On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff
I MAY have had more pressing matters on my mind, but I was also musing on the difficulties of the English language, its pronunciation and spelling. It’s quite enough for me to hanker for Elizabethan times, when people spelled more or less as they wished.
In particular, consider today’s title: The sentence “Bear with me, dear, as I speak creatively” has four different pronunciations of “ea.” And these aren’t the only ones.
Teflpedia offers pronunciation exercises on “ea,” based on vowels of the International Phonetic Alphabet. The IPA allows English to be expressed in General American and nine others: Australian, Canadian, Indian, Irish, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Scottish, Singapore and Welsh.
And, remember, this is only the phonics part of it. There’s also the orthography, the spelling.
A man of his time, it’s no wonder Shakespeare occasionally signed his name differently. There are three with “ea,” though. Which brings me more or less back on topic.
Shakespeare, wear, break, breakfast. How come “ea” has all these different pronunciations? The few other languages I’ve dabbled in, French, German, Italian and Japanese, are not without their challenges (I’m terrible at all four). However, each has some regularity of pronunciation, once its unique sounds are recognized.
And, in a sense, this is the problem with English: It’s a love child of just about every language that ever made it across the Channel/der Kanal/ la Manche. Thus, an English word with Germanic roots has some relationship to one sort or another of German. Earth, for example, evolved from Erde; and where the “a” came from is anyone’s guess. And so it is with words originating in French, Norse, Latin, Celtic and the rest.
Plus, people spoke to each other long before they wrote things down.
There are lots of other anomalies in English pronunciation and spelling. Maybe those of you with greater language skills might contribute your favorites? I don’t want this preamble to wear out my welcome with knowledgeable readers. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2016