> HAil Oskar,
> you wrote:
> >I find this rather exaggerated; would you care to reason for your
> The problem with English is that the pronounciation of a letter
> depends on what word it is occurring in. Thus, in English, the
> pronounciation of each word has to be learned independently
> of the spelling of the same word.
Not quite true, the problem is that English has many spelling paradigms
(French, Anglosaxon, Latin, and a couple of others) so unless one has a
good grasp of the ortography it's hard to know the spelling, but when
one invents a word, most people will often get the pronunciation right.
There are some (many) ambiguous cases, of course! but it's far from a
completely random spelling.
> (I think this spelling reform was abandoned later, because it is
> really very long ago since I saw any one write night as "nite")
I've seen it often, guess it stuck in some places :)
> One thing one motices is that the dictionaries they use in America
> (e.g. Webster's) all include phonetic pronounciation guides for each
> separate word, as well as etymologies.
> The reason for the phonetic information is of course that there
> is no other way to find out how to pronounce a word. (except by asking
> someone else, who is a seasoned user) The reason for all the etymologies,
> is because almost 50% af all English words are actually French imports.
> And the meanings of many English words are very hard to learn without
> knowing some Latin or some French.
I'd say that number is a bit exaggerated :) French words are mostly
common in legal terms and such (since French used to be what English is
now). I don't follow you on how it's harder to learn the meaning of an
English word than it is to learn the Latin or French word... I don't see
those loans make it any more difficult (aside from spelling), but on the
contrary, made my life way easier when learning French :)
> For comparison, I'd like to state that the dictionaries we used for Norwegian
> in school, did not include any etymologies at all. Nor did they include any
> phonetic pronounciation guidelines. That is because Norwegian is very much
> pronounced "as is".
Argh! Tell me about Norwegian dictionaries! I couldn't get one with
phonetic pronunciation while I was there :/ Anyway, as you say it's
pretty regular (except for the cracy o's!), I've just been wondering
where does the stress falls, but chatting doesn't really help with the
oral skills :)
> (and I don't think the Norwegian language is in a unique position
> in this regard, either - but that is another discussion)
Luckily there are many others :) Spanish, French, Italian, I believe
German, Russian, Japanese... seems to be the norm rather than the
exception, luckily for us language freaks!
> Here a simple example of how the constant spelling reforms work:
> Formerly it was "jeg stod".
> However, since the "d" is no longer pronounced, the new spelling
> rules say that the correct form is now "Jeg sto".
> Very simple: you just keep changing the spelling so that it always
> conforms to the latest habits of pronounciation.
The problem this brings is when one tries to read an old text,
Icelanders can read the old sagas because their spelling and the old
spelling is so similar, but if they had somehow adapted their spelling
system it'd be a whole different thing... like reading Chaucer for an
Englishman, I guess, or El Mio Cid for a Spanish.
> I could give many other examples. But since a few random examples
> are hardly statistically significant, the final judgement of the
> state of affairs must be left to those who know the two languages
> that are being compared. Preferably it should be people who have
> lived a considerable time "among the populace" of the countries
> that are being compared. Or better: gone through primary school
> in the given countries. Since I haven't lived in Iceland, I just
> have to take your word for it, that the Icelandic system is a
> consistent one. But if the Icelandic school childeren all need
> to know SAMPA and IPA in order to learn to pronounce their own
> language, then that would of course modify ones view on how close
> written Icelandic is to an approximately phonetic spelling system.
No one has to learn SAMPA or IPA to speak or write :) I didn't learn it
(still haven't, just know some of it) and my English is pretty good, for
> Note that my remarks were descriptive.
> I wasn't "criticizing" either English or Icelandic.
> I think it is nice that some languages are conservative and stick
> to old forms.
Yes, I agree :) I'm against restricting, but I really like it when it's
PD: Keth, I think you're being influenced by your Norwegian, our (I
speak Spanish natively, which is as tidy with it's ortography as
Norwegian is) tidy spelling systems often bring us trouble with others',
in the case of Spanish we get even more trouble, since we only have a
handful of vowels (a, e, i, o, u, you have a couple more) so 'æ' sounds
like 'a' or 'e', 'å' is 'o', 'y' is 'i', 'u' is 'u' (but not *your*
'u'), and then you have the @#$# 'o' of which I won't talk here! :) At
least your spelling is nice, and you got the 'right' 'j's (the only IPA
thing I grabbed quickly was the [j]... when in Spanish 'j' is [x], oh,