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Pronunciation of Ballet Names


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#121 Estelle

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Posted 24 July 2007 - 11:23 AM

Just make it one syllable, with a hard initial "g": GYEM.


I always pronouned Sylvie Guillem's name this way too, like the French word fille.

However, I was recently corrected by one of my French roomates, an artist from Paris, who told me it is pronounced "gee LEM." (That's a hard "g.")


Actually, I've heard pronounced both ways by French speakers... (and both pronounciations would be coherent with the spelling, as for example the "ill" in "fille" (girl) is pronounced as "y" and the "ill" in "ville" (city) is pronounced as "l"). And I don't know how Ms Guillem pronounces her own name...

artist, in "Aurélie" the stress would actually be on the last syllable, something like "oh-reh-LEE" (and I don't know how to express the pronounciation of "dupont" as the sounds for "u" and "on" don't exist in English... Anyway, it would be pronounced the same way as Dupond (as in Patrick Dupond) as the final t or d is mute).

#122 carbro

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Posted 24 July 2007 - 01:39 PM

I don't know how to express the pronounciation of "dupont" as the sounds for "u" and "on" don't exist in English... Anyway, it would be pronounced the same way as Dupond (as in Patrick Dupond) as the final t or d is mute).

I was taught that for a French "u", to make a circle with the lips (as if to say "oooo") while trying to say "eeeee". The "on" is produced in the very back of the mouth, nasalizing the "n".

#123 chrisk217

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Posted 25 July 2007 - 01:45 AM

Guillem herself pronounces her name as Gee-LEM

#124 Mel Johnson

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Posted 25 July 2007 - 03:00 AM

Violette Verdy's mother, Mme. Guillerme, pronounced her name "Gee-YAIRM". However, we are, I believe, talking about two different francophone ethnicities.

#125 Estelle

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Posted 25 July 2007 - 03:28 AM

Violette Verdy's mother, Mme. Guillerme, pronounced her name "Gee-YAIRM". However, we are, I believe, talking about two different francophone ethnicities.


I think the spelling is Guillerm, not GuillermE (but anyway it wouldn't make any difference in terms of pronounciation).

I don't understand what you mean about "different francophone ethnicities", but anyway I think that both pronounciations (gee-yairm and gee-lairm) would be coherent with the spelling in that case too... The "right" one is the one used by the person herself/himself, but the other pronounciation would be possible too, I think.

There's a similar ambiguity, for example, with the first name Ghislaine (as in Ghislaine Thesmar, Ghislaine Fallou...): some people pronounce it "gee-LENN" with a hard "g" as in "got" and a mute "s" and other pronounce it "zhees-LENN" with a "s" as in "sea", I believe both pronounciations are correct.

#126 Mel Johnson

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Posted 25 July 2007 - 04:05 AM

As to "different francophone ethnicities" consider the Bretons, the Alsatians, and the Monegasque. Respectively a lot of Celtic, Teutonic, and Italian in their ethnicities. But I do agree with you that the way the person says it is the correct way, no matter what "the rules" say. I'm often asked how to spell my last name, because some "Johnston" people simply make a nasal stop out of the "t". The end result sounds just like "Johnson".

#127 Estelle

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Posted 25 July 2007 - 05:06 AM

Thanks for the explanation. If I remember correctly, Violette Verdy was born in Bretagne, but I don't know if her name comes from that region. Sylvie Guillem's last name sounds somewhat similar to the first name "Guilhem", which is the equivalent of William, Guillaume, Willem, etc. in Occitan (dialect of southern France), but I don't know if it comes from Occitan or not...

#128 Mel Johnson

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Posted 25 July 2007 - 04:38 PM

I suppose it would help considerably to know whether the name is rooted in Occitan or an Oïl language (apart from mainstream French, that is.)

#129 sunday

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Posted 07 July 2009 - 02:12 PM

I suppose it would help considerably to know whether the name is rooted in Occitan or an Oïl language (apart from mainstream French, that is.)


An Oc language - Catalan, the language spoken in Catalonia, on the North-Eastern corner of Spain, and as I'm a -more or less- native speaker, this is a topic on which I could make a useful contribution before scurrying back to the woodwork, and continue some learning while lurking :wink: .

Guillem is a not-too-rare surname around here. In the ARTE documentary Ms. Guillem herself said she was a quarter Spanish. Guillem is also a Catalan name, equivalent to William. About the pronunciation of the "ll" bit, it's difficult for those who do not have Catalan as a mother tongue, somewhat between the "y" of year, and the "L" of length.

Because of that difficulty, I suppose Ms. Guillem parents decided to Frenchify it, leaving Gee-LEM.

#130 SandyMcKean

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Posted 07 July 2009 - 02:49 PM

Facinating, Sunday.....thanks for taking the time.

#131 pherank

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 11:02 AM

Re the glamorous Yuan Yuan Tan;
Most of us in SF say "wan wan" -- as in why so pale and wan, fond lover."

But my friends who actually speak Chinese say something that sounds more like "uEN uEN," with the u being that umlauted "dude" sound but very brief, like the vermouth in a vodka, it's just a bit of color at the VERY beginning. it starts off quite constricted between the molars, cheeks sucked in, back of the tongue rising toward the soft palate, and then the back of the tongue drops, the "eh" gets thrown against the hard palate, and the middle of the tongue pushes up and stops it. It all kinda happens 'in the nose" and it's fun to say


Yuan Yuan further confuses things with her own pronunciation of her name - but she's obviously trying to make it more understandable to the English-speaking audience as she has inverted her first and last names from the usual Chinese order:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojXQ0IKepQM

The San Francisco balletomanes often refer to her with the nickname "Y Y", and to quote from elsewhere, "YY, as Tan is known around SFB, began her historic ascent through the repertory. Her name, Yuan Yuan, translates as “round, round”; she was born during a full moon, a sign of good luck, and where creating new ballets is concerned, fortune has smiled on her."

#132 Helene

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 03:54 PM

Many artists simplify the pronunciation of their names for anglophones, but when they're introduced in their home countries, the local pronunciation prevails.

#133 pherank

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 04:46 PM

Many artists simplify the pronunciation of their names for anglophones, but when they're introduced in their home countries, the local pronunciation prevails.


I spent some time in the distant past trying to learn how her name *should* be pronounced, and of course happened on to some Chinese language video interviews with her, but I was never able to distinguish her name in what was said. (I've had the same problem trying to learn the pronunciation of various Hong Kong film stars' names this way.)

Try to listen for the names of "Yuan Yuan Tan", "Helgi Tomasson", or "San Francisco" in this clip:


Was that some form of "Rubies" at the beginning? Anyway, LOL, I can only distinguish the term "ballet" which is pronounce "bally" by the voiceover artist.

#134 Caesariatus

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Posted 11 June 2014 - 06:35 PM

What is the pronunciation of Polina Semionova (Полина Семионова)?  I found a N.Y. Times article where it says her surname is pronounced "sem-YOHN-o-va", but of course it doesn't say how to pronounce that.  I thinks it's supposed to be something like IPA /sεm 'jon o və/.  Is that right?



#135 volcanohunter

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Posted 11 June 2014 - 07:02 PM

Perhaps /e-'ɵ-nə-və/ if you want to be really precise and include the palatalized consonants and reduced vowels.




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