mercredi 26 mai 2010

Spelling English is a great feat

Standard pronunciation of "great feat" is "grayt feet".

Consistent South English would have been "greet feet". Consistent Irish brogue not only would have been but to the best of my knowledge is: "grayt fayt", i e the Irish acknowledge a difference between "feet" and "feat" even in pronunciation.

But older pronunciation was over all something like what the French would have written "graite faite" or "grête fête". And that is the reason why it is spelled with the English spelling for what was that sound: "great feat".

If this spelling is phonetically inadequate, this is not because the spelling is wrong over all for English dialects, it is because only the Irish dialect of English keeps a decent pronunciation: "your spunkier than tay" (as in "than tea", but pronouncing it correctly for once) as goes a song not unknown to the Dubliners.

And as for "right" and "write" to be pronounced the same (as in "I write right") the story is that RIGHT was earlier pronounced as German RECHT, except that English had short I where Gm has short E. Then the GH sound (Gm ICH-Laut) was lost and I lengthened. In WRITE there was a loss of W in WR, a long or lengthened I before the short consonant pertaining entirely to following syllable, then a loss of vowel in that syllable - which lands us with both pronounced REET. Then REET became RYT. Y=as in Fr "œil" (still so Martha's Vineyard) or "ail".

Both inconveniences, espacially the latter, are there in other languages, the more so the older. The former inconvenience is more accented in Irish Gaelic.

Which disposes of this

2 commentaires:

  1. From a list of the US President's Spelling reform order, 1906:

    1) "-our" become "-or" since originally from Latin, despite fact that directly from O. French: grandour comes not from Latin *grandorem (non extant, the word was magnitudinem) but from O. A.-French grandour=Fr. grandeur.

    2) "blessed" becomes "blest". Now that is one way of pronouncing the word, but not the only one. "Blessed" can stand for either "blest" or "blessid":

    Gilbert Keith Chesterton
    Weighed - he was so blest a ton -
    Retained the material 300 pounds,
    THe spiritual are in his books to be found.


    A certain loch is blessid
    with a monster called the Nessie

    (nearly rhyming)


    And Troilus felt as one of gods, the blessid:
    For he beheld his love, the maiden Cresside.

    (fully rhyming)

    Since spelling "blest" goes only for one pronunciation, and "blessed" for either "blest" or "blessid", the spelling "blessed" is preferrable.

    3) Yes, preferrable, not preferabel, thank you!

    4) Same point nearly about mediæval pædagogy, though spelling it medieval pedagogy agrees with certain mediæval habits in spelling Latin.

  2. Funny thing is: same year, 1906, Sweden got a spelling reform that annoys me no matter.

    A real refont of Swedish spelling would have been possible only if we had passed (not past, thank u, though I pronounce it that way) through a phase without reading habits anywhere.

    Then we could comfortably have based new spelling on Stockholm pronunciation, according to same system as prevailed, or nearly so, when English got its spelling.

    "Kyrka" could have been "churca" (guess what that word means), "bära" could have been "beara", "gård" could have been "goard", "ute i kylan" could have been "oute i chulan", "y" could have been reused after Engl. model "just det är viktigt" could have been "youst dee ear wictyt" and so on.

    BUT there would have been an unbearable interference:


    Respell "bearable" in that system?

    Right, "outheardly" ("bearable" in proposed new spelling) looks far too close to "outhärdlig" ("unbearable" in extant spelling). And if "outheardly" is three syllables of bearable, how do you spell the four syllables of unbearable? "oooutheardly"? Three o's after each other is awkward and ugly.

    That is the kind of problem Dr. Johnson avoided. Any spelling reform dealing fully with ordinary inconveniences of English, Swedish or French spelling would have had to make use of such unbearable interferences.

    If English is not Anglo-Saxon in spelling system, it comes from the language having a break from writing between Norman Conquest (or one century after) and Hundred Years War.

    If French is not Latin, it is because Latin pronunciation was Latinised in the sense of defrenched by Alcuin of York, which renewed a spelling system made available also for the pre-Alcuin pronunciation, and used so in Strassburg oaths.

    As it is Theodore Rosevelt and our own Fridtjuv Bergh only scratched the surface.