Why is English spelling and pronunciation different?

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Giselberga
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Why is English spelling and pronunciation different?

Postby Giselberga » 2018-04-10, 9:53

English spelling and pronunciation is different
Why is English spelling and pronunciation different?

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linguoboy
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Re: Why is English spelling and pronunciation different?

Postby linguoboy » 2018-04-10, 15:38

Giselberga wrote:English spelling and pronunciation is different
Why is English spelling and pronunciation different?

Different from what?
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Re: Why is English spelling and pronunciation different?

Postby atalarikt » 2018-04-11, 1:45

linguoboy wrote:
Giselberga wrote:English spelling and pronunciation is different
Why is English spelling and pronunciation different?

Different from what?

I think Giselberga meant that many English words sound different from how they're written.

Giselberga, have you ever heard about the Great Vowel Shift?
وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ خَلْقُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلَافُ أَلْسِنَتِكُمْ وَأَلْوَانِكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِلْعَالِمِينَ۝
"And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge." (Ar-Rum: 22)

Jika saya salah, mohon diperbaiki. If I make some mistake(s), please correct me.
Forever indebted to Robert A. Blust for his contributions to Austronesian linguistics

Giselberga
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Re: Why is English spelling and pronunciation different?

Postby Giselberga » 2018-04-11, 3:46

atalarikt wrote:
linguoboy wrote:
Giselberga wrote:English spelling and pronunciation is different
Why is English spelling and pronunciation different?

Different from what?

I think Giselberga meant that many English words sound different from how they're written.

Giselberga, have you ever heard about the Great Vowel Shift?


Yes
because of great vowel shift, some people think English spelling and pronunciation is different

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Re: Why is English spelling and pronunciation different?

Postby IpseDixit » 2018-04-11, 7:26


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Re: Why is English spelling and pronunciation different?

Postby linguoboy » 2018-04-11, 16:31

atalarikt wrote:
linguoboy wrote:
Giselberga wrote:English spelling and pronunciation is different
Why is English spelling and pronunciation different?

Different from what?

I think Giselberga meant that many English words sound different from how they're written.

That's oxymoronic. Letters makes no sound. The connexion between written representation and spoken pronunciation is always arbitrary, whichever language is involved. If a is used to represent the English sound [eɪ̭], then making the sound [eɪ̭] when reading words where this is written a is not "different".

"Why is the English pronunciation of letters so different from their pronunciation in other European languages?" is a meaningful question. "Why does the same letter have so many different pronunciations in English?" is a meaningful question. But "Why is English spelling and pronunciation different?" isn't meaningful.

Giselberga wrote:Yes
because of great vowel shift, some people think English spelling and pronunciation is different

If you knew the answer, why did you ask the question?
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Re: Why is English spelling and pronunciation different?

Postby md0 » 2018-04-11, 18:48

I don't know how respected a linguist is John McWhorter (I heard conflicting views), but here's a recent podcast he released:
English Spelling Is a Beautiful Mess: English spelling is so frustratingly idiosyncratic. Here’s why.
"If you like your clause structure, you can keep your clause structure"
Cypriot Greek (el-cy) | ○Standard Modern Greek of Greece (el)Assorted Englishes (en) | ↓France French (fr) | ⊖Police Procedural J-Drama Japanese (ja)Standard Turkish (tr) | ↑German Standard German (de)

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Re: Why is English spelling and pronunciation different?

Postby enricmm » 2018-04-13, 21:38

Because the day they thought how not to use an alphabetic writing system English was missing.
Native: (ca) Native against my will: (es)
Advanced: (de) (us)
Intermediate: (zh)
Beginner: (ga) (ja)
Desiderata: (ar) (br) (cy) (egy) (el) (eo) (eu) (fo) (fr) (gl) (got) (grc) (he) (hi) (id) (iu) (is) (it) (km) (ko) (la) (lt) (lv) (nah) (no) (non) (oc) (pt) (ru) (sgn) (sq) (sv) (sw) (tr) (zhc)

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Re: Why is English spelling and pronunciation different?

Postby linguoboy » 2018-04-13, 21:40

enricmm wrote:Because the day they thought how not to use an alphabetic writing system English was missing.

:?:
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Re: Why is English spelling and pronunciation different?

Postby Ciarán12 » 2018-04-13, 21:44

linguoboy wrote:
enricmm wrote:Because the day they thought "how not to use an alphabetic writing system ", English was missing.

:?:


Better now?

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Re: Why is English spelling and pronunciation different?

Postby linguoboy » 2018-04-13, 21:51

Ciarán12 wrote:
linguoboy wrote:
enricmm wrote:Because the day they thought "how not to use an alphabetic writing system ", English was missing.

:?:

Better now?

Not really. It sounds overnegated to me.

(It also falls wide of the mark, but then I've tried to learn several Asian languages. Deal with their scripts then come back and complain to me about English.)
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Re: Why is English spelling and pronunciation different?

Postby IpseDixit » 2018-04-13, 22:00

Maybe he meant taught?

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Re: Why is English spelling and pronunciation different?

Postby enricmm » 2018-04-14, 9:44

Oops! I meant taught, not tought. For some reason I always end up mixing the spellings of thought and taught despite knowing the difference pretty well.

And people don't take a comment said jokingly so seriously. But like all jokes it contains a little bit of truth.

English and its weird obsession with reflecting how words were spelled in Anglo-Saxon, Latin, Ancient Greek and what not instead of reflecting how words are spelled by its speakers nowadays is a clear example on how not to use an alphabetic writing system.

Yes I know there is some crazy stuff out there when we take a general look to all writing systems (Japanese, because of its crazy multiple-spelling kanjis among other oddities being the best example of utter madness in this departament IMO) or even when we only look at writing systems that somehow intend to reflect the actual spelling (Tibetan and its abugida being also really crazy from what I've heard).

But when we take a look to the languages that use full alphabets it's difficult finding a language that does a worse job than English and a good example of this is that a concept such as spell bee cannot be translated into Spanish, German, etc. because writing with proper orthography is nothing special in these languages. I mean the concept can't even be translated into French despite the French speakers also paying a lot of attention into writing with proper orthography, for the gods'* sake!

I may understand some compromise between dialects in order to make written communication more uniform (come on, every Catalan speaker knows we use the ubiquotous neuter e in order to accommodate western dialects as we easterners don't need it and could get away with an a in virtually 80% of the words we use on a daily basis), but not the constant festival of irregularities and historical spellings that we find in English.

When you use an alphabetic writing system and even those with the highest levels of education struggle with figuring out the pronunciation of a word they've never encountered before to the point of getting it wrong in many occasions, it's time for you to acknowledge that you have a problem with your orthography.

* That's not a mistake, I'm a polytheist.
Native: (ca) Native against my will: (es)
Advanced: (de) (us)
Intermediate: (zh)
Beginner: (ga) (ja)
Desiderata: (ar) (br) (cy) (egy) (el) (eo) (eu) (fo) (fr) (gl) (got) (grc) (he) (hi) (id) (iu) (is) (it) (km) (ko) (la) (lt) (lv) (nah) (no) (non) (oc) (pt) (ru) (sgn) (sq) (sv) (sw) (tr) (zhc)

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Re: Why is English spelling and pronunciation different?

Postby IpseDixit » 2018-04-14, 11:34

enricmm wrote:even when we only look at writing systems that somehow intend to reflect the actual spelling (Tibetan and its abugida being also really crazy from what I've heard).


I have no idea what you're trying to say here. What does "a writing system that reflects a spelling" even mean?

But when we take a look to the languages that use full alphabets it's difficult finding a language that does a worse job than English


These kinds of wild claims really get me tbh. How many languages are out there which use an alphabet (any kind thereof, not necessarily the Latin one)? How many of them have you studied to really conclude that English is either the worst or very close to being the worst?

and a good example of this is that a concept such as spell bee cannot be translated into Spanish, German, etc. because writing with proper orthography is nothing special in these languages. I mean the concept can't even be translated into French despite the French speakers also paying a lot of attention into writing with proper orthography, for the gods'* sake!


From Wikipedia:

(de) Buchstabierwettbewerb
(fr) concours d’orthographe

There's no such thing as an untranslatable word. There are definitely instances where there is no one word to one word corrispondence between different languages, but you can always use multiple words or even a sentence to translate what another language would express with just one word. And honestly, "spelling bee" is an extremely easy concept to translate. It might take some explaining to do if a person knows nothing about the English language and has no clue why this is a thing in anglophone countries but this has nothing to do with translation per se.

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Re: Why is English spelling and pronunciation different?

Postby linguoboy » 2018-04-14, 21:54

enricmm wrote:And people don't take a comment said jokingly so seriously. But like all jokes it contains a little bit of truth.

Right, but if it doesn't contain enough truth, then it doesn't work as a joke. (That's no big deal. Most of the jokes I make here don't hit the target either.)

enricmm wrote:English and its weird obsession with reflecting how words were spelled in Anglo-Saxon, Latin, Ancient Greek and what not instead of reflecting how words are spelled by its speakers nowadays is a clear example on how not to use an alphabetic writing system.

What do you mean "how words are spelled by its speakers nowadays"? The way they're spelled is the way they're spelled. (Ze de Rocks are very few and far between in this world.)

All writing systems have to strike some kind of balance between internal consistency and external compatibility. English goes further than most when it comes to retaining the spelling of borrowed words in their native orthographies, but if anything I see more Latin script languages following its example. Just look at German: The latest attempt at respelling borrowed words got almost no traction.

enricmm wrote:But when we take a look to the languages that use full alphabets it's difficult finding a language that does a worse job than English and a good example of this

Interesting that you mention Tibetan right before you say this, because I think it's one of the alphabetic scripts (its status as an "abugida" is debatable) that does. I became a lot less harsh in my judgments of English once I gained a familiarity with Southeast Asian orthographies. (I don't see why the fact that most are abugidas is so significant to you; this isn't a distinction people outside of the field of linguistics are even aware of.)

enricmm wrote:a concept such as spell bee cannot be translated into Spanish, German, etc. because writing with proper orthography is nothing special in these languages. I mean the concept can't even be translated into French despite the French speakers also paying a lot of attention into writing with proper orthography, for the gods'* sake!

As IpseDixit points out, this is demonstrably false and even if it were true, it wouldn't necessarily prove anything.

enricmm wrote:When you use an alphabetic writing system and even those with the highest levels of education struggle with figuring out the pronunciation of a word they've never encountered before to the point of getting it wrong in many occasions, it's time for you to acknowledge that you have a problem with your orthography.

Every alphabetic script I know of contains some ambiguity. Yes, even Catalan and Spanish. Does English have more than most? Yep. It's also more plurilocal than most, which presents challenges all its own.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons


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