A question on pronunciation

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A question on pronunciation

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Dec 9, 2009, 9:48pm

I've always pronounced Gawain as guh-WAYN, but I heard it pronounced GAH-win recently. This makes more sense to me as Gavin is derived from Gawain. Does anybody know what the correct pronunciation is?

Dec 10, 2009, 10:03am

I'm not sure that one is necessarily more correct than the other. Names are one of those funny things where pronunciations can change depending on so many factors. I've probably heard half a dozen slight variations on the pronunciation of Gawain, and my own pronunciation of the name isn't exactly consistent. So I'd say go with what you're most comfortable with, and as long as people can figure out who you're talking about, you're golden.

Dec 11, 2009, 7:32am

Not really to do with Arthurian legend (sorry) but does anyone else wish novels would include a pronunciation guide? It drives me nuts when I'm reading something and can't figure out how names should be pronounced - I have to be able to hear them in my head.

#1 GAH-win sounds particularly Welsh to me but then I'm sure pronunciation has changed so much since Arthur's time that that doesn't really help solve your problem anyway.

Dec 11, 2009, 1:39pm

Yes, I frequently wish that. It took me forever to figure out how to pronounce Nausicaa after reading The Odyssey.

Jan 5, 2011, 2:31pm

#1: It's rather a late response, but in answer to MMWiseheart's query (I've always pronounced Gawain as guh-WAYN, but I heard it pronounced GAH-win recently. This makes more sense to me as Gavin is derived from Gawain. Does anybody know what the correct pronunciation is?) 'guh-WAYN' is the usual modern pronunciation of Gawain, whether or not it's derived from Gavin (it's not, but they are likely to be related). Modern French Gauvain and probably Dutch Walwain (various spellings) seem to have moreorless equal stresses on each syllable, but modern Italian Galgano the stress may well be on the second syllable; however, Italian is not always consistent (the town of Modena has the stress on the first syllable) so I wouldn't swear to it.

The medieval Welsh name Gwalchmei which is not only an equivalent but often often claimed as the original is much more problematic; modern pronunciation puts the stress on the first syllable but not every authority agrees that Gawain is derived from it. There is a possible bird link (Scottish sparrows and Welsh hawks) if anyone is interested, but as always origins of words are often disputed territories and I'm no expert.

Don't know if any of that helps one year on but there you go!

Jan 9, 2011, 12:42am

guh WANE in American; GOW (rhymes with cow) in in standard British.

There are, quite honestly, at least three perfectly acceptable pronunciations, says she who spent roughly twenty years on SGGK.

Edited: Jan 9, 2011, 6:01am

Now I think of it, I'd agree with medievalist that British English probably wouldn't use the 'shwa' sound (as in guhWAYN), though I tend to use 'gah' rather than 'gow'; but though I have a long if superficial familiarity with SGGK I certainly bow to medievalist's academic nous.

And now I'm not even sure if I actually stress the second syllable; probably not! Probably not either. Incidentally, what are the three acceptable pronunciations? (Sounds like a folktale motif, or Welsh Triad: 'the Three Acceptable Pronunciations in the Domain of Academia'...)

Edited: Jan 11, 2011, 11:04am

My professors, all American, all used GAH-win.

Jan 11, 2011, 11:48am

While we're on pronunciation, how do readers get on with the Welsh original of Guinevere/Guenevere? Gwenhwyfar often gets written (and I guess pronounced) Gwen-why-far when it's closer to Gwen-hooee-var.

Jan 17, 2011, 6:02pm

Arthurian legend has links to old Welsh legend most of the names will be Welsh and be pronounced like Welsh, having lived in wales 5 years I get a rough idea of how the names would sound, some Arthur stories are excellent and have name pronounciations and meanings. Arthur means bear, Guinivere means white for example. Gawain is a very Welsh name yes.

Jan 17, 2011, 9:18pm

The only time I've ever heard anyone say Gawain out loud (other than in a movie, maybe) was when studying Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in college. I think you could use ether GOWin or GAwin to describe the sound - like the vowel sound in "cow." I can't remember if the professor was British or American, though - he could well have been British, and either way he was a well-respected medievalist.

Jan 18, 2011, 3:35am

I would take issue with Chaobaby7: Arthur doesn't "mean" bear, but the element 'arth-' is probably related to bear. Similarly Guinivere (sic; more usually Guinevere or Guenevere) doesn't "mean" white, but the element 'gwen-' does mean white in Welsh. Gawain is NOT a very Welsh name, and as far as I'm aware doesn't significantly figure as a personal name in Wales (though Gareth does, obviously). Gwalchmai or Gwalchmei are the traditional Welsh equivalents. Like Chaobaby7 I've only lived in Wales for a few years but even with my limited understanding of Welsh I do know that Arthur doesn't "mean" bear.

Jul 4, 2014, 12:31pm

To continue the discussion - how do you pronounce Gwalchmai or Gwalchmei?

Jul 12, 2014, 12:53pm

Somewhere between Gwalkh-my and Gwalkh-may; the 'kh' element needs to be pronounced as the 'ch' in Scottish 'loch'.