Noun/verb words & other oddities: Unique to English?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Dinosaur, Apr 18, 2016.

  1. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    No. "Tear," meaning a drop of liquid falling out of an eye, is pronounced "tier." "Tear," meaning to rip, is pronounced "tare."

    "Tear," the noun, and "tear," the verb, are homographs: words with the same spelling but different meanings. It doesn't matter if they're pronounced the same way or not.

    "Hamper," a receptacle for dirty clothes, and "hamper," meaning to make a task difficult, are homographs, even though they are pronounced identically.
     
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  3. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    So then the problem is words that are spelt the same or even sound the same that have multiple definitions?

    Would be great it words only had one definition per spelling and vocalization, but as languages evolve it is inevitable words gather more definitions, eventually evolving into separate words if necessary to distinguish definitions.
     
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  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    That's just one of many problems. The biggest problem with English spelling (and French, which is just as bad: "toi" is pronounced "twa" and almost every word has two or three silent letters) is that, unlike most of the other European languages, English (and French) spelling has never been reformed.

    We still spell most words exactly the same as they were spelled BEFORE Shakespeare! Italian, Polish, German, Spanish... almost every other important European language underwent spelling reform in the 18th or 19th century. But we still write "knight," even though half of those six letters (the K, the G and the H) have been silent for 600 years!

    There are dozens of words beginning with the combination "WH," but we couldn't pronounce the H if we wanted to! It's in the wrong place. Or how about the magic silent W in wry, wreath, wrong, wrestle?

    We're even worse with our vowels. Year, wear, early: 3 different pronunciations for "EA." Pout, fought, tour: 3 different pronunciations for "OU."
     
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  7. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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  8. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    Fought and tour have the same pronunciation of OU for me.
    The one that I always remember are the various pronunciations of OUGH.
    Rough
    Trough
    Though
    Plough
    Through
    Thought
    Thorough
    Etc.
    I'm sure there are other ones from the Celtic side of things (variant spelling of loch, if I recall, being lough).
     
  9. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    In American English (a hybrid of Manhattan and Hollywood phonetics because of the influence of radio and TV), "fought" is pronounced FAWT, whereas "tour" is pronounced TOOR.
    "Loch" is the Scots spelling, "lough" is Irish. There is a strong movement to preserve Gaelic in both Scotland and Ireland. It is widely spoken in both countries--although more widely in Ireland, where it is taught in the schools and is the vernacular language in many rural areas. There are dialectical differences, especially in slang and pronunciation, but an Irishman who speaks it fluently will quickly learn to understand a Scotsman who speaks it fluently, and vice versa.
     
  10. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    You can make a fair case that English consists almost entirely of words assimilated from other languages.
    The opening scenes of the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" touch on that general take, played for charm - it's a Greek "thing", apparently, cradle of civilization etc. The counterexample in the movie was likewise from the Japanese - "kimono".
     

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