A talk on folk phonetics

Professor Emerita and former Provost of Wayne State Margaret Winters and Professor Emeritus Geoff Nathan gave a joint talk this past month on You Say Your Name, How?


During graduation ceremonies at many colleges and universities, those graduating "march"; graduates walk across the stage as their name is announced. The names are often read by someone who does not know the graduate personally and, in most cases, has never seen the name before. The graduate provides the reader, just before the name is to be read, with a card containing the name and, in many cases, a way to provide help in the pronunciation.

Since an extremely small number of students study phonetics, they use whatever means they have to convey the pronunciation of their names.

The present talk is a preliminary study of how some 2650 students at one graduation ceremony provided this linguistic help to readers. We will discuss how the data were gathered, and set out an overview of our findings to date, with a preliminary discussion of how and why these linguistically naive students may have made the choices they did in setting out pronunciation guidance.

Professor Margaret Winters presenting on linguistics of names.

Faculty asking questions from the audience.

Faculty group discussion.

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