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Why is it speaking/speech instead of speeking/speech or speaking/speach?

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You do realize that English spelling is mostly arbitrary, like Chinese characters, and is not supposed to "make sense". Right? – John Lawler Apr 3 '12 at 0:33
Ok, I guess that's the answer then. – Chloe Apr 3 '12 at 0:38
The fact that you have break and breach both spelt with ea confirms how arbitrary it can be. – Alan Gee Oct 13 '12 at 9:21
Actually, a bunch of English teachers got together back is 1627 and made up a list of words that they would spell oddly, just to drive students crazy. It's a conspiracy!! – Hot Licks Sep 4 '15 at 20:07
@Chloe: If you're interested in etymology, a better way of phrasing the question would be to ask "is there a reason for this difference in spelling? If there is, what is it?" Either a "yes" or a "no" answer should provide supporting evidence. – sumelic Sep 5 '15 at 3:05
up vote 1 down vote accepted

The spelling history of speech from the OED:

α. OE–ME spræc, sprec, ME sprace, spræche.

β. OE spæc, spec, ME spece, ME spæche ( spache, spiche), ME–15 speche (ME spieche), ME–15 spech, 15– speech, 15–16 speach, speache; Sc.15 speitche, 15–16 speiche.

The spelling history of speak from the OED:

α. OE sprecan, spreocan, spræcan; north. spreca, spræca, -spreaca; sprecca, spræcca; ME sprecon.

β. OE specan (ME -on), OE–ME specen, ME speken (ME Orm. spekenn), ME spekyn; OE–ME spæcon, ME -en, ME spæ(c)ken; ME speoken.

γ. ME–15 speke, ME–15 spek, ME spec, speck, ME speike, 15–16 speake, 15–17 Sc. speik, 15– speak (Irish 17–18 spake).

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Wow I totally didn't understand that, but looks legit. With so many variations, perhaps someone at some point did spell them similar, but they were not popular enough. – Chloe Apr 3 '12 at 1:14
That just gives more of the difference. Can you elaborate on 'why'? – Mitch Apr 3 '12 at 1:30
@Mitch: whimsy and serendipity. – Brett Reynolds Apr 3 '12 at 11:19

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