Irregularity (17)

1 Name: Anonymous Linguist : 2007-12-04 21:12 ID:eP0MGZns

I was lying in bed last night thinking about language, and what a bizarre thing it is, especially English. What I like about it is the number of exceptions to its so called "rules", and the flexibility with which it can be used. Do you Anonymous Linguists know of a language that is as irregular as English, or is it a unique case, due to its mixed latinate & germanic roots?

2 Name: Anonymous Linguist : 2007-12-05 00:08 ID:Heaven


Obviously you only speak english.

3 Name: Anonymous Linguist : 2007-12-05 01:07 ID:NOCxgBYp

English is incredibly regular in its grammar, especially conjugations. Even the irregular verbs have few forms. Hell, even with "to be". Present: I am, you are, he is, we are, you are, they are. Past: I was, you were, she was, we were, they were. etc.

There's a few irregular pasts and participles, but that's about it. >>2 hit the nail on the head, so to speak.

4 Name: Anonymous Linguist : 2007-12-05 14:05 ID:vpmAJ9WC

It's not the grammar that is irregular, it's the spelling.

For example, why is "late" spelled with a vowel at the end of the word, when the word ends with a consonant (T), when pronounced? And why are there so many unnecessary letters in the word "through"?

5 Name: Anonymous Linguist : 2007-12-05 20:42 ID:DdjpoLcy

english has an unique history of maintaining ancient ways of spelling both of norman french and saxon origin. While most languages rationalized their spelling in the last centuries, english didn't because it has no centralized language institute(if they did change their spelling american english would be unreadable for british reader and vice versa).

6 Name: Anonymous Linguist : 2007-12-05 22:28 ID:Heaven

Yeah, spelling is completely fucked in English. "doubt", etc.

Also, pronounce this: "Going through that trough was tough."


Sorry for less intellectual post

7 Name: Anonymous Linguist : 2007-12-06 06:53 ID:5/BzCVvp


That's not an irregularity in and of itself. The silent 'e' simply lenghtens the preceding syllable, and since a long a in English is pronounced differently than the short one, it turns into [lɛɪt] instead of [læt] with the '-e' at the end.

Though 'through', 'though', 'tough', etc... Completely different matter.

8 Name: Anonymous Linguist : 2007-12-07 02:52 ID:s+veMDOC

> (if they did change their spelling american english would be unreadable for british reader and vice versa).

Yet they did change their spelling.

9 Name: Anonymous Linguist : 2007-12-07 12:38 ID:eP0MGZns


Yeah, but only a few words: honour -> honor; colour -> color; centre -> center. Personally I think it was proto-anti French sentiment that did it. French frieds -> freedom fries.

10 Name: Anonymous Linguist : 2008-01-01 20:53 ID:0psVZ5Uk

>>3 -- certainly English verbs have fewer forms per verb than other heavily-inflected languages. But students still have to memorize and internalize dozens of strong verbs, where the vowel changes for the past tense.

>>5 -- you make a good point in that spelling has remained largely the same even though pronunciation has drifted. This has been true for centuries; our strange "silent E" pronunciation rule stems from how that "E" used to be pronounced, and had a lengthening effect on the vowel before it. The final "E" became weaker and eventually wasn't even pronounced, but the lengthening effect remained. And the Great Vowel Shift affected long and short vowels differently. But you don't learn any of that when you're learning to read English; you just have a bunch of rules and exceptions.

But the real tragedy of learning English isn't the weird spelling, but the varied pronunciation you'll encounter in the real world. If you're learning English for business, you have an advantage in that people will be speaking formally and clearly; people who drawl or jabber at home are likely to reel it in a little at a white-collar job. But that's not true if you're driving a cab. Add that to the difficulty of being understood with an accent, especially if you've learned the words in print. Actually, maybe spelling is kind of a curse to the English learner, since a word's spelling doesn't really tell you how to pronounce it these days.

11 Name: Anonymous Linguist : 2008-01-02 04:53 ID:ao8wBxvd

True, there are still many irregulars, but its the same as or fewer than the Romance languages.

12 Name: Anonymous Linguist : 2008-01-02 12:53 ID:X/MmNHlr

English is a funny beast, eh?

13 Name: Anonymous Linguist : 2008-01-08 02:58 ID:5Sg4wR7d

Through vs Threw

Why the spelling matters! :3

Through : Has a soft ending that fades. You don't shape your mouth at the end of the word.

Threw: the "w" is pronounced. Your mouth retains the "u" "oo" shape at the end of the word.

English is very descriptive about how things should be pronounced, and it's easy to get confused, but often it's spelled that way for a reason. ^_^

14 Name: Anonymous Linguist : 2008-01-09 04:51 ID:0psVZ5Uk

That seems to hold true in my dialect, but someone on this planet is a native English speaker who pronounces them the same. Ever visit one of those "dialect tester" websites that asks you how words are pronounced? Those are fun. And they illustrate how nuanced English vowels are.

Every natural language is going to have its irregularities. And they're all different. Sometimes the rules themselves are strange. I bought a Czech dictionary once, and the plural system they have just made me give up altogether. Apparently a word takes a different plural depending on the last digit of the number preceding it. Wikipedia has details:

15 Name: Anonymous Linguist : 2008-03-10 04:13 ID:0eLLB7zq

According to a couple of dictionaries I look at, they are pronounced the same. The spelling is different because they come from historically different words.

And English is not very descriptive about how it should be pronounced, take for example the -ough example:

tough (UFF)
cough (OFF)
bough (OW)
through (OO)
thorough (OH)
and even:
hiccough (UP)

Thats six ways of pronouncing -ough. English spelling is certainly not helpful for indicating pronunciation.

16 Name: Anonymous Linguist : 2008-03-10 08:28 ID:eP0MGZns


That's maybe a dialectual thing, I have an educated west of Scotland accent, and I pronounce them the same. There is also no difference between "dew" and "Jew" in my area.

17 Name: Anonymous Linguist : 2008-03-10 12:39 ID:qvOhxU6G

thorough (schwa)

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