This post originally featured on the former Language of Football blog in Summer 2012 

Until recently, I would not have been aware as to any other pronunciation of the former Chelsea and Tottenham midfielder’s name. But it was in a recent post-match interview at current club Brighton which piqued my interest (unfortunately, at time of press, said interview has not been discovered amongst the mounds of videos from Seagulls fans).

The interviewer raised a query that must have been brought to light as a result of Poyet’s rising profile. Poyet affirmed that, yes, his surname is pronounced differently in his home of Montevideo but, ultimately, the matter was of little importance (Dirk Kuyt echoes this sentiment in one of my prior posts). The Uruguayan, or Montevideon, pronunciation sounds more like /pochett/, going against a central European pronunciation which would soften the consonant sounds, or leave them unpronounced altogether.

Compared with Kuyt, however, Poyet’s native pronunciation of his surname is stark. Naturally, our immediate association is influenced by our innate, central European language, thereby making a familiar /oi/ sound for the first syllable, followed by the /eh/ sound for the “silent t” in the second syllable. As Poyet himself would be first to reiterate, this is in no way incorrect and, etymologically, this pronunciation doesn’t stray from the name’s Indo-European/Romance roots.

But the transformation of the written ‘y’ into a /sh/ sound – or [ʃ] in phonetics – is an unusual phenomenon for those of us in Europe, certainly in Britain. Further reading into this native pronunciation lead me to the Spanish dialect of Poyet’s home of Montevideo; Rioplatense – or River Plate Spanish – a South American dialectal version of Spanish, primarily found in Argentina and Uruguay and the wider area around the Rio de la Plata. This dialect is also referred to as castellano, another term for Spanish, used primarily by those in autonomous communities of Spain such as the Basque country and Catalonia.  Dialects of said communities are immediately related to Rioplatense.

This form of Spanish bears a linguistic feature that directly influences Poyet’s name; Yeísmo – where the written /ll/ or [ʎ] (e.g. the sound of the /lli/ in “million”) merges with the written /y/ to create the sound [ʝ] (like an English /yuh/ but produced further back along the mouth so it almost becomes the /j/ sound in words like “gin”). For example, the Spanish word hoya (“pit”, “hole”) would be pronounced the same as olla (“pot”) in regional Spanish dialects.

For the Rioplatense dialect spoken by Poyet’s peers in Buenos Aires and Montevideo, the apparent presence of yeísmo in words featuring the written ‘y’ are pronounced with more friction from the tongue against the roof of the mouth, hence the production of a /sh/ rather than the /yuh/ sound of [ʝ]. Therefore, the ‘y’ in Poyet would be pronounced /sh/. This particular feature of Rioplatense is referred to as sheísmo, highlighting the change in pronunciation for the aforementioned region.

Regions of South America without yeismo (pink) and regions with (violet).

Ultimately, much as with other pronunciations of non-European – nay non-British names – the simpler avenue in pronouncing the name phonemically, or to pronounce it as seen, is in no way false. As per the preference of the individual, the European pronunciation continues, but at least with a heightened awareness of the original etymology and phonology.

Read more about yeismo
Read more about Rioplatense
The man in question

Some great chat from Brighton fans regarding this issue – http://www.northstandchat.com/archive/index.php/t-162102.html