Monday, 7 May 2012

Schwas and cedillas

For you polyglots out there in Oneurope land, you’ll be fully familiar with the subtle yet interesting nuances of the Azeri language.  However, for those of you encountering it for the first time, I thought I’d share with you some words of advice from a book in my possession on Baku.

Consonants are pronounced on the whole as they are in British English, with the following principle exceptions:

‘Q’ is pronounced like an English hard ‘G’, so the town of Quba is probounced ‘Gooba’.
‘G’ is a softer sound – approaching ‘gy’, or the ‘d’ in ‘duration’.
‘C’ is pronounced like and English ‘J’ or Estonian ‘Dž’.
‘S’ is pronounced as in English and Estonian.
‘X’ is as in the Russian ‘Kh’.

The addition of a tail (cedilla) diacritic to these letters is like adding an h in English.  So ‘Ç’ is ‘Ch’ and ‘Ş’ is ‘Sh’.  A final ‘h’ on a word is pronounced with a guttural sound, as in the Scottish loch.

On the vowel front, things are pretty much as in German, with the addition of two dots (diaeresis or umlaut) above a vowel prolongs or flattens it.  There are two vowels in Azeri which have no precise  equivalent in most European languages.  The ‘Ə’ (sometimes called a schwa) is a short vowel and pronounced somewhere between ‘a’ and ‘e’, like the word cat.  The ‘I’ (an ‘i’ without the tittle) is a short ‘i’.  The ‘İ’ with the tittle is a long vowel, so ‘the village of ‘Lahij’ is pronounced ‘Laa-heej’.  Finally, ‘ey’ is pronounced as the ‘ay’ in bay, and ‘ay’ is pronounced as the ‘uy’ in buy.

Sadly, the Azeri words for cheese and cake appear to be the very ordinary words 'pendir' and 'tort' respectively.

You see, we don’t just poke fun at Europe’s favourite TV show.  We educate and inform too!

Spot ya!


1 comment:

  1. Ah, language. Not sure you'd call me a polyglot (does Welsh count?) but I'd have full sympathy if our Azeri chums gave up on English. For example, how irritating is it when the BBC doesn't use the apostrophe after a plural noun that's possessive?