Questions tagged [phonology]

Technical questions about the sound patterns of English.

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207
votes
5answers
28k views

Are “whores” and “horse” homophones?

I’m Spanish but sometimes see TV shows in English. My question is whether the words horse and whores sound exactly the same, because in many English language TV shows it seems like they are, which ...
154
votes
3answers
12k views

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 ...
52
votes
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 (...
46
votes
4answers
26k views

Why is “cupboard” pronounced with a silent “p”?

According to Google at least, the word "cupboard" originated in late Middle English as denoting a board that held cups. Since then, the word has evolved to mean a kind of cabinet. My question is, ...
45
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4answers
5k views

Is D-glottalization a plausible explanation of ambiguity in Donald Trump interview with WSJ?

On Jan 11, The Wall Street Journal published an interview with President Trump that contained the following phrase: With that being said, President Xi has been extremely generous with what he’s ...
35
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4answers
15k 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 ...
34
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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 (...
31
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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?
27
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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 comparison between a ...
27
votes
4answers
23k views

Is there a rule for pronouncing “th” at the beginning of a word?

Consider the th in thistle versus the th in this: the former is unvoiced, while the latter is voiced. Is there a rule or reason for the differences?
24
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7answers
16k views

When do I pronounce a non-existent “r” between adjacent vowel sounds?

If I say two words consecutively, with the first ending in a vowel sound and the second starting with one, when is it correct to include a non-existent r between those two words? Examples from ...
23
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7answers
5k views

Are “traitor” and “trader” pronounced the same?

Are "traitor" and "trader" distinguishable when spoken with any English accent? My English-speaking friends seem to pronounce them exactly the same way.
23
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4answers
5k views

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 ...
23
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3answers
5k views

/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- ...
22
votes
2answers
5k views

Why does “signature” have a “g” sound but “sign” doesn't?

The following words don't have /g/ sound: sign, resign, design. But why is there a "g" sound in the following derived words? Signature, resignation, designate. I searched their etymologies because I ...
22
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2answers
111k views

Why is the “L” silent when pronouncing “salmon”?

Why is the letter l silent when pronouncing salmon properly?
21
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2answers
2k views

Is there such a thing as Intrusive-L (as opposed to Intrusive-R)?

Most of us have heard plenty of examples of the so-called Intrusive-R. It is a feature of non-rhotic dialects, including British RP and some New England dialects. It occurs between two vowels that are ...
21
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3answers
2k views

What's the current scholarly opinion on the “minims” explanation for the spelling of “love”, “tongue,” etc?

According to the Online Etymology dictionary (as cited in this question How was the letter -u- written in Old English?): The substitution of Middle English -o- for Old English -u- before -m-, -n-,...
20
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2answers
3k views

Psychology of diphthongs

First of all, technically this probably should be at the English Language Learners site, because I'm an English learner, but my intuition says I'll probably get more useful answers here because of my ...
20
votes
2answers
2k views

“Extra W” sound in words

I've wonder that in some sentences, or words, even though phonetically you don't have a 'W' sound, you can still hear some type of extra w' sound. So for example. The phrase: "Do it". /du ɪt/ will ...
20
votes
4answers
1k views

Why do photons and protons exhibit such anomalous behavior?

I first noticed in this answer that there is something sneaky going on with the word photon: its ‹t› is the stressed allophone of /t/, a fully aspirated [tʰ]. It does not reduce to [t] or [ɾ] the way ...
19
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5answers
41k views

Why is “t” sometimes pronounced like “d” in American English?

Why, in American English, is the word Italy is pronounced /ˈɪdəli/ and not /ˈɪtəli/? What is the rule that is followed in the pronunciation of Italy to make the letter t pronounced like a d? Why is ...
18
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4answers
6k views

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- ...
18
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2answers
2k views

Is “corrosion” an instance of onomatopoeia?

I mean, obviously "corrosion" isn't actually onomatopoeic, because corrosion doesn't make a sound (or at least not one that humans can hear). Yet it seems to me that the word corrosion sounds like its ...
18
votes
2answers
3k views

What is /iə/ in English?

I am confusing with phonetic symbols between /iə/ and /ɪə/. I know that /ɪə/ is a diphthong vowel, combining between /ɪ/ and schwa /ə/. But what is /iə/? Is it /i:/+/ə/? How different are they ...
18
votes
4answers
4k views

How do you proceed from pronouncing “t” in the regular way to t-glottalization, as found in various English accents?

It's just strange to me because "t" is pronounced with the front teeth, while the glottalized "t" is produced with the back of the throat; that seems like quite a noticeable journey that couldn't have ...
18
votes
3answers
4k views

What is the overlap between “Y” and “I”?

My son and I were reciting the Spanish alphabet recently. "Y" is i griega, which means "Greek i." This got me thinking about the English letter Y and its function in our alphabet. All of the words ...
17
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4answers
4k views

Why is /sɪ/ pronounced differently in “six” /sɪks/ and “sit” /sɪt/?

six /sɪks/ and sit /sɪt/ Why do they have the same phonetic symbol /sɪ/, if /sɪ/ is pronounced differently in those two words? The main focus in my question isn't the difference in pronunciation ...
17
votes
2answers
2k views

Word that sounds like “metal” but means “grit”, “tenacity”, and “perseverance” [closed]

Somehow I am compelled to use the word "metal" to describe strong "intestinal fortitude", and perseverance however I can't find the spelling or any synonym like this. Does a word that sounds like "...
17
votes
6answers
113k views

Is it 'a usual' or 'an usual'? Why? [duplicate]

is it 'a usual' or 'an usual'? 'A usual' sounds more correct in my head ('Today was a usual day.') than 'an usual', but u is a vowel. Which one is correct and why?
17
votes
4answers
4k views

Why “English” but not “Anglish”?

Etymology of English from Etymonline: Old English Englisc (contrasted to Denisc, Frencisce, etc.), from Engle (plural) "the Angles," the name of one of the Germanic groups that overran the island ...
16
votes
2answers
48k views

Hwat, hwere, and hwy?

In which English accents do they put an h before every word that starts with wh? Example from Youtube. Notice his pronunciation of whisky.
15
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5answers
6k views

What is the proper way to say “Clinton”?

I have always assumed that Bill and Hillary Clinton's name is pronounced Clin-tun. But during this year's election coverage, I noticed that a great many people pronounce it as Clin-uhn, with no "T" ...
15
votes
3answers
10k views

“nt” pronounced as “n” in American English (as in “Internet”): what is it called?

I know that pronouncing "t" as "d" is called a flap t, but is there a name for pronouncing "nt" as "n" in some words, as is common in American English? Examples: "Internet" is pronounced as "inner ...
15
votes
3answers
1k views

Is “the” ever pronounced “knee”?

Does the pronunciation of "the" sometimes sound like "knee"? I have heard someone read it in a sentence sounded like 'knee'. The specific phrase was: pulling the extra layer of shirt off of her ...
15
votes
3answers
2k views

Why did /x/ change to /f/ in English?

As we know, the English language doesn't have the /x/ phoneme anymore (at least in an everyday kind of context*) and the sound seems to have been dropped in many words, such as in light or eight. ...
14
votes
7answers
9k views

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 ...
14
votes
3answers
1k views

Why are dictionary transcriptions contradictory for the phonetic representation of oranges?

I am a native U.K. speaker with a strong Midlands dialect, and I am very aware of other dialects and regional accents from around the world of English speakers, and I really enjoy this. I am a data ...
13
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3answers
22k views

Is there such a thing as an unvoiced vowel?

I can't think of any and google has not been helpful.
13
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3answers
1k views

Do onomatopoeic words lose their onomatopoeic character?

Wikipedia mentions that: Some languages flexibly integrate onomatopoeic words into their structure. This may evolve into a new word, up to the point that it is no longer recognized as onomatopoeia. ...
13
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4answers
4k views

American refusal of the IPA: why?

Are there any historical or political reasons for the rather consistent refusal of the International Phonetic Alphabet on the part of American academics? Did Mark Twain's home-made-English-spelling-...
13
votes
2answers
4k views

What accents pronounce “quarter” as “korter”? Which other words can drop /w/ before /ɔr/ like this?

Many people drop the "w" from words like "dwarf," changing the pronunciation from /dwɔrf/ to /dɔrf/. This has led to the re-spelling "dorf" being used in some informal contexts, e.g. "Dorf Fort." My ...
13
votes
1answer
594 views

Ordering of English sound changes in verbal morphology

As we all know, the Early Modern English 3sg verbal ending -eth has become -s in Modern English. This presumably happened in two steps: Elision of the unstressed e in the final syllable Changing ...
12
votes
4answers
10k views

Spicket or spigot?

I recently was making a list and for the first time using a digital device, typed in what I grew up referring to an outdoor faucet 'spicket' as into my iPad. My mother grew up in Utah and my father ...
12
votes
2answers
3k views

Does English have (or has it had) the diphthongs /uɪ, ʌɪ/?

Modern English has some diphthongs ending in /-ɪ/, as in *oy/oi of "boy/voice", *ay/ā of "bay/ace", *ey/ī of "eye/ice", etc. But I haven't found the diphthongs /uɪ, ʌɪ/ (or even /ʊɪ/). Does Modern ...
12
votes
3answers
1k views

How could “iota” become “hooter”?

We say we do not give a hoot or care a hoot when we do not care very much or at all. On the "hoot" that we do not give, Etymonline has this to say: [...] Slang sense of "smallest amount or ...
12
votes
1answer
708 views

Why doesn't “wish” have the letter “n” in it?

The English word "wish" is akin to the German word "wünschen", the reconstructed Proto-Germanic word being "wunskijanan" (according to Wiktionary). What happened to the letter n in the middle of the ...
12
votes
1answer
776 views

How long ago did Londoners start saying “f” instead of “th”?

Is there any evidence for how far back replacement of “th” with “f” goes in London (and environs) historically? (I’m talking about how some Londoners say “fanks” and “everyfing” etc.)
11
votes
2answers
2k views

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 “...
11
votes
5answers
3k views

Are there any “-nk-” or “-nc-” words in English where there isn't a “ng” before the “k” sound?

In words like think and lank, we actually seem to be saying "thing-k" and "lang-k." Can anyone thing-k of any words or rules for sound use where this doesn't happen?

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