I am not a native English Speaker, but I work with English speakers on a daily basis and they have always troubles pronouncing my surname, so they will often ask me to tell them how they can pronounce it. My surname is Sulce. I also tried a pronouncing service and they said "Sorry, we can't pronounce that." So, I would like to ask native speakers to help on defining the most correct way to pronounce it. What's the first pronunciation that comes to your mind for the word Sulce?

  • 2
    If I saw the word sulce, without any context, my instinct would be to pronounce it to rhyme with pulse. – Dan Bron Aug 1 '15 at 12:03
  • 6
    The correct way to pronounce your surname is of course the way you pronounce it. If other people can’t pronounce that, that’s their problem, not yours. They can do their best. Sulce looks very non-English, so without knowing what your native language is (or alternatively, what language the name comes from), it’s impossible to give an ‘intuitive’ pronunciation. I’d probably guess at either [sʌls] or [sʌlsi] or [sʌltʃi] or [sʌlseɪ] or [sʌltʃeɪ] or [sʊlsi] or [sʊltʃi] or [sʊlseɪ] or [sʊltʃeɪ] (in more or less random order) if I were to make a guess without knowing where it comes from. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 1 '15 at 12:04
  • @JanusBahsJacquet How long does it take to learn the IPA to get to the point where one can sight-read it (but not necessarily write it) without too much effort? – Dan Bron Aug 1 '15 at 12:06
  • 5
    Ardit. S - I don't think we can help by reading your name. We either have to hear it or see the phonetic symbols. In general we don't know how to pronounce even some English names until we have heard them! – chasly from UK Aug 1 '15 at 12:14
  • 2
    The way I pronounce my name in my native language is sʊltʃe. The last e is pronounced like "e" in get. – multigoodverse Aug 4 '15 at 11:10

In light of the clarification "The way I pronounce my name in my native language is sʊltʃe. The last e is pronounced like 'e' in get." in comments:

Then a pragmatic textual way to instruct English speakers would be to write that the name "rhymes with PULL-chay" or "rhymes with pull-CHAY", depending on the stress.

The English "AY" may not sound to you especially similar to the "E" of your name, but I assure it's subjectively similar to most native English speakers, and it is as close as a reasonable majority of them will get to with simple instructions.

| improve this answer | |
  • Surely "sull-chee" is a much better approximation at the correct pronunciation, and just as understandable to English speakers as "sull-chay"? – Marthaª Aug 6 '15 at 18:32
  • @Marthaª, I disagree. "Sull" would be pronounced with an /ʌ/, unlike pull with an /ʊ/. "Chee" will certainly be pronounced with an /iː/, whereas "chay" with an /eɪ/ is both physically closer to the actual sound (in most English dialects) and psychologically closer - think of how native English speakers pronounce the endings of soufflé or résumé. I could see a case for an /ə/ ending (if the /e/ is unstressed in the OP's name and) if it were straightforward to briefly and unambiguously indicate in text for generic readers without any linguistics background - but that's not the case. – hemflit Aug 6 '15 at 23:04
  • The 'e' in 'get' is [ɛ] (epsilon) in almost all varieties of English, and most of the English-speaking world doesn't have [e] (eta) by itself (only as part of diphthongs, like in 'date' and 'day'). So which sound is it at the end of this name? – JPmiaou Aug 7 '15 at 14:32
  • 2
    @JPmiaou, I deduce the name is Albanian, so the original sound is probably something in the range of [e̞] through [ɛ]. These are not distinctions you can easily convey in English text for a general lay audience, and (since English restricts its /ɛ/ to diphthongs and closed syllables) it's not reasonable to expect English speakers to routinely reproduce them. A reasonable, useful solution to the OP's problem is to invite English speakers to approximate the sound with the English /eɪ/, ⟨ay⟩, as is routinely done with French names. – hemflit Aug 7 '15 at 15:34

The lack of clear and consistent pronunciation rules in English for a word like this is why people ask you how you pronounce it. The correct pronunciation of names is very dependent on the cultural context where you are from, and the way you pronounce it is the correct way. When somebody asks you, say what you would say when introducing yourself (like "My name is ____ ____") and then they can hear the pronunciation.

If you are yourself unsure, your parents and/or other family members with the same surname are likely the best folks to ask. If you don't like the way your family members pronounce it, you can choose a different way and the way you want it pronounced is the correct way, with the possible exception of family settings when speakers might correctly feel it's not your name they are pronouncing.

In general, it's important to keep in mind the objectives for communication. In most cases when someone is using your name, the speaker's intent is likely to uniquely identify you in a way that respects your relative uniqueness. This intent is even more likely to be the case when the speaker is asking or has asked you about how to pronounce your name. When that intent is present, whatever pronunciation which still leaves that intent discernible (even if only from tone and context) could be considered "correct" in that it achieves success in the communicative goal.

When I read your name, I have a few hypotheses about how it might be pronounced, but lack enough information about where you and/or your family are from.
My first guess is that it's like the Spanish "dulce" (links go to audio) but with an S instead of a D at the beginning. To some extent, the meaning of whatever word you tell people to use to remember your name pronunciation will become mentally associated with you; "dulce" means "sweet" which I think of as being a generally positive association but it depends a bit on your style and personality and what you're going for.
Dan Bron's guess that it's pronounced like "pulse" with an "s" instead of a "p" would probably be my second guess.
My third guess, [ˈsəl-sē] would give the final e more of an an i sound, like the first syllable from "sultan" followed by see. In that way it's kind of like "Sochi" with an "ul" sound (pull without p) instead of the o. This is similar to Peter Shor's guess, but a different explanation.

| improve this answer | |
  • Of course, the first syllable of sultan has the same sound as the ul of pulse. Oh. Perhaps it doesn't... IPA FTW. – Andrew Leach Jun 28 '19 at 15:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.