Monday, January 05, 2015

Great, just great (fun with pronunciation)

A while back the site Grammarly's Facebook page had a post about the inconsistencies of English, and the following came to mind (probably for unrelated reasons; I'm just grasping at any connection to justify spending time on it). It regards how the same letter construction can have different pronunciations.

"Eat" rhymes with "beat" (and "beet") and "feat" (and "feet") and "meat" (and "meet") but not with "great" (but it does with "greet"). Or, put another way, "great" does not rhyme with most other words having its same last three letters (in fact, I'm not sure there is another English word ending in "eat" with which it rhymes); it rhymes with "ate" (the past tense of "eat") and "fate" and "mate" and "grate" (most words where the e moves from before the a to after the t).

Lest one think there could be an alternative rule wherein "eat" preceded by an "r" changes the pronunciation thusly, the other words that come to mind ending with "reat"—treat and threat—not only don't rhyme with "great," they also fail to rhyme with each other. ("Treat" follows "eat" and "threat" goes in the direction of "bet.")

The hodge-podge of words that we call English is fun (if your definition of fun is "inconsistent").

Again, I'm still not a linguist, merely a person whose brain goes off on these tangents every so often.

I can't make it stop. It's not so great.

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