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View Full Version : How do you pronounce an apostrophe?



arainsb123
02-15-2005, 05:48 AM
They're everywhere in many fantasy novels, and I have no idea how to pronounce them! Can anyone enlighten me? I've read fantasy for years, and I usually just ignore the apostrophes, but it would be nice to finally learn how to pronounce them.

mdin
02-15-2005, 05:53 AM
Could you give an example?

arainsb123
02-15-2005, 06:02 AM
Don't like the book I've found these in, but here are a few:

Shur'tugal
Ra'zac
Zar'roc

Birol
02-15-2005, 06:24 AM
The indicate a pause and sometimes a gutteral sound or to make the next letter a little harder than normal.

For instance, in my mind, I would pronounce:

ruh ZaK

zar RAHK

But, of course, it is really up to your mind how you pronounce them with no clues from the writer. And if you're not liking the book, it's possible the author just put them in there because they thought they should, because that's how they think scifi characters are named.

victoriastrauss
02-15-2005, 06:28 AM
Apos'trophes in fan'tasy can be a laz'y writer's way of try'ing to make t'hings seem ex'otic. Since they're usual'ly gra'tuitous, I don't think you nee'd to p'ronounce them a'tall.

- Victoria

mdin
02-15-2005, 06:59 AM
I always read them as slight pauses. I don't know if I'm right or not, but that's how my mind distills them. I'm guilty of using them from time to time.

Shurtagal - I would pronounce it as rhyming with vertical
Shur'tagal - I would pronounce it as Sure Tah-gall

I read a book recently where there were asterixs (*) in the middle of words. (like nuka*paal). I guess that's supposed to be tongue clicks like you hear from African languages. It was really distracting.

DaveKuzminski
02-15-2005, 07:03 AM
Just to indicate how I feel about apostrophes in names in fantasies and science fiction, there is exactly one character, a king, whose name has an apostrophe in a series I've written. He dies not too long after he's encountered in the series by an underling who takes his throne and then renames the capital port city that also bore the king's name. From then on, there are no other characters with apostrophes.

Medievalist
02-15-2005, 10:45 AM
The apostrophe, as a punctuation mark (versus the apostrophe as a rhetorical figure) is an indication that a letter or sound is "missing," or "skipped."

In Modern English possessives, "John's dog" the apostrophe is marker of the way possessives used to be written, Johnes dog, where -es marked the genitive. The apostrophe stands in for the -e.

I'm skipping over a lot of historical changes and twisty little rules here, but basically, it means that something is skipped, which, depending on the sounds on either side of the apostrophe, results in an elision, a pause, or a glottal stop, etc.

MacAllister
02-15-2005, 09:35 PM
Stamp out rampant gratuitous apostrophication, whenever and wherever you find it. It's like the kudzu of fantasy--a genre I love.

reph
02-15-2005, 11:56 PM
In Modern English possessives, "John's dog" the apostrophe is marker of the way possessives used to be written, Johnes dog, where -es marked the genitive. The apostrophe stands in for the -e.

Even earlier–this is the part I find exciting–it was "John his dog" (but with archaic spelling) or "the house his roof."

Euan H.
02-16-2005, 12:37 PM
Apostrophes can indicate aspiration in some languages (the one I'm familair with is Thai written in Roman script). For example:

'T'ai' has an aspirated initial consonant. (To know what aspiration is, hold your hand in front of your mouth and sayy 'pee'. The little puff of air you feel comes from the fact that 'p' is aspirated in English in consonant-initial position).

'Tai' on the other hand is unaspirated, and the 't' sound would be similar to the 't' in the 'my belt was on the chair'.

But...

Having said that, modern transliteration of Thai uses an 'h' to indicate aspiration. So we would have 'Thai' and 'Tai' (or 'Dtai').

So there you go.

detante
02-16-2005, 05:51 PM
Stamp out rampant gratuitous apostrophication, whenever and wherever you find it. It's like the kudzu of fantasy--a genre I love.

I want a T-shirts that said "Eradicate gratuitous apostrophication".

Kate Nepveu
02-16-2005, 09:32 PM
Apos'trophes in fan'tasy can be a laz'y writer's way of try'ing to make t'hings seem ex'otic. Since they're usual'ly gra'tuitous, I don't think you nee'd to p'ronounce them a'tall.
I usually think of them as a slight pause, probably because I don't know what a glottal stop actually sounds like and I first encountered them in McCaffrey, where they represent elisons.

I have put down books because of apostrophes in names. I have refused to pick up books (the Wit'ch series, anyone?) because of apostrophes. They are best avoided with extreme prejudice.

SFCaprice
02-17-2005, 02:07 AM
Is it true that novellas are almost un-sellable (coined word)? And, if so, what does one do with two and a half stories (science fiction) of less than 50,000 words (currently into the third of a series featuring the same characters). From the feedback I've gotten from those that have read them, they're good stories too. Do I just chuck them and concentrate on writing the Great American Novel?? Or just give up on any idea of selling what I write and be resigned to keeping my day job? It's depressing.

http://deephousepage.com/smilies/shudder.gif

MacAllister
02-17-2005, 02:13 AM
SFCaprice--there are markets for novella-length stories--you just have to be really, really good. I guess, if they were my stories, I'd look for whether or not every word really HAD to be there.

If I couldn't trim them down and make them really lean and intense (telling the same amount of story in, oh, 10K words) then I'd look at adding more story--and beefing them into novels. If the stories are absolutely perfect, as is, then check into publications that DO use novella-length stuff, or run stories, serialized.

Here's one such market (http://www.blackgate.com/bg/guide.htm). :)

SFCaprice
02-17-2005, 02:21 AM
Thanks Mac. I guess I keep the day job. The site offered (though I shall look for others) caters to 'all ages' and what I write is primarily for adults and is science fiction and not fantasy. It's not that they are terribly erotic (though there are, shall we say, 'adult' situations), but they're not meant for children either. I didn't even intend them to be 'novellas', they just came out that way. And, let's face it, there's no such thing as 'perfect'. I'll have to wait and see how they critique over on the Critters website.

Thanks anyhow.... http://deephousepage.com/smilies/splat.gif

CACTUSWENDY
02-17-2005, 02:55 AM
:Shrug: ..........SHOOT.....BANG!.....I WISH I COULD SPELL ERADICATE GRATUITOUS APOSTROPHICATION....(WIPES SPIT OFF CHIN...AND PULLS UP MY DEPENDS.....)

I LOVE YOU GUYS.....:kiss:

Pthom
02-17-2005, 03:00 AM
SFCaprice:
Welcome to the SF/F board. Mac is right: novellas are a tough sell. However, I believe certain periodicals do publish them, on the order of "once in awhile". I did have the thought, though, that since your stories involve the same characters, why not try combining them into a sort of anthology of your own and market it as one?

detante
02-17-2005, 03:10 AM
I WISH I COULD SPELL ERADICATE GRATUITOUS APOSTROPHICATION....(WIPES SPIT OFF CHIN...AND PULLS UP MY DEPENDS.....)

:ROFL: Wendy, you never fail to make me smile!

SFCaprice
02-17-2005, 03:41 AM
Thanks, Pthom, for the suggestion. Now I know how a salmon feels, swimming upstream to the spawning grounds. Those waterfalls are a real *****!

Anthology. Which means I'll have to finish the third one (would it be considered a trilogy, then?) without any hope at all of having the first one published on its own.

As I said......depressing. Infuriating too.
http://deephousepage.com/smilies/tantrum.gif

I think I'll go have some tequila. Thanks anyway.......

Mary

victoriastrauss
02-17-2005, 06:29 AM
Check out Kage Baker's The Anvil of the World--it's a novel composed of three novellas featuring the same setting and characters. But I imagine that selling something like this to a commercial book publisher would be like selling a short story collection--you'd need some previous publishing credits.

- Victoria

Pthom
02-17-2005, 06:36 AM
It occurs to me that many authors do write multiple novellas in their novels...they interweave them as "sub plots" and tie them together at the end.

SFCaprice
02-17-2005, 06:56 AM
I'm going to go have some more tequila......... :gone:

Kate Nepveu
02-17-2005, 07:03 AM
Last year's nominees for Best Novella in the Hugo Awards were all published by Asimov's or Analog.

http://www.noreascon.org/hugos/nominees.html has details (and links to the stories. I voted for Kage Baker's story, myself.).

Pthom
02-17-2005, 07:15 AM
I'm going to go have some more tequila......... :gone:
is your story set in Mexico?

reph
02-17-2005, 10:42 AM
Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine uses novellas.

clintl
02-17-2005, 09:14 PM
Check out Kage Baker's The Anvil of the World--it's a novel composed of three novellas featuring the same setting and characters. But I imagine that selling something like this to a commercial book publisher would be like selling a short story collection--you'd need some previous publishing credits.

- Victoria

Gene Wolfe's The Fifth Head of Cerberus and Kim Stanley Robinson's Icehenge are two other novels that are constructed from three connected novellas.

Jamesaritchie
02-18-2005, 11:07 PM
Generally, I read apostrophes in names the same way I read them in contractions such as "don't" or "can't." That is, I don't read them at all.

HConn
02-20-2005, 01:04 AM
SFCaprice, if your work is coming out too short, try padding it out by putting apostrophes in the character names.

Best,

H'Con'n

fallenangelwriter
02-20-2005, 06:57 AM
in some contractions, like "don't" and "can't", the apostrophe represents something left out, and therfore is not pronounced.


generally, in fantasy an aporstrophe represents a pause. this can be simple the word is in two parts, or because something has ben removed. often, it signifies the separation of letters that would otherwise run together. for instance, two japanese words, differently pronounced are rendered in english as kinen and kin'en. kine is prounouned key-nehn, kin'en is prnouned keen-en.

making up words for a fantasy language now, Thar would be pronounced "thar", but t'har would be pronounced ta-har.

my opinion.

Jamesaritchie
02-21-2005, 06:49 AM
in some contractions, like "don't" and "can't", the apostrophe represents something left out, and therfore is not pronounced.


generally, in fantasy an aporstrophe represents a pause. this can be simple the word is in two parts, or because something has ben removed. often, it signifies the separation of letters that would otherwise run together. for instance, two japanese words, differently pronounced are rendered in english as kinen and kin'en. kine is prounouned key-nehn, kin'en is prnouned keen-en.

making up words for a fantasy language now, Thar would be pronounced "thar", but t'har would be pronounced ta-har.

my opinion.

I agree, but I can't for the life of me see why I should worry about what an apostrophe in a fantasy name means. I'm there for the story, not the pronunciation. If a fantasy writer wants to stick an apostrophe in a name, he or she has every right, but I'm not going to pause a second to figure out why it's there.

katiemac
02-21-2005, 07:37 AM
but I'm not going to pause a second to figure out why it's there.

That sounds about right to me.

katiemac
02-21-2005, 07:44 AM
I was reading through one of the links Ivonia posted on cliches just for kicks, thought you all might find this one interesting:

Posted under settings/world elements:


Lots of apostrophes in fantasy languages without good linguistic reasons.

Pthom
02-21-2005, 02:34 PM
I agree, but I can't for the life of me see why I should worry about what an apostrophe in a fantasy name means. I'm there for the story, not the pronunciation. If a fantasy writer wants to stick an apostrophe in a name, he or she has every right, but I'm not going to pause a second to figure out why it's there.

Yeah, I agree. But in a mythical realm replete with dragons, wizards and invisible ghoulies, when the hero is a warrior with magical powers and a tail, I find it difficult to believe in him if he's named Ralph Larsen or Curtis Jones.

Jamesaritchie
02-21-2005, 08:02 PM
Yeah, I agree. But in a mythical realm replete with dragons, wizards and invisible ghoulies, when the hero is a warrior with magical powers and a tail, I find it difficult to believe in him if he's named Ralph Larsen or Curtis Jones.

So would I. But I don't think this has anything to do with whether or not I take the time to figure out what the apostrophes are supposed to mean in a name such as "T'gentu'gat."

Anything that inteferes with the reading of the story is a bad thing, to my mind. The writer might have had all sorts of reasons for sticking the apostrophes in the name, linguistic or not, but they're his reasons, not mine, and if I have to pause to figure out why those apostrophes are there, and what pronunciation I'm supposed to use, the writer has blown it.

Odda are high the only reason the apostrophes are there is because the writer though the looked cool. But either way, I'm not about to pause in my reading to try to figure it out.

It's much like an alien science fiction name such as "TFR*ESVHJIKGL." Just give it whatever pronunciation that comes to mind and go on with the reading.

fallenangelwriter
02-23-2005, 05:28 PM
I guess you're right. if i had to stop reading to figure out an apostrophe, i wouldn't. but i naturally read the aporstrophes along with the lettters. the moment i saw "t'gentu'gat", i knew how to pronounce it.

Dev
02-23-2005, 10:33 PM
For me, usually the first time I run across a weird name I stop and try to come up with a mental pronunciation comfortable for me. After that, it no longer presents that same bump in the road...although there was that one character whose name tripped me up every time I read it. Da5id, for Snow Crash, I think... names just don't have numbers in them!
--Dev

fallenangelwriter
02-24-2005, 04:57 AM
I pronounced "da5id" the same as "david". OTOH, my dad says "dah-five-id"

Shiny_Penguin
02-24-2005, 06:29 PM
When I see an unpronouncable name I kind of take a mental picture of it. I don't really try to pronouce it so much as remember the shape of it. I don't think that's making sense, but my husband does it as well. I really don't like apostrophes in names.

reph
02-25-2005, 06:22 AM
S. Penguin, I do the same thing. It's a way of processing words visually rather than sonically. This habit of some readers should discourage writers from using character names like V'nnnf, N'fffv, and F'vvvn in the same book. I say it should discourage them, but I'm afraid nothing will discourage a writer who thinks those are good names in the first place.

Jamesaritchie
02-25-2005, 08:35 AM
I guess you're right. if i had to stop reading to figure out an apostrophe, i wouldn't. but i naturally read the aporstrophes along with the lettters. the moment i saw "t'gentu'gat", i knew how to pronounce it.

So did I. It's pronounced "tgentugat." I know because that's one of mine from a long, long time ago, back when I first started writing and thought you were supposed to use names like that in fiction. Thank God that story was never published. The apostrophes are in there for looks only.

fallenangelwriter
02-26-2005, 05:01 PM
I actually like the first apostrophe, because otherwise i find myself trying to pronounce "tg". with apostrophes, i would read it tih-gen-tu-gatwithout, "tjen-tu-gat"

also, ithink the apostrophe makes the gentu and gat mroe separate, almost two words. gentu, then a moment later, gat. rather than one run together stream like gen-to-gat said quite rapidly.

Pthom
02-27-2005, 07:40 AM
Problem is, your conventions for pronounciation, Jame's and mine--not to mention all the potential readers, each with their own--aren't likely to agree, no matter how long we discuss it or try to rationalize it.

After reading this thread for the past few days, I'm of the opinion that apostrophes in names is kinda like brow ridges on Star Trek aliens. When you're stuck with human beings for actors and a limited budget, about all you can do is dress them up oddly. Same for apostrophes in names. Only different.

Higgins
09-08-2006, 08:53 PM
I usually think of them as a slight pause, probably because I don't know what a glottal stop actually sounds like and I first encountered them in McCaffrey, where they represent elisons.

I have put down books because of apostrophes in names. I have refused to pick up books (the Wit'ch series, anyone?) because of apostrophes. They are best avoided with extreme prejudice.

Glottal stops occur in English, but they are not "heard as" phonemes. This makes them very hard to learn in languages like Navajo where you have to hear the difference between 'tl and tl...to us they "sound the same"

I was taught the glottal stop by two methods, one dull and one vaguely erotic. The dull method is to say "bottle" and hyperennunciate the syllabic break or to utter two open syllabic vowels and hyperennuciate. The other method was to find an beautiful ex-speach-therapist and watch her say "Okay, here's a glottal stop: watch me now..." and she would sort of sit there panting...ah...youth.

Vomaxx
09-09-2006, 12:34 AM
Unfortunately, "gratuitous apostrophication" often means things like "He did not know it's purpose." (Extraordinary how many people have trouble with two possible spellings of that three-letter word.)

----------------

My pronunciation of words like Vurk'u'pot'al is "Oh my God. Close the book."

Peggy
09-09-2006, 12:56 AM
Da5id, for Snow Crash, I think... names just don't have numbers in them! I paused the first time I saw that name, then figured that it was just a cute (or should say 'leet?) way of writing plain old David, since V is the roman numeral for 5.

JDCrayne
09-09-2006, 02:22 AM
I think an apostrophe is the standard notation for the click in those tongue-click languages of Africa. When it comes to fiction, you'd have to ask the particular writer what he/she had in mind. Of course, it's possible that the writer just liked the way that the word looked on the page.

Oddsocks
09-09-2006, 05:01 AM
Isn't a ! usually used for a click?

I prefer names that don't have apostrophes simply because they break the word up and it isn't as coherent. Names should be coherent. If that makes any sense.

However, I am having difficulty working out how to write a word with consecutive s and h sounds without it simply being read as the combined 'sh' (I'm building a language with a lot of fricatives and with mulitple fricatives in consonant clusters). My first thought was to write it as s'h, but as soon as I thought it it made me cringe, so I'm still working on it.

UrsulaV
09-09-2006, 05:40 AM
Isn't a ! usually used for a click?


I took a linguistics class back in college, when I had delusions of being an anthropologist some day, and there are actually at least three seperate clicks, which I recall being represented with either ! or the upside-down ! (There must have been a third, but I can't remember it--might've been two lines close together, like ||)

The click at the front of the palate is easy, the click at the back of the palate is hard--I'm gagging myself just trying it!--and the glottal click most people can't learn to do unless they were brought up in the Kalahari.

One thing I remember hearing is that the clicks are so tricky that the !Kung (the Bushmen) actually have a sort of children's language that the very young speak that doesn't include the clicks, and they have a lot of songs and rhymes and whatnot that exist to train kids to learn to make the funkier glottal and back-of-the-throat clicky sounds. Which was interesting, if true.

Higgins
09-09-2006, 05:33 PM
I took a linguistics class back in college, when I had delusions of being an anthropologist some day, and there are actually at least three seperate clicks, which I recall being represented with either ! or the upside-down ! (There must have been a third, but I can't remember it--might've been two lines close together, like ||)

The click at the front of the palate is easy, the click at the back of the palate is hard--I'm gagging myself just trying it!--and the glottal click most people can't learn to do unless they were brought up in the Kalahari.

One thing I remember hearing is that the clicks are so tricky that the !Kung (the Bushmen) actually have a sort of children's language that the very young speak that doesn't include the clicks, and they have a lot of songs and rhymes and whatnot that exist to train kids to learn to make the funkier glottal and back-of-the-throat clicky sounds. Which was interesting, if true.

The "kiss-click" (a loud pucker-suck) and the quasi-diaphram half-groan...for kiss-click I only know the name of a now vanished group: the (kiss)qa-(kiss)qa . The Kiss click is generally written as a circle with a dot in the middle. My professor who lived with the !Kung could do all the clicks. At least you could hear a click easily since they don't happen much in English, which is more than you can say for glottal stops, which (as I've said) happen in English but are hard for native English-speakers to hear at all.

JDCrayne
09-10-2006, 02:02 AM
Isn't a ! usually used for a click?



I stand corrected; you're undoubtedly right. Frankly, I'd give a wide berth to fancy alien languages. They're stoppers for the reader and absolute nightmares for the editors.