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The following words which end with an ean are pronounced as /*i:n/ whereas Sean is pronounced as /ʃɒn/:

bean, dean, lean, mean...

Why is Sean not pronounced as /si:n/ but as /ʃɒn/? Where does this irregularity come from? Are there known rules in English for such cases?

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Like with most things in English, the only rule is, you have to learn it. :/ –  Marthaª May 23 '12 at 18:05
Martha's right. Some other "odd" ea words include: earth, dealt, break, hearth... –  J.R. May 23 '12 at 18:17
There is a Television weatherman named Sean McLaughlin who does pronounce it 'Seen'. Names are funny things and people are not obliged to follow any rules when determining how they want them pronounced. –  Jim May 23 '12 at 20:22
We pronounce it as /ʃɔ:n/ here, but your point still stands. –  deutschZuid May 23 '12 at 22:20

1 Answer 1

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Sean is an Irish name, and so follows a completely different set of rules. Siobhan is another Irish name with a very non-English pronunciation.

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In fact Sean is just the Irish variant of John. –  Joel Spolsky May 23 '12 at 23:13
Similarly the Irish analogue of "James" is Séamus, pronounced /ʃeɪməs/. –  Mark Dominus May 25 '12 at 15:43

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