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View Full Version : Diacritic to make U sound like "oo"


Alex_Dubinsky
04-04-2009, 02:38 AM
Is there a diacritic that makes the letter 'u' sound like the typical 'oo'?

I notice many Russian words get transfered to English with the cyrilic oo-ish 'u' sound represented as a 'u'. Sometimes this works, but other times it gets butchered. E.g., "sputnik" should not pronounced the way it always is. It's not actually an ugly-sounding word.

So... is there a diacritic that can distinguish the 'oo' u from the 'uh' u?

tim314
04-04-2009, 04:41 AM
E.g., "sputnik" should not pronounced the way it always is. It's not actually an ugly-sounding word.I guess that depends on how you feel about spoo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spoo).

jjimm
04-04-2009, 05:07 AM
Some tranliteration systems use (Turkish, Pinyin) to "tighten" the "u" sound.

Further, there is a dessert company in the UK that is called G and people naturally pronounce it "Goo".

Kobal2
04-04-2009, 05:15 AM
English is one of the few languages that has absolutely no diacritical marks on letters (with the exception of foreign loanwords, life caf or jalapeo). However, the distinction you seek exists in German, with the umlaut : a lone u is the "oo" sound (or /u/ in IPA), is the "uh" sound (/y/ in IPA).

sailor
04-04-2009, 05:26 AM
Further, there is a dessert company in the UK that is called G and people naturally pronounce it "Goo". I wonder what the marketing guy was thinking.

jjimm
04-04-2009, 05:47 AM
I wonder what the marketing guy was thinking.Well, the desserts are gooey. I think it was deliberate. And delicious (http://www.gupuds.com/).

DSYoungEsq
04-04-2009, 09:21 AM
English is one of the few languages that has absolutely no diacritical marks on letters (with the exception of foreign loanwords, life caf or jalapeo). However, the distinction you seek exists in German, with the umlaut : a lone u is the "oo" sound (or /u/ in IPA), is the "uh" sound (/y/ in IPA).

The in German is not an "uh." It's a pinched "oo". That is, you form your lips to say "oo" and then you say "ee". The same sound exists in French. Russian has a similar sound, but it's not exactly the same. English has nothing that approximates it.

To return to the OP:

The only way to differentiate "oo" from "uh" in English when the quality of the letter "u" would be short is to substitute the letters "oo" for the "u". Thus, if you wanted to make it clear that the thing the Russians put in space was pronounced "spooooootnik", you'd have to spell it Spootnik.

JRDelirious
04-04-2009, 10:03 AM
To return to the OP:

The only way to differentiate "oo" from "uh" in English when the quality of the letter "u" would be short is to substitute the letters "oo" for the "u". Thus, if you wanted to make it clear that the thing the Russians put in space was pronounced "spooooootnik", you'd have to spell it Spootnik.
And the issue in English is probably a result of combining a reasonable assumption on the part of everyday Anglophones that a word printed in the newspaper would have been rendered so that it's spelled and pronounced according to English rules, with the papers abiding instead by how the word was transcribed from Cyrillic to Roman alphabet on the wire feed from TASS, which had the sound represented by the Cyrillic character "Y" converted into the Roman character "U". As mentioned, that happens to work fine for very many Romance and Germanic languages, not so well for English.

I've seen many French sources, seeking to preserve the correct pronunciation, print it rather as "spoutnik", which in French is closer to the "right" sound. Something similar happenned with the name "Kruschev" --> "Kruschov" in many non-English media.

Alex_Dubinsky
04-04-2009, 02:36 PM
Ahh, so the (german) umlat does the trick? For some reason after trying to researching it for a bit, I came to the conclusion it wasn't the right sound. Certainly in pinyin it's much more like the vowel in "new" than in "noo." But it's better than the vowel in 'nut', though.

DSYoungEsq
04-04-2009, 02:41 PM
Ahh, so the (german) umlat does the trick? For some reason after trying to researching it for a bit, I came to the conclusion it wasn't the right sound. Certainly in pinyin it's much more like the vowel in "new" than in "noo." But it's better than the vowel in 'nut', though.

The umlaut does NOT do the trick. In English, that diacritical mark is reserved, if at all, for words where the second vowel of what would otherwise be a diphthong or single phoneme is to be pronounced separately. As in zology, coval, etc.

As I said. To "properly" transcribe the Russian name for their beeping metal ball into English, so that the vowel is pronounced correctly, you would print it "Spootnik", though that still isn't quite the same as what a Russian would say.

MikeS
04-04-2009, 04:05 PM
A macron is frequently used in English dictionaries to indicate "long vowels", so I suppose you could write "spūtnik" instead of "sputnik". On the other hand, this might lead to people pronouncing it as if it was "Спютник" ("SPEW-tnik") instead of the proper way, so maybe you can't win.

pulykamell
04-04-2009, 05:18 PM
A macron is frequently used in English dictionaries to indicate "long vowels", so I suppose you could write "spūtnik" instead of "sputnik". On the other hand, this might lead to people pronouncing it as if it was "Спютник" ("SPEW-tnik") instead of the proper way, so maybe you can't win.

Yeah, my instinct, upon seeing a macron in English, is to pronounce the "u" as "YEW", not "oo."

The umlaut is definitely not the right diacritic for the reasons mentioned above and, more importantly, even if umlauts were used in English as in German, it's not the same vowel sound.

Short of spelling it with "oo" or using IPA (or a similar system) to indicate pronunciation, I don't think there's a good way to unambiguously mark that sound using a "u" and a diacritic in English. Besides, "sputnik" isn't even "SPOOT-nik" in Russian, to my ears. It's closer to something like "SPOOT-neek" with perhaps a slightly shorter "ee" but not quite an English short "i." That's just the tradeoffs you get in transliteration or using foreign words. Those familiar with those languages will know that "u" is not an "uh" and that "i" is more like an "ee." Otherwise, you just have to phonetically spell it out.

Alex_Dubinsky
04-06-2009, 02:11 AM
You can compare the german u sounds on this page: http://userweb.port.ac.uk/~joyce1/abinitio/pronounce/vowelue.html

Looks like the "short " sounds pretty close to what's needed, and miles better than 'uh.'

But the closest sound in German is actually the u without any diacritics. Irony.

Still, I think would get the point across to the average American reader, no?

Johanna
04-06-2009, 02:28 AM
No diacritic is needed for the close rounded vowel in the English word "put." So why should one be needed for Sputnik? It's the same friggin syllable.

Alex_Dubinsky
04-06-2009, 02:48 AM
No diacritic is needed for the close rounded vowel in the English word "put." So why should one be needed for Sputnik? It's the same friggin syllable.
Or is it? Maybe it's more like the syllable 'spud'

vejk
04-06-2009, 04:04 AM
No, it's not like spud, its just like 'put' but with an s in front. Using an umlaut here does not make any sense, because it is generally (German, Turkish) used to change the sound of 'u' away from the 'oo' sound that the OP is looking for. I'm with pulykamell: you just can't win. Take the 'i' sound in -nik, for instance. Not only is it more like 'ee' than like a short i such as in 'in', it also softens the 'n' that is in front of it in the same way that 'я' (ya) and 'ю' (yu) do. 'я' and 'ю', however, are usually transliterated including a 'j' sound, but 'е' (ye) and 'и' (yi) rarely or never are (you don't usually see something like 'Lyenyin' instead of 'Lenin').

Acsenray
04-06-2009, 11:13 AM
You can compare the german u sounds on this page: http://userweb.port.ac.uk/~joyce1/abinitio/pronounce/vowelue.html

Looks like the "short " sounds pretty close to what's needed, and miles better than 'uh.'

But the closest sound in German is actually the u without any diacritics. Irony.

Still, I think would get the point across to the average American reader, no?

No, it won't. As other posters have said, English doesn't use diacritics. The "average American reader" has no idea what diacritics mean. They'll just ignore them.

A slightly above-average American reader, who might be familiar with a language such as German, in which the character appears will pronounce it as in German [y], which is just as "wrong" as the [ʌ] you're trying to avoid.

To target the significantly above-average American reader, you might as well use I.P.A. But most of those people will already know how sputnik is pronounced in Russian, and they might not care about the Russian pronunciation when they're speaking English.

Johanna
04-06-2009, 12:56 PM
We just don't have enough glyphs to uniquely match up with each vowel in our phonemic inventory. The problem is the lack of one-to-one correspondence. We took our alphabet from Latin which had only five vowel phonemes (six if you count the /y/ in words borrowed from Greek, which necessitated borrowing the Greek letter ypsilon, known to us as Y). Latin had a one-to-one correspondence of glyphs to phonemes, but our phonemes have splurged all over the place, quite sloppy. There are some 23 vowel phonemes in British RP and 18 or 19 in General American pronunciation, with only 6 letters spread across them irregularly.

So a bit like with Chinese characters where the pronunciation isn't indicated by writing and has to be memorized for each one, the pronunciation of words in English (or foreign words in an English-speaking context, like Sputnik), isn't always predictable from the spelling and has to be learned separately. i ˈoʊnli weɪ tə raɪt ˈɪŋɡlɪʃ wɪθ ən ˈkjəɹət tɹnsˈkɹɪpʃən əv saʊndz ɪz tə juz i ˌɪntɚˈnʃənəl fəˈnɛtɪk ˈlfəˌbɛt (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPA_chart_for_English_dialects). And that just isn't feasible. So I guess we jʌst have to mʌddle thruː the best we can.

Alex_Dubinsky
04-06-2009, 01:19 PM
The "average American reader" has no idea what diacritics mean. They'll just ignore them.
It'd be nice if we could have some sort of experiment, because I don't think that's true and that seeing the umlat will change their pronounciation. But alas.

Ximenean
04-06-2009, 01:37 PM
The in German is not an "uh." It's a pinched "oo". That is, you form your lips to say "oo" and then you say "ee".
It seems to me that German speakers pronounce the umlauted differently in some words, such as "Mnchen" and "zurck". In those cases, the "" is indeed more like the English vowel encountered in words such as "put", than the standard rounded "ee" sound. They don't seem to say a rounded version of "Meenchen" or "tsureek" - instead, it's more like "Muhnchen" and "tsooruhk".

Acsenray
04-06-2009, 01:39 PM
Even if you're right, and the diaeresis/umlaut does change the pronunciation, how can you have any confidence that it will change the pronunciation to the one you want. Consider that you are trying to indicate a pronunciation that would be contraindicated in German orthography, which is the most likely language that an English speaker might know the symbol from.

Acsenray
04-06-2009, 01:42 PM
It seems to me that German speakers pronounce the umlauted differently in some words, such as "Mnchen" and "zurck". In those cases, the "" is indeed more like the English vowel encountered in words such as "put", than the standard rounded "ee" sound. They don't seem to say a rounded version of "Meenchen" or "tsureek" - instead, it's more like "Muhnchen" and "tsooruhk".

There are two sounds indicated by in standard German. One is [y], which is a rounded [i] ("long"). The other is [Y], which is a rounded [I] ("short").

Indistinguishable
04-06-2009, 01:52 PM
I think that last character should actually be [I].

ETA: Hey! The board changed it; that was supposed to be capitalized. I guess it's trying to parse it weirdly because the brackets initially look like a tag or something...

DSYoungEsq
04-06-2009, 06:44 PM
There are two sounds indicated by in standard German. One is [y], which is a rounded [i] ("long"). The other is [Y], which is a rounded [I] ("short").

As with all other vowels, the quality of the vowel will impact the sound that is made when pronouncing it. A "short" vowel, like a short vowel sound in English, is somewhat less intense than the long vowel sound.

Ximenean
04-06-2009, 07:10 PM
But what exactly is a "long" or "short" vowel, anyway? Do phoneticists use such terms?

Acsenray
04-06-2009, 07:16 PM
No, they don't generally. That's why I used quotation marks.

vejk
04-07-2009, 05:45 AM
It seems to me that German speakers pronounce the umlauted differently in some words, such as "Mnchen" and "zurck". In those cases, the "" is indeed more like the English vowel encountered in words such as "put", than the standard rounded "ee" sound. They don't seem to say a rounded version of "Meenchen" or "tsureek" - instead, it's more like "Muhnchen" and "tsooruhk".
There are two sounds indicated by in standard German. One is [y], which is a rounded ("long"). The other is [Y], which is a rounded [ I ] ("short").

That's right, the in [I]Mnchen is not like the one in zurck, but neither one of them is supposed to sound remotely like 'u' in 'put'. I find that 'ee' approximates '' much better (but it is still only an approximation).

ETA: Only now do I see that the second I in square brackets is supposed to be capitalized!

Acsenray
04-07-2009, 08:39 AM
As Indistinguishable noted the "I" gets jiggered by the board software.

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