Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Eric Clapton in Japanese

While checking out a blog called "Who? Wot! Me?,"
I came across this picture with the caption "What do Japanese people really think of Eric Clapton?"

I, personally, am a big fan of Eric Clapton's music, but I still found humor in this Japanese attempt at spelling his name in English. There is, however, a very valid reason that the Japanese would spell Clapton's name as such and that is: the Japanese language does not have the "l- sound." Actually, the /l/ phoneme, as it is called, is unique among American English speech sounds.

The /l/ phoneme is classified as a sonorant approximant liquid by phoneticians - as is the /r/ phoneme. Although the /l/ and /r/ phonemes do have articulatory differences, many non-native American English speakers have difficulties differentiating between the two. These difficulties result in non-native speakers of English most frequently replacing the English /l/ phoneme with the /r/ phoneme.

This is why the Japanese pronounce Eric Clapton as Eric Crapton, not necessarily because they don't care for his music.

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