Spelling and PronunciationbyAlkhima M. Macarompis
OUTLINE1. Definition of Terms1.1 Spelling- The written trace of word.- The use of letters to form words.1.1 Pronunciation- The way in which a sound, word, or language is articulated, especially inconforming to an accepted standard.2. Spelling2.1 Examples of different spellings for the same sound2.2 Examples of The same spellings for different sounds2.3 Examples of Silent letters2.4 Examples of missing letters2.5 Middle English Period2.6 Modern English Period2.7 The Great Vowel Shift3. Spelling Pronunciation
If writing represented the spoken language perfectly, spelling reformers would never havearisen. The irregularities between graphemes (letters) and phonemes have been cited as one reason‗why Johnny can‘t read‘. Different spellings for the same sound, the same spellings for different sounds,‗silent letters‘, and ‗missing letters‘ – all provide fuel for the flames of spelling-reform movements. Hereare examples:Same sound, Different sounds, Silent letters Missinglettersdifferent spelling same spellingaye thought listen use/juz/buy though debt fuse/fjuz/die gnosishi knowThai psychologyHeight rightGuide swordAt the beginning of the Middle English period, which dates from the Norman Conquest of 1066,the language was still quite highly inflectional. By the end of the period the relationship between theelements of the sentence depended basically on word order. As early as 1200 the three or fourgrammatical case forms of nouns in the singular had been reduced to two, and to denote the plural thenoun ending (e)s had been adopted.In the early part of the Modern English period the vocabulary was enlarged by the widespreaduse of one part of speech for another and by increased borrowings from other languages.The many changes that have occurred in the sound system of English, like The Great VowelShift,were not always reflected in changes in the spelling of the words that were affected. When the printingpress was introduced in the fifteenth century, not only were archaic pronunciations ‗frozen‘, but the
spelling did not always represent even those pronunciations, because many of the early printers wereDutch and were unsure of English pronunciation.During the Renaissance, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, many scholars who revealedClassical Greek and Latin became ‗spelling reformers‘. Unlike the later reformers who wished to changethe spelling to conform to pronunciation, these scholars changed the spelling of English words toconform to their etymologies- the ‗original‘ Latin, or Greek, or French spellings. Where the Latin had a b,they added a b even if it was not pronounced; and shown by these few examples:Middle English Spelling ―Reformed Spelling‖Indite indictdette debtreceit receiptoure hourModern English orthography does not always represent what we know about the phonology ofthe language. The disadvantage is partially offset by the fact that the writing system allows us to readand understand what people wrote of years ago without the need for translations.Today‘s language is no more static that was yesterday‘s; it would be impossible to maintain aperfect correspondence between pronunciation and spelling. We do not mean to say that certainreforms would not be helpful. Some ‗respelling‘ is already taking place; advertisers often spell though astho, through as thru, and night as nite. For a period of time the old Nation Review used some modifiedspellings and ceases using capitals for proper nouns. Other publications did not follow suit, however.Spelling habits are hard to change.In the case of homophones, it is helpful at times to have different spellings for the same sounds,as in the following pair:
The book was red. The book was read.There are also reasons for using the same spelling for different pronunciations. It was shownthat a morpheme may be pronounced differently when it occurs in different contexts, and that in mostcases the pronunciation is ‗regular‘; that is, it is determined by rules that apply throughout the language.The identical spelling reflects the fact that the different pronunciations represent the same morpheme.Similarly, the phonetic realizations of the vowels in the following forms are ‗regular‘.divine/divinity serene/serenity sane/sanitysublime/sublimate obscene/obscenity profane/profanitysign/signature clean/cleanse humane/humanityThe spelling of such pairs thus reflects our knowledge of the sound pattern of the language andthe semantic-morphological relations between the words.Other examples provide further evidence. The b in ‗debt’ may remind us of the related worddebit, in which the b is pronounced.It is doubtful that anyone would suggest that the plural morpheme should be spelled s in catsand z in dogs. The sound of the morpheme is determined by rules, in this case as in other cases.There is another important reason why spelling should not always be tied to the phoneticpronunciation of words. Different dialects of English have divergent pronunciations. While dialectalpronunciations differ, the common spellings represent the fact that we understand each other. It isnecessary for the written language to transcend local dialects. If each dialect were spelt according to itsown pronunciation, written communication among the English-speaking peoples of the world wouldsuffer more than the spoken communication does today.Despite the primacy of the spoken over the written language, the written word is often regardedwith excessive reverence. The stability, permanency, and graphic nature of writing cause some people to
favor it over ephemeral and elusive speech. Writing has however affected speech only marginally, andmost notably in the phenomenon of spelling pronunciation. Since the sixteenth century, we find thatspelling has to some extent influenced standard pronunciation. The most important of such changesstem from the eighteenth-century under the influenced and ‗decrees‘ of the dictionary-makers and theschoolteachers. The struggle between those who demanded that words be pronounced according to thespelling and those who demanded that words be spelt according to their pronunciations generatedgreat heat in the century. The ‗preferred‘ pronunciations were given in the many dictionaries printed inthe eighteenth century, and the ‗supreme authority‘ of the dictionaries influenced pronunciation in thisway.Spelling also has influenced pronunciation in words that are infrequently used in normal dailyspeech. Many words that were spelt with an initial h were not pronounced with any /h/ sound as late asthe eighteenth century. Thus, at that time no /h/ was pronounced in honest, hour, habit, heretic, hotel,hospital, herb. Frequently used words like honest and hour continued to be pronounced without the /h/,despite the spelling but all those other words were given a ‗spelling pronunciation‘. Because people didnot hear them often, when they saw them written they concluded that they must begin with an /h/.Although the written language has some influence on the spoken, it does not change the basicsystem – the grammar—of the language. The writing system, conversely, reflects, in a more or lessdirect way, the grammar that every speaker knows.