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If I understand correctly, there are two approaches to pronouncing borrowed, non-transliterated words: either err on the side of approximating the foreign pronunciation, or adjust the pronunciation so that it sounds natural in Mandarin.

For example, "Facebook" can be either

  1. [feis buk]. This is not really valid pinyin, it violates Mandarin phonotactics, but nevertheless I heard it in the audio materials for a learning app, so it must be a thing.

  2. [fei si bu ke] with various possible choices of tones. E.g., the humorous 非死不可.

So do native speakers prefer to violate Mandarine phonotactics for such words, or do they try to shoehorn the foreign pronunciation into Mandarin's phonetic inventory?

Does the choice depend on how well the speaker knows English? Is one pronunciation considered more fashionable than the other?

Also, are there common borrowed words for which the first type of pronunciation (violating the Mandarin phonotactics) is the overwhelmingly preferred choice?

(I know people often say 臉書 etc., but I am wondering specifically about the cases when the borrowed spelling "Facebook" is used).

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  • The direct translation of personal/product names by pronunciation was not rare, and luckily, for the same sound, there are often many Chinese words to choose from, thus avoiding derogatory terms such as "非死不可". I would translate Facebook as "菲斯柏克" or "扉思博客".
    – r13
    Commented May 9 at 14:31
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    This comes under "loanword adaptation", and yes there is a lot of variation in Mandarin that is being researched.
    – Michaelyus
    Commented May 10 at 8:50

2 Answers 2

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So do native speakers prefer to violate Mandarine phonotactics for such words, or do they try to shoehorn the foreign pronunciation into Mandarin's phonetic inventory?

People prefer to speak in a way that listeners can understand. Unless it's funny like 非死不可 or there's a well-known Chinese name, people don't intentionally adjust the pronunciation to sound like Chinese (if you change too much, others can't understand). That being said, when Chinese speakers say a borrowed word, the accent usually makes it sound like Chinese to some extent.

For example, before 2006, everyone says Google as Google (like 咕狗). After 2006, people sometimes use the official name 谷歌.

Does the choice depend on how well the speaker knows English?

The accent can affect the pronunciation. However, if someone has an accent, that doesn't mean they choose to adjust the pronunciation.

Is one pronunciation considered more fashionable than the other?

Some people love judging people by the accent, especially when talking about the luxury brand names. In most cases people don't really care.

Also, are there common borrowed words for which the first type of pronunciation (violating the Mandarin phonotactics) is the overwhelmingly preferred choice?

Windows, Excel, Photoshop, AirTag, JavaScript, etc.

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  • Thanks! Interestingly, pronouncing Google as 咕狗 is precisely an example of adapting the foreign pronunciation to the Mandarin phonotactics (i.e. saying gu gou, instead of gugl, even though the phoneme L exists in Mandarin) Commented May 9 at 19:15
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正如你在文中所提,我们在谈话中提到Facebook有两种选择: 1)直接说英文Facebook 2)脸书 至于二者的使用,就看个人习惯和语境,和语言水平没有关系,毕竟英语的语言水平和发音标不标准没有关系。

例如我习惯用英文讲外国网站或软件的名称。在强调它是国外软件的情况下,我也选英文表达。

另外,有兴趣的话,你可以在CCTV官网/哔哩哔哩搜索它,了解哪些专业人士/各位网友的选择和发音。

以下是链接:1.https://m.cctv.com/ 2.https://m.bilibili.com/ 希望对你有所帮助~

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