Native Speakers Pronunciation of Foreign Names
The Case of Names of French Origin in (American)English
Due to various reasons, proper names (personal names) are often considered a separate group within the noun category of a language. Nowadays, foreign names are much more wide-spread, perhaps, than ever before. This fact causes pronunciation difficulties to speakers in the native-language environment. Moreover, the foreign origin of a name remains long after an individual’s immigration, and many foreign names are integrated into the absorbing language.
Two problem areas arise for speakers of a certain language who have to pronounce foreign names: on the written modality level, letter-to-sound correspondence, and on the aural modality, the pronunciation of the foreign name (according to the speaker’s L1). These issues require decisions about phonological and phonetic features of the foreign language which are to be adopted or discarded in pronouncing a name. Based on our field study, various solutions of these problems are here described and discussed.
It appears that native speakers of English (not only American English, as our study reveals) do not base their decisions only on the graphic form of the names (letter sequences); their experience with other languages affects their productions. In addition, not all letter sequences yield identical pronunciation decisions. Thus, solutions are not uniform. Examples are given from French surnames and personal names that occur in English in the USA.