1

So I've played some fantasy games and I've recently started playing Divinity original sin. Before this whenever I encountered the word Lich I heard it as if it would rime with "itch", "bitch", "Kitsch" etc.

However, in the Divinity series, it's pronounced in a more Germanic language, (I myself am Dutch so it's more obvious to me how to, but I'm sure this is one of those pronunciations that don't work for non-germanic speakers). The best way I'd describe it is being extremely close to "Lick".

I'm hoping someone can help me explain that last part how I'm expecting it could be pronounced.

Also my first question on English, be gentle.

  • Are you asking about the pronunciation of a German word? – Lawrence Jun 7 '18 at 17:41
  • What does Lich mean IN English anyway?? – Lambie Jun 7 '18 at 17:42
  • 1
    Lich does have a meaning in English, although the word is obsolete for all intents and purposes. What is Lich in the game? – Andrew Leach Jun 7 '18 at 18:08
  • @Lawrence I wonder if it actually is an English word, if yes, how should it be pronounced, the thing is it's used in a game where all conversations are English, but f/e in Warcraft 3 it's the first example, divinity uses the second. – Mathijs Segers Jun 7 '18 at 18:13
  • 1
    @AndrewLeach I guess this wiki page covers most of it: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lich – Mathijs Segers Jun 7 '18 at 18:13
4

Since you have posted a link to Lich on Wikipedia as a comment to the question, where lich is characterised as "a type of undead creature in fantasy fiction", it would appear that the word is directly taken from the near-obsolete English word lich.

lich, n.

b. A dead body; a corpse.

[OED]

This is the same word as appears in lich-gate or lych-gate, where coffins would wait before going into the churchyard with the priest.

OED gives the pronunciation /lɪtʃ/ ("litch") and that's certainly the pronunciation of the first half of lych-gate.

2

The normal pronunciation is /lɪtʃ/ "litch". But the word is very uncommon, which explains why even native speakers might be uncertain about its pronunciation (just as a number of native speakers only learn the standard pronunciation of words like "albeit" later in their lives, if ever). Who can know why the voice actors in some game like Divinity: Original Sin use some different pronunciation like "lick". There are lots of possible reasons:

  • Maybe they thought it sounded better

  • Maybe they mistakenly thought it was a German word, like the name "Bach" (which in English is often pronounced with /k/). In fact, the cognate German word is spelled Leich and pronounced [laɪç]

  • Maybe they had heard this pronunciation from somebody else and just picked it up without thinking about it

In the Wikipedia talk page for the article "Lich", I found one person arguing that "there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that some gamers pronounce the word" as like. I wouldn't attach too much importance to that, though, as there are a number of mispronunciations that may arise in an activity where people mainly encounter unfamiliar words and names in print rather than in speech (see this forum discussion thread: "Okay, that does it. Pronouncing "LICH.") Sometimes a "mispronounciation" becomes so well established that it comes to be accepted as a standard pronunciation of a word (for example, "Wicca" is pronounced /ˈwɪkə/ even though it comes from the Old English word wicca, which is thought to have been pronounced with palatal rather than velar cc, i.e. /ttʃ/). But this doesn't seem to have happened (yet) with /k/-pronunciations of lich: as far as I know, no dictionary records any pronunciation other than the one in -ɪtʃ.

The Wikipedia talk page participant also brings up some information about the etymology of lich and historical variant forms that I think is irrelevant to the way it is pronounced by modern speakers of standard English, but I guess I'll mention it anyway for completeness. The OED says

The Old English líc became by normal development lich(e in the south and like in the north; hence the diversity of forms above. Compare ditch, dike.

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.