I am unable to understand, why the sounds in english are not commonly spread. I looked into the IPA on google and could not understand, why the sounds change.

e.g. chef vs chair.

  • Look up the etymologies of chef and chair; then let us know what you discover and whether that answers your question. Keep in mind that English spelling and pronunciation have very little to do with each other :-) Dec 11 '14 at 15:41
  • I appreciate, Can you help me with a similar comparison...i.e. French origin vs English.
    – justjoined
    Dec 11 '14 at 15:47
  • 2
    You need to understand that English has absorbed words from probably two dozen different languages and this "absorption" has occurred over about a thousand years. Newer "loan words" tend to be spelled and pronounced roughly the same as the "donor" language, but older words have changed in both pronunciation and spelling. In particular, prior to about 1500 there was no standard spelling in English, and writers spelled words the way they sounded to them. Then the spelling was "hardened", but the pronunciation continued to change. This brought you "brought", among others.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 11 '14 at 16:32
  • For the very particular question. 'chef' is borrowed from French where they pronounce it as 'sh-', but 'chair' is not.
    – Mitch
    Dec 11 '14 at 18:58

It helps if you understand the origins of the words. Chair has been in the English language for a long time. Chef is a more recent borrowing from French, and hence is still pronounced the French way.


It would be a fine thing to have no irregularities in languages. But languages were not created at the drawing-board. They evolved over long periods of time. And if a word is borrowed from French as chef ( head or master of the kitchen) then it normally has the French pronunciation and that is /shef/.

It seems you have not yet discovered how many irregularities your mother tongue probably has.

  • It has so many irregularities, that they come around regularly.
    – Oldcat
    Dec 11 '14 at 19:24

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