english orthography

how is ch pronounced in german?

in standard german the digraph ch is used to transcribe both the the ich-laut (unvoiced palatal fricative /ç/) and the ach-laut (unvoiced velar fricative /x/). its very easy to tell how its pronounced by looking at the vowel which precedes it

light (front) vowels
e - short like e in pet*
i - short like i in sit^
ä - like ai in air^
ö - like i in bird*
ü - like ee in sheep but with lips in a little o shape
ei/aia followed by i
eu/äuo followed by i
ie - like ee in sheep
ur u followed by i

dark (back) vowels
a - like a in bath*
o - like o in pot*
u - like oo in book*
au - a followed by u

*australian english
^british english

ch is pronounced /ç/ when preceded by a light vowel
g is pronounced /ç/ when preceded by a single i at the end of a syllable
1. put your tongue in the position for /j/. the tip should be touching the inside of the bottom teeth and the sides should be gently touching the roof of your mouth.
2. breath out gently. the airflow should be about the same as if you were pronouncing /f/ (its the same sound as the h in english huge)

ch is pronounced /x/ when preceded by a dark vowel
1. put your tongue in the position for /k/. the tip should be touching the inside of the bottom teeth and the back should be close to or gently touching the roof of your mouth
2. breath out gently. the airflow should be about the same as if you were pronouncing /h/ but held for a little longer (its the same sound as the ch in scottish loch)

My country’s dialect of English is layered upon previously-spoken French Creole. One of the cool effects of this has historically been that you could intensify a word by reduplicating it in French.

Today, the only such reduplication that remains very common is “Yes oui” to indicate very strong agreement. However, since our French Creole was only ever a spoken language when we had it and we write with the English orthography today, we spell this out as “Yes we”.

All of which is to say that, when I first heard it at 10 years old, I thought Obama’s “Yes We Can” campaign slogan was the ungrammatical yelling of a mad man. “YES! CAN! AGREE!”

Honestly, compared to that moment of complete confusion, I found Trump positively lucid.

why uni is confusing as hell
  • orthography professor: so you'll be teachers and spelling is very important to you and we'll have multiple tests to ensure that you write Hungarian words correctly because you'll teach children AND ORTOGRAPHY IS VITAL
  • *one hour later*
  • intro to linguistics professor: lol spelling is stupid and rubbish and only spoken language counts as language so don't bother about spelling mistakes

modern english orthography is so inconsistent like we have three letters for /k/ and a totally unnecessary one for /k͡s/ but we have use the same ambiguous digraph for both /θ/ and /ð/ and another digraph for /ʃ/ and /t͡ʃ/.. and even those arent reliably pronounced the same everywhere. and then there are silent letters and almost no way of knowing what group of letters corresponds to exactly to which vowel sound. i mean i appreciate being able to recognise the words in the languages we borrowed them from but its actually ridiculous.. i end up writing everything in german because i have now idea how to spell anything in english anymore.

libri293  asked:

In a recent post about pronunciation, you mentioned orthography, e.g.: “Polish is definitely up there for an orthography that’s way different from English.” I thought orthography referred to a the way a language is written and its spelling. Don't you mean phonology? Really enjoy your blog and how well you articulate things I haven't mind around yet.

No, I meant orthography. Think about a different language, like Spanish, and what an English speaker expects if they see written Spanish. They won’t know what to do with the accent marks, sure, but that means the average English speaker with no knowledge of Spanish will just ignore them. The vowels might get mispronounced, but they’ll be close. The only tricky bits (the parts that won’t get pronounced right at all) are h, j, ñx and ll (maybe qu). Everything else will be close.

Now compare that to Polish. The following letters are ones that the average speaker will never come even slightly close with: ą, ę, ó, y, c, ć, cz, dź, dż, ch, j, ł, ń, ś, sz, w, ź, ż, and rz. That’s a lot.

Consider that the reason this came up is a video where English speakers try to pronounce Irish names based on their spelling alone. The reason people keep screwing them up is not because they can’t pronounce them: It’s because they have no idea how the spelling corresponds to pronunciation—and, crucially, the mapping is very, very different from English orthographical conventions.

Thinking again about the average English speaker who has absolutely no knowledge of Spanish or Polish. Here’s a top ten lists of boys’ names from Spain in the 1990s:

  1. David
  2. Alejandro
  3. Daniel
  4. Javier
  5. Sergio
  6. Adrián
  7. Carlos
  8. Pablo
  9. Álvaro
  10. Iván

Aside from interference from English (e.g. an English speaker will see the first name and pronounce it [ˈde.vɪd] as opposed to an Anglicization of [da.ˈβið]), the places where an English speaker will screw up those names are: (1) Correct vowel pronunciation; (2) correct voiced stop and v pronunciation; (3) swallowed l’s; (4) correct stress placement; (5) correct pronunciation of j. But that’s it! They’ll all be recognizable. Now compare that list to this list of the top ten most popular Polish boys’ names from 2012:

  1. Jakub
  2. Kacper
  3. Filip
  4. Szymon
  5. Jan
  6. Michal
  7. Antoni
  8. Mateusz
  9. Bartosz
  10. Wojciech

There’s no way that an English speaker will get 2, 4, 6, 8, 9 or 10 right—and a good chance they’ll mispronounce 1 and/or 5. Now imagine if instead of using proper Polish orthographic conventions you did this:

  1. Yakub
  2. Katsper
  3. Filip
  4. Shimon
  5. Yan
  6. Mikhal
  7. Antoni
  8. Mateyush
  9. Bartosh
  10. Voychekh

An English speaker still wouldn’t get it right (open question whether [k] or [h] is a better mispronunciation of [x]), but they’d get a lot closer than they would with the original orthography.

So really, this isn’t a question of phonology: It’s purely a question of orthography. It’s a matter of how an English speaker expects the Roman alphabet to work. (And, of course, regarding the original quote, no doubt Polish’s phonology is also way different from English’s, but its use of the Roman alphabet is what’s at issue here.)

hippynippyprincess  asked:

If the letter "c" calls for sounds that can be replicated with either "s" and "K" then what is the point of having the letter "c?"

It depends what your frame of reference is. Ultimately, there is no point, but it’s not as if anyone designed the orthography of English. There was no Council of Elders, nor was there a vote, or a proclamation, or even a grass roots door knocking campaign. All our spellings are inherited. In rare instances they change, but it’s pretty dang rare. Most of the time we spell a word a given way because that’s the way it was done. That is, if the book says it’s spelled “receive”, then I guess it’s spelled “receive”. You can spell it a different way if you want, but it won’t play well in the sticks.

Actually, let me emphasize that point. You can spell anything however you want. 3 jj #*#* 8293j eiei suuewpa. That was “You can spell things like this” in English. I just did it. The result, though, was that no one could read it but me, so no English speaker got the benefit of understanding my awesome sentence until I spilled the beans about its contents in the next one.

And that’s where we land with spelling. If everyone spells things the same way, then we can all figure out what each other’s saying. If we all do whatever we want, we can’t. There’s a happy medium in between these two extremes (e.g. a more phonetic spelling system that has no standards), but for English, we’re stuck with spelling words however they’ve been spelled for decades.

An enterprising individual kould start replasing all hard “C”’s with “K” and all soft “C”’s with “S”, but unless there’s mirakulous, spontaneous buy in from English speakers the world over all at onse, it’ll just look jarring and inkorrekt to most readers. I’m not sure it’s something that kould be done at this point.

Now as for why we have “C” at all, that story is kind of interesting, but only kind of. The Greek alphabet has two letters that are relevant here: Kappa <Κ>, which should look familiar, and gamma <Γ>. Basically, the first one was for the hard “k” sound, and the second for the hard “g” sound. Most places that adopted an alphabet inspired by Greek in some form took <Κ> for its hard “k” sound (the Germanic languages have it as do the Slavic languages). Latin, for whatever reason, used <Γ>. Wikipedia seems to think it’s because Etruscan didn’t distinguish between “g” and “k”; I don’t know. For whatever reason, though, Latin didn’t get on board the K-train. They also began to write <Γ> a little funny: They wrote it <C>. Now Latin, as it happens, does distinguish hard “k” from hard “g”, sot hey up and created a brand new letter: <G>. They created it by adding a little line to <C>. And there we have it.

You’ll notice that “g” in English has two different pronunciations:


  • gum
  • guilt
  • got
  • gander


  • gem
  • genius
  • giraffe
  • .gif

Well, “c” does exactly the same thing in exactly the same environments:


  • custom
  • cute
  • coat
  • candor


  • cent
  • ceiling
  • cilia
  • cinder

The changes aren’t analogous (though they are in Italian), but basically before front vowels (represented by “i” and “e” above), the sounds softened (i.e. palatalized). The spellings didn’t change, but how one pronounced them did. Since the changes were consistent, there was no need to respell them (it was obvious how it should be pronounced based on the spelling, so why bother?).

Of course, by the time these things showed up in English, it was just a mess. Words were coming in from all over the places—with or without passports—the offices were understaffed, the employees had a lot of stuff going on at home, etc. So they all just came over spelled and pronounced however.

And to make matters worse, then you got a bunch of words of Germanic origin that had <K> all over the place! There was never any problem in Latin because <K> was pretty much nonexistent. In English, though, we’ve got “kid”, “kick”, “kilt”, “Kent”, “kin”, “king”—you name it. And <K> is pretty consistent in its pronunciation, making <C> look bad (though no one complains about <G> vs. <J> for some reason!).

So that’s the long and short of it. We have <C> because it’s there, and we’re probably stuck with it. There’s no Academie Française in America—or England or Australia or India or Ireland or Canada or anywhere else in the world where there are millions of English speakers. And even if there were, whose pronunciation would be reflected in the new spellings? Whose dialect would be elevated to the level of “prestige”? Bleh. We’re probably better off with bizarre spellings that are equally unfair to everyone.

anonymous asked:

I have a question for a linguist! Can you help me? No my normal waking life I often shorten usually to its first syllable but I have no goddamn idea how to do that in text form. Would it "as per yoush" "I'll have the youdj" or something else? I'm completely lost. Help me, David.

Ah, yes… The eternal question. Specifically, how does one spell the sound [ʒ] in English? It’s super common: the “s” in “usual”; the second “g” in “garage”; the “g” in “genre”; the “g” in “mirage”; the “z” in “azure”… Doing “ge” might do the trick if we didn’t have “huge”, which is pronounced differently.

I have always been of the opinion that there is a simple solution:

s : sh :: z : zh

Ta da! Thus you could do “uzh” or “youzh” or “yuzh” (I like the last one best). Unfortunately, I don’t think English speakers are used to “zh”. I’ve had a lot of problems with actors mispronouncing “zh”. I don’t know why. It seems perfectly logical to me (I mean, look at that analogy!), but I’ve heard it come out [z], [ʃ]—even [s], for some crazy reason.

The truth is outside of a mandatory spelling reform, or a popular meme, I don’t see us ever coming up with a consistent way to spell [ʒ], which is a shame, because it is, without a doubt, my favorite sound.

That’s my 2¢. Best of luck with your predicament! It’s one many of us share.