When I was a child, I thought that cemetery was pronounced cementery. The ones I saw certainly had stones and cement, and I never heard the word pronounced because my father called it "Marlborough Country" (like the cigarette commercials). When I pronounced the G in Long Island, my parents spent me to a speech therapist. They couldn't just tell me that the G was silent?
As I grew up and found friends who read as much as I did, I encountered other people with the same problem: using words we had never heard spoken. If you've never heard salmon or yacht, you're really going to be guessing.
The thing that brings this to mind now is that the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust has just released its first audio book: THE BRASS DRAGON. The narrator is Michael Spence, who has an excellent education; his Bachelor's degree is from Princeton, and he went on to get a PhD. But Marion read everything she could get her hands on from the time she was a child, and her vocabulary is extensive. When I was proofreading THE FALL OF ATLANTIS, I had to look up plangent to make certain it was an actual word and not a typo for something else.
Michael tripped up only once, when he put the accent on the wrong syllable of a word. Fortunately, I spent years listening to Marion talk, so I caught it in the review stage. Our next audio book project, however, is going to be a real challenge. We've just signed an agreement with him for SWORD OF ALDONES. Darkovan names and languages, here we come!
"When in doubt, pronounce it like Spanish or Italian, unless it looks like Gaelic...."
"Maybe we had better set up a conference call...."