Any chances "spell" means "pronounce"?



Inspired by this question of mine and that @BenKovitz suggested that I should ask a new question, I attempt to do so. Here goes:

The Persian Wikipedia (Persian: ویکی‌پدیا، دانشنامهٔ آزاد‎ Vikipedia, Daneshnameye Azad / "Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia") is the Persian language version of Wikipedia, spelled Vikipedia. The Persian version of Wikipedia was started in December 2003. It passed 1,000 articles on December 16, 2004 and 200,000 articles on July 10, 2012.The article about Persian wikipedia

"Spelled vikipedia"? I'm a native Persian speaker and I can tell you that we don't even write "vikipedia", since we've got our own alphabet. We pronounce it that way: The w is pronounced \v\ instead of \w\ , and that must have been the point wikipedia wanted to make. This would've been very very idiotic if it was a mistake. So, it seems that there might have been another sense for "spell" than what I believed.

Could "spell" mean "pronounce" or something similar in any ways?


Posted 2015-02-10T18:02:18.903

Reputation: 7 371

It's Wikipedia. I changed the word "spell" to the word "pronounced" for you. I believe it is more closer to the author's intention than the word "transliterated" because the word doesn't appear on the page as 'Vikipedia', it always stays written as 'Wikipedia'. – Rick Henderson – 2016-05-13T13:38:45.910

1Not really. The closest would be "spell out", which means to read a text slowly, aloud, in an attempt to recognize the words on the page by sounding them out syllable by syllable. It's remotely possible the author misunderstood "spell out" to mean "pronounce". – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2015-02-10T18:09:58.780



Direct answer: no, "spell" never means "pronounce". Spell only refers to the letters used to form the written word.

The quote you cite would do better to use the word "transliterated" instead of "spelled". OED:

transliterate: To replace (letters or characters of one language) by those of another used to represent the same sounds; to write (a word, etc.) in the characters of another alphabet.

I wouldn't go quite so far as to say that the use of the word is wrong: that is how the word is "spelled" in the English alphabet. I would say that it is an incomplete statement; if the word "spelled" is used for a transliterated word, then "in English" should go along, in my opinion, for exactly the reason you mention.

Of course, the transliteration of a word (and often there may be multiple transliterations in use, especially from languages that have sounds that do not exactly match those in English) is typically going to be based on the pronunciation of the word (possibly, as in this case, in combination with the spelling of the English translation), so there will likely be a relationship between the spelling and the pronunciation, but the two terms are never synonymous.

Matthew W

Posted 2015-02-10T18:02:18.903

Reputation: 2 138


I agree with you: that usage looks questionable to me. I think that a more precise wording would be … transliterated as "Vikipedia". Then it becomes clear that you are spelling it in an alphabet not ordinarily used for Farsi.

Alternatively, just say pronounced as. The focus would be slightly different: on the sound rather than the textual representation of the sound.


Posted 2015-02-10T18:02:18.903

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