Technical questions about the sound patterns of English.

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28
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4answers
3k views

Why did only English undergo the Great Vowel Shift, making pronunciation stray so far from spelling?

Lots of people have wondered why English seems to be one of very few languages with such irregular spelling, far from its pronunciation. The answers include the Norman invasion, and the Great Vowel ...
22
votes
8answers
2k views

Are “traitor” and “trader” pronounced the same?

Are "traitor" and "trader" distinguishable when spoken with any English accent? My English-speaking friends seem to pronounce them exactly the same way.
21
votes
2answers
2k views

Why do written English vowels differ from other Latin-based orthographies?

Written English vowels differ from other Latin-based orthographies. Consider what the written vowels in the romance languages represent. Also, for example, consider this simple comparision between a ...
21
votes
3answers
2k views

Is there a rule for pronouncing “th” at the beginning of a word?

Consider the th in thistle versus the th in this: the former is unvoiced, while the latter is voiced. Is there a rule or reason for the differences?
21
votes
4answers
682 views

Why do photons and protons exhibit such anomalous behavior?

I first noticed in this answer that there is something sneaky going on with the word photon: its ‹t› is the stressed allophone of /t/, a fully aspirated [tʰ]. It does not reduce to [t] or [ɾ] the way ...
18
votes
6answers
3k views

When do I pronounce a non-existing “r” between adjacent vowel sounds?

If I say two words consecutively, with the first ending in a vowel sound and the second starting with one, when is it correct to include a non-existing r between those two words? Examples from ...
15
votes
4answers
2k views

How do you proceed from pronouncing “t” in the regular way to t-glottalization, as found in various English accents?

It's just strange to me because "t" is pronounced with the front teeth, while the glottalized "t" is produced with the back of the throat; that seems like quite a noticeable journey that couldn't have ...
14
votes
1answer
611 views

Is the pronunciation of the letters “Y” and “I” supposed to be identical?

My son and I were reciting the Spanish alphabet recently. "Y" is i griega, which means "Greek i." This got me thinking about the English letter Y and its function in our alphabet. All of the words ...
12
votes
1answer
321 views

Why doesn't “wish” have the letter “n” in it?

The English word "wish" is akin to the German word "wünschen", the reconstructed Proto-Germanic word being "wunskijanan" (according to Wiktionary). What happened to the letter n in the middle of the ...
12
votes
1answer
382 views

Ordering of English sound changes in verbal morphology

As we all know, the Early Modern English 3sg verbal ending -eth has become -s in Modern English. This presumably happened in two steps: Elision of the unstressed e in the final syllable Changing ...
11
votes
6answers
3k views

How can I practice differentiating between the “æ” and “ɛ” sounds in English phonology?

For a non-native English speaker like me, it's always been hard to sound æ and ɛ differently. For example, "salary" and "celery" are two words that I tend to pronounce identically. Is it OK to go on ...
10
votes
5answers
948 views

Looking for a minimal triple

I am looking for a minimal triple for a particular set of phonemes. By minimal triple, I mean three actual English words that differ in one and only one phoneme between them. Examples therefore ...
10
votes
3answers
2k views

“nt” pronounced as “n” in American English (as in “Internet”): what is it called?

I know that pronouncing "t" as "d" is called a flap t, but is there a name for pronouncing "nt" as "n" in some words, as is common in American English? Examples: "Internet" is pronounced as "inner ...
10
votes
3answers
367 views

Do onomatopoeic words lose their onomatopoeic character?

Wikipedia mentions that: Some languages flexibly integrate onomatopoeic words into their structure. This may evolve into a new word, up to the point that it is no longer recognized as ...
10
votes
4answers
572 views

Why “English” but not “Anglish”?

Etymology of English from Etymonline: Old English Englisc (contrasted to Denisc, Frencisce, etc.), from Engle (plural) "the Angles," the name of one of the Germanic groups that overran the island ...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

Does the 18th century contraction “on't” survive phonologically in English today?

The February 18th-24th edition of The Economist has an article titled "Neurons v free will" in which the author, Anthony Gottlieb begins by quoting Dr. Johnson's statement about free will: "Sir ...
9
votes
5answers
1k views

Are there any “-nk-” or “-nc-” words in English where there isn't a “ng” before the “k” sound?

In words like think and lank, we actually seem to be saying "thing-k" and "lang-k." Can anyone thing-k of any words or rules for sound use where this doesn't happen?
9
votes
5answers
508 views

How is the pronunciation of r before th? Specific case: “north”

Some consonants such as n,d,t are usually alveolar in English, except that they are replaced by dentals when they are before dental fricatives (th): tenth, said this, in the…. What about "r" before ...
8
votes
2answers
587 views

How do I represent the “-ed” in “witnessed” phonetically?

How do I represent the -ed in witnessed (or any other similar word) phonetically? Is there a reference sheet somewhere for these? I notice that other endings do not get shown in most dictionaries ...
8
votes
4answers
14k views

Syllable division of VCV pattern in words such as “salad” and “lemon”

In words such as salad /sæləd/, you have a VCV pattern (vowel-consonant-vowel), in which the first vowel is short. The syllable division of such words is generally done after the consonant, i.e, as ...
8
votes
3answers
472 views

Which does English “l” and “r” sound come under, an allophone or different phonemes?

I was very much embarrassed when I was pointed out by ELU Senpai that I made a great mistake by misspelling ‘Mod election’ as ‘Mod erection’ during ELU chat. We Japanese often make a silly mistake of ...
8
votes
1answer
358 views

Why did /x/ change to /f/ in English?

As we know, the English language doesn't have the /x/ phoneme anymore (at least in an everyday kind of context*) and the sound seems to have been dropped in many words, such as in light or eight. ...
8
votes
1answer
373 views

American refusal of the IPA: why?

Are there any historical or political reasons for the rather consistent refusal of the International Phonetic Alphabet on the part of American academics? Did Mark Twain's ...
7
votes
4answers
991 views

What is the name of the phoneme produced in an upper-class Briton's pronunciation of the word “Duke”? What's different in the articulation?

When someone with a Received Pronunciation accent pronounces the word duke, as in The Duke of York, he doesn't pronounce it with a "hard" 'd', as one might pronounce the word duh, but a softer type ...
7
votes
1answer
688 views

How did the “double consonant to shorten vowel” thing come about? (“furry” vs. “fury”)

In English, a doubled consonant most commonly means "shorten the previous vowel", where "shorten" means map phonemes like this: [aɪ] -> [i] [oʊ] -> [ɔ] etc For example, fury is pronounced [fjʊri] ...
6
votes
1answer
345 views

“An Ewt” to “A Newt”?

What is it called when English speakers, over a long period of time, start adding the letter "n" to the beginning of a word by accident, due to use of the article "an"? For instance, I read somewhere ...
6
votes
2answers
2k views

Why don't “-use” verb-noun pairs obey initial stress derivation?

It's well known (and several past questions on this SE have covered) that to convert a two-syllable Latin-derived English verb into a noun, you shift the stress to the first syllable. This is ...
6
votes
1answer
2k views

Variations in the pronunciation of “ea”

Perhaps this is more of a Linguistics question, so I apologize if this is not posted in the right place. Why is it that these words in English sound so different? earth   = /ɜrθ/     “urth” hearth ...
5
votes
3answers
297 views

Why is “poignant” pronounced /ˈpɔɪɲənt/?

I felt a little bit strange when I heard poignant pronounced as /ˈpɔɪɲənt/. It is also pronounced as /ˈpɔɪgnənt/, but the former seems to be more popular. A word stagnant has similar spelling, but ...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

Why is it “Paris’s cafés” but “Massachusetts’ capital”?

I’ve been studying the apostrophe and found this in Merriam-Webster’s Guide to Punctuation and Style: The possessives of proper names are generally formed in the same way as those of common nouns. ...
5
votes
1answer
437 views

About pronouncing the 's' in plural nouns

A general rule of English pronunciation states that the 's' in plural nouns is to be pronounced as /z/ if it is preceded by a 'voiced consonant' such as /n/ or /g/, and as /s/ if it is preceded by a ...
5
votes
2answers
4k views

phonetics vs. phonology [closed]

I'm reading an article about phonetics and phonology, and it clamis that they are different. But I can't locate where the difference is located. Referring to my dictionary, I can see: Phonetics: ...
5
votes
2answers
392 views

Why is “Conquer” pronounced /'kɔŋkɚ/ but not /'kɔŋkwɚ/

In English QU is always used as a digraph. Que pronounces the sound [K] at the ending of many words:unique, technique, antique, physique, clique, grotesque. However, the combination QU has the ...
5
votes
3answers
270 views

Strange verb string tonal pattern

In a sentence involving a string of verbs as a list (as opposed to modifying each other), the standard American English tonal pattern for that string almost always begins high and decreases in pitch ...
4
votes
1answer
3k views

Hwat, hwere, and hwy?

In which English accents do they put an h before every word that starts with wh? Example from Youtube. Notice his pronunciation of whisky.
4
votes
2answers
257 views

Is there such a thing as an unvoiced vowel?

I can't think of any and google has not been helpful.
4
votes
2answers
419 views

What is the articulatory logic behind the “a/an” rule in English?

Is there some articulatory reason behind why we choose to preface consonant sounds with the article a and vowel sounds with an? The reasoning I've read in the comments somewhere, I don't remember ...
3
votes
2answers
1k views

Why are many TV personalities beginning to pronounce “daughter” as “dotter”?

I have noticed the changing of proununciations of words with -au and -aw by TV presenters which is spilling over into everyday speech. For example “dotter” for daughter, “otto” for auto, “jah” for ...
3
votes
4answers
3k views

Do phonetic symbols have names in English?

I know diacritical marks have names in English: cedilla, umlaut, etc. Are there names for phonetic symbols too? How does one call the "sh" sound which is referred to by the integral sign /∫/? Or the ...
3
votes
3answers
382 views

Correct pronunciation of “TT”? [closed]

A single t between vowels sounds like a d to me (or like an r in my language, Brazilian Portuguese). May I say the tt spelling the same way, or does that only work for a single t?
3
votes
2answers
9k views

Semi-vowels in English [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When is “Y” a vowel? Why are 'w' and 'y' called semi-vowels in English?
3
votes
4answers
448 views

What is a “sounds like” thesaurus called?

A dictionary contains word definitions. A thesaurus contains words that mean the same (synonyms). I'm looking for a name for a word dictionary that will give you rhymes (or "sounds like") of a word. ...
3
votes
2answers
908 views

American English Pronunciation of “o” sound long or short?

I'm always confused about how to pronounce words with letter o in spelling. For example, in the word boss, I always pronounce the o as short o, when in fact it is long o. Collar is short, but I always ...
3
votes
2answers
657 views

Pronunciation of final T sounds in English

What's the word to describe the phenomenon of the final 't' sound becoming a stop without aspiration, vs. how it sounds at the beginning of a word? Does any one particular dialect/accent of English ...
3
votes
2answers
164 views

Words like “threshold”?

Threshold is pronounced like "thresh-hold" as noted in this question, however, what is interesting is that there is only one h in the word, and it serves two phonetic roles (being part of sh and as a ...
3
votes
1answer
135 views

How many syllables were in 3ps endings with -th

When reading the King James Version of the Bible, we often hear, e.g., "maketh" pronounced in two syllables. Is this an accurate reflection of the pronunciation of that word when it was commonly used? ...
3
votes
2answers
154 views

AmE Phonetics: T-voicing after <l>

Cut to the chase: While listening Eminem's track Headlights I've noticed a kinda voicing process in the sentence "You're still beautiful to me" around 1:13 on the song, where the preposition seems to ...
3
votes
1answer
554 views

Pronunciation of voiced “th” triggers a consonant shift of “d” and “r”

There is a class of words, mainly such as the, this, that, these, those, though, although, then, there, thus, the archaic thou, thee, thy, thine, thyself, thence; which I always find myself ...
2
votes
2answers
4k views

Sounds of the letter a

How can I know, precisely, when to differentiate the sounds of the letter a, like in: apple and vault?
2
votes
2answers
466 views

Can vowels be combined in English without forming diphthongs?

Usually all combinations of vowels in English function as diphthongs. Are there any combinations of vowels in English that do not function as diphthongs? if there are no such examples - I would be ...