Friday, May 11, 2012


Lets not focus on recent words like Beijing and Beirut, etc. These are not from Latin and Romance languages. However, they are interesting insofar as how native speakers anglicize these words.

1. receive, deceive, conceive, ceiling, conceit,counterfeit (unstressed, though), surfeit (unstressed) caffeine, seize, Raleigh, NC, weird (r neutralization)
2. veil, vein, feign, deign, heinous, eight, rein, weight, neigh, freight, inveigh, surveillance, their (r neutralization)
3. height, heist, feisty, sleight, apartheid,  zeitgeist, meister, leitmotif Fahrenheit, Einstein, Stein, Fein, Steinbeck, Alzheimer, Reinhardt, Heinz, Heineken, Brandeis, Leibniz, Weizmann Inst of science, Israel, Anaheim, CA. Klein, Oppenheimer, Schneider, Durkheim, Steinbeck,  O'Reilly, Anaheim, 
4. deixis, seismic 
5. theism, deity
6. reify, obeisance
1. Mostly French
2. Mostly Old English. Many Old English words are sort of Germanic
3. Mostly Germanic, Old English
4. Greek
5. hiatus
6. two different pronunciations. reify : re-i-fy (hiatus) or reify (pattern 2); obeisance (either 1 or 2--and its of French)

Thanks to the great vowel shift, some long vowels (long and short vowels don't exist in Modern English, anyway) shifted from 2 to 1. If you see the vowel chart, you can see how vowels shifted.

To answer questions like these, one should study the linguistic history of English. There is no simple explanation that explains all words. Where and when these words came to English determines the pronunciation. Where, because whether they are Germanic/Old English or French; when, because whether they came before, during, after the great vowel shift.

Current spelling reflects Middle English. Since then, pronunciation has changed, thereby becoming Modern English.

This doesn't prevent east Indian and Asian parents from sending their kids to all those spelling bee contests. These parents should rather learn English linguistics and get rid of their foreign accents!!!

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