Pronunciation of Kurmanji L & W...

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Mouse
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Pronunciation of Kurmanji L & W...

Postby Mouse » 2017-10-06, 19:17

I am a native American English speaker. My study aids describe L as sounding like "a Persian L", but I don't know what that sounds like. W when before I, Î, and Ê sounds like "the U in the French cuire & huit." I had a native French speaker pronounce it for me, but I'm having trouble understanding it. Can anyone explain these sounds to an American English Speaker? Thanks in advance!

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linguoboy
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Re: Pronunciation of Kurmanji L & W...

Postby linguoboy » 2017-10-06, 20:14

In the second case, the sound they are describing is a labiopalatal or labialised palatal approximant. It's like [j] (i.e. English consonantal y) with the lips rounded. I honestly wouldn't worry too much about it. Just use your normal w and it will probably sound close enough.

I'm less certain what they mean by the "Persian l". My guess is that they're referring to a lack of allophony in comparison to English.

You see, most English varieties really have two l's: a "clear l" used at the beginning of a word (as in lit) and a "dark l" used at the end (as in til). If you listen carefully, you can hear how much more "oo-like" the second l sounds. In fact, some people replace it with "oo" or "long o" when speaking. You may also be able to feel that your tongue is in a different position when you make it (i.e. humped toward the back of the mouth).

In linguistic terms, the second, "dark" l is velarised. In some languages, the "clear l" and the "dark l" are different phonemes, i.e. they are written with different letters and are all that distinguish certain words from each other. (E.g. Albanian mall "goods" with "dark l" vs mal "mountain" with "clear l".) Most languages simply have the "clear" version and not the "dark" version. I think most varieties of Kurdish, like Albanian, have both (if I'm wrong, someone here will correct me) while Persian--like Parisian French or Standard German--has only the "clear" variety.

Now this is something people will notice. (Consider how when English speakers want to imitate a Russian accent, they use "dark l"'s where we wouldn't expect them, i.e. at the start of words.) The good news is that you're not learning a whole new sound, you're just learning to make a sound you know in places you're not used to making it. With a little practice you'll get there.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

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Re: Pronunciation of Kurmanji L & W...

Postby Mouse » 2017-10-06, 20:51

linguoboy wrote:In the second case, the sound they are describing is a labiopalatal or labialised palatal approximant. It's like [j] (i.e. English consonantal y) with the lips rounded. I honestly wouldn't worry too much about it. Just use your normal w and it will probably sound close enough.

I'm less certain what they mean by the "Persian l". My guess is that they're referring to a lack of allophony in comparison to English.

You see, most English varieties really have two l's: a "clear l" used at the beginning of a word (as in lit) and a "dark l" used at the end (as in til). If you listen carefully, you can hear how much more "oo-like" the second l sounds. In fact, some people replace it with "oo" or "long o" when speaking. You may also be able to feel that your tongue is in a different position when you make it (i.e. humped toward the back of the mouth).

In linguistic terms, the second, "dark" l is velarised. In some languages, the "clear l" and the "dark l" are different phonemes, i.e. they are written with different letters and are all that distinguish certain words from each other. (E.g. Albanian mall "goods" with "dark l" vs mal "mountain" with "clear l".) Most languages simply have the "clear" version and not the "dark" version. I think most varieties of Kurdish, like Albanian, have both (if I'm wrong, someone here will correct me) while Persian--like Parisian French or Standard German--has only the "clear" variety.

Now this is something people will notice. (Consider how when English speakers want to imitate a Russian accent, they use "dark l"'s where we wouldn't expect them, i.e. at the start of words.) The good news is that you're not learning a whole new sound, you're just learning to make a sound you know in places you're not used to making it. With a little practice you'll get there.


Thank you for the detailed response. This actually helps! I get the W now. For the L, I'm guessing that I would make an L sound as in "Lit", but with the top of my tongue against the alveolar ridge instead of the tip. Is that what you meant by clear L?

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Re: Pronunciation of Kurmanji L & W...

Postby linguoboy » 2017-10-06, 21:03

Mouse wrote:Thank you for the detailed response. This actually helps! I get the W now. For the L, I'm guessing that I would make an L sound as in "Lit", but with the top of my tongue against the alveolar ridge instead of the tip. Is that what you meant by clear L?

I'm not actually sure if the Kurdish /l/ is laminal (made with the blade of the tongue) or apical (with the tongue tip). I don't imagine it much matters.

By "clear" I just mean "not velarised", i.e. the back of your tongue is not raised toward the back of your mouth (where the velum or soft palate is). Whatever /l/ you use in lit, just use this is all positions. You can make subtle adjustments later if you really need to.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons


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