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6
votes
1answer
149 views

The spelling “ui” and the pronunciation /uː/ in juice, fruit, bruise, cruise, sluice, suit, nuisance, recruit, bruit

The words juice, fruit, bruise, cruise, sluice, suit, pursuit, suitcase, lawsuit, nuisance, recruit, bruit are spelled with ui and pronounced with the IPA phoneme /uː/. Full pronunciations from OED: ...
5
votes
2answers
78 views

Different etymologies for spoken and written forms

I know a word in another language which appears at first to have a highly irregular spelling that does not match the pronunciation. However, further examination suggests that the spoken and written ...
3
votes
1answer
158 views

What's the history of the English letter “Y” as a “sometimes vowel”?

Wondering when and why historically the Anglo-Saxon letter "Y" became a (part-time) vowel substitute for the letter "I", leading to "gymnasium" instead of "gimnasium" or "cyanide" instead of "cianide" ...
1
vote
4answers
313 views

Why is English not constantly updated to better match written and spoken versions? [closed]

I understand that English has a lot of history and lots of weird corner cases come from French or German origins. However, even native English speakers no longer speak nor write identical to ...
14
votes
2answers
2k views

Why do some nicknames have no apparent relation with their original counterparts? [duplicate]

I find it unusual and rather contrary to common sense and logic that some nicknames should have no apparent relation to their original names, such as "Jack" for "John(eg. JFK)" or "Jonathan", "Patsy" ...
5
votes
4answers
778 views

What are the historical justifications for first-syllable stress in the word “orthoepy”?

Funnily enough, the word orthoepy (or orthoëpy) meaning “(the study of) correct (or standard) pronunciation” has no single established correct pronunciation: it may be stressed on either the first or ...
1
vote
0answers
115 views

Was the use of accents in -ed adjectives ever common-place? When were they first used in modern books?

The distinction between the words blessèd (/ˈblɛsəd/) and blessed (/blɛst/) (see Grammarbook) appears to be wearing thin in modern language, possibly due to reduced accent usage and its resultant lack ...
2
votes
2answers
1k views

History and Explanation of Scientific English Pronunciation Convention: PS, PN, PT

A research question on pronunciation I have been looking for the explanation and history of the English pronunciation convention of not pronouncing the P at the start of double consonant scientific ...
4
votes
2answers
3k views

Why is the letter “c” pronounced like /s/ when it comes before “e”, “i”, or “y”, but as /k/ elsewhere?

Could you please tell me why from an historical point of view that when the letter c comes directly before the letters e, i or y in English that we use the /s/ sound, but in other cases we use the /k/ ...
9
votes
1answer
2k views

The X in Xavier

The NOAD lists the pronunciation of Xavier as (ig)ˈzāvēər. In my own experience the parenthetical pronunciation is very common. I, however, do not know of any other x-initial words that are vowel-...
27
votes
4answers
4k views

Why did the letter “o” disappear in the word “pronunciation”?

The verb pronounce has the letter o in its second syllable, but in the noun pronunciation, that same letter disappears from the corresponding position. Why is that?
34
votes
4answers
11k views

Why are Leicester & co pronounced as they are?

What is the origin of the pronunciation of words like Leicester, Gloucester, Worcestershire? Presumably, the spelling predates the pronunciation but what is the history here? What language do the ...
13
votes
1answer
6k views

Why isn't “connoisseur” spelled “connaisseur”?

From what I gathered on the Web, "connoisseur" is spelled that way because it is derived from the Old French verb "connoître" (to know) which has been spelled "connaître" for close to two centuries. ...
8
votes
4answers
5k views

Last names that are English words with an extra 'e'

I noticed that there are a lot of last names that have an 'e' at the end. The pronunciation usually isn't changed from that of the base word. Poole Steele Browne Clarke Why do English words not ...
4
votes
1answer
1k views

Why English does not have diacritics to distinguish between words with different meanings and pronunciations

It just occured to me that there are words in English that have two different meanings, two different pronunciations and are written exactly the same. For example "present" can be interpreted as the ...
3
votes
3answers
3k views

How does one pronounce “hath” and “doth”?

Old English verb forms such as "hath" and "doth" are, I believe, normally pronounced with the /θ/ sound as in the word "think." But somebody once told me that that is actually a mistake. The words, ...
1
vote
2answers
1k views

Reform of English writing? [closed]

As is commonly known, English is quite notorious for having a writing system that is far removed from the actual way it is most commonly pronounced. I understand that there are important historical ...
1
vote
1answer
1k views

How to guess the pronunciation of some inconsistencies in English?

I’m not a native English speaker, and I have a lot of problems when is comes to pronouncing words like archive, archon, zealot, heal, health. Why is the ch sometime pronounced like a k? Why is the ...
2
votes
4answers
22k views

Why are “put” and “but” different in their pronunciation?

"Put" and "but" both end in the same letters, so why don't they rhyme? Did they start out with the same sound, and then one of them changed? Or did they start out with different sounds, and just got ...
19
votes
5answers
2k views

What was going on with “quha”, “quhat” and the like in Scots and English?

From the Dictionar o the Scots Leid: Quha, Quhay, interrog. and rel. pron. Also: qwha, qha, qua, qwa, wha, vha, hua; qhaa; quhaw; quhai qwhay, whay, quay; quhae, whae; quhe, quhey, qwhey. [...
7
votes
1answer
14k 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 = ...
16
votes
5answers
7k views

Rhyme in Elizabethan sonnets

In sonnets from the Elizabethan period, "move" rhymed with "love" although they don't today. Recognizing that changes in spelling rarely keep up with changes in pronunciation, how were "move" and "...
10
votes
2answers
2k views

Why is “hiccup” spelled with two c's?

Is there a historical or grammatical reason for spelling hiccup with two c's?
37
votes
2answers
35k views

Use of “f ” instead of “s” in historic, printed English documents

I was at a museum in London yesterday, and one of the items on exhibit is a document from the eighteenth century. It uses the letter f a lot where s should be used—for example, in Majefty. Did the ...
10
votes
4answers
15k views

Why is “gauge” spelled with a 'u'?

I was rather old before I realized "gauge" is pronounced (and sometimes spelt) "gage". The etymology doesn't reveal too much: mid-15c., from Anglo-Fr. gauge (mid-14c.), from O.N.Fr. gauger, from ...
12
votes
2answers
4k views

Is the history of h-dropping in English in any way related to the silent h of French?

I was reading up on Richard the III, and his exploits just now in Wikipedia — as is the nature of Wiki, that further me led to stumble to Stafford, Duke of Buckingham's page, where I learned ...
39
votes
6answers
4k views

Pronunciation of the English alphabet

Why are there inconsistencies in the pronunciation of the consonants of the alphabet? For example: 'b' is pronounced like 'bee' but 'm' is pronounced as 'em' rather than 'me'. The pronunciation of 'h' ...
8
votes
6answers
7k views

Why is most North American speech rhotic?

Most North American speech is rhotic—why is that? Does it come from the early English settlers or perhaps from the Irish settlers?
67
votes
6answers
5k views

How come 'ou' was reduced to 'o' in the US?

Americans write color and favorite, when others say colour and favourite. How/why did this happen?
11
votes
4answers
12k views

Why does “ow” have two different sounds

Why is it that the "ow" in now makes the /aʊ/ sound while "ow" in snow makes the /oʊ/ sound? Has this always been, was it spelled differently and then changed, or was it spelled this way but the sound ...
49
votes
6answers
103k views

What is “won't” a contraction of?

"Don't", "wouldn't", "couldn't" and "isn't" are all contractions of "do not", "would not", "could not" and "is not"... So what's "won't" a contraction of? It appears to be "will not", but if so, why ...
32
votes
4answers
14k 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 ...
26
votes
4answers
4k 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 ...