Friday, September 6, 2019

Day 57: More linguistic oddities

Just a few things that caught the magpie's attention over the last day or so, regarding English's strange spelling/pronunciation mismatch.  Here's the thing: a lot of the weirdnesses of English spelling and pronunciation can be explained by the fact that spelling got codified by the printing press before some significant changes in pronunciation took place (among them, the Great English Vowel Shift)(which always sounds like it's something truly awesome, but is really just a matter of vowels moving up the vowel space across the board). 

So, for example, "goose" used to be pronounced the way it looks, with a geminate (long) vowel sounding like the vowel in "hoe", and a final schwa (a sort of neutral sound).  Then that o sound moved up to become an u sound, and the final vowel was lost, and there we are.  (I'm oversimplifying.)

This is why the "break" in "breakfast" sounds different than the word by itself - because in the context of the word breakfast, it maintained its original vowel pronunciation, but it changed when it stood alone.

But there are some words that are spelled exactly the same but not pronounced at all the same, and I honestly don't know why.  So I give you just a few examples to ponder.

Why are "good" and "food" not pronounced the same?

And how about these three?  (Try saying the last one with the same vowel as the first two - you'll get a giggle.)


Something to chew on.  


Wanderingcatstudio said...

This will give you a giggle

twinsetellen said...

Quoting Seuss:

The tough coughs as he ploughs the dough.