The English Language Pronunciation Guide…. sort of

I stumbled on this little ditty this morning and thought I’d best preserve it for myself and anyone else who might be paying attention….


Linguistics 101: An Introduction to the Study of Language

Phonetics and Phonology

There are three types of the study of the sounds of language. Acoustic Phonetics is the study of the physical properties of sounds. Auditory Phonetics is the study of the way listeners perceive sounds. Articulatory Phonetics (the type this lesson is concerned with) is the study of how the vocal tracts produce the sounds.

The orthography (spelling) of words in misleading, especially in English. One sound can be represented by several different combinations of letters. For example, all of the following words contain the same vowel sound: he, believe, Lee, Caesar, key, amoeba, loudly, machine, people, and sea. The following poem illustrates this fact of English humorously (note the pronunciation of the bold words):

I take it you already know,
of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Some may stumble, but not you,
on hiccough, thorough, slough, and through?
So now you are ready, perhaps,
to learn of less familiar traps?
Beware of heard, a dreadful word,
that looks like beard, but sounds like bird.
And dead, it’s said like bed, not bead;
for goodness’ sake, don’t call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat.
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt.)
A moth is not a moth in mother,
nor both in bother, broth in brother.
And here is not a match for there,
nor dear and fear, for bear and pear.
And then there’s dose and rose and lose
just look them up – and goose and choose
And cork and work and card and ward
and font and front and word and sword
And do and go, then thwart and cart,
come, come! I’ve hardly made a start.
A dreadful language? Why man alive!
I’ve learned to talk it when I was five.
And yet to write it, the more I tried,
I hadn’t learned it at fifty-five.

– Author Unknown

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