English Study Group

An area with study groups for various languages. Group members help each other, share resources and experience. Study groups are permanent but the members rotate and change.
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MamaPata
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Long lost: Arabic and Latin.
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=3004
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Re: English Study Group

Postby MamaPata » Mon Mar 18, 2019 8:02 am

Just a reminder that there is just under 24 hours left to vote in the poll to decide what the forum book group reads in April.

https://forum.language-learners.org/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=10232

There is one book originally written in English but the others are all also available in English.
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Corrections appreciated.

Speakeasy
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Languages: English (N), French (C2). Studying: Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch, Polish, and Russian; all with widely varying degrees of application, enthusiasm, and success.
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Re: English Study Group

Postby Speakeasy » Thu Mar 19, 2020 6:08 pm

A recent exchange in the "Le groupe français 2016 – 2019 Les Voyageurs" study group …
Speakeasy wrote:....while French orthography is frequently the subject of well-deserved criticism, English orthography is not much better...
PeterMollenburg wrote: … English is nowhere near as predictable. Like French (and the majority of languages), it has an orthographic system a.k.a. spelling system which seeks to represent the phonemes of the language. However, as Speakeasy has noted, it is far from perfect. Unlike French it is not predictable, in that, if you work out how a certain phoneme is represented in writing (even if this is involves several variations) it should become predictable and be written in one of the few predictable ways elsewhere. Nope, English is full of inconsistencies and exceptions where pronunciation is concerned…
tomgosse wrote: This is my favorite example of English words using the letters ough. As native speaker of English I find this difficult.

Though he hadn’t thoroughly thought it through, the ploughman felt that sleeping rough by the lough had made him hiccough and cough.

This sentence contains nine different pronunciations of ough
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Ser
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Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 15&t=13579
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Re: English Study Group

Postby Ser » Mon Apr 27, 2020 9:30 pm

I recently read someone, fairly knowledgeable about linguistics as an amateur, comparing the orthographies of English, French and Irish (him being a native speaker of the first and a student of the the second and third for more than a decade). He concluded that Irish was actually the easiest of the three, with French in second place and English as the worst.

The "problem" with Irish orthography is that it's basically meant for native speakers, and is overall an excellent compromise between the (somewhat small) differences of the three native dialect areas. It's non-native speakers who don't distinguish the sounds well (and who don't understand which sounds appear where) who have a lot of trouble with Irish spelling. And these days in Ireland there's of course a large number of non-native Irish learners who grew up with English only.

French requires quite a bit of memorization to write it down from the sounds, but figuring out the sounds of a word isn't that hard as there aren't many irregularities. English is just irregularities all around, whether going from sound to writing, or from writing to sound. Learning English is pretty much constantly looking up pronunciations unless you give up on it, having figured that learning English pronunciation isn't worth it. There is no remedy to not knowing "monkey" has the "cut" vowel and "donkey" has the "lot" vowel except looking them up, and looking up more words, and yet more words after that.
Last edited by Ser on Tue Apr 28, 2020 7:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Dragon27
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Re: English Study Group

Postby Dragon27 » Tue Apr 28, 2020 5:11 am

Ser wrote:There is no remedy to knowing "monkey" as the "cut" vowel and "donkey" has the "lot" vowel except...

Wait, what?
*looks it up*
Curse you, English!

Yeah, I remember the time when I realized how treacherous English orthography is and started looking every single word up in the dictionary, whether I know it or not. If I saw a word and didn't have a firm memory of ever looking it up before I would look it up. All those infinitude of familiar words pronunciation of which I've assumed over the years (and assumed wrong, as it turned out)...
Yet it still holds a few more surprises up its sleeve. And it's usually the simplest and most innocent looking words that trip you up.
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Ser
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Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 15&t=13579
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Re: English Study Group

Postby Ser » Tue Apr 28, 2020 8:42 pm

Dragon27 wrote:Wait, what?
*looks it up*
Curse you, English!

Indeed.

In general, when it comes to English pronunciation, you should be careful of any stressed <on ov> sequence. This is because in the Latin script of the late Middle Ages, the sequence <un> was indistinguishable from <nn uu nu>, so in late Middle English writers preferred to replace <un> with <on> at least in words that didn't come from Latin (like "monkey"). Regarding <ov>, the letter <v> didn't exist in the middle of a word at the time (it was a mere variant of <u> in word-initial position, as in <vnity> = unity), and as "uv" was actually <uu> and easily confusable with <un nn nu>, it was replaced by <ou> as well (now evolved to <ov>).

So this is the reason why "monkey, money, honey, none, done, one, come, won, son, London, month, Monday, wonder, wonderful, to love, to shove, shovel, dove (the bird, not the North American past tense of "dive"), glove, to hover, to covet, coven, cover, (un,dis,re)cover, oven, slovenly" have <o> even though they all have the "uh" /ʌ/ vowel.

Contrast these with the likes of "phone, baloney, she drove, North American English he dove (British/Australian he dived), over, woven, supernova, Moldova, macaroni, bonus", which do have /oʊ/.

By analogy with "done", this was extended to "doth" /dʌθ/. Pretty recently, also colloquial "gonna" /ɡənə/ (/ˈgʌnə/ when rarely stressed), but beware "wanna" and "gotta" are /ˈwɑnə ˈgɑɾə/, southern England /ˈwɒnə ˈgɒtə/, the latter often [gɒʔə].


While we're at it, I would like to add that in general you should be especially careful about a stressed <o> in what looks like an open syllable (if only in spelling), whether in the second-to-last or third-to-last syllable, as in "sofa, profit" /ˈsoʊfə ˈpɹɑfɪt/ or "biology"). In second-to-last open syllables, stressed written <o> is simply the most treacherous of all vowels, and in third-to-last syllables it's treacherous in relation to other words of the same stem.

Compare "photo" /ˈfoʊtoʊ/ with /oʊ/ and photography with /ɑ/ (southern England /ɒ/). The "photography" /ɑ/ is due to the general pattern of words stressed on the third-to-last syllable, as there was a shortening in Middle English that made any long vowels there become short, which means they usually have a descendant "traditional short vowel" today. Compare the suffix -ology [ˈɑlədʒi] and words like "curiosity, autonomy, mediocrity" and "fidelity /ɛ/, Sicily /ɪ/, normality /æ/". This is why "nature" has /eɪ/ but "natural" has /æ/ (the latter was [ˈnæ-tʰju-ɹəl] in late Middle English, now /ˈnætʃɹəl/). Photography is a recent late 19th-century word, but the pattern still applies. Exceptions that occasionally pop up like "amenities" /əˈminɪtiz/ (S. England /i:/) usually get corrected over time, so "amenities" now usually has /ɛ/.


Just take the above as random advice from a war veteran to another war veteran.

Yeah, I remember the time when I realized how treacherous English orthography is and started looking every single word up in the dictionary, whether I know it or not. If I saw a word and didn't have a firm memory of ever looking it up before I would look it up. All those infinitude of familiar words pronunciation of which I've assumed over the years (and assumed wrong, as it turned out)...
Yet it still holds a few more surprises up its sleeve. And it's usually the simplest and most innocent looking words that trip you up.

You can imagine how traumatized I was when, after more than a decade studying English, I learned that "of" is actually pronounced /əv/, with a /v/ spelled <f>. I could not believe my eyes when I saw that in a dictionary.

I guess I could blame my English teachers and the EFL "communicative" culture at large for having never taught me a single thing about English pronunciation. Not like the teachers knew much anyway, whether they were native or not. I remember when, four or five years into studying English in El Salvador, I noticed I couldn't make sense of the vowel of "the", and I asked a teacher if the sound was "like (Spanish) A or like (Spanish) E", and then the teacher gave me a non-sensical answer. "It's a sound that doesn't exist in Spanish" would have been good enough. To think of all the pain that caused me years later...

This is why I also say non-native learners should insist that mis-pronouncing words should be basically acceptable, at least until English speakers get to fix their truly cursed writing system. Half-assedly retaining ambiguous late medieval spellings while expecting learners to pronounce everything correctly is a ridiculous thing to do, but here we are.
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