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How to Say: Kyrgyzstan

13:17 UK time, Monday, 12 April 2010

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

The protests and violent clashes in Kyrgyzstan last week culminated in the ousting of the president and the formation of an interim government. Some of our recommended pronunciations for Kyrgyz place names and people's names relevant in the news are given below.

Our recommendation for the pronunciation of Kyrgyzstan is kur-gist-AAN (-ur as in fur, -i as in sit, -aa as in father, stressed syllables in upper case). This is the established anglicisation codified in British English dictionaries. Kyrgyz, the name of the ethnic group and language, is pronounced KUR-giz (-z as in zoo, established anglicisation).

For place names, it is Pronunciation Unit policy to base our recommendation on the local pronunciation; however, if there is an English form of the name (eg Munich) or an established anglicisation (eg Paris), we recommend this rather than the form in the native language.

It is important to point out that our recommendations are anglicised and not intended to strictly reflect native Kyrgyz pronunciation. Krygyz has sounds in the phoneme inventory which do not exist in English. For example, the original Kyrgyz pronunciation of Kyrgyzstan contains sounds which are unfamiliar and "foreign" to many native English speakers, such as the close back unrounded vowel and the voiced uvular fricative.

Monolingual English broadcasters are not expected to recognise, much less reproduce, this level of detail. In cases where an established anglicisation does not exist, the Pronunciation Unit has a standardised and systematic way of anglicising foreign languages. We consider a number of factors before making a recommendation: the phonetics and phonology of the relevant language, the opinions of native speakers on how they might expect it to be anglicised, the ease of pronunciation for our broadcasters and perception by the audience.

Note: stressed syllables are shown in upper case.

Talas - tuh-LASS (-uh as a in ago)
Bishkek (the capital of Kyrgyzstan ) - bish-KECK
Naryn (a provincial town) - nuh-RIN
Jalalabad (a province) - juh-laa-luh-BAAT (-aa as in father, -t as in top)
Manas (site of American airbase) - man-ASS
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev - koor-man-BECK back-EE-yeff (-f as in fit)
Roza Otubayeva - ROH-zuh ot-uun-BAA-yuh-vuh (-oh as in no, -uu as in book, -aa as in father)

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

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