78

The answer to this is.... complicated. The letter J is, as you mentioned, relatively recent, and originated as a variant of the letter I. Why that happens is a little complicated, and requires unpacking some assumptions in your question. In the original languages (Latin, Greek, Hebrew) which provide us with the names Jesus, Joseph, Justinian, etc., the ...


73

It appears that I probably draw a finer distinction here than others may, but the good thing is that for those that say the two are interchangeable, my usage will seem unremarkable, and for those that care, my usage will seem consistent. I use extendable in cases where it means the opposite of retractable. In other words, a telescoping wand is extendable, ...


70

As an American Southerner, I had a good laugh when I read this. Depending on where you're from, this could either be incredibly easy or nigh impossible to pronounce. Look at the words 'didn't' and 'hadn't,' first of all. In a Southern U.S. dialect especially, the 'd' in the middle of these words is soft, unlike the initial hard consonant of 'don't' or '...


68

Your dictionary goes further than Johnson's, for which the entire chapter for X was thus: X Is a letter, which, though found in Saxon words, begins no word in the English language. And actually, it's not found in that many Saxon words. Saxon itself was one exception; Seaxe in Anglo-Saxon, as was the seax, the knife from which they took their name. (The ...


48

I'd say this contraction of "you all would not have" as three syllables: [ˈjɔːɫ.ᵈn̩.tɘ̆v]. [ˈjɔːɫ] is y'all, a contraction of you all that serves as the plural of you in Dixie-influenced dialects of American English. The l with a tilde represents a "dark" l, which I realize with pharyngealization (secondary constriction in the throat) and some other ...


36

I don't have any proof, but a big clue to me is that the letter X in the default case represents the sound sequence /ks/, which is not a valid onset according to the rules of English phonotactics. That is, spellings of words don't start with X because pronunciations of words don't start with /ks/. All the words that do start with X have an exceptional ...


30

Voicing Assimilation is the technical term for what happened here. In English (and Latin, and most Indo-European languages, among many others), /b/ and /p/ are identical in pronunciation (both are bilabial stops), differing only in their Voice parameter; /b/ is Voiced, while /p/ is Voiceless. It is a fact about the human vocal tract that consonant ...


24

The usage stats from the British National Corpus (BNC) look as follows: ALL SPOKEN FICTION MAGAZINE NEWSPAPER ACADEMIC NON-ACAD MISC dammit 125 3 99 3 8 0 7 5 damnit no results damn it 158 12 137 1 1 0 2 5 And here are the stats from the Corpus of ...


21

I think most native English speakers would have similar troubles. I wouldn't worry too much about it. Also, different people will say this different ways: somebody from Virginia (like me) will say it differently from somebody from Mississippi, who will say it differently from somebody from Texas. But if you're curious, I'd start with the words that it's ...


20

In the South the phrase "Y'all would not have . . . " would most commonly be pronounced "Yaw woot nuh" with woot rhyming with foot. "Y'all would not have done that" = "Yaw woot nuh dun nat."


19

Hermes and Ares are reasonable representations in the Latin alphabet of the sounds of the Greek names. The /h/ sound is absent from classical Greek spellings of words which contained it (like Hermes) because the Attic Greek alphabet did not have a distinct character for it—the character ‹H› was used for eta ('long e', contrasting with epsilon, 'short e'...


18

There are lots and lots of these. They usually came to us that way straight from Latin, and seldom mean anything different from each other. One may be more rare than another, though. comprehendible, comprehensible corrodable, corrodible, corrosible defendable, defensible deridable, derisible dividable, divisible evadable, evasible expandable, expansible ...


15

I would say still life has undergone reification, which transforms it into a "standalone word". How the subcomponent elements work grammatically doesn't automatically affect how the composite form works. Effectively it's a kind of neologism - not really "new" today, but a lot later than the original word life with its irregular plural. Neologisms almost ...


15

The directly analogous term is indeed consonant cluster, a combination of consonant sounds that appear together. It is possible that you are thinking of a digraph, which is two characters representing a single sound, rather than a blending of adjacent sounds as with a diphthong or consonant cluster. For example, the ch in church or the sh in hashish are ...


11

I believe that the assumption behind this question is not quite right. You say, much of English wasn't standardized until the 19th century. but from my own research, it seems that the standardization of English spelling largely took place in the course of the 17th and 18th centuries, and was more or less complete in Britain by the mid-to-late 18th ...


11

In normal speech, consonant clusters are generally simplified, because, as you point out, they're complicated and difficult to pronounce. For instance, the pronunciation of the fractional plural sixths, as in five-sixths '5/6', is sposta be /sɪksθs/, ending in a godawful cluster of four voiceless (i.e, whispered) consonants. But nobody ever says /sɪksθs/. ...


10

As @Laure mentions, this really belongs to the Linguistics group as this is a wider question pertinent to Latin and all/most Latin-influenced European languages. Classical Latin did not have a distinct J sound (the J as we know in English.) When I was followed by another vowel, it usually sounded similar to English /Y/. Thus we had Iulius which was as if ...


10

I've read through all of the words beginning with a through c in WS2's very useful list of -tion words, and so far I've found that the vast majority of the words in the -tion family carry a sh sound at the beginning of the final syllable. The main exceptions to that pattern are some words ending in -stion (bastion, combustion, congestion, counterquestion, ...


9

It seems to me that the 'tch' behaves in English spelling the way a doubled consonant would, and the 'ch' the way a single consonant would. That is, 'tch' is more likely to occur after short vowels, so you see patch, botch, and crutch, but beach, roach, and pooch. As with any English spelling rule, there are numerous exceptions.


9

Damnit could be used, though you're better off with "dammit" or "damn it". As per Wiktionary: damnit Nonstandard contraction of damn +‎ it Interjection (especially southern US) Common misspelling of dammit. Edit: As my answer points out, "damnit" is considered a misspelling of the more popular "dammit", which confirms ЯegDwight♦'s data.


9

Summary Answer Here are the chances of each letter being followed by a vowel (defined to be [aeiouy]), a consonant, or a hyphen taking from the OED list described below, and with rounding: a: C= 90%, V= 7%, -= 1% b: C= 32%, V= 65%, -= 1% c: C= 40%, V= 59%, -= 0% d: C= 17%, V= 77%, -= 4% e: C= 79%, V= 14%, -= 5% f: C= 31%, V= 68%, -= 1% g: C= 35%, V= 57%, -...


9

Vowels and consonants describe sounds. The sounds came first and the letters we call vowels and consonants came later as attempts to record them in writing. So the question should really be about why human speech has some sounds which come uninterrupted from the vocal cords (vowels), and why others are modified in the mouth (consonants). That is an ...


8

Consider these English words: rosin, rose (the flower), rose (past tense of rise), prose, chosen, lederhosen and these names, which may not be of English origin but are familiar to English speakers: Ambrose, Montrose, Rosenkrantz, Bose The are all pronounced with a 'z'. I can't think of any more off the top of my head, but on the other hand I ...


8

Contrary to what you learned in school, there are more than just vowels and consonants. In words like 'onion', the i serves as a semi-vowel, or glide. This is represented in IPA as /ˈʌn jən/ and the letter i represents the /j/ sound, which is the same sound as at the start of the word "yes".


8

In the middle of an English word, like axe, the letter x denotes the consonant pairing ks. There are no words in English which begin with the ks phonemes. The reason is simply "just because": English morphology does not manifest a leading ks and that is that. Since English words do not have that sound at the beginning, that explains why there aren't any ...


7

Irregular plurals and irregular deverbal nouns (i.e., nouns formed from verbs, like house /hauz/ from house /haus/) are frequently restricted in the way that your example and Barrie's (computer) mouses illustrate: the irregular form is only used for the most common meaning, with a fully regular form being used in neologisms and other variants. Other ...


7

I already dealt with <GH> pronunciation variation here; <CH> is a more interesting situation because it involves borrowings from familiar European languages, rather than languages written in other orthographies. The grapheme <C> goes all the way back to the Semitic glyph gimel, the third letter of the original alphabet: 'aleph 'cow', beth 'house', ...


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