Re: THEORY: Sound changes in literate societies
|From:||Nik Taylor <fortytwo@...>|
|Date:||Tuesday, June 25, 2002, 16:45|
Eli Ewing wrote:
> 1. Other modern languages have been written for just as long, and often have
> very coherent spelling systems.
Well, for one thing, English spelling got standardized in the middle of
the Great Vowel Shift, and therefore captured some spellings that
reflected the shifted pronunciations, and others that had not yet been
affected by the Shift. Secondly, English has a stronger tendency to
avoid changes in spelling and to preserve the original spelling of a
foreign word, the pronunciation of which word often falls somewhere
between the closest English-phonetic equivalent of the original
pronunciation, and a spelling pronunciation based on the normal rules of
> So I began to wonder if literacy has any effect on sound changes at all, and
> if so, what could it possibly be?
Well, there are instances of spelling pronunciations, for example, those
who have a /t/ in "often", or the /k/ in "perfect" (originally spelled
something like "perfet", the c added to more closely resemble the Latin
> My first inclination is yes, since sound shifts tend to happen uniformally.
> Since every "-nd" would become "-nts" at the end of a word, it wouldn't even
> appear to *be* a discrepancy.
Unless, of course, final /nd/ entered the language once more thru
> 1) The spelling of words keeps people from making such dramatic sound shifts.
Except for a few words, I doubt that would be a major influence, as
one's pronunciation is largely set in early childhood, before reading is
> 2) The shifts occur, but rather than changing the pronunciation of letters,
> people change the way they spell the word to reflect the shift.
> and option 2 is possible, but unlikely because the society is too
That could be. A society with a high literacy rate might very well have
a tendency towards greater orthographic conservativeness.
"There's no such thing as 'cool'. Everyone's just a big dork or nerd,
you just have to find people who are dorky the same way you are." -
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