----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, April 27, 2000 11:16
Subject: Re: [phoNet] English by the
--- In phoNet@egroups.com,
"Piotr Gasiorowski" <gpiotr@i...>
> One could say that far from being a crime against English,
> pronunciation "Chumly" sums up a millennium of historical
development and its striking divergence from the fossilised
only reminds you of the awesome historical depth of
> English as a
I would say the divergence is due to the rapid pace
of changes in
English rather than the 'awesome historical depth' you
Of course the tradition of English as a written language is
long indeed but there are languages with longer traditions yet
with less striking discrepancies between spelling and
As, for example ... ?
I don't think the pronunciation of English has been
changing at an extraordinary pace since the beginning of its recorded history.
Even sweeping systemic changes like the Great Vowel Shift are something that
may happen (and DOES happen) in the evolution of just about any language. Look
what's happened to Latin in the course of its transformation into the modern
Romance languages (Latin augustus > aoust
> août [u]).
Of course the "awsome depth" I mentioned scarcely looks
that awsome if you put Latin beside a REALLY old language like Greek. However,
the Greek pronunciation of today is also very different from that of Classical
Greek, and if the Modern Greek spelling-to-pronunciation rules are easier
to work out than those for English, it's mainly because Greek orthography has
been reformed since the Byzantine period.
Let me note that the development of English spelling has alway been quite
spontaneous, with no single Academy prescribing the officially correct usage
or adjusting the orthographic norms to the current pronunciation. In Poland,
the last major reform of this kind was carried out in the 1930s, eliminating a
number of irregularities and discrepancies, and even as recently as two years
ago a few more details were regularised again. No wonder our spelling is
almost completely regular and (morpho)phonemic, though foreigners may find it
hard to believe :).