relevance of mountains to your political structure among the dinosaurs?

They live on a volcanic, mountainous island and the governing body even meets within the caldera of an extinct volcano. An island is a closed ecosystem, so the species must collaborate together to ensure their mutual survival. I've had a lot of fun exploring the social dynamic of species that eat each other attempting to co-exist together.

But ultimately, easter eggs in any story are just there for the author's own gratification, and little else.

Hapax Legomenon
06-24-2014, 04:31 AM
The use of 'c', 'y', and 'x' in non-English languages annoys me (and apparently many other readers)

Oh man I'd better not tell my characters Daryush and Yasu.

Liosse de Velishaf
06-24-2014, 05:58 AM
Oh man I'd better not tell my characters Daryush and Yasu.


Constructed languages, not natural languages.


<y> as a consonant, as in the name you mention, is fine. But "exotic" and "alien" spellings in made up words tend to employ it as a fancy way to write <i>, and it's rather silly.


That's just a personal aesthetic viewpoint, though.

lianna williamson
06-24-2014, 06:56 AM
American culture in general is y-happy these days. Seen any birth announcements lately?

Ditto many others that for me, the first is absolutely fine, while the second does come off as cheesy and trying too hard, in addition to being basically unpronounceable.

Hapax Legomenon
06-24-2014, 07:03 AM
Daryush is an alternate spelling of Dariush. The character was originally Dariusz, but then I though maybe I shouldn't inflict Polish spellings on my readers.

I sort of agree with <y>, but I think it's okay if you use it sparingly. Possibly for the second name, you could have Sra Yix, or Sra Yiks... I guess it's less of a problem with using Y as a vowel but for using it as an initial vowel.

Marian Perera
06-24-2014, 07:17 AM
American culture in general is y-happy these days. Seen any birth announcements lately?

An occasional Alyster or Myranda is OK, but if it gets too prevalent ("Dyana Smyth and Mychael Styllyngs met in the Shryne of the Ynnocents on Apryl the thyrteenth"), I roll my eyes.

snafu1056
06-24-2014, 07:34 AM
Daryush? Daryush? Will he do the fandango?

Roxxsmom
06-24-2014, 07:56 AM
Katahdin - the king
Sgurr - a council member
Karakoram - the governing body as a whole

Here is where the words came from:

Katahdin - Penebscot Indian for "The Greatest Mountain"
Sgurr - Scottish Gaelic for "peak"
Karakoram - A mountain range in the Hindu Kush





The problem with using these three words from different linguistic roots is that they sound like they come from different linguistic roots. Now, in some story contexts, it might make sense for a culture to use words or roots of words from different languages in daily life. We certainly do in English, and we sometimes even mix and match roots in one word--Television, for instance, but why would your dinosaur culture be doing this? Are there different dinosaur civilizations from different parts of the world that have contributed to this one?

Not everyone notices linguistic things like this, and everyone has a different threshold for it when they do. I've got a fairly wooden ear/eye for language, but even so, to me, Sgurr sounds like a growly word a carnivore might use, and it doesn't feel like it "goes" with the other two names.

Liosse de Velishaf
06-24-2014, 08:42 AM
An occasional Alyster or Myranda is OK, but if it gets too prevalent ("Dyana Smyth and Mychael Styllyngs met in the Shryne of the Ynnocents on Apryl the thyrteenth"), I roll my eyes.


I'm like to murder someone who spells things like this.


Unless it's some sort of incredibly historically accurate fiction or purporting to be a primary source/letter/etc.

Xelebes
06-24-2014, 06:11 PM
Constructed languages, not natural languages.


<y> as a consonant, as in the name you mention, is fine. But "exotic" and "alien" spellings in made up words tend to employ it as a fancy way to write <i>, and it's rather silly.


That's just a personal aesthetic viewpoint, though.

O cym on, Y'm not tryyng to make thix pwst mor exotik than yt rylly ys.

Roxxsmom
06-25-2014, 12:55 AM
I'm like to murder someone who spells things like this.


Unless it's some sort of incredibly historically accurate fiction or purporting to be a primary source/letter/etc.

Frym hyr forwyrd, Tysday will byy "Y" day.

mirandashell
06-25-2014, 12:59 AM
Myranda is OK

No, it's really not. Don't do that.

Reziac
06-25-2014, 01:22 AM
Frym hyr forwyrd, Tysday will byy "Y" day.

VVhx ſtop ­ere? :evil

Liosse de Velishaf
06-25-2014, 02:21 AM
VVhx ſtop ­ere? :evil


Am I gonna have to start posting in IPA?

Filigree
06-25-2014, 03:46 AM
I'll just make some popcorn and settle in for the fun.

4burner
06-25-2014, 04:18 AM
Someone mentioned HP Lovecraft earlier in the thread; The names are designed to be difficult and alien on the tongue (mind). Much like seeing one of his Eldricht Abominations is enough to send a man mad, pronouncing a true name would likely do the same. As the brief visions we get of the monsters are a small taste of the true horror, the names we get are much the same tease of the actual thing.

Don't let the names put you off reading some of his stories. Really great, moody stuff.

PeteMC
06-25-2014, 11:17 AM
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!

What's so difficult about that? ;)

BethS
06-25-2014, 12:37 PM
Hey everyone. One of the guys in my critique group is also writing a fantasy novel, and "keep it pronounceable" is a recurring theme in his feedback. I can see why this could be an issue to readers (i.e., unfamiliar words can really upset the flow of a story) but I was interested in getting some additional opinions since the two dozen other writers in the group (several of which also write fantasy) have had nothing to say on the matter.

Here are the two terms in question:

Sgurr
Sra'Yx

The former is a ruling title explained in the first chapter, and appears quite often. The latter is the name of a supporting character with a handful of POV chapters.

Quick Useless Trivia: Sgurr is the Scottish Gaelic word for the peak of a mountain. Anyone familiar with the Scottish Highlands has encountered that term. I just pulled the character name out of my ass.

Your comments are appreciated. :)

Sgurr I can live with, even though I have no idea how it would be pronounced. My guess is probably not correct.

The other one is like trying to say something with a prickly burr in your mouth, and might cause me to think grumpy thoughts about the author. :)

Reziac
06-25-2014, 03:04 PM
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!

What's so difficult about that? ;)

Not enough spit. :tongue

Latina Bunny
06-27-2014, 03:21 AM
Ugh, I dislike that second one. I put down (usually sff) books that have unpronounceable or extremely long names. I may have missed some great literature, but I would rather not struggle in my readings.

Like someone said earlier, I'm one of those people who can't wrap their minds around long or difficult names.

Anything with apostrophes, x's or y's (or strange captialization) sounds artificial to me (or the author trying too hard to be unique).

If the names has real-life historical origins, or is based on a real (Earth) language, then I would give the author more leeway. I'm not fond of lots of tricky made up words.

Kaidonni
06-27-2014, 08:46 PM
Like someone said earlier, I'm one of those people who can't
Anything with apostrophes, x's or y's (or strange captialization) sounds artificial to me (or the author trying too hard to be unique).

What's so difficult about 'y' if it's used in a sensible manner? I'll have to also spell this out in IPA, but one word I have might be transliterated as 'eqiyu' (or 'ekiyu'), /əqijɨ/. If I sounded it out, it'd be something similar to 'Eh-key-you', although the /q/ is an uvular sound, a harsher 'k'. Mind you, German speakers would probably identify more with the use of j to represent the /j/ consonant sound, whereas English speakers are familiar with the letter y being used at the front of a word to represent it.

Roxxsmom
06-27-2014, 11:17 PM
I'm not a big fan of "y" substitutions in names. Whenever I see the name "Kira" spelled "Kyra," I want to pronounce the "y" as long, the way it is in sky and why (or in the name "Myra").

My brother and sister in law went nuts with the ys in their daughters' names, and I only just got it straight that one of my nieces is actually "Kirya" and not "Kyra" (the name is, in fact, pronounced "Kira"). They did something similar with her sister's name--stuck in a silent "y" in the last syllable. I still have no idea why they put non-phonetic letters in their names, since my SiL is a teacher and she has to know the girls will have their names mispronounced on the first day of school by every teacher they get from grade through graduate school, and they'll have to deal with their names being misspelled a lot too (by their aunt at the very least).

I don't have a problem with unusual spellings in fantasy if they're phonetic and seems to follow a consistent and predictable pattern that evokes a feel for the culture or purported language the names stem from in that made-up world. There really isn't any excuse for non-phonetic spellings of relatively simple made-up names, at least, since the author is "translating" them into the English alphabet, and aside from his/her own name, they're usually being represented as the pov character hears them anyway (how often does a pov character first encounter another character's name in writing)?

If I'm introduced to someone whose name is pronounced "Varn," I'm going to "see" their name as Varn in my head, not "Vyryn."

Latina Bunny
06-27-2014, 11:52 PM
What's so difficult about 'y' if it's used in a sensible manner?

What's IPA?

Guess it depends on whether one reads a made-up language in English--or if the author even has English pronounciation in mind.

Sometimes, I forget that some names are pronounced differently in English, and that English itself has varations and confusing irregular words. Trying to learn another langugage, I sometimes convert to Spanish pronouncement.

With the "y", I would have to think about it in two ways. Is pronounced like an i like in "cry"? Or is it pronounced like an e like "wary" or the Spanish word for "and" ("y")?


[For some other letter examples, the Spanish J is pronounced like English H, the Spanish H is silent, and the Spanish E is pronounced like the English A (as in "hay"), the Spanish I is usually pronounced like the English E, etc. If the language is made up, I would not be sure what origin the author is using as a base: English? Spanish? Greek? Latin? Japanese?]

Roxxsmom
06-28-2014, 12:44 AM
With the "y", I would have to think about it in two ways. Is pronounced like an i like in "cry"? Or is it pronounced like an e like "wary" or the Spanish word for "and" ("y")?

]

Or like a short "i" as you're seeing more and more (or is it a silent y).

I don't think it's possible to get around ambiguous pronunciation completely, and it wouldn't be realistic to populate a fantasy world with people whose names are never any more complex than "Bob" or "Sue," but some authors go a bit nuts in the direction of having societies where everyone has long names and no one uses nick names. But having said this, I've read and enjoyed many a novel while completely mispronouncing a character's name inside my head. There was one I read a while ago where one of the pov characters was named "Alcibiades," and I thought it was "Archibalds" for most of the story (yes, my eyes are a bit fuzzy nowadays).

Latina Bunny
06-28-2014, 12:54 AM
Or like a short "i" as you're seeing more and more (or is it a silent y).
But having said this, I've read and enjoyed many a novel while completely mispronouncing a character's name inside my head. There was one I read a while ago where one of the pov characters was named "Alcibiades," and I thought it was "Archibalds" for most of the story (yes, my eyes are a bit fuzzy nowadays).

I've enjoyed some books and other mediums (tv/movies/anime/cartoons/comics/etc) while mispronouncing some names, too. :) It takes me time to pronounce some names and words. Like some anime/manga. Some of those Japanese names take me a while to memorize and pronounce correctly.

I still pronounce Lara Croft as Lorah or Spanish pronunciation of it instead of Lair-rah (the British pronunciation, I think?).

I still mangle some English words and names--and my native language is English, lol. (Though I had speech therapy when I was younger.) :P Doesn't help that I also have a terrible memory for names, too...

mirandashell
06-28-2014, 01:07 AM
What's IPA?

India Pale Ale?

Kaidonni
06-28-2014, 01:30 AM
India Pale Ale?

The International Phonetic Alphabet. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Phonetic_Alphabet)

Liosse de Velishaf
06-28-2014, 04:45 AM
The problem with using English as the basis for non-English pronunciations is that we have one of the most complicated spelling systems out there, partially thanks to the great vowel shift, and partly thanks to being a morpho-phonemic spelling system, where our spelling tries to maintain the integrity of the root word.

ClareGreen
06-28-2014, 05:00 AM
(And partially because the chap who wrote the dictionary was Scottish.)

Latina Bunny
06-28-2014, 05:43 AM
I don't think it's possible to get around ambiguous pronunciation completely, and it wouldn't be realistic to populate a fantasy world with people whose names are never any more complex than "Bob" or "Sue," but some authors go a bit nuts in the direction of having societies where everyone has long names and no one uses nick names.

To clarify, I am not against all made-up languages and names. Obviously, secondary world sff usually has to have more...unusual names. I have read plenty of MG fantasies with unusual names.

However, like you said, some authors go too far.

I'm just one of those people who like shorter names like Allec, Brennner, Saleem/Salim, Sarafina, Marric, etc, vs longer, complex or nonsensical-sounding names like Ksydiesteramoprh or Slyvar'xx, etc.

The more closer it is to Earth names, the easier it is-- for me, at least. :)

Perhaps that's why I prefer contemporary fantasies. ;)

Dryad
06-28-2014, 09:28 AM
I don't mind weird names and spelling if you don't mind my reading them whatever way strikes me. I'm not going to analyze the IPA instructions in the index, either. And I'll persist in my pronunciation and feel mildly put out if some official type (like the author) tries to correct my pronunciation--a pronunciation that served me perfectly well throughout the reading of the story. If the word is truly bizarre, like the mind-altering geometry of a Lovecraftian construct, then my eyes will just sort of slide over the word as I read, accepting it more as a symbol than language.


Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!

Reziac
06-28-2014, 04:50 PM
I don't have a problem with unusual spellings in fantasy if they're phonetic and seems to follow a consistent and predictable pattern that evokes a feel for the culture or purported language the names stem from in that made-up world. There really isn't any excuse for non-phonetic spellings of relatively simple made-up names, at least, since the author is "translating" them into the English alphabet, and aside from his/her own name, they're usually being represented as the pov character hears them anyway (how often does a pov character first encounter another character's name in writing)?

My basic method for made-up names is to make noises til the right one hits my ear, then work out how to spell it so it sounds right to my eye. I seem to have a very specific set of phonics in my head that's quite nitpicky about all this.

However I don't use the IPA, an invention of the devil that may have made phonics more specific for professional linguists, but made this formerly-simple concept completely opaque to everyone else.

In my universe, for longwinded historical reasons there are only two base languages -- the "old language" that I seem to have decided sounds a lot like Russian, and "Standard" which originally derived from the same place but had several thousand years to drift away from its origins. The old language survives mainly as place names (hence I feel free to steal from antique maps of Russia), family names, curses, and (where scraps remain mashed into Standard) obscure dialects. I'd guess the two bear roughly the same relationship as Old English and Modern English, with about the same degree of understanding by the average person. Hence I feel no need to translate what few words do come up in the old language (tho educated persons occasionally do so for us) because my average person doesn't know what it means either.


If I'm introduced to someone whose name is pronounced "Varn," I'm going to "see" their name as Varn in my head, not "Vyryn."

Which in my head are pronounced "Varn" (rhymes with "barn") and "Vir-in" (rhymes with "beer in" tho slightly flatter than "beer", and kinda blurred together with no particular accent on either syllable).

But if a name doesn't care to be pronounced, it really won't affect my reading, because I don't sound out words in my head. "Vrnyxb" is going to be recognised when I see it again, and it'll just be the "Vrnyxb blob" as I read.

Liosse de Velishaf
06-28-2014, 06:00 PM
However I don't use the IPA, an invention of the devil that may have made phonics more specific for professional linguists, but made this formerly-simple concept completely opaque to everyone else.


Phonics has nothing to do with linguistics. And I can't say as I find "phonetic spelling" a simple concept, since every person has a different idea of how it works, and 98% of them are wrong.

Kaidonni
06-28-2014, 06:04 PM
My basic method for made-up names is to make noises til the right one hits my ear, then work out how to spell it so it sounds right to my eye. I seem to have a very specific set of phonics in my head that's quite nitpicky about all this.

However I don't use the IPA, an invention of the devil that may have made phonics more specific for professional linguists, but made this formerly-simple concept completely opaque to everyone else.

The IPA is useful when conlanging as it provides a baseline for everyone on conlanging forums to work with - if I use the consonant /j/ and other conlangers research the sound, there's absolutely no ambiguity, no reason for confusion (except where there is no audio example on Wikipedia...grrr!). There are so many sounds that a library with common symbols used for those sounds is very helpful - that way, we don't have conlangers all doing their own thing, it requires a lot less explanation of the sounds in their languages.

I don't think IPA was meant for non-linguists as it takes a lot of getting used to, and doesn't take into account orthography and how individual languages using the same basic orthography (e.g. the Roman alphabet) use the same letters for different sounds. It'll only cause confusion for most readers, burdening them with learning something new just to read a story (and unless it's an audio book, IPA won't be of much good to them anyway since some of the symbols for fairly common consonants in the English language aren't used in our alphabet).

Liosse de Velishaf
06-28-2014, 06:07 PM
The IPA is useful when conlanging as it provides a baseline for everyone on conlanging forums to work with - if I use the consonant /j/ and other conlangers research the sound, there's absolutely no ambiguity, no reason for confusion (except where there is no audio example on Wikipedia...grrr!). There are so many sounds that a library with common symbols used for those sounds is very helpful - that way, we don't have conlangers all doing their own thing, it requires a lot less explanation of the sounds in their languages.

I don't think IPA was meant for non-linguists as it takes a lot of getting used to, and doesn't take into account orthography and how individual languages using the same basic orthography (e.g. the Roman alphabet) use the same letters for different sounds. It'll only cause confusion for most readers, burdening them with learning something new just to read a story (and unless it's an audio book, IPA won't be of much good to them anyway since some of the symbols for fairly common consonants in the English language aren't used in our alphabet).



The IPA is an underlying representation of sounds, while the Roman alphabet--for example--is the surface representation.

Reziac
06-28-2014, 08:25 PM
I don't think IPA was meant for non-linguists as it takes a lot of getting used to, and doesn't take into account orthography and how individual languages using the same basic orthography (e.g. the Roman alphabet) use the same letters for different sounds. It'll only cause confusion for most readers, burdening them with learning something new just to read a story (and unless it's an audio book, IPA won't be of much good to them anyway since some of the symbols for fairly common consonants in the English language aren't used in our alphabet).

This is precisely what I meant. The problem is that the IPA is now being used even for basic dictionaries -- best way I've ever seen to prevent average folks from learning how to pronounce an unfamiliar word!

Much preferable in prose to have some odd combination of letters to approximate the desired sound, rather than having to decipher something like, oh, say, dɮᶑʄ̊t͡ɕ.

Kaidonni
06-28-2014, 11:02 PM
Much preferable in prose to have some odd combination of letters to approximate the desired sound, rather than having to decipher something like, oh, say, dɮᶑʄ̊t͡ɕ.

My eyes! My beautiful eyes! I tried to use the IPA to approximate the sounds, but you're using non-pulmonic consonants for which Wikipedia - at the least - doesn't have any word examples or audio of.

Reziac
06-28-2014, 11:21 PM
My eyes! My beautiful eyes! I tried to use the IPA to approximate the sounds, but you're using non-pulmonic consonants for which Wikipedia - at the least - doesn't have any word examples or audio of.

Huh. And here I thought I'd just picked the most visually-pleasing glyphs from the Wiki IPA page!! Who knew I'd created a tool of darkness!

Oh wait, I already said that about it. :D

Roxxsmom
06-28-2014, 11:25 PM
Not being a linguist, IPA was an ale to me until I looked it up. And I haven't looked up what non-pulmonic consonants means yet, so the phrase is gibberish to me.





Which in my head are pronounced "Varn" (rhymes with "barn") and "Vir-in" (rhymes with "beer in" tho slightly flatter than "beer", and kinda blurred together with no particular accent on either syllable).

I'd probably pronounce that "Vernix" inside my head and ignore the b at the end.

Which was my point. Why make a fancy spelling that many readers will mispronounce in their heads? Not that it's necessarily all that important whether the protagonist's name rhymes with "barn" or "beer."


But if a name doesn't care to be pronounced, it really won't affect my reading, because I don't sound out words in my head. "Vrnyxb" is going to be recognised when I see it again, and it'll just be the "Vrnyxb blob" as I read.

Now I do try to sound out stuff in my head, but my eye tends to skip letters in long names or names that have letter combinations that aren't expected to me, so I often "see" names incorrectly. Causes me no end of embarassment on the first day of class each semester, especially if I don't have my glasses with me, and the font on my roster really does look blurry to begin with. There are some names I just can't "hear" correctly inside my head as well, even after they're pronounced for me.

An interesting example of a letter being inserted instead of missed is when my mom read the Chronicles of Narnia to me when I was a tyke, she inserted a second N, so she pronounced it "Narnina." When I read the books on my own for the first time, I was most of the way through before I realized that it was spelled "Narnia."

Albedo
06-28-2014, 11:30 PM
This is precisely what I meant. The problem is that the IPA is now being used even for basic dictionaries -- best way I've ever seen to prevent average folks from learning how to pronounce an unfamiliar word!

Much preferable in prose to have some odd combination of letters to approximate the desired sound, rather than having to decipher something like, oh, say, dɮᶑʄ̊t͡ɕ.

I prefer IPA to 'phonetic' spelling schemes in dictionaries. Much simpler to be familiar with a standard scheme, than having to work out the dictionary maker's crazy house style.

Look at this crap. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/help/pronguide.htm) They use an ampersand for schwa. An ampersand.

Reziac
06-28-2014, 11:36 PM
Not being a linguist, IPA was an ale to me until I looked it up. And I haven't looked up what non-pulmonic consonants means yet, so the phrase is gibberish to me.

Pulmonic, having to do with the lungs. Non, not. Clearly it means "Words that strangle you." :tongue

In IPA-speak:

pulmonic, hŠvɪŋ tu du wɪθ ­ə ləŋz. nɑn, nɑt. klɪrli ɪt minz " wərdz ­Št strŠŋgəl ju."
or
| <pulmonic> | ˈhŠvɪŋ tə də wɪ­ ­ə lʌŋz | nɒn | nɒt | ˈklɪəli ɪt miːnz ˈwɜːdz ­ət ˈstrŠŋɡl̩ ju |

Hell, even they find themselves disagreeable can't agree!

Liosse de Velishaf
06-29-2014, 05:19 AM
Pulmonic, having to do with the lungs. Non, not. Clearly it means "Words that strangle you." :tongue

In IPA-speak:

pulmonic, hŠvɪŋ tu du wɪθ ­ə ləŋz. nɑn, nɑt. klɪrli ɪt minz " wərdz ­Št strŠŋgəl ju."
or
| <pulmonic> | ˈhŠvɪŋ tə də wɪ­ ­ə lʌŋz | nɒn | nɒt | ˈklɪəli ɪt miːnz ˈwɜːdz ­ət ˈstrŠŋɡl̩ ju |

Hell, even they find themselves disagreeable can't agree!


Pulmonic means that the sound is produced by air pressure generated in the lungs. Most consonants are pulmonic egressive, meaning that air is being forced out of the lungs.



Much like Albedo, I prefer IPA because it tells me exactly how a word is pronounced, and is a standard as opposed to a morass of house styles. An ampersand for a schwa. I'm weeping blood here, people.


As far as your IPA, reziac, is that [phonetic] or /phonemic/ transcription? You haven't specified.

Liosse de Velishaf
06-29-2014, 05:21 AM
This is precisely what I meant. The problem is that the IPA is now being used even for basic dictionaries -- best way I've ever seen to prevent average folks from learning how to pronounce an unfamiliar word!

Much preferable in prose to have some odd combination of letters to approximate the desired sound, rather than having to decipher something like, oh, say, dɮᶑʄ̊t͡ɕ.



I would never use IPA in the actual text of a novel. It's for creating the sound system. You'd use a version of the Roman alphabet for actually using it in a story.