I found this term in Herisson’s answer to the question: How did “Pappa” become “Pope”?

I am wondering what a “regular sound change” is and why would it mean people stopped saying Pappa and began saying Pope?

  • 1
    Link for context please.
    – Mitch
    Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 12:37
  • 2
    A "regular sound change" in this context refers to some "original" phoneme that changed to a different sound over time in many different words (it wasn't just that certain words changed; it was all or almost all words with that sound). Note that not many people would have actually changed how they pronounced the phoneme at any specific point in time. Mostly it was new speakers slightly "mis-copying" the original sound, increasingly in the direction of what would become the new "standard" pronunciation. Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 12:39
  • I want to close this question, not because it were stupid, or that it could be researched by the author given time and will, but because it cannot be answered here. FF's comment is not an answer. It's overly simplistic, a just-so story. Changing pronounciation spontaneously is called code switching if it goes along with change of register, for example. What we see is first of all a change in spelling. The change in pronounciation has to be infered and this is where it gets difficult, if it wasn't before
    – vectory
    Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 14:00
  • 1
    @vectory You make some good points, but the question is asking for the explanation of a term. I guess could trip up on the research requirement, but not because it can’t be answered here - at least, not any more unanswerable than questions about idioms or technical terms. The term in question is also vague enough that it would be interesting to see how it is understood among linguists and others who use it. I’m happy to leave this question open.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Mar 30, 2020 at 0:19

1 Answer 1


A 'regular sound change' is a term for a concept from linguistics. It means that a particular sound consistently (or regularly) changes to another sound under the same circumstances. That is, there is a rule (a regular change) that specifies the change. For example, as herisson said:

A regular sound change turned Old English ā [ɑː] into Middle English [ɔː], a long back mid-open rounded vowel that was generally written with the letter o. And Middle English [ɔː] regularly develops to the modern English "long o" sound, which is spelled the same way.

In other words, in Old English in whatever circumstances there appeared an 'ā', then for the same circumstances, the same sequence in Middle English would replace the 'ā' with an 'ɔː'. For example, /pā pa/ -> /pɔː pa/.

(Note: I am unsure of whether Middle English had the 'silent e' change yet)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.