Yagnobi or Yaghnobi? April 21, 2007Posted by Bahrom in Linguistics, Yaghnobi.
Is there a “correct” English way to spell Yaghnobi? (The name Yaghnobi comes from Yaghnob, the name of both the river, and river valley in north-western Tajikistan that is the traditional home of the Yaghnobipeople.) I have been spelling the name with “gh”, representing a voiced velar fricative, because it reflects the way Yaghnobisactually pronounce the name of their language. However, it seems that in English, the spelling with “g” is more common. Perhaps this is because the modern English language (at least American English) does not have a “gh” sound.
A quick web search shows that Yagnobi is the more common spelling on web pages from well known organizations. This is the spelling used by the Ethnologue fifteenth edition, LinguistList, Rosetta Project, UN Tajikistan, and National Geographic. On the other hand, Yaghnobi is the spelling used in the Encyclopedia Britannica, Columbia Encyclopedia sixth edition, and the Oxford English Dictionary (with Yagnobi as an alternate spelling in the OED). Neither spelling appears in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary eleventh edition, The American Heritage Dictionary fourth edition, The World Book Encyclopedia , nor Encarta.
So, it appears that both spellings can be found in respected and influential publications. If there is any such thing as an official spelling, it would be the spelling used by the International Organization for Standardization. The official site of the ISO 639-3 Registration Authority for the identification of language names uses the spelling “Yagnobi” and lists YAI as the three letter language code. (For more information see Three-letter codes for the world’s languages « Sociolingo’s Africa.)
In conclusion, there does not seem to be a single correct English spelling for Yagnobi,
but the variant without an “h” is more standard. So in future posts, I will use the more standard spelling.
4/16/07 Update:I’ve revised my conclusion (see the discussion in the comments.) At this time, there really is no standard spelling in English, and not that much precedent for one spelling versus the other. The purpose of ISO 639-3 is not to standardize the spelling of the names of languages, but to establish three letter codes that are an international way to identify a language. Therefore, I will continue using the spelling “Yaghnobi” since it honors the pronunciation used by the speakers of the language.