Just curious to know whether people who have a lisp (speech defect) ever write in the same way as they pronounce the word. For example, they pronounce s as /θ/ and z as /ð/. So, do they ever substitute "th" for "s" in writing, such as spelling the word sick as "thick"?

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  • 8
    The fact that the commonest Spanish pronunciation of S is not the same as the English S does not mean 'Spanish is spoken with a lisp', any more than it means 'Americans can't pronounce S properly'. – TimLymington Apr 25 '13 at 11:00
  • Possible candidate for ELL? – Matt Apr 25 '13 at 11:55
  • 4
    Why on earth would a lisper spell words featuring an "s" differently? Who would even think that? Most times, lispers are not aware of their lisp. If they were, they would not lisp. They can be trained to be aware of their pronunciation and work on the "correct", non-lisp pronunciation. If they are not aware that they are lisping, why would anyone think that they would "thpell wordth the thame way that they are thpeaking?" – teylyn Apr 25 '13 at 12:12
  • 1
    Many words are pronounced differently - but spelt the same - in the US & UK. Also some words are spelt differently in the two countries - but pronounced the same. This demonstrates that there is little connection between spelling and pronunciation. – TrevorD May 28 '13 at 11:09
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    Thometimeth, but it'th rare. – Epanoui Sep 20 '14 at 2:40

No, they don't. Spelling is not entirely related to pronunication.

Just as people without a lisp have to work out the difference between bough, cough, dough and tough, people with a lisp know that the word they pronounce as lithp isn't spelled that way.

However: you are looking at this the wrong way.

A person with a lisp says that word [cruel irony!] /lɪθp/ but what they are actually saying is lisp. The fact that that sounds different to how others pronounce it doesn't change the way it's spelled. One might just as well ask about a word pronounced /treɪt̬ə/ but spelled traitor not trader.

  • Of course, some authors might attempt to convey a lisped utterance in a way the reader might readily grasp. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 25 '13 at 11:01
  • True. Oi moight attampt to wroite in a Sarssex arcsunt. – Andrew Leach Apr 25 '13 at 11:04
  • Rather like one of the most famous of all literary figures, who for a time had such a bad cold that his speeches at a banquet were limited to "Thag you very buch." – Edwin Ashworth Apr 25 '13 at 11:39
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    One minor correction. Spelling is not regularly related to pronunciation at all in Modern English. English spelling is Middle English spelling; that's why we can read Chaucer, with a little help, but if we heard it, we'd never understand what they were saying, because the sounds changed but the spelling didn't. – John Lawler Apr 25 '13 at 15:52
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    @John: While English spelling and pronunciation are less closely conexed than in many other languages (e.g. Turkish), still are various types of conexions exist. Sometimes one's particular accent or idiosyncratic pronunciation may shine through one's spelling; although this usually does not happen, it is not rare. It may be either deliberate or unintended. Dutch example: mijn is pronounced /mən/ bij most people, but /mə/ by certain people. It has been observed that the latter people make the typo me more often than most others. I myself occasionally typo mijn as men, but never as me. – Cerberus Dec 4 '16 at 6:28

Actually, I used to have a fairly pronounced lisp up until mid teens and I do occasionally "lisp" when typing, particularly when tired or distracted. For instance, I was just using instant messaging and asked a colleague "Is this the thought of thing you're looking for?" (thought=sort). It's particularly interesting that I wrote "thought" (making a valid word, but used in the wrong context) rather than "thort". Note that this isn't due to any spell checker as the message wasn't spell checked. I catch myself "lisp typing" like this rarely - maybe once or twice a year, and I think it has always resulted in a valid word (such as "thought" above) though I can't be sure.

  • Very interesting; I suspected that this might sometimes happen. Spelling and pronunciation are connected in convoluted and unpredictable ways. – Cerberus Dec 4 '16 at 6:20

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