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Old 11-14-2002, 08:54 AM
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Pronunciation of Vietnamese Names

How do you pronounce the names "Nguyen" and "Ng"?
#2
Old 11-14-2002, 09:47 AM
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Remember actor Dustin Nguyen of the old Fox show 21 Jump Street? His last name took on the Americanized pronunciation of, basically, "Gwen". It always came out "Dustin Gwen". This is not how it is pronounced in strict Vietnamese, of course.

Their was a girl in my high school with the last name "Ng". It's pronounced "Ing" (rhymrd with "ring"). I dare say it is pronounced similarly in Vietnamese or Chinese, with perhaps a less distinct vowel.
#3
Old 11-14-2002, 10:04 AM
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Two Vietnamese speakers weigh in ... and disagree somewhat on the pronunciation of "Nguyen":

http://van-online.org/resources/name.html

Quote:
It is important to understand that Vietnamese is a monosyllabic language. Every word in the Vietnamese language is a single syllable when it is correctly pronounced. As an example, let's look at the most common name--Nguyen. If we were to apply an English translation to this spelling, the result might be Nih-goo-yen. Understanding that the pronunciation is correctly just one syllable, however, the correct way to say Nguyen is Winn.

http://carolynnguyen.com/noo-jens.html (sic)

Quote:
So... how the heck do you pronounce it? it amazes how many variations i've heard: Noo-jen, Noo-yen, Noo-goo-yen, Noo-guy-in, Noo-win, Gwin... my favorite one is "nah-GUK-yoo-win"--where the person clears flem in his/her throat during the pronunciation! =). so which one's right? er, none of them. first of all, vietnamese is a tonal language. hence you end up sorta having to sing out the words. the "ng" sound is not found at the beginning of any english words. the closest approximation is the "ng" in the word "singing". second, it's really just one syllable. so basically, unless you... are vietnamese /can speak vietnamese / took a vietnamese language... you'll never be able to get it right. I tell people just to say "noo-WHEN" really fast to make it sound like one syllable.

So the first quote says essentially that the "Ng" is unpronounced, while Carolyn Nguyen states that the initial velar nasal "Ng" in "Nguyen" must be accounted for in the pronunciation (note she suggests substituting an "n" sound). Now, there is likely some dialectal variation among Vietnamese speakers, but the one's I've come to know pronounce "Nguyen" more like what Carolyn Nguyen suggests, and defintely NOT as "Winn".

Guy Propski - practice saying "ng" at the beginning of a word. It is a nasalized sound. Consider that "m" is simply a nasalized "b", and that "n" is a nasalized "d". Practice going back and forth between the pairs ... "bop/mop", "dip/nip". Pay speacial attention to what the roof of your mouth and your nose are doing when you switch between nasalized and ordinary sounds.

Now consider that "ng" is really a nasalized "g". Can you now practice going back and forth between "Gwen/Nguyen"? If you can master this, you can pronounce "Nguyen" pretty much as a native Vietnamese speaker would.
#4
Old 11-14-2002, 10:30 AM
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Well, the "ng" is really the same sound as the "ng" in "sing;" however, it's at the beginning of the syllable, not the end. That's what throws a lot of people. It's pronounced "nguyen" just like it's spelled: ng-uye (the tripthong)-n. The Vietnamese spelling as the little hat over the e. There's also the issue of tone as Vietnamese is one of the tone languages. Nguyen is spelled with the tilde ~, also over the e. The ~ indicates the so-called tripping tone, somewhat like the way "uh-oh" is pronounced in English. Something else that throws English speakers is the difference between "t" and "th." In English, if the stop (t, d, k, p) is at the beginning of an accented syllable, then it acquires aspiration. In Vietnamese, "t" is an unaspriated alveolar stop {IPA symbol [t]} and "th" is an aspirated alveolar stop {IPA symbol [t[sup]h]}. "Toi" (with the hat over the o) means "I" and "Thoi" (with the hat over the o) means "to stop," "to run (of color)," or a particle used at the end of a phrase to indicate "only."

As bordelond indicates, there is some dialectal variation among Vietnamese speakers. The three major dialects are: Hanoi (North), Hue (Central), and Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City (South). The two biggest difference between Hanoi and Saigon dialects are the issue of tone and some of the consonants. Saigon has fewer tones, but they still spell the words with the same tone marks used in the North. Now, Hanoi pronounces "tr" and "ch" the same (ch), while Saigon pronounces them "tr" and "ch." Saigon pronounces the unbarred d as the y in you or yes, while Hanoi pronounces the unbarred d as z.

If you're interested, one method of spelling Vietnamese on the Internet is to just put the diacritics after the vowels involved instead of over or under them as they're supposed to be in writing. The name Nguyen is thus spelled: Nguye^~n.
#5
Old 11-14-2002, 10:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Monty
Well, the "ng" is really the same sound as the "ng" in "sing;" however, it's at the beginning of the syllable, not the end. That's what throws a lot of people.
Anybody can learn to produce this sound accuratley, though. Once one learns what the tongue is supposed to do (be in position for a "g") and what the velum is supposed to do (lower, like it does in "n" and "m"), the proper "ng" follows naturally.
#6
Old 11-14-2002, 11:54 AM
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Previously discussed:

http://boards.academicpursuits.us/sdmb/...hreadid=117657
#7
Old 11-14-2002, 12:54 PM
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A good friend of mine is Vietnamese- born in Vietnam, but raised most of his life in the United States.

He pronounces his last name "Nguyen" as "Win".

I don't know how others might pronounce it, or if he's slightly Americanized it. He claims he hasn't, though.
#8
Old 11-14-2002, 03:17 PM
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Either he is Americanized & doesn't know it, or he's pronouncing it correctly and you're hearing "win". Nguyen sounds nothing like win to my ears.
#9
Old 11-14-2002, 03:43 PM
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ITA about all that's been said about pronouncing Ng, but I pronounce Nguyen as "Nu-jen". Fun anecdote, I went to school with a girl with the last name Ng (and boy named Ngyuen). She and I had a teacher who liked to give nicknames, he called her "No Good". (He called me "the Big E", after the USS Enterprise).
#10
Old 11-14-2002, 05:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Attrayant
Either he is Americanized & doesn't know it, or he's pronouncing it correctly and you're hearing "win". Nguyen sounds nothing like win to my ears.
There is another possible explanation.

The "w" sound of the glide following the initial "ng" is described phonetically as a labio-velar approximant. This means that in pronouncing "w", an incomplete closure is formed both at the lips (labial) and between the tongue and soft palate (or velum).

Since the velar nasal "ng" is also pronounced at the velum, it's likely that for some Vietnamese speakers, there's an anticipatory sound change going on. Instead of fully articulating the "ng" with a complete closure between tongue and velum, some speakers may begin to form the "w" glide prematurely -- all while the velum is lowered and (a little) air is escaping through the nose. Essentially, these speakers are pronouncing a nasalized labio-velar approximant at the beginning of "Nguyen", instead of a velar nasal followed by a labio-velar approximant.

Such changes can be found among individual speakers of any language. Most of the time, it amounts to nothing and can be regarded as a linguistic quirk of an individual or family. If enough speakers share a battery of such changes, however, they can become marks of a separate dialect.
#11
Old 11-14-2002, 07:59 PM
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Exactly, bordelond! What's important, as you alluded, is to not confuse someone's ideolect with the entire language.
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