Is the name pronounced TCHAIcoughski or TchaiKOVski?

February 1, 2009 at 07:30 PM ·

In another thread, poor Russians were blamed for the existence of various transliterations of the name Tchaikovsky. This brought a burning question back to my memory about the proper Russian pronunciation. Is it 'Tchaicoughski (stress on first syllable; second syllable loses 'o' sound, except in St Peterburgh), as Mr Smirnov, the native speaker in the Russian language course on Dutch TV in the sixties had it, or Tchai'kovski (stress on second syllable), as pronounced by Slav linguist Laura Starink, in the Russian language course on Dutch TVĀ in the eighties? Or are both correct? Please help me out.

They agreed on Piotr IlYITCH, by the way.

Replies (31)

February 1, 2009 at 09:05 PM ·

I've always said it like "Tchaikovsky"  so stress on the "kov" sound. That's what it is to me and I haven't heard many russians say it with an "ow" sound.

February 1, 2009 at 09:04 PM ·

My teacher (from Armenia) pronounces it "Chickovski" with the accent on "kov."

February 1, 2009 at 09:35 PM ·

What the other two said.  My Dad spoke Russian, and he put the accent on the "kov."

February 1, 2009 at 10:07 PM ·

 My father always pronounced “TchaiKOVski”. He grew up with the White Russians in Shanghai (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Emigre) and spoke Russian fluently.

February 1, 2009 at 10:21 PM ·

How would the name be pronounced where he was born? That seems like it would be closest to his parents intentions. Or, look at his parents background for clues.

February 1, 2009 at 11:42 PM ·

TchaiKOVsky for me. My teacher pronounce it the same way but we could just have bad english because we are asian decent.  : )

February 2, 2009 at 12:28 AM ·

In Russian it would be pronounced "Chai KOFF skee" with the stress on the second syllable.  Stress in Russian can fall on any syllable, however, and usually you have to know what syllable the stress falls on--you can't figure it out from the shape of the word.  (The common family name Ivanov can be pronounced with the stress on either the second or third syllable. )  You can be sure that the stress in "Tchaikovsky" doesn't fall on the last syllable, however, because if so it would be spelled -skoy.

Voiced consonants are generally devoiced when followed by unvoiced consonants (or at the end of a word).  Thus the letter normally corresponding to the sound 'v" (which looks like a "B" in the Roman alphabet) is pronounced like "f" when followed by 'sk," both of which are unvoiced consonants.

The usual English spelling of Tchaikovsky's name is strange because the letter that corresponds to sound of English "ch" is, naturally, normally transcribed as "ch" in English.  In French, however, the English consonant pronounced "ch" does not exist; the symbols "ch" represent the English "sh" sound.  So in French, in order to transcribe the Russian sound that is similar to English "ch," the symbols "tch" must be used.  That's the origin of the usual English spelling of Tchaikovsky's name, although some people spell it "Chaikovsky" in English. (In German, in order to represent the "ch" sound, the symbols "tsch" must be used. Tchaikovky becomes Tschaikowski or even Tschajkowski in German.)

February 2, 2009 at 12:46 AM ·

second syllable has the empasis

February 2, 2009 at 12:46 AM ·

I've always heard the NPR DJs emphasize the kov.

February 2, 2009 at 02:32 AM ·

Oh goodness, my dad could literally hit me with a stick as a little kid, always saying "KOV!"  Yes, I do believe it is KOV.  :) Valerie

February 2, 2009 at 03:15 AM ·

"In French, however, the English consonant pronounced "ch" does not exist; the symbols "ch" represent the English "sh" sound.  So in French, in order to transcribe the Russian sound that is similar to English "ch," the symbols "tch" must be used.  That's the origin of the usual English spelling of Tchaikovsky's name, although some people spell it "Chaikovsky" in English. (In German, in order to represent the "ch" sound, the symbols "tsch" must be used. Tchaikovky becomes Tschaikowski or even Tschajkowski in German.)"

Also, Cajkovsky in Czech and Czajkowski in Polish, stress on the second syllables.

February 2, 2009 at 04:13 AM ·

As long as you don't pronounce it "Chikowsky, which a lot of people do and it really annoys me. Like the z in Mozart thing.

February 2, 2009 at 04:27 AM ·

I guess for a not insignificant number of Americans you might need phonetic transliteration, perhaps cheye-coffs-kee or something like that. :-)

February 2, 2009 at 08:21 AM ·

Chai, cough, ski.  Typical day in Alaska.  Emphasis on "cough".

February 2, 2009 at 01:59 PM ·

Emily - do you think his ancestors were from Alaska?

February 2, 2009 at 04:33 PM ·

I've always said TchaiKOVsky... but I could be wrong... I also say shOSTakovich... and everyone else I know says shAHstakovich...

 

Also, who's the "they" that agree on Piotr Ilyitch? I've seen it Pjotr before...

February 2, 2009 at 05:54 PM ·

Why, Mr. Smirnov and Laura Starink, of course!

February 2, 2009 at 06:00 PM ·

The 'o' in Shostakovich is a "reduced" vowel in Russian pronunciation--it's pronounced something like 'uh' and the lips are not rounded.

Pjotr is a typically German transcription--'j' in German is pronounced like consonantal 'y' in English.  Actually, in Russian there is no consonant between the 'p' and the 'o' in "Piotr."  The 'p' is palatalized:  the tongue is placed against the palate simultaneously with the articulation of 'p' by the lips.   But to the ears of English speakers it sounds as if 'p' is followed by consonantal 'y.' 

February 2, 2009 at 06:03 PM ·

It seems Mr. Smirnov was pulling our legs!

February 2, 2009 at 08:06 PM ·

What I personally dislike is when someone attempts to pronounce part of the name correctly and ignores the other part.

For example, at a concert this weekend, they introduced a piece by Wagner.

"Richard' was pronounced the North American way.  'Wagner' was kinda pronounced German.

It didn't work.  Just say 'Richard Wagner 'the North American way and be done with it.

...just as an aside...the German name 'Inge' is inevitably misprounced 'In-GAH'.  It's supposed to be pronounced 'Ing-eh'.  North Americans can certainly say it properly.  It's not hard.  Sounds prettier too.

 

February 2, 2009 at 07:52 PM ·

One might as well call him Dick.

February 2, 2009 at 09:33 PM ·

Monty Python called him "Dicky" as in "let's listen to a spot of Dicky Wagner" (Wagner pronounced in the American/Brit way rather than the German way).

February 3, 2009 at 02:11 PM ·

Every time the Japanese try to pronounce the name of Dvorak, I am flabbergasted for a second because it sounds like "de Balzac". I am like "Honore de Balzac? since when did he write music? Oh, I see, you mean Antonin Dvorak!".

I have tried to teach them to pronounce it correctly and this goes like ...

me: Can you say "dvoarrr"

them: "duvohlu"

me: ok, that's not so bad, can you say "Jaques", like the French name?

them: "Jaques"

me: brilliant! now can you say both together "dvoarr" and "Jaques"?

them: "de Balzac"

Oh well

February 3, 2009 at 03:50 PM ·

Benjammin K- Have you tried speaking the Finn language or Hungarian? Beautiful as they are, you may sound like the Japanese you mentioned.

February 6, 2009 at 07:41 AM ·

Benjamin, you should hear the Japenese students here trying to say "Thrifty" (our local grocery store ) -- "th--shuli-pu-ti".

February 6, 2009 at 09:01 AM ·

"thrifty" would be "su-li-fu-tii" in Japanese katakana induced pronounciation. The outcome of katakana induced pronounciation is often close enough to figure out what is meant, but there are cases where it is just totally off, such as Dvorak becoming de Balzac.

An interesting case is Edgar Allan Poe, which is Edogawa Rampo in Japanese, all written in Sino-Japanese Kanji (not katakana) and this way of writing Poe's name was assumed as a pseudonym by Taro Hirai, a Japanese 20th century writer who greatly admired Poe.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rampo_Edogawa

Interestingly, when a Japanese says Edogawa Rampo, it sounds surprisingly close to Edgar Allan Poe and there is little danger of confusion :-)

February 16, 2009 at 12:45 AM ·

I've been beat to it, but anyway...TchaiKOVsky. He rocks. At least once a wekk, The Nutracker Suite is stuck in my head. Or is it SWEET? Whatever.

Oh, and to Benjamin K: either you truly are some sesquepedalian lexile genius, or you've just discovered a thesaurus. Grr.

February 16, 2009 at 02:44 AM ·

No, I just happen to live in Japan. 

February 16, 2009 at 04:48 PM ·

My Russian flatmate puts the emphasis on the "Kov", although he pronounces it "Kove"

February 17, 2009 at 11:10 PM ·

I've been saying it with the 2nd of the 2 pronunciations all my life (Even before I knew who he was :)) .

February 18, 2009 at 04:16 PM ·

It will always remain a mystery what Mr. Smirnov was up to..

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