04 October 2005

Pronouncing Kyrgyzstan

I have heard Kyrgyzstan pronounced by Americans about every way imaginable, so here's a quick lesson on how to pronounce it correctly.

First you have to decide if you want to be totally authentic or not. The Russian pronunciation is close, but not quite right. However, it is easier for us to use the Russian translation:

keer-GEEZ-i-stan (the -i- syllable isn't quite there, but it isn't not there either).

For the Kyrgyz pronounciation, you use a tricky little sound that a bit like "uy" or maybe a cross between "oy" and "i." You've almost got to hear it to use it. It's a shorter sounding vowel than "ee." Also, the first syllable is stressed- KYR-gyz-stan. Those y's are where you use the other vowel sound. And make sure you roll that "r." And that "g" is a "g," not a "j."

The Russian pronunciation is fine, especially in comparison to the shudderingly awful "KIR-jiz-stan" that many Americans seem to like.


  1. Do you hear Russian's pronouncing the -i- syllable? A native Turkic speaker undoubtedly would. The zs and khs sounds in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are pretty tough on them. But I had never heard Russians pronouncing the i sound (not that I ever paid real close attention). I did hear them say Kyrgyzia quite a bit though.

    My Uzbek teacher called the current spelling of "Kyrgyz" curious. She still usually writes Kirghiz because it's a little closer to what it actually sounds like. She thinks that the transliteration of the "bi" (looking) letter to "y" causes a bit of pronunciation confusion, but it's the Library of Congress way of doing it.

  2. I haven't heard it as much with Russians. I'll have to start asking people.

    When I finally figured out that y was a transliteration of "bi" everything made a lot more sense. I think "i" is a better transliteration too.

    Americans would pronounce Kirghiz a bit better than they do Kyrgyz, and that's worth something.