Author Topic: Pronunciation of fantasy terms  (Read 18779 times)

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Offline Drul Morbok

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Pronunciation of fantasy terms
« on: August 14, 2012, 09:56:05 AM »
Hi everybody,
I just stumbled upon some issue I never actively thought about, but has always been present in RPGing, so now I want to share it with others:
Fantasy vocabulary contains an awful lot of words I don't know for sure how to pronounce.

I'm no native english speaker, I'm German, so when starting to use some english words in the context of RPG, I of course made some "typical" mistakes like pronuncing the 'w' in "sword" (like "word" with additional 's'), the 'p' in "Psi", and over time, me and my friends had an almost endless number of ways to pronounce "rogue" (everything from sounding like "roach", "rook", "rock you" to "roak" or even the french "rouge"....).

But honestly: Are all natives sure about how to pronounce "Deity", "Lich", "Coup de grace", "Melee", "Chimaera", "Geas" and the like? And what about other non-natives? You probably won't learn all of these words at school, and I think you might lead many conversations without ever needing some of them...
But still - that's just (almost) ordinary english words...I have not yet started on "Dweomer", "Vargouille", "Ioun", "Baatezu" - or "Gary Gygax"  :P

Oh, well, just let's share the fun and tell some of the funniest mishaps in pronunciation (To be honest - I found the topic, and some answers to the question, on http://www.enworld.org/forum/showwiki.php?title=D+and+D+Pronunciation+Guide&redirect=no, so some of the following will be "borrowed" from there):

- Pronuncing "brazier" like "brassiere"
- Pronuncing "lich" as "lick" gives a rather funny sounding to "wrath of the lich king"...

Well, I hope you also enjoy this topic, and will share some og your thoughts, experiences and whatever....
Drul
« Last Edit: August 14, 2012, 10:02:47 AM by Drul Morbok »

Offline Delbareth

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Re: Pronunciation of fantasy terms
« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2012, 03:53:35 AM »
Hello
As a non native English speaker I won't give any advice... apart for "Coup de grace" which is a french expression.
I still have the problem that I'm not sure of the english words used as comparison, but let's try :

"Coup" : the "ou" is pronounced like "oo" in english ("too"...)
            the "p" is not pronounced
"de" : well the "e" is like "a" in "a dog" (and even more... hum... like the 'e' letter in French :), oh I got it! the "u" sound in "unbelievable")
"grace" : is pronounced like in english but for the "a" like in "arm".
Delbareth
Les MJ ne sont ni sadiques ni cruels, ce sont juste des artistes incompris.

Offline Drul Morbok

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Re: Pronunciation of fantasy terms
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2012, 02:30:49 PM »
Hi Delbareth,
first of all - thanks for your advice...but well, actually I had french lessons at school for...uhm, about 7 years, so I'd know how to pronounce coup de grace in french...I just wasn't sure about how to pronounce it "in english"...sorry about the stereotype, but I think that in french, english words tend to be pronounced as if they were french words - in school they told us that "week-end" was about the only "real" english word in french, but I might not be up-to-date with this kind of knowledge.
But back then, we had some pupils exchange with St. Etienne, and it took us some time to realize what they meant when they talked about "U2" or "Michael Jackson" - and pronounced the names "the french way". So I thought it might also be the other way round, and coup de grace, in english, might be pronounced as if it were english words. Hey, after all, both coup and grace do exist as english words, with a related (or maybe even the same) meaning, so why not? Come to think of it, the french word is gr?ce *, not grace, or am I wrong?

BTW, the author of the site I linked says that they used to pronounce grace like gras in mardi gras - completely different words, I admit, but still...it happens...

I have to admit - for me the whole topic is rather theoretical, since I don't actually have to talk in english when roleplaying. All I have to do is to read (and understand) english rulebooks - and sometimes post in a forum.

So I'm not actually trying out to find the right way to say the words I mentioned - I'm just some kind of linguist who likes to think, talk, and write about such stuff  ;D
Plus, I just stumpled across the site I mentionned, and was surprised by the amount of words I first met in D&D books that I'd have mispronounced (melee, chimera, lich), or still am not sure about how to pronounce (deity, flamboyant)...although normally I would not hesitate to call myself a rather fluent english speaker.

From this point of view, I'm starting to ask myself - or rather:

Hi everyone

How to pronounce an unknown word you see in an english D&D book?
Even native speakers: I don't know how many AE, BE, or whatever native *E speakers do have expressions like coup de grace, flamboyant, or chimera in their active or passive vocablulary? OK, I think you might know the latter one of you're interested in greek mythology, and the other ones if you're into cloak-and-sword literature, or a lot of other contexts.

But I guess many of the forum members first saw those expressions in RGP context - please correct me if I'm wrong.
So if I'm right - do you think all other native speakers would have pronounced it the same way - or even your friends upon saying it the first time?
And if I'm wrong - let's take the word dwoemer, which, if google is to be believed, is mainly a D20 term: Would all native speakers intuitively agree on one pronounciation - or is this a hot topice about "who is right" when first stumbling upon such expressions?

Man, this has gotten longer than I intended...enough for now,
So long,
Drul

*I just don't seem to be able to get this page to display an 'a' with accent circonflexe, I only get a question mark...I'll care about this later.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2012, 02:36:47 PM by Drul Morbok »

Offline David Roomes

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Re: Pronunciation of fantasy terms
« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2012, 10:46:58 PM »
Drul,

For me, most of those words in your examples (melee, chimera, rogue, deity, brazier and so forth) were introduced to me through role playing games. I encountered and learned a LOT of cool words thanks to role playing and I love it. Some of my favorite words (grimoire, labyrinth, deity, sojourn, juggernaut, codex) all came from my medieval gaming.

As for the pronunciation of terms, no, there isn't universal agreement among gamers, but it's darn close. Every now and then I will come across someone who grossly mispronounces a word, but it's rare. I have found that role players tend to be smarter than the average person on the street. :)  And some of the gamers I've known have been like me, going out of their way to look up a word, its pronunciation and its etymology. So, I think it's a little of both - gamers are smarter and also tend to look stuff up. Plus, in this day and age, we've got the internet and it's EASY to look anything up.
David M. Roomes
Creator of the World of Khoras

Offline tanis

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Re: Pronunciation of fantasy terms
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2012, 03:41:53 PM »
Man, am I a fish out of water. XD;

Also, this one got kind of long, so I apologize, linguistics is one of my academic interests, I hope it doesn't turn out to be too dry and boring. ^^

Also, I know everyone probably has a basic understanding of English pronunciation, but it made explaining particular things easier if I explained some basic stuff you guys probably already know.


So, I've had a post-collegiate reading ability since I was in, I believe fourth or fifth grade, and I've always enjoyed learning about etymology and stuff. Plus, the school I went to (public, if you believe it) required ALL students to take either French or Spanish every year they attended, though we didn't have any of the 'cooler' (less common here in America) languages like German or Latin, so I grew up in a sort of feedback loop of learning French grammar and then realizing I was learning grammar itself, insofar as getting a basic understanding of how it works in a language.

As for a lot of those words, I was the nerd who bought the biggest, coolest dictionary he could find, and then perused it from time to time...

I didn't actually get introduced to the wider world of tabletop gaming and its unique vocabulary until high school, so I'm afraid that most of these words I learned through tv, books, movies, or for the more lich-y words, RPG video games like Baldur's Gate (technically AD&D, but I didn't get it working on my computer until later on in my youth, so I don't really think it counts).

As for the pronunciation of those words, it depends on a lot of things. English is in a weird dimensional warp somewhere between Norwegian, Dutch, French, and Latin, so depending on where the word comes from, it can make a pretty big difference, not even accounting for how formally the person speaks, or his accent.

For French loanwords like melee and coup, they're pronounced more or less the same, besides the accent. Then again, reconnaitre became (by way of reconnaissance) English reconnoiter (reh-con-OY-ter), and my nephew used to pronounce the word terrain (tuh-rein/tuh-ra"n; sorry, that's the closest I think it'll let me get to an a-umlaut, though the actual sound is somewhere between the French 'ain' and the German sound) so that it was indistinguishable from Terran. XD

As for deity, two pronunciations are correct: DAY-itee and dee-itee (or to be clearer for Drul, more like the German word die followed by i as in ich, and then tie. : die-itie)

Generally, English has a SIMILAR sound for the consonant as German, though not as heavy and guttural, more forward in the mouth, but the vowels are a lot farther apart from one another than they are in French or German, so it feels sort of like you're stretching your mouth wide compared to those languages, where the vowels are fairly close together as far as how you form your mouth. While learning both languages I noticed I had to be extra precise because the vowels are much more exact, less... I guess boisterous, though that's not really the best way to phrase it.

But honestly, I have a tendency to pronounce weird looking words more like languages with similar spellings, so I'd be more apt to pronounce a word like Daarech (totally made that up, so don't freak out if you don't know what it is) like Low Saxon or maybe Norwegian, because I'm more familiar with how to pronounce weird spellings in those languages.

In the end, though, the proper pronunciation is basically whatever ends up getting said more, so I guess we eventually reach a bit of an impasse. ^^;

P.S.: It doesn't help that English often allows several similar but not identical pronunciations of a word to be valid, either based on geography or personal preference. In England, brazier and brassiere may sound different, I don't know, but in the part of America I come from, they'd really only be distinguishable if the speaker spoke very properly and you listened very closely, because the only difference in how *I* pronounce them is a slight change in where I would put the stress.

Anyways, I hope that was clear enough to understand, and enlightening, or at least not too boring. It's kind of hard to explain the pronunciation if you aren't good with the IPA! :)
He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

Offline David Roomes

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Re: Pronunciation of fantasy terms
« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2012, 08:47:01 PM »
You know, I was going to mention that very point you made at the end of your post. In America, pronunciation can vary by region. The south of America speaks very differently from the west coast or east coast. And many English words do have two (or something even three) different pronunciations that are generally accepted. In the end, it's ok. I say, look it up and if it's got multiple options, just pick your favorite. :)

While we're on this topic, what do you guys think about a pronunciation guide for Khoras terms? I think we may have broached this topic here on the forum before. Do you think a pronunciation guide to Khoras terms would be useful? Needed? Excessive baggage? (I've noticed some people pronounce some Khoras terms differently than me and I'm not sure it's right for me to correct them... they seem happy pronouncing it that way).

I've recently started slipping in pronunciation tips right after a word is used, in some cases.
David M. Roomes
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Offline tanis

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Re: Pronunciation of fantasy terms
« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2012, 12:22:08 PM »
Well, I don't care so much about being corrected, generally I just learn the correct pronunciation. There are a few words that I know I mispronounce (Duthelm >,>;), but if I know it's wrong and I do it anyways, it's just because I like the way that sounds better.

Personally, I would more or less suggest you put a pronunciation guide somewhere, perhaps the glossary, because it's Khoras, it's YOUR world, and if we don't like it, we're free to do it differently in our gaming, because that's how Khoras is. There's the canon, and it's amazing and doesn't really need anything, but we've always been welcome to use the parts we like or not, so why would pronunciation be different? Unless we're talking to you, and our mispronunciation bugs you, in which case most of us would probably pronounce it right. XD

But yes, David is right. America has between 6 and 10 commonly recognized accents, and each of those has many regional variations that form a continuum, in much the same way the Nordic languages form a continuum, or even the Dutch (Nederlands)/German continuum, though without so much of the language component, obviously.

At the end of the day, most English speakers choose their pronunciation either by habit and preference, or based on the aural context, though that's more common among people accustomed to formal rhetoric, like myself. Like David said, as long as it's a viable option, take your pick.
He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

Offline David Roomes

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Re: Pronunciation of fantasy terms
« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2012, 10:26:26 AM »
Well, in that case, I'll keep it subtle. I'll keep doing what I've been doing... slipping in the occasional pronunciation after the word in context. That way people can see how I pronounce it, but as always, everyone is free to change things and, as you said, that includes pronunciation.
David M. Roomes
Creator of the World of Khoras