----- Original Message -----
From: P. S.
To: phoNet@egroups.com
Sent: Thursday, April 27, 2000 11:16 AM
Subject: Re: [phoNet] English by the book.

--- In phoNet@egroups.com, "Piotr Gasiorowski" <gpiotr@i...> wrote:

> One could say that far from being a crime against English, the
> pronunciation "Chumly" sums up a millennium of historical
> development and its striking divergence from the fossilised
> spelling only reminds you of the awesome historical depth of
> English as a written language.

I would say the divergence is due to the rapid pace of changes in
English rather than the 'awesome historical depth' you mentioned.
Of course the tradition of English as a written language is very
long indeed but there are languages with longer traditions yet
with less striking discrepancies between spelling and pronunciation.

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 :).