Myanmar or Burma? Apple's dictionary had an opinion

Language Log notes that Apple's Dictionary program (v. 1.02 running in Tiger) gave an interesting pronunciation for "Myanmar:" It's pronounced "Burma."

Language Log notes that Apple's Dictionary program (v. 1.02 running in Tiger) gave an interesting pronunciation for "Myanmar:" It's pronounced "Burma."

Language Log

I would tend to think this is an accident, but it's an interesting one. I've edited articles that required the country to be called Burma for political reasons and others that follow the international convention of calling it Myanmar. Either way, if I were manufacturing this sort of thing I might flag all the controversial geographical terms for careful review.

Another reason it is probably an accident (and not someone's intentional statement) is that it only appears this way in one phonetic system. According to TidBits, a Mac blog that apparently first reported this, "Dictionary has three different options for displaying the pronunciation key, which you can select in the Preferences window: U.S. English (Diacritical), U.S. English (IPA), and British English (IPA). It turns out that only the two IPA (international phonetic alphabet) choices show the pronunciation of "Burma"; the U.S. English (Diacritical) pronunciation is correct."

Now, sitting as I am just a couple of kilometers from North Korea in Dandong, Liaoning Province, China, the question arises: Is it North Korea or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea? China or the People's Republic of China? Am I American, U.S. American, "from the United States," or just a foreigner? Apple's dictionary has no help for me there.

About the author

    Formerly a journalist and consultant in Beijing, Graham Webster is a graduate student studying East Asia at Harvard University. At Sinobyte, he follows the effects of technology on Chinese politics, the environment, and global affairs. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network, and is not an employee of CNET. Disclosure.

     

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