100

There are sev­er­al fac­tors in play here. Dif­fi­cult con­so­nant clus­ters are of­ten re­duced in rapid speech or over time; think of friend­ship, spend­thrift, twelfth, months. Much of the dif­fer­ence be­tween an un­voiced and a voiced stop in English is ac­tu­al­ly not its voic­ing but its as­pi­ra­tion, and be­cause one nor­mal­ly on­ly as­pi­rates ...


69

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 '...


61

There are a small number of words aside from ageing that retain silent e before -ing; for some of them, this spelling is mandatory in American English as well as British English. For others, it is optional in both of these varieties of English. Retained silent e before ing seems to occur mainly after vowel letters (including y) or after the letter g, ...


56

I've always seen falsy and truthy. Falsey is a perfectly acceptable alternative and gives me just as many search results. The word is unfortunately too new to provide good sources. The ECMAScript Language Specification uses “⟦ToBoolean⟧” to refer to the interpretation of of non-Boolean values as Booleans, but makes no use of truthy or falsy. These terms are ...


56

User dawnhunter of Reddit writes in the /r/Showerthoughts/ thread called In the word "scent", is it the S or the C that is silent?: Here's what a google search brings up: late Middle English (denoting the sense of smell): from Old French sentir ‘perceive, smell,’ from Latin sentire . The addition of -c- (in the 17th century) is unexplained. So ...


47

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 ...


35

The spelling "who" was originally used simply because, in past time periods, this word was pronounced with a "wh" sound. To be clear, by "a "wh" sound" I mean a sound that is different from either "w" or "h" on its own. Although many varieties of English have lost "wh" as a distinct sound, replacing it with plain [w], the digraph "wh" used to (and in some ...


33

With paradigm and paradigmatic, just as with phlegm and phlegmatic, English only allows that g to be sounded when you can split a syllable. (The unassimilated version with a final ‑a technically does still exist, but the OED calls it “rare”.) This is all because the phonotactics of English (the rules for how one can arrange its phonemes) do not permit a /g/ ...


27

Words that end in -Cy regularly go to -ies, while those that end in -Vy regularly go to -Vys (where C means a consonant and V means a vowel). bunny > bunnies, telly > tellies, category > categories Monday > Mondays, boy > boys, monkey > monkeys But money > monies is irregular. You could write Please select your preferred category or categories. Please ...


24

Note that dictionaries document the (current, at the time of going to press) usage of language, they aren't authoritative. 'Correct' is what is in common usage and largely understood to be correct, even if that contradicts a dictionary (in which case the dictionary is probably out-of-date). So, as RegDwight has already answered, either zeros or zeroes is '...


23

Mostly no, but also yes. In most languages, y is from the Greek letter upsilon, as pointed out by “Matt Эллен”. The ij digraph from Dutch, though, was originally ii with a lengthened second i to distinguish it in handwriting from u. However, from ij came the Afrikaans y. Quoth Wikipedia: IJ probably developed out of ii, representing a long [iː] sound (...


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

Speakers of the Queen's English have no trouble with this; if neither letter in "scent"were silent, it would be pronounced like the beginning of "sceptic". Actually, the C is silent, making the word (to all but Professor Higgins-level phoneticians) identical to "sent". Coincidentally, there is a funny little foreign coin, cent, that is pronounced the same ...


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."


18

On the blessings of ‘silent’ letters in English One important and often overlooked reason for having silent letters in the spelling of English words is because spelling in English is meant to do much more than tell you how to pronounce a word. For one thing, it can also tell you about the history of the word, its origins and its evolution. Not all languages ...


18

Not My Field, so subject to correction: In Old English the “voiced labiovelar approximant” /w/ was in fact pronounced in the initial clusters /wr/ and /wl/. Lass, Cambridge History of the English Language describes the loss of this pronunciation in the context of “Onset-cluster reduction” (III, page 122): Witch/which, not/knot, Nash/gnash, rite/write are ...


17

It’s because the ‹l› was never really there in any historical pronunciation of English. The reason why is an interesting one, and worth answering. The spurious “silent l” was introduced by the same people who thought that English should spell words like debt and island with extra “historical” letters, which would be silent but tell you something presumably ...


16

It's not a word, so it has no formal spelling as of now. The English language's main strength is its adaptability, so one day it will most likely be officially accepted as a word, but for now, it has no defined spelling. I would personally keep the e, as there are 3 consonants before it, and that makes me want to balance the scales a bit, and that's how it ...


15

StoneyB, Lass, and Wright have outlined the recent history of initial WR simplification. The ancient history of how they got that way is interesting, too. I checked the American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots and found, to my surprise, that all the words beginning with wr- in the American Heritage Dictionary (with etymologies traced to Proto-...


14

Following up on user2512's answer, I quote Online Etymology Dictionary's entry for cocoa in full: cocoa (n.) powder from cacao seeds, 1707, corruption (by influence of coco) of cacao. The printing of Johnson's dictionary ran together the entries for coco and cocoa, fostering a confusion that never has been undone. Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the ...


14

First, the English rule has to do with syllable structure. As Colin points out, English syllables can't begin with the consonant cluster /pt/. Any word spelled that way will be pronounced some other way. But the sequence /pt/ can occur between syllables. So if the vowel before /pt/ is stressed (as in archeopteryx /ar.ki.'ap.tər.ɪks/), then both stops can be ...


14

All letters in English are silent. Letters are visual signs, and they don't make any noise. What you're all peeving about is the fact that Modern English spellings don't represent Modern English pronunciations. And it's true; they don't. That's because they represent Middle English pronunciations. Before Caxton set up his printshop in England in 1470 ...


14

In general, word-medial /h/ tends to be lost before an unstressed vowel. Compare the pronunciations of "vehicle" and "vehicular". See https://linguistics.stackexchange.com/a/15716/5581 Some words are exceptions or have variable pronunciations, but the loss of /h/ has become standard in the place names you mention. It doesn't have to do with a British accent....


13

I prefer "zeroes" because "zeros" resembles the Greek singular and seems to invoke the pronunciation ZEH-ross, and I'm not the only one. Oxford explains their pluralization rules including an appearance of zeros, here: Oxford Dictionaries: Plurals of Nouns. In sum: Usually add -s (solos, zeros). If vowel+o, add -s (studios, zoos). Some words take -oes (...


13

No. The letter Y comes from the Greek letter upsilon, via the Latin alphabet. For more information see the wikipedia entry.


13

One can search for all occurrences of "mine h..." in Shakespeare. Ignoring suffixes (so "hostess" gets included with "host"), there are only nine nouns beginning with 'h' that follow the pronoun "mine". One can also account how many times these words occur with "my". The results are as follows: mine hair 1 my hair 9 mine heart 1 my heart 354 ...


12

It wasn't formed within English at all. According to the OED, this is the etymology of the word: French argument (13th cent.), < Latin argūmentum , < arguĕre (or refashioning, after this, of Old French arguement , < arguer ) I don't know Latin, but I think I found a pattern: indument (obsolete) from "Latin indumentum garment, clothing, < ...


11

Π (pi) in Greek is pronounced as P in English, and Τ (tau) in Greek is pronounced as T in English. Greek though is quite okay with PT at the start of a syllable, while that isn't a phoneme cluster we have in English. So, while we can pronounce both letters if we end one syllable with P and start the next with T, we will make the P silent at the start of a ...


11

Just to emphasise the pronunciation guides that people have given elsewhere, it's not pronounced as "cup-board" or "cu-board" but really "cubbered" very similar to "covered". You have to really think of English as 2 separate languages; the spoken one that has dynamically evolved for a thousand years and the written one which was codified 500 years ago into ...


11

Silent e has its origins in early Middle English so it is before the Great Vowel Shift (1350-1600). However, the rule of giving a long value to a vowel immediately before a consonant which precedes a silent e might have been finalized with the Great Vowel Shift. Silent e was not always silent and it had various grammatical functions in Middle English. ...


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