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suze
587670.  Tue Jul 21, 2009 5:32 pm Reply with quote

Thanks Susannah. So upon hearing a Finnish word, there can only be one way to spell it - that much I understand, since I'd always believed the language to be one of the most phonetic around.

Is it not then the case that upon seeing a Finnish word written, the pronunciation is at once apparent?

 
Susannah Dingley
587697.  Tue Jul 21, 2009 6:11 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
Is it not then the case that upon seeing a Finnish word written, the pronunciation is at once apparent?

Yes – if you exclude foreign-derived words. The letters “c”, “q”, “x” and “z” are not actual Finnish letters, but appear in words derived from foreign languages; they pronunciation may therefore vary depending on which languages the words they appear in come from.

If you exclude these foreign words, then Finnish words are written as they are pronounced. They are also pronounced as they are written. In fact, Finnish is almost perfectly phonetic in the sense of one letter having exactly one phoneme and one phoneme corresponding to exactly one letter. The deviation from perfection is the following:

  • The letter “n” is pronounced [n] but before a “k” it is pronounced [ŋ].

  • The letter combination “ng” (which only occurs between vowels) is pronounced [ŋŋ] (long eng sound).

Thus Helsinki is pronounced ['helsiŋki] and Helsingistä (“from Helsinki”) is pronounced ['helsiŋŋistæ].

 
suze
587717.  Tue Jul 21, 2009 6:35 pm Reply with quote

Thanks Susannah. And yes, we do often refer to languages being phonetic when actually they are phonemic.

One language which I know a little about and which really is phonetic is Abkhaz, at least as regards vowels. Abkhaz has only two vowel phonemes, but uses six different characters to write them - each allophone gets its own letter.

If I'm remembering correctly, Mandarin written in Pinyin is strictly phonetic as regards initial consonants - the sounds written in Pinyin as <j>, <q>, and <x> are allophones of a phoneme which in a broad IPA transcription would be /tɕ/.

 
Susannah Dingley
587726.  Tue Jul 21, 2009 6:48 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
If I'm remembering correctly, Mandarin written in Pinyin is strictly phonetic as regards initial consonants - the sounds written in Pinyin as <j>, <q>, and <x> are allophones of a phoneme which in a broad IPA transcription would be /tɕ/.

Well, <j> and <q> are allophones (the former is unaspirated and the latter aspirated), but <x> is not an allophone of these two; it’s pronounced [ɕ].

 
suze
587728.  Tue Jul 21, 2009 6:52 pm Reply with quote

Thanks - serves me right for going from memory and not checking my notes or books!

 
zomgmouse
587740.  Tue Jul 21, 2009 7:05 pm Reply with quote

Susannah Dingley wrote:
Spanish words, for example, are pronounced as they are spelt.

But what about the "ll"? That's "j" IIRC. For example, "me llamo" is pronounced "meh ya-mo", is it not?


In the book I'm reading at the moment, there have already been a few mentions of picture-based writing systems, such as Egyptian and Sanskrit. Apparently, they provide ample opportunities for punnery.

English is quite ridiculous not only in pronunciation but in conjugation. A frequent example of mine is the past participle ending "-ought". This is used with buy, fight, seek, wreak* and bring. If you then take other verbs with those endings, you have even more chaos: "to guy" = "guyed", "to light" = "lighted"**, "to reek" = "reeked", "to tweak" = "tweaked", and "to wring" = "wrung". You can go on for ages with these endings..

*seek and wreak seem to be quite similar.
**"lit" is for an object that somebody lighted.

 
Susannah Dingley
587753.  Tue Jul 21, 2009 7:18 pm Reply with quote

['jamo] is the Latin American pronunciation. It is pronounced ['ʎamo] in Castilian Spanish (and in Argentina I think it’s also pronounced ['ʒamo]).

 
suze
587755.  Tue Jul 21, 2009 7:25 pm Reply with quote

zomgmouse wrote:
But what about the "ll"? That's "j" IIRC. For example, "me llamo" is pronounced "meh ya-mo", is it not?


In careful Castilian Spanish pronunciation, it's actually /ʎ/ (pronounce "million" as two syllables, and /ʎ/ is much like the sound in the middle). But for sure, you'd get away with /j/ (i.e. the sound of English consonant y).

As Susannah has just noted, it's different in South America - even to the extent of /ʃ/ (i.e. English sh) in some parts of Argentina.

But in a Spanish word that contains <ll>, it's always pronounced like that, never as /l/ - so once you know the rules for Spanish pronunciation, you know how to pronounce any word. (This is not true of Catalan, where <ll> can represent either /ʎ/ or /l:/; the latter is supposed to be written <l.l> to make things clear, but it's not always done in informal writing.)

 
suze
587759.  Tue Jul 21, 2009 7:32 pm Reply with quote

zomgmouse wrote:
English is quite ridiculous not only in pronunciation but in conjugation. A frequent example of mine is the past participle ending "-ought". This is used with buy, fight, seek, wreak* and bring.


This is to do with the difference between "weak verbs" and "strong verbs". A weak verb is one where the simple past tense is formed by adding -ed; a strong verb is one where there's a vowel change within the word.

There used to be many more strong verbs in English than today; over time a lot of them have shifted to the weak system. And in fact, "to wreak" is in the process of doing just that - many people would by now use "wreaked".

Curiously, there are a couple of verbs which are in the process of shifting the other way in Britain, because American English had retained a strong form which had become obsolete in Britain, but has now been re-imported. "To sneak" and "to shit" are the most obvious; some also suggest "to dive", but I'm not hearing British people using "dove" in droves.

German too has this distinction between weak and strong verbs, and there too a few verbs are gradually weakening. (For instance, fragen is by now weak in the north of Germany but strong in the south.)

 
zomgmouse
587763.  Tue Jul 21, 2009 7:39 pm Reply with quote

Weak verbs are presumably weak, then, because they can't stand the vowel change, while the strong ones bite the bullet.

What then is the deal with verbs that have a different past form to reflect on whether somebody is doing or whether something is being done (such as lighted/lit above, but also learned/learnt)? To do with Latin and its cases?

 
suze
587768.  Tue Jul 21, 2009 7:54 pm Reply with quote

There are people who have spent twenty years thinking about why some verbs are strong and others weak. It's sometimes claimed that commonly used verbs tend to be strong because strong forms are shorter, but this doesn't stand up to serious scrutiny.

What does seem to be the case is that in Proto-Indo-European, almost all verbs were strong - so those which are strong in the Germanic languages have, cet par, been around longer than those which are weak. (Although some more recent strong verbs seem to be so by analogy with existing strong verbs containing the same vowel(s).)

Newly coined verbs are almost always weak, just as in French they are almost always regular and of the -er pattern. A few people (who may just happen to include me) have tried to invent a strong formation of "to tweet" in connexion with Twitter, but I'm not convinced it will catch on. (We want the simple past tense form to be "twat".)


The difference between "learned" and "learnt" is essentially an American / British difference, but both sides of the Atlantic it's "learned" as an adjective.

"Lighted" and "lit" is trickier - both forms can be used as the adjective, although "lighted" is more common, and I'm not sure there's an obvious Am/Br difference either. Not entirely sure about that one.

 
graytart
587772.  Tue Jul 21, 2009 7:57 pm Reply with quote

"Price" and "worth" have similar meanings in English, but "priceless" and "worthless" most assuredly do not.

 
zomgmouse
587923.  Wed Jul 22, 2009 6:56 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
The difference between "learned" and "learnt" is essentially an American / British difference, but both sides of the Atlantic it's "learned" as an adjective.

"Lighted" and "lit" is trickier - both forms can be used as the adjective, although "lighted" is more common, and I'm not sure there's an obvious Am/Br difference either. Not entirely sure about that one.


I have always thought that the "-ed"/"-t" depends on... okay, I won't try and explain but exemplify:
I lighted a match. The match is lit.
I learned some rules. The rules are learnt.
I spelled stupid words. The stupid words are spelt.
I smelled farts. The farts are smelt.
Though of course with "smelt" there's always "to smelt", which gives us the p.p. of "smelted".

 
suze
587938.  Wed Jul 22, 2009 7:05 am Reply with quote

That's an interesting notion zomg, and one I hadn't encountered before. Although in North America, the -ed form would be more usual in all your examples, except for the ones with "to light".

And in fact, doesn't "to light" work in the opposite way? It would seem more natural to me to say "I lit a match", but "the lamps have been lighted".

If someone came into your presence with a match which was aflame, would he be carrying a "lit match" or a "lighted match"? I reckon most people would say "lighted", but the first non-smoking office I ever encountered had a sign saying "No lit cigarettes permitted in this room".

 
Efros
587965.  Wed Jul 22, 2009 7:29 am Reply with quote

I'm wondering if the lit and lighted thing is affected by where in the UK you are educated.For the most part I was educated in Scotland and lighted would not spring to my lips whereas lit would.

 

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