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spelling pronunciation


spelling pronunciation

All About Language: A Guide by Barry J. Blake (Oxford University Press, 2008)


The use of a pronunciation that is based on spelling rather than in accordance with a word's conventional pronunciation, such as the increasingly common pronunciation of the once-silent letters t and d in often and Wednesday.

The converse of spelling pronunciation is pronunciation spelling: the creation of a new spelling form on the basis of pronunciation.

Examples and Observations:

  • "Words borrowed from French such as hour, honour, and honest came into English without an initial [h] as did hospital, habit, and heretic, but the latter have acquired an [h] from the spelling. The word herb is pronounced with an [h] and without one (the latter mainly in the US), and though hotel has an initial [h], one still sometimes hears an (h)otel. . . .

    "The traditional pronunciation of forehead is 'forrid,' but it is common nowadays to hear 'fore-head,' particularly in the US. This is an example of reversing a sound change on the basis of spelling. . . .

    "Many people believe that the spelling is a guide to the correct pronunciation and argue, for instance, that it is wrong to include an intrusive r in the idea of it or I saw him, because there is no r in the spelling."
    (Barry J. Blake, All About Language. Oxford Univ. Press, 2008)

  • "Some words have not yet been accorded spelling-pronunciation, the words choler, debt, doubt, receipt, salmon, sceptre, victuals retaining the pronunciation better suggested by the Middle English spellings colere, dette, doute, receite, samon, ceptre, and vitailes. Words of a more literary favour, e.g. victuals, are now occasionally heard with a spelling-pronunciation, and condemnation of such pronunciations as ignorant will probably not prevent their ultimate universal acceptance."
    (D. G. Scragg, A History of English Spelling. Manchester Univ. Press, 1974)
Alternate Spellings: spelling-pronunciation
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