Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

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

share|improve this question
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

1 Answer 1

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).

share|improve this answer
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

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.