Questions tagged [phonology]

Technical questions about the sound patterns of English.

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When is E at the start of the word pronounced as /iː/ ? (as in 'Ego') [closed]

Words beginning with e usually be pronounced as /e/ or /ɪ /, for example: egg /eg/ effort /'efət/ explicit /ɪ k'splɪ sɪ t/ Very rarely, words are pronounced with /iː/, for example: epoch /'i:pɔk/ ...
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2answers
340 views

Where did “nightingale” get its second N from?

I noticed while searching the etymology of the word nightingale that it did not have the second N. The sources I checked only say intrusive N but don't explain it. Wikitionary: From Middle English ...
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1answer
72 views

Why are there so many restrictions on /ŋ/ in English?

In (GA, SSBE) English, the phoneme /ŋ/ (in ring) seems to have so many restrictions: it rarely occurs after /u:/, if at all: the only word that I have been able to find in which /ŋ/ occurs after /u:/ ...
2
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1answer
89 views

Rule of English phonology that prevents /j/ and /w/ from occurring in the ends of syllables

I'm quite sure I've seen a rule in English phonology that says that /j/ (the "y" sound) and /w/ (the "w" sound) should not occur in the ends of English syllables, but I haven't had ...
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2answers
951 views

Why is the L silent in “walk” but not in “bulk”?

TL;DR Why is the letter L silent in walk, talk, calm, folk, half, chalk etc but not silent in bulk, hulk, milk, silk, bold, bald? Explanation of the question and Research: The letter L seems to be ...
2
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1answer
2k views

Why do people pronounce “f***ing” like “f***en”? [duplicate]

I'm not a native English speaker so I might not be exactly accurate with this, but whenever people (e.g. in films) say fucking, it sounds something like fucken. There's no "g" at the end and instead ...
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4answers
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Why is “archaic” pronounced uniquely? Is the sequence -ɪɪ- only found in this word?

Before looking this word up, I have always rhymed it with cake i.e. /ɑːˈkeɪk/. But when I looked it up, it was actually /ɑː(r)ˈkeɪɪk/ with the sequence of a similar vowel repeated consecutively: -ɪɪ- ...
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2answers
58 views

Does the suffix -ify have any inherent characteristics of making letters pronounced which would otherwise be silent?

It is quite clear that the word "signify" is derived from sign and the suffix -ify: sign + -ify = signify The letter "g" in the word sign is silent but when the suffix is added, ...
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2answers
2k views

'confusion matrix' for English phonemes

Is there a measure of distance somewhere that tells me that certain phoneme A is more "distant" or "different" to phoneme B than it is to phoneme C in English? For example, that ...
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1answer
69 views

Does English allow /eɪʃ/ in the end of a syllable (in the same syllable)?

The sound /ʃ/ is almost always spelled with more than one letter i.e. with a digraph unlike, say, /p/ which is spelled with a single letter (pan, pen, pie). I have noticed a particular pattern: vowels ...
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2answers
5k views

Why is the zh (ʒ) sound so infrequent in English?

I've always heard that the "zh" (ʒ) sound (e.g. in "vision", "usually") was an uncommon sound in the English language. A quick Google search returns multiple results (...
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1answer
75 views

Could you help me solve this phonetic riddle?

From the position for normal breathing, you move your soft palate upwards and shut off the nasal cavity. Then you round your lips, leaving a rather close air passage there, and at the same time, you ...
2
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3answers
327 views

Reduction of diphthongs to short vowels (/waɪz/ -> /'wɪz.əd/)

I've noticed this phenomenon / process in many words where a diphthong (or a long vowel as well?) reduces to a short vowel when it's inflected. Consider the following examples: Pronounce /...
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2answers
192 views

Was there a /t͡ʃ/ to /k/ sound change from Old English?

I stumbled upon a strange thing while looking up the etymology of words ending in "le". I looked up "kettle" and saw that it was pronounced with /t͡ʃ/ in Old English and also in ...
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0answers
50 views

Chronology of the cot-caught merger

The cot-caught merger often coexists with the father-bother merger. Although it can be found in regions like Eastern New England, which lacks the second merger, the other dialects exhibiting the ...
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1answer
149 views

Does English allow alveolar flap [ɾ] at the ends of syllables? If yes, how to syllabify?

Prompted by this question: How to syllabify “very” or “merry” etc in British English?, I found the linked question interesting and it was a very good question but it did not get much attention, ...
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2answers
110 views

What will happen if I attach the suffixes “-ize” and “-ify” to a word that end in /ŋ/? Will they make it [ŋg]?

This question is related to my previous question: Why does “singer” have /ŋ/ and “longer” have /ŋg/? but not a duplicate. From Herrison's answer, I learned that the -er in both "singer" and &...
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1answer
53 views

What does a bracketed sound mean in the IPA transcription of a word?

I noticed that some words have a bracketed sound in their transcriptions in some dictionaries, for example, see the following from Lexico: locate - /lə(ʊ)ˈkeɪt/ open - /ˈəʊp(ə)n/ (I assume here the ...
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2answers
141 views

Pronunciation of “master” and “plaster” in Northern England

A pattern I've noticed in Northern England is that people of my age (born in the '90s) pronounce words like “master” and “plaster” with a short A (/a/), whereas anyone of my parents' generation (born ...
3
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1answer
853 views

Why isn't “giraves” the plural of “giraffe” like “wolves” is for “wolf”? [duplicate]

The plural of giraffe, according to Merriam Webster and some other dictionaries I checked, is "giraffes". Normally when the final sound of an English word is F, its plural ends in V sound. ...
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2answers
3k views

What is the P in 'nope' called?

Nope is another form of No. When we say this other form, we say p in it. What is this p called? Where did it come from?
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2answers
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Why is the N silent in “solemn” but pronounced in “solemnity”

Solemn → /ˈsɒləm/: It has only /-m/ Solemnity → /səˈlɛmnɪti/: it has both /m/ and /n/ (/-mn-/) Looking up their etymology didn't help much. But here is what etymology dictionary says: solemn: ... ...
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1answer
397 views

How to syllabify “obsessive”: OB-SE-SIV or OB-SES-IV?

I was taught by my high school teacher how to count syllables and according to that method, you count them by clapping each syllable. The word "obsessive" should be: /əb.se.sɪv/ -- OB-SE-SIV....
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2answers
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Why do some words with similar meanings sound similar as well?

I just noticed while writing a few examples of similar words that uncannily sound like each other phonetically. Examples: An example is the similar words: “gleaming”, “glittering”, “glinting”, and “...
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4answers
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Why did the F of “sneeze” and “snore” change to an S in English history?

The etymologies of "sneeze" and "snore" suggest that they were once pronounced with /f/. Here is what Wiktionary (from which all the following information also comes) says: From ...
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7answers
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How can I practice differentiating between the /æ/ and /ɛ/ sounds in English phonology?

For a non-native English speaker like me, it's always been hard to sound /æ/ and /ɛ/ differently. For example, "salary" and "celery" are two words that I tend to pronounce ...
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4answers
10k views

Why is ‘i’ in milk pronounced differently from ‘i’ in find?

As far as I know, in words of the structure CVCC, the vowel is usually short. Examples include milk, front, clamp, wasp, sport, etc. However, with some CC types, the vowel seems to always be long (...
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1answer
81 views

How is /ɑ:/ realized in British English: [ɑː] or more relaxed than [ɑː]?

I know that /ɑː/ is open back unrounded vowel and is found a lot in British English. It is the vowel in bath, father, bar, car etc in British English. In American English, this vowel is found in bar, ...
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3answers
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/ð/ → /d/ shift in English

As a result of a /d/ → /ð/ shift, fæder became father, hider became hither and togædere became together, giving us our modern English forms. However, I know that murder and burden have archaic forms- ...
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2answers
23k views

Sounds of the letter a

How can I know, precisely, when to differentiate the sounds of the letter a, like in: apple and vault?
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1answer
1k views

Can vs that ( /kæn/ vs /ðæt/ )

I’ve finally decided to take a look at my English pronunciation and it is being an awesome new world. I am focused on Received Pronunciation (British Standard) and one question comes to mind for which ...
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1answer
873 views

Vowel in “-ang” and “-ank” Words: Pronunciation and Dictionary Transcription

Has anyone found the vowel in "-ang" and "-ank" words transcribed differently than /æ/? The sound, to my ear, is not the same as the /æ/ sound in words like "ran." I hear the vowel as closer to /eI/ ...
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1answer
288 views

Can /æ/ raising produce homophones in American English?

Can words like "bend" and "band" merge in AmEn? I always thought they should not but here's a confusing example: https://youtu.be/_C0mc7ZOMF4 To my ear this gentleman pronounces "bend" as [bɛənd] and ...
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3answers
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'Sag' and 'slant': Is the vowel /æ/ the same in both words?

/sæg/ /slænt/ Transcriptions from Cambridge American English Dictionary Both the words' IPA transcriptions have an /æ/ symbol. Do those two /æ/s sound the same? Are they both short or long? Is /æ/ ...
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4answers
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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 comparison between a ...
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1answer
213 views

Number of syllables. Nuclear vs Linear. Is there a difference

I just looked up the syllable description of the words linear and nuclear. On that website, it says linear has 3 syllables and nuclear 2. This is despite the 'ear' of both words being pronounced the ...
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3answers
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Why are the vowels in Christ and Christmas different? (and other strange diphthong behaviour)

Why are certain words pronounced with diphthongs on their own but with monophthongs in compounds? For example: Words pronounced with diphthongs on their own: Michael, Christ, wise, drive Their ...
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4answers
11k views

What words have “‑ei‑” (except in “‑cei‑”) pronounced [i:]?

The rule is that written ei is pronounced [i:] only after the letter c — or that what is pronounced [i:] is written ei after the letter c only. Here are exceptions I’ve found so far: foreign (...
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1answer
90 views

Silent /t/ usage on short words? [duplicate]

The censorship on Stackoverflow will kill the platform and it's elitist snakes will be haunted. Consider following words, Its At That What I often hear them as, I/?/s Aa Tha/?/ Wha/?/ I'm ...
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How shall the word “biology” be interpreted, if no English word can start with two stressed syllables?

I am little confused over this matter; the teacher has stated that no English word can start with two stressed syllables and that you understand a syllable is stressed when it's not reduced to a schwa ...
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1answer
82 views

<ie ⟷ y> before the ·ing suffix

Page 1579 of the CambridgeGEL reads For die the ie is the default spelling, so that the replacement works in the opposite direction: ie is replaced by y before the ·ing suffix. Why was a replacement ...
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1answer
56 views

Why is “that” unaccented in some sentences like “We knew that the next day would be difficult.” and not in others?

I don't understand why in some words, the word "that" is accented, such as in "it isn’t that urgent." and not in "We knew that the next day would be difficult". Could ...
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0answers
42 views

Birth of a universe vs birth of an universe [duplicate]

Which is the correct usage from the following two sentences? Birth of a universe Birth of an universe
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2answers
744 views

Is “shop ” a CVC word or a CCVC word?

Is shop a CVC word? Or, to rephrase the question, in the CVC structure, do C and V each refer to a single sound or to a single letter? As I see it, a C or a V means a sound, and a sound could be ...
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7answers
29k views

How to pronounce “twenty” correctly?

Well, I usually say "twenny" instead of "twenty" (not "twendy" even). I recently noticed that I never heard the same from any native english speakers during any talks I ever had with them. Recently I ...
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1answer
58 views

palatization of y- from *ga-

Premises The common Proto-Germanic prefix *ga‑ affixed to past participles was reduced in Modern English, obscuring its historical participial morphology now beyond modern recognition, as seen for ...
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1answer
101 views

Is the P aspirated in “PR” combination in stressed syllable?

In English the P is generally aspirated (produced with a strong burst of air) when it comes in the start of a stressed syllable. For example, the P in "pin" is aspirated (produced with a ...
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2answers
184 views

Why are 'electric', 'electricity' and 'electrician' pronounced differently?

Why are the words electric, electricity and electrician pronounced differently? Electric -> /iˈlek.trɪk/ Electricity -> /ˌel.ɪkˈtrɪs.ə.ti/ Electrician -> /ˌɪl.ekˈtrɪʃ.ən/ My main question ...
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2answers
5k views

Strong /strɔːŋ/ → stronger /strɔːŋɡər/ - Why do we have to put an extra /g/ in front of /ər/? Is it a rule?

Ok, see this in the dictionary: Strong → /strɔːŋ/ Stronger → /strɔːŋɡər/ Why do we have to put an extra /g/ in front of /ər/? But sing → /sɪŋ/ & singer → /ˈsɪŋər/ do not adhere to that rule. But ...
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0answers
65 views

Was there any change from /u:/ to /ə/ (US: /ɚ/) in the history of English?

The /tʃ/ in the word "nature" is the result of palatalization (see this question). If I understand it correctly, the /t/ (nat) and and /j/ (ure) fused and produced /tʃ/. The letter U had the ...

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