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65

The answer to this is.... complicated. The letter J is, as you mentioned, relatively recent, and originated as a variant of the letter I. Why that happens is a little complicated, and requires unpacking some assumptions in your question. In the original languages (Latin, Greek, Hebrew) which provide us with the names Jesus, Joseph, Justinian, etc., the ...


60

Your dictionary goes further than Johnson's, for which the entire chapter for X was thus: X Is a letter, which, though found in Saxon words, begins no word in the English language. And actually, it's not found in that many Saxon words. Saxon itself was one exception; Seaxe in Anglo-Saxon, as was the seax, the knife from which they took their name. (The ...


34

I don't have any proof, but a big clue to me is that the letter X in the default case represents the sound sequence /ks/, which is not a valid onset according to the rules of English phonotactics. That is, spellings of words don't start with X because pronunciations of words don't start with /ks/. All the words that do start with X have an exceptional ...


20

It appears that I probably draw a finer distinction here than others may, but the good thing is that for those that say the two are interchangeable, my usage will seem unremarkable, and for those that care, my usage will seem consistent. I use extendable in cases where it means the opposite of retractable. In other words, a telescoping wand is extendable, ...


13

I would say still life has undergone reification, which transforms it into a "standalone word". How the subcomponent elements work grammatically doesn't automatically affect how the composite form works. Effectively it's a kind of neologism - not really "new" today, but a lot later than the original word life with its irregular plural. Neologisms almost ...


12

The directly analogous term is indeed consonant cluster, a combination of consonant sounds that appear together. It is possible that you are thinking of a digraph, which however is two characters representing a single sound, rather than a blending of adjacent sounds as with a dipthong or consonant cluster. For example, the ch in church or the sh in hashish ...


11

I believe that the assumption behind this question is not quite right. You say, much of English wasn't standardized until the 19th century. but from my own research, it seems that the standardization of English spelling largely took place in the course of the 17th and 18th centuries, and was more or less complete in Britain by the mid-to-late 18th ...


10

There are lots and lots of these. They usually came to us that way straight from Latin, and seldom mean anything different from each other. One may be more rare than another, though. comprehendible, comprehensible corrodable, corrodible, corrosible defendable, defensible deridable, derisible dividable, divisible evadable, evasible expandable, expansible ...


10

The usage stats from the British National Corpus (BNC) look as follows: ALL SPOKEN FICTION MAGAZINE NEWSPAPER ACADEMIC NON-ACAD MISC dammit 125 3 99 3 8 0 7 5 damnit no results damn it 158 12 137 1 1 0 2 5 And here are the stats from the Corpus of ...


9

In normal speech, consonant clusters are generally simplified, because, as you point out, they're complicated and difficult to pronounce. For instance, the pronunciation of the fractional plural sixths, as in five-sixths '5/6', is sposta be /sɪksθs/, ending in a godawful cluster of four voiceless (i.e, whispered) consonants. But nobody ever says /sɪksθs/. ...


9

As @Laure mentions, this really belongs to the Linguistics group as this is a wider question pertinent to Latin and all/most Latin-influenced European languages. Classical Latin did not have a distinct J sound (the J as we know in English.) When I was followed by another vowel, it usually sounded similar to English /Y/. Thus we had Iulius which was as if ...


8

Consider these English words: rosin, rose (the flower), rose (past tense of rise), prose, chosen, lederhosen and these names, which may not be of English origin but are familiar to English speakers: Ambrose, Montrose, Rosenkrantz, Bose The are all pronounced with a 'z'. I can't think of any more off the top of my head, but on the other hand ...


8

Contrary to what you learned in school, there are more than just vowels and consonants. In words like 'onion', the i serves as a semi-vowel, or glide. This is represented in IPA as /ˈʌn jən/ and the letter i represents the /j/ sound, which is the same sound as at the start of the word "yes".


8

In the middle of an English word, like axe, the letter x denotes the consonant pairing ks. There are no words in English which begin with the ks phonemes. The reason is simply "just because": English morphology does not manifest a leading ks and that is that. Since English words do not have that sound at the beginning, that explains why there aren't any ...


8

Summary Answer Here are the chances of each letter being followed by a vowel (defined to be [aeiouy]), a consonant, or a hyphen taking from the OED list described below, and with rounding: a: C= 90%, V= 7%, -= 1% b: C= 32%, V= 65%, -= 1% c: C= 40%, V= 59%, -= 0% d: C= 17%, V= 77%, -= 4% e: C= 79%, V= 14%, -= 5% f: C= 31%, V= 68%, -= 1% g: C= 35%, V= 57%, ...


7

Archchronicler, catchphrase, eschscholtzia, latchstring, lengthsman, and postphthisic each have six consonants in a row. HIRSCHSPRUNG'S (DISEASE) has seven consecutive consonants, as does SCHTSCHUROWSKIA. The shortest such word is TSKTSKS. All of these words can be found in major English dictionaries.


7

Because still lifes are not the same thing as still lives. Similarly, mouses are not the same thing as mice.


7

"Letters" are not pronounced in English; but the plural is simple as long as you don't think of letters, but sounds. It's /-s/ after voiceless consonants (/p t k f θ/) /-z/ after everything else. Plus, you have to add a shwa /ə/ after sibilants /s ʃ tʃ z ʒ dʒ/ before you add /-z/. That's it. That's the whole rule. It's not a spelling rule, it's ...


7

The quick answer is "yes" to both questions. Before j became differentiated from i, the "J" sound could be spelled with g in various combinations (edge, gem, exaggerate, etc.); and in ancient times, the names you mentioned were pronounced with an initial "Y" sound. Transcribed from Hebrew, Jesus was Yeshua. The Romans would have spelled Justinian ...


6

He's getting close. Now close the door. Did you see what happened there? The first close is pronounces with the soft s; the latter is pronounced with the sound of a z. Sure, those are actually two words – the former being an adjective meaning nearby, the latter being a verb that means to shut. But this demonstrates that, in English, even when two ...


6

In deference to FumbleFingers's authority as a British citizen, I won't outright disagree (and I've given +1 for a great response). However, my Google-fu paints a somewhat different picture. It was precisely due to the existence of various British dialects and rising literacy in the English Renaissance that language needed to be standardized. Up until ...


6

Irregular plurals and irregular deverbal nouns (i.e., nouns formed from verbs, like house /hauz/ from house /haus/) are frequently restricted in the way that your example and Barrie's (computer) mouses illustrate: the irregular form is only used for the most common meaning, with a fully regular form being used in neologisms and other variants. Other ...


6

Palatal vowels (i), semivowels (y), and liquids (r) often influence the sound of preceding consonants, a process called palatalization. This is most obvious with dental consonants like t and s, which typically become tch and sh. For example, train often sounds like tchrain. Palatalization is consistent for some English forms, like the shun sound of the ...


6

Representing unknowns as x, y, z was proposed by René Descartes. He also proposed to represent knowns as a, b, c. Others picked it up, and basically that is all there is to it. Descartes lived in the 17th century, so the convention isn't that old, either. And as you can see, x is but one in a sequence of letters having "importance", it just happens to be the ...


5

Damnit could be used, though you're better off with "dammit" or "damn it". As per Wiktionary: damnit Nonstandard contraction of damn +‎ it Interjection (especially southern US) Common misspelling of dammit. Edit: To any downvoter(s), please let me know how to improve my answer. At a -1 rating, I'd like my answer to at least be neutral if it's ...


5

I am not certain of the underlying linguistic rule, but there is a loose English pronunciation rule, explicitly taught in schools to help remember spellings, that says certain vowels that are separated from 'e' or 'i' by only a single consonant will change their pronunciation. When the original pronunciation of the vowel must be maintained, the consonant ...


5

For background, see the Wikipedia entry on sound change. For explanation of the terms referring to consonant types, see the entry for obstruent. Compare the latin admittere and admittionem. In the latter form the coronal stop [t] is followed by a high front vowel. A stop--high vowel sequence is one of the most common sources for a consonant mutation ...


5

Congrads is an incorrect spelling of this abbreviation. Put Congrads in any word processor and it will return an incorrect spelling. This is because "d" does not appear in Congratulations. Unfortunately, many people ignore this and still use Congrads. If you want to stay grammatically correct, use Congrats.


5

Congrads is found just often enough to irritate people. A web-search will find people complaining about it, though http://www.collinsdictionary.com/submission/9542/Congrads is someone trying to actually have that form considered for inclusion in Collins' dictionary. The fact that they suggest it is short for "congradulations" [sic] points to this actually ...


5

Florian Cajori, in A History of Mathematical Notations, writes (page 381): The use of z, y, x .... to represent unknowns is due to René Descartes, in his La géométrie (1637). Without comment, he introduces the use of the first letters of the alphabet to signify known quantities and the use of the last letters to signify unknown quantities. His own ...



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