RE: English Spelling

From: Reynolds, Gregg (
Date: Thu Dec 09 1999 - 10:25:13 EST

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Mark E. Davis []
> Sent: Wednesday, December 08, 1999 11:12 PM
> It's actually much worse than that; I have done some analysis
> in the past, and on a
> average given line of English text you will have quite a few irregular
> pronunciations -- that is, cases where the pronunciation is
> not predictable from the
> letters without actually knowing the words involved.

Not surprising; that alone does not imply irregularity. Unless you define
"regular" to mean phonologically transparent; but I would challenge such a
definition. Rather than ask if the orthography allows non-speakers to
puzzle out the sound, I would ask if native speakers of normal intelligence
can learn to read with reasonable effort. A cultural rather than
"scientific" norm. Needing to know the language in order to be able to read
it is not a bad thing.

Philosophical question: if somebody with absolutely no knowledge of English
managed to produce sounds approximating an English utterance - say, "I've
fallen in the woods and I can't get up" - would they be, ontologically,
English sounds?


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