Thursday, 15 April 2010

How do you say "Kyrgyz"?

One geographical fact I learnt today. Kyrgyz is the name of the ethnic group and language of the people in Kyrgyzstan. I don't know whether you'll agree with me or not but Kyrgyz is a beautiful word. I'm fascinated with it. This six-letter word doesn't contain any vowel at all and yet, it is totally pronunciable. 

According to a very helpful guide to pronunciation on the BBC website, we have got to say this word as KUR-giz, with the emphasis on KUR. The zed is pronounced as in the word "zoo".

What brought on this guide is that with Kyrgyzstan in the news lately, many people from non-eastern European countries are having difficulty taking in all those Kyrgyz names. Personally I do not have much problems with most Cyrillic-sounding words although I don't understand their language at all. I don't know, maybe years of reading chess books have helped. Many top chess players come from this part of the world and you get to know their names and how to say them. And I can tell you, they can be pretty weird.

Anyway, as much as the BBC guide was helpful, it was also filled with some incomprehensible verbosity. Take this as an example: "...the original Kyrgyz pronunciation of Kyrgyzstan contains sounds which are unfamiliar and "foreign" to many native English speakers, such as the close back unrounded vowel and the voiced uvular fricative."

Aiyoh...what's the meaning of "close back unrounded vowel" and "uvular fricative"? I've no time to find out, actually, so I shall have it leave them at that.

That same BBC guide also included something else: the pronunciation of the word Manas, which is the site of an American airbase in Kyrgyzstan. I shall leave it to you to go see how its pronounced correctly on the BBC website. You'll be amused.

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