Pronunciation3 March 2009 at 4:34 AM | Posted in News | 6 Comments
To my comment on 19 December 2008 that “One of the most difficult aspects of English for those not born to the language is pronunciation,” Albert B. Casuga replies, “Somewhere along the way, ineptitude in spoken language (corrupted intonations, pronunciations, accentuations etc.) killed the aural/oral tradition of poetry. Second languages as media for poets who have not mastered the ‘adopted and adapted’ language contributed to this aberration.” (1 March 2009)
In reciting poetry, a key question is which variety of the language should be chosen? When reciting a poem written in English by a Filipino poet whose first language is Tagalog, for instance, should the reader (who may or may not be the poet) pronounce the words the way a British person or an American would pronounce them?
Cirilo F. Bautista is, if awards are to be believed, the foremost Filipino poet writing in English (he also writes in Tagalog). In one of my favorite poems of his, entitled “Pedagogic,” he rhymes men with mien. Paulino Lim, commenting on my post of 20 December 2008 about that poem, asks, “Isn’t there such a concept as ‘visual rhyme’ to account for men and mien?” (10 January 2009)
Yes, there is visual rhyme, but when we are talking of reciting a poem, visual rhyme doesn’t figure in. Most Filipinos pronounce mien as mi-en, justifying Bautista’s rhyme, but only if you recite the poem using Philippine English rather than British or American English. How can Bautista’s choice of Philippine English when it comes to rhyme be an “aberration”? (Incidentally, before he had his heart bypass, Bautista was very visible in poetry readings and, in fact, co-founded the Philippine Literary Arts Council, one of the objectives of which was to return to pre-print poetry, that is, poetry recited rather than read. Bautista has always regarded print as something bad that happened to poetry.)