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How to say: Chinese names and ethnic groups

11:18 UK time, Thursday, 9 July 2009

An occasional guide to the words and names in the news from Jo Kim of the BBC Pronunciation Unit.

This week has seen riots and fighting between the Han Chinese and Uighur ethnic groups in Urumqi. China's President Hu Jintao cut short his visit to the G8 summit to tackle the crisis.

It is important to note that BBC Pronunciation Unit policy is to recommend a standardised and systematically anglicised version of the local pronunciation. (In the case of Mandarin Chinese, we do not recommend tones in our anglicised pronunciation because we do not expect monolingual English broadcasters to recognise and reproduce sounds and features which do not exist in English.) However, if there is an English form of a place name (e.g. Florence), then we recommend this rather than the form in the native language. We also recommend established anglicisations where they exist (e.g. Paris).

Note: where only one syllable appears, it should be stressed. Otherwise, stressed syllables are shown in upper case.

The common anglicisations of Urumqi are oor-uum-TCHEE (-oor as in poor not pour, -uu as in book, -tch as in church) and oor-UUM-tchi. The original Uighur pronunciation is closer to: ue-ruem-TCHEE (-ue as in French vu). The Mandarin Chinese form of the place name (Hanyu Pinyin: Wūlǔmùqí), which is based on the Uighur pronunciation, is pronounced closer to: woo-LOO-moo-TCHEE (-oo as in boot).

Hu Jintao, President of China, is pronounced KHOO jin TOW (-kh as in Sc. loch, -j as in Jack, -ow as in now)

L'AQUILA is pronounced LACK-will-uh (-note first syllable stress)

BEIJING is pronounced bay-JING (-j as in Jack, this is the established anglicisation)

XIN JIANG is pronounced SHIN ji-AANG (-sh as in ship, -j as in Jack, -aa as in father)

UIGHUR, the ethnic group, is pronounced WEE-guhr (-w as in wet, -ee as in meet, this is the established anglicisation)

Han Chinese is pronounced han (-h as in hot, this is the established anglicisation; the Mandarin Chinese pronunciation is closer to khan, -kh as in Sc. loch)

Hui, another Chinese ethnic group, is pronounced khway (-kh as in Sc. loch, ay as in say)

Li Zhi, Urumqi's Communist party boss, is pronounced lee juh (-j as in Jack, -uh as a in ago)

To download the BBC Pronunciation Unit's guide to text spelling, click here.

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