Spell It Out: The Curious, Enthralling and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling

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mobitcoin.dev3.develag.com/map1.php If you've ever asked yourself questions like "Why do the words "their", "there" and "they're" sound alike, but mean very different things? In , he was awarded the Order of the British Empire for services to the English language. He lives in the United Kingdom. An ingenious idea, and only David Crystal could have pulled it off. Crystal delights in exposing all the many wacky ways we English speakers make new words. Guy Deutscher. James Essinger. Charles Barber.

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Spell It Out: The Curious, Enthralling and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling

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Shakespeare's Words. Words in Time and Place. Several beautiful handwritten forms of Roman letters exist, especially in Ireland. You and all your colleagues know that alphabet well. It's the obvious choice. All you have to do is write down the sounds of Anglo-Saxon using the Roman letters.

That should be more than enough, you think.

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ykoketomel.ml: Spell It Out: The Curious, Enthralling, and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling (): David Crystal: Books. Spell It Out book. Read reviews from the world's largest community for readers. THE FASCINATING AND SURPRISING HISTORY OF ENGLISH SPELLING.

You quickly realise that you're wrong. You listen carefully to Anglo-Saxon — or English, as it would later be called — and you hear sounds that don't exist in Latin. Two sounds especially catch your attention: consonant sounds made by the tongue between the teeth we'd call them 'th' sounds today, as in this and thin. How are you going to write those? There also seem to be far more sounds in this language than in Latin.

What on earth are you going to do? The abbot calls a meeting in the scriptorium, where all manuscript work takes place. Any suggestions?

Spell It Out The Curious Enthralling and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling Information

The origins of spelling difficulties in English lie in the fact that there are far more sounds in the language than there are letters, as can be seen from a list of the spoken vowels and consonants that have to be written down. Phonetic symbols help to explain problem cases in later chapters.

Old English, the language spoken by the Anglo-Saxons in Britain, is dead and gone. We speak and write Modern English now. But we can get a sense of the scale of the problem facing the monks if we transfer their task to the present day. If we had to write down Modern English in Britain with a different letter for every distinctive sound, just how many letters would we need?

The first thing we have to do is establish how many distinctive sounds there are. We do this by finding all the words that change their meaning when just one of their sounds is altered.


We might start with pip, and change the first sound. Tip is different from pip. So is sip, and hip, and lip That gives us a p, t, s, h, l Then we could change the second sound. Pip is different from pop and pup and peep That gives us i, o, u, ee Linguists call these distinctive sounds 'phonemes'. How many phonemes are there in English? The answer depends on the regional accent we have, but for many people the total is forty-four.

That's the number we hear, for example, in the British accent known as 'Received Pronunciation' RP , widely understood in the UK because it's used by many presenters on national radio and television. To understand how English spelling works, it's essential to develop a sense of what sounds have to be written down. So I list below all the phonemes in these two accents, using the system presented by John Wells in his classic study, Accents of English.

Don't pay attention to the spellings at this point. Simply say the words aloud and listen to the sounds that the spellings convey to you. Phoneticians have given each phoneme its own symbol to show that it's different from the others. And to show that we're talking about sounds, not letters, these symbols are put in slant brackets. It's not important, at this point in the book, to remember all the symbols. But do keep a bookmark on this page, because in order to explain certain spellings I will sometimes have to show the pronunciation of the words, especially in the older period of the language, and that is where you will see these symbols used.

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For the present, it's important only to appreciate the number of phonemes there are in English. There are up to twenty vowel phonemes in these accents, and the way they are used varies a little between British and American English, though not enough to cause any real problems of intelligibility. We understand each other well enough. When you see a colon : after a symbol, it means that the sound is long, with a single phonetic quality throughout.

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If there is no colon, the vowel sound is short. When you see a combination of two symbols, it means that the sound is long because it has two distinct phonetic qualities; such sounds are called 'diphthongs', and they play a particularly important role in the history of English spelling. Of course, if you don't speak with either a Received Pronunciation or a General American accent, you may find you have a different number of phonemes.

For a Cockney, fin and thin sound the same; so do vat and that. To write them all down in a completely regular way, we would need an alphabet of the same size. And that is what we haven't got. We have an alphabet of only twenty-six letters. That, in a nutshell, is the problem of English spelling.