As my occupation (technical writing) is more involved with the written rather than spoken word, I often trip over pronunciations of words that I read rather than speak, particularly non-English names. But even with a name common in England consciousness, one gives me problems in particular—Hermione—for the following reasons.
- The name starts with an "h", a letter that seems to have no logical rules for it getting pronounced or not.
- Syllable accentuation is not obvious.
- The "i" is not obvious for whether it's long or short.
- The second "e" because of the word-end placement seems like it should be silent.
- Possible pronunciations seem to include "HER-mee-own", "HER-mee-one", "her-MY-own-ee" (Bingo!), etc.
Unless I've seen a Harry Potter movie recently—maybe a year since, I forget how Hermione is supposed to be pronounced. Reasonable video resources, besides Harry Potter movies, now include YouTube videos where Emma Watson talks about her character.
Another "h" word (term) that gives me pause is "homage". M-W.com's pronunciation guide shows "\ ä-mij, hä-\ ". There are two speaker icons. When clicked, they sound like "hawm ij" and "awm ij", respectively, to me. Dictionary.com's pronunciation guide shows "[hom-ij, om-]", although there's only one speaker icon. When clicked, I hear what sounds like "hawm ij". I can't help but also consider pronouncing "homage" as "home age" or "ohm age" or "home ij" or "ohm ij".
My feeling is that "h" words come with the unusual pronunciation difficulties particularly for non-native English speakers. Does the "h" get pronounced or not? Seems only experience helps in knowing. Honor? Hour? Hope? History? My efforts to find online pronunciation help regarding "Hermione" and "homage"—my "h" pet words for this article—has yielded a few reasonable resources.
- Merriam-Webster.com: Found "homage", but choked on Hermione.
- Dictionary.com: Found both "homage" as well as "Hermione".
- Howjasay.com: Found both "homage" as well as "Hermione". (Here, "Hermione" sounds like "her MY nee".)
- AT&T Labs Natural Voices® Text-to-Speech Demo: Allows selection of several voices and provides a text box to type or paste up to 300 characters.
- Encyclopedia Mythica's pronunciation guide: Shows alphabetized mythological names with their phonetic pronunciation guide and regional bases.
- Inogolo.com: Found "Hermione", but couldn't find my other "h" word "homage".
Per inogolo's "About" page, inogolo.com is "website devoted to the English pronunciation of the names of people, places, and various things". The result for Hermione provides a link for speech ("Audio Pronunciation"), displays pronunciation ("Phonetic Pronunciation") as "hur-MY-o-nee", and shows the name/word origin.
A topic at WordReference.com Language Forums yielded a commenter's link to AT&T for pronunciations. At the AT&T site, you can select different voices from a drop-down list box, then type or paste text into the text box. You then click SPEAK to hear the text. The American English speakers pronounce Hermione as "her MY oh nee", whereas the British speakers pronounce "HER me on". Other language-speakers have yet other pronunciations. Incidentally, the WordReference forum page shows a paid-ad link for free text-to-speech reader.
Even if I mastered and could continue to remember pronunciations for "Hermione" and "homage", I could never be an news announcer for foreign news. I would have an awful time correctly pronouncing names of heads of states for former Eastern-bloc countries and several Mediterranean-area countries. I'm fine with most British-based and Spanish names, except for Hermione (British by Potter <g>).