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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 English spelling.
> 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 origin)
> 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 borrowing.
> 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 acquired.
> 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 > literate.
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." - overheard ICQ: 18656696 AIM Screen-Name: NikTaylor42


Thomas R. Wier <trwier@...>