silent p

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by mathman, Dec 5, 2021.

  1. mathman Valued Senior Member

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    Pneum is a prefix used in reference to lungs. The initial p is usually not pronounced. Why is it there?
     
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  3. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    The prefix is technically pneumo- rather than just pneum.

    As to reason why it's a silent "p", I believe it's 'cos we took the words and spelling from the ancient Greek, where the p wasn't silent. But to fit the existing "rules" in English (we had no rules for the pronunciation of words beginning in pt- or pn- as we didn't otherwise have such words) we kept the spelling but simply dropped pronunciation of the "p". Same with pterodactyl and other such words from Greek. Thus it subsequently became the rule.

    There is at least one curiosity, though, in the word ptarmigan (species of bird). It's from the Scottish/Gaelic tarmachan but along the lines it was assumed to have come from a Greek word, so the silent-P was actually introduced! Yeah, we English are weird!

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    Whether tarmachan was a Gaelic spelling of a previous Greek word, I don't know.
     
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  5. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Because it is Ancient Greek and they did sound it. English has a lot of words originating from other languages with silent letters. Knight from knecht (German, servant), for instance.

    I think pneuma = breath.
     
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  7. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    Pneuma meant wind, breath, or "air in motion", if memory serves (from lessons, not 'cos I was there!

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    ). It also came to mean "breath of life", or soul, that sort of thing.
    I think pneumon meant lung. So similar and clearly related word.

    As for what the prefix is, I'm now not actually too sure whether it is pneuma-, pneumo-, or just pneum-.
    I think it may be pneumo- to relate to lungs, pneuma- to relate to wind / air. I guess pneum- might cover both, but that hides the actual root (pneuma or pneumon etc).
     
  8. RainbowSingularity Valued Senior Member

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    pulmonary
    '
    https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pulmonary
    '

    pulmonary
    adjective

    pul·mo·nary | \ ˈpu̇l-mə-ˌner-ē , ˈpəl-

    Definition of pulmonary
    1a : of, relating to, affecting, or occurring in the lungs pulmonary tissue pulmonary edema
    b : carried on by the lungs pulmonary respiration
    2 : pulmonate
    3 : occurring in the pulmonary artery a pulmonary embolism
     
  9. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Not relevant. Pulmonary is from Latin pulmo, pulmonis = lung, itself possibly derived from Greek pleumon, apparently.
     
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  10. RainbowSingularity Valued Senior Member

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    was hoping to find a definition of the latin meaning of the letter P however i could not find anything in my brief search
     
  11. Luchito Registered Senior Member

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    OK, the explanation seems valid.

    My curiosity is how was pronounced the word in Greek. The letter p sound must be accompanied with a vowel in order to be pronounced before the n in neumo.
     

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