Thursday, September 24, 2009

Random Thoughts on Pronunciation

The other day I heard a Nigerian refer to upholstery as 'ufolstery.' I had to think for a minute to figure out how he got that pronunciation. Actually, I think there are two possibilities.

In some tribal languages, they do not make the 'p' sound. One of these tribal groups tends to sell a lot of fabric in the market. When I'm looking for purple fabric, I now pronounce it 'furful' in order to be understood.

The other possibility is that from a phonetic perspective, when you see a 'ph' in a word, it should be pronounced as an 'f' sound as in 'phone.' Interesting. I never consciously noticed before that there is a 'ph' in upholstery.


PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

I enjoy trying to hear differences in dialects and regional differences. In Uganda, we were laughed at by students because of our pronunciation. The one I remember them laughing about is DAIRY. They somehow pronounced all the letters. In general, they pronounce more letters in words than we do, such as Char-less for Charles. It is awkward, maybe even rude, to pronounce someone's name in the wrong way while trying really hard to be correct.

carmenmccain said...

This is most likely a Hausa language issue. In Hausa the "f/p" phonemes are interchangeable. Hausa speakers further east also use the "h" sound for words that would be [f]/[p]. So, in Sokoto, for example, people would say "lahiya," instead of "lafiya." etc.