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Regarding Türkiye's campaign to have their name changed (from Turkey) in foreign languages, it struck me as a bit unusual to insist on the umlaut-ed ü, since English doesn't normally have that diacritic. So, is this an uncommon insistence, or are there other countries that insist on having some uncommon (in English) letters or diacritics, in English communications regarding the country's name?


As someone asked for a quote, one of the ironies is that state broadcaster TRT spells it without umlaut sometimes [in English articles], but they also quote an official note saying that:

The vast majority of people in Turkiye feel that calling the country by its local variation only makes sense and is in keeping with the country's aims of determining how others should identify it.

In a nod to that, the recently published communique was clear that "within the scope of strengthening the 'Turkiye' brand, in all kinds of activities and correspondence, especially in official relations with other states and international institutions and organisations, necessary sensitivity will be shown on the use of the phrase 'Türkiye' instead of phrases such as 'Turkey,' 'Turkei,' 'Turquie' etc."

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    Can you please quote the actual insistence?
    – Greendrake
    Feb 7, 2023 at 0:02
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    @Greendrake: Well, the funny part is that the US agreed to change the spelling but not how it's read, which was actually the main Turkish complaint... "[US] Officials later confirmed the spelling change, but said the pronunciation would stay the same." dw.com/en/us-officially-changes-spelling-of-turkey-to-turkiye/… [continues] Feb 7, 2023 at 0:18
  • Whereas "State broadcaster TRT [...] pointed out the Cambridge English Dictionary's definition of one of the meanings of the word as "something that fails badly" or "a stupid or silly person". [...] The Ü may be tricky for most of the international audience who don't have that letter in their alphabet but it's the same as the German Ü, like the U in pure or cue. So for an English-speaker, changing the first vowel of Turkey to a Ü and adding an E to the end (as in pet) is enough to pronounce the new name perfectly." bbc.com/news/world-europe-61671913 Feb 7, 2023 at 0:18
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    The quoted text isn't evidence that the Turkish government is insisting on the diacritic. It's evidence that they are insisting on Türkiye over "'Turkey,' 'Turkei,' 'Turquie'", but it's not evidence they're insisting on Türkiye over Turkiye. Perhaps they insist on that too, but it seems the ordinary letters is what that quote is about. In fact, the fact TRT freely moves between the diacritic and non-diacritic versions is evidence that that isn't the complaint, rather than it being "ironic".
    – ajd138
    Feb 8, 2023 at 15:12
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    @Fizz: “[…] but it's the same as the German Ü, like the U in pure or cue. […] – Not your mistake, but that certainly is not correct for German and also not for Turkish as far as I can tell from a quick look at phonetic notation. The u in pure or cue is pronounced /jɔː/ or similar while the German ü is either /yː/ or /ʏ/.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Feb 8, 2023 at 23:10

2 Answers 2

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On the UN list of countries, Côte d’Ivoire is the only other country to use a “special” character. From Wikipedia:

in April 1986, the government declared that Côte d'Ivoire (or, more fully, République de Côte d'Ivoire) would be its formal name for the purposes of diplomatic protocol and has since officially refused to recognize any translations from French to other languages in its international dealings. Despite the Ivorian government's request, the English translation "Ivory Coast" (often "the Ivory Coast") is still frequently used in English by various media outlets and publications.

Elsewhere [1, 2], São Tomé and Príncipe is often spelled with its diacritics, however, the UN spells it “Sao Tome and Principe.” Its name is Portuguese.

Across the world, Åland (a Swedish-speaking dependency of Finland) and Curaçao (a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands) are commonly spelled with their special characters. I haven't yet looked for the UN official list of dependencies.

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    then again, Sao Tome is often written either just as that or "Sao Tome et Principe"
    – jwenting
    Feb 7, 2023 at 9:34
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    @jwenting I have never seen that. Why would you use a French (or Latin, I suppose) word in the middle of a Portuguese name? Feb 7, 2023 at 12:34
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    @jwenting Did you mean "e Principe"? Feb 7, 2023 at 15:33
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    OTOH he difference in pronunciation between /kɔt/ (cote) and /kot/ (côte) is rather more subtle. youtube.com/watch?v=_JDA3r4dQwE Feb 7, 2023 at 17:11
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    By some definitions, Côte d'Ivoire has two special characters, as the apostrophe isn't part of the English/Latin alphabet! Of course defining "special" as non-ASCII masks this problem.
    – Chris H
    Feb 8, 2023 at 9:58
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Well, if you want to extend the country aspect to Canadian native nations, yes, that is very much a thing these days. Here's some for BC

  • Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw - Squamish Nation

  • xʷməθkʷəy̓əm - Musqueam

  • etc...

What's a bit unexpected, when I last looked at it is that:

  • Some (all?) of these are symbols that are mostly (all?) coming from the international phonetic alphabet (IPA).

  • There is limited homogenization between tribes with similar languages. Other tribes have yet different symbols. Some have the intent to develop a system which can be entered in text editors and computers. Some don't.

  • There is very limited communication - to the rest of us - in how they are supposed to be pronounced. Since they aren't homogenized, it is quite possible different bands would struggle to communicate.

  • On the other hand, if they are primarily from the IPA, using phonetic spelling may be very helpful to preserve pronunciation - some languages have very few speakers left.

The first I was exposed to native names was when I lived in Florida. Tallahassee, Okeechobee, etc... Now, I fully expect that the pronunciation by the average non-native Floridan was atrocious. But it was nice that people did use those names and they could work on the pronunciation from the basic English.

I have no idea what 7 does phonetically so that doesn't work here. We have road signs that no one has a clue how to pronounce, aside from tribal members.

More info from First Peoples Cultural Council:

Linguistic orthographies are based on the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), the alphabet used by linguists to uniquely represent the sounds of the world’s languages.

Many B.C. languages have relatively newly developed practical alphabets which differ significantly from the orthography commonly used by linguists. As they have developed independently, these practical alphabets may differ from each other as to which symbol is used to represent which sound.

...

Assuming a community wants a writing system, there are many things to be considered in choosing an appropriate one. An interesting example of different choices in orthography development is that of Hul’q’umi’num’ and Hən̓q̓əm̓inəm̓, two sister dialects of a Salish language of southwestern B.C.

The Quw’utsun’ Hul’q’umi’num’ of Vancouver Island have chosen a practical alphabet which uses only letters found on an English keyboard, plus the apostrophe. This ensures that their language can be written, typed, and used in email with ease. In contrast, the speakers of χʷmθk̓ʷiʔəm Hən̓q̓əm̓inəm̓, whose traditional territory occupied what is now much of Greater Vancouver, have chosen a linguistic alphabet which emphasizes the distinctness of their language’s sounds. These two alphabets look very different, but both represent the sounds of the language accurately and systematically.

(Note: the use of tribe may feel a bit odd, but those are terms used here, along with band and nation).

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    This is a bit of a rant but, FYI "7" is a glottal stop, at least among the Salish languages. Feb 7, 2023 at 4:12
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    How is it a rant? Do we actually know how to pronounce this in general? We don't. And since it is not unified, it'll be very hard to sign up anyone to learn them. Again, read what I said about Tallahassee - I think it is an excellent idea to use native names. Feb 7, 2023 at 4:15
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    7 is most likely a reverse-to-ASCII of ʔ (glottal stop) from IPA. In fact, the wiki article on the latter even has a BC road sign as example en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… But the latter is clearly bilingual, there's no indication "7" is in the English spelling. Feb 7, 2023 at 4:19
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    But these are examples of how they refer to themselves. For example, Germany refers to itself as "Deutschland" yet many other countries use their own translations. No one will refer to the Squamish as "Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw" unless actually speaking their language.
    – vsz
    Feb 7, 2023 at 9:44
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    @DavidHammen you can see English's spelling-anarchism as a nice thing or as a deficiency. At any rate, one thing does often rub people from other countries the wrong way is when English speakers approach their local names by just 1. dropping any diacritics as if they were only meaningless ornaments 2. picking some pronunciation of this ASCII-form as if it was an English word. The result often sounds nothing like the word in its native language, even when the original pronunciation wouldn't be difficult at all for an English speaker if only they had bothered to look it up. Feb 7, 2023 at 12:56

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