Questions tagged [phonology]

Technical questions about the sound patterns of English.

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209
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 ...
52
votes
4answers
11k 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 (...
1
vote
5answers
3k views

Variations in the pronunciation of “the”

Although there are rather simple rules determining the pronunciation of "the", native speakers quite often deviate from these rules (including, e.g., TV shows). According to the Longman Pronunciation ...
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 ...
4
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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?
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 ...
15
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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 ...
18
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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 ...
154
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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 ...
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 ...
27
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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?
6
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1answer
884 views

Why is “salient” pronounced with a “long a” sound?

The word salient is pronounced with a "long a" sound; Wiktionary gives the US pronunciation as /ˈseɪ.ljənt/, /ˈseɪ.li.ənt/. Is there any reason why the vowel letter here receives its "long" ...
1
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1answer
5k views

Words pronounced with stress patterns like in “politics”, “lunatics”, etc.?

Could anyone please give a list of words pronounced with no primary stress immediately preceding the suffix -ic, such as in "politics", "lunatic", "arithmetic"? Also, is there an absolute stress ...
46
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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, ...
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 ...
17
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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.
20
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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 ...
10
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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 ...
1
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2answers
2k views

Which words have a long vowel before the suffix -ic?

In many cases in English, vowels followed by a single consonant are pronounced short (also called lax) when followed by the suffix -ic or -ical, even if they are long in other related words. Some ...
7
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1answer
456 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....
1
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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 ...
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.
11
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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 “...
2
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3answers
2k views

/ə/ in a stressed syllable?

According to this description of the English phonotactics, the schwa /ə/ doesn't occur in stressed syllables. But Cambridge Dictionary Onlines, Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary and Longman ...
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-,...
7
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3answers
2k views

Is there a reason why “gn” in “reigning” is pronounced /n/ while in “regnant” it is pronounced [gn]?

Both reigning and regnant are related to the same Latin noun, regnum. Why is the ‹gn› spelling pronounced [n] in the first word but [gn] in the second?
11
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5answers
3k views

Looking for a minimal triple

I am looking for a minimal triple for a particular set of phonemes. By minimal triple, I mean three actual English words that differ in one and only one phoneme between them. Examples therefore ...
6
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2answers
1k views

About pronouncing the 's' in plural nouns

A general rule of English pronunciation states that the 's' in plural nouns is to be pronounced as /z/ if it is preceded by a 'voiced consonant' such as /n/ or /g/, and as /s/ if it is preceded by a '...
2
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2answers
346 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 ...
1
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1answer
736 views

Which English words feature reduction of diphthongs like /eɪ/ to /i/?

Consider the following examples: karaoke as /ˈkæ.ɹiˌəʊ.ki/ Israel as /ˈɪz.ɹi.əl/ al-Qaida as "alky aida" Monday as "mundy" Friday as "fridy" and possibly: Capernaum as /kəˈpɜːɹ.ni.əm/ Sinai as /...
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- ...
14
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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 ...
10
votes
3answers
7k views

Why is “poignant” pronounced /ˈpɔɪɲənt/?

I felt a little bit strange when I heard poignant pronounced as /ˈpɔɪɲənt/. It is also pronounced as /ˈpɔɪgnənt/, but the former seems to be more popular. A word stagnant has similar spelling, but ...
10
votes
2answers
2k views

What source explains the different pronunciations of “hol” in “alcohol” and “hollow”?

According to Merriam-Webster, the pronunciation of alcohol is "ˈal-kə-ˌhȯl" while the pronunciation of hollow is "ˈhä-(ˌ)lō." Why are they pronounced with different vowels? I think I've figured out ...
9
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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 ...
8
votes
1answer
828 views

Why do dictionaries transcribe the nasal in 'think' and 'language' with /ŋ/, yet 'input' and 'inbox' with /n/, not /m/?

In English, coda nasals assimilate to the following consonant, so 'n' in "in mail" and "own goal" is pronounced with [m] and [ŋ] respectively, right? If so, then why do most dictionaries transcribe ...
10
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3answers
4k views

Why don't “-use” verb-noun pairs obey initial stress derivation?

It's well known (and several past questions on this SE have covered) that to convert a two-syllable Latin-derived English verb into a noun, you shift the stress to the first syllable. This is ...
8
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2answers
1k views

Why is a rhyming word beginning with “h” put before another word to create a new term?

I recently learned a new phrase: "herby-kerby," which is regionalism from the Kalamazoo, MI area for a wheeled trash bin placed at the curb for trash collection. I've found several uses of the phrase: ...
8
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4answers
2k views

Why is “conquer” pronounced /'kɔŋkɚ/ and not /'kɔŋkwɚ/?

In English "qu" is always used as a digraph. The letters "que" represent the sound [k] at the ending of many words: unique, technique, antique, physique, clique, grotesque. However, the combination ...
4
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2answers
1k views

What is the articulatory logic behind the “a/an” rule in English?

Is there some articulatory reason behind why we choose to preface consonant sounds with the article a and vowel sounds with an? The reasoning I've read in the comments somewhere, I don't remember ...
9
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2answers
3k views

Why are many TV personalities beginning to pronounce “daughter” as “dotter”?

I have noticed the changing of proununciations of words with -au and -aw by TV presenters which is spilling over into everyday speech. For example “dotter” for daughter, “otto” for auto, “jah” for jaw,...
4
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2answers
41k views

Semi-vowels in English [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When is “Y” a vowel? Why are 'w' and 'y' called semi-vowels in English?
3
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3answers
4k views

Correct pronunciation of “TT”? [closed]

A single t between vowels sounds like a d to me (or like an r in my language, Brazilian Portuguese). May I say the tt spelling the same way, or does that only work for a single t?
6
votes
4answers
6k views

Silent letters in English [closed]

With the help of dictionaries, I’ve assembled a list of letters that can be silent in English: For most letters, I found more than one example, what are the other examples of a silent z (rendezvous)...
11
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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?
9
votes
4answers
3k views

Why do people often say 'hambag' for 'handbag'?

Edit The comments here are full of disbelievers! "I've never heard handbag pronounced that way. Which country are you from?" Oh ye of little faith! So - I've attached a couple of examples here ...
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?
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 ...
10
votes
4answers
58k views

How common is pronouncing the past tense of beat as /bet/?

Personally, I pronounce the past tense of "beat" (to win at a game) as /biːt/, to sound identical to the infinitive. However, I have heard a few people under the age of 30 and from either the west or ...
9
votes
2answers
368 views

Why does the preterite of verbs such as “deal”, “feel” and “dream” have a devoiced dental suffix?

I am trying to explain the morphology of some irregular weak verbs. I could explain "leave-left" as the result of assimilation with v being originally intervocalic f, but I can't see the reason for ...