Wednesday, May 30, 2012

-eather and the grapheme cluster < ea >

The grapheme cliuster < ea > has different phonetic realizations, thanks to the history of English. Edward Carney in his English Spelling notes some stuff.  Recently, I noticed a masters thesis titled "English vowel digraphs and their history" by Steven Mahon. On pages 12 through 14, he describes about the history of the cluster < ea >

1. bead, beat, seat, neat,  meat, treat, seal,  leaf,  heave, bereave, please, lease, reach, breach, etc (here, the vowel is a closed front vowel). You can say that the vowel got shifted from lower vowels like those in FACE, DRESS, etc.
2. break, steak, great, yea (like hey)
3. deaf, death,  head, heaven (cf. haven), thread, heather, leather, feather (Feather River in Plumas county, CA. Plumas in spanish = feather), weather, meadow The word breather sounds like breath.
4. r-colored vowels cf. search, bear, Hearst castle near SLO, etc.

Anyway, the vowels in 1, 2 and 3 are related. Height-wise, 3 > 2 > 1

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