English's spelling was changed after sometime and became more like French in some areas, such as the digraph ⟨ou⟩ to represent /u/, after ⟨u⟩ came to represent /ʊ~ʌ/. The reason I ask this, however, is not related to french, but because of how often the the letter ⟨u⟩ today is read as /ju/, which I sounds like it could have been an attempt at pronouncing /y/, and that was an historic phoneme in english.

A probably weak example is the spelling of the word "busy," which comes from "bisgian," /bizjiɑn~bizɟiɑn/.

All of this is really my speculations on not much.

1 Answer 1


I assume you are referring to the [ju] pronunciation of the letter in tube, cube, pubic, putrid, mutate and so on. In some modern dialects it does represent a front-ish vowel, as in "super' [sʉpɜ], but that's a UK regional thing. SW Middle English seems to have had a series of front round vowels. There were ME diphthongs [eu, ɛu, iu] (lewd, chew, new) which phonologically shifted to [iu] then [ju] except in Welsh English. That diphthong also arises from Romance [y:]; the adaptation of [y:] as /iu/ is highly likely as a way of maximally preserving the French pronunciation, without adding non-existent vowels. It is reported that in Zachrisson 1913 Pronunciation of English Vowels 1400-1700 concludes that there is no conclusive evidence for [y] in (Standard) English since Middle English.

  • THANKS! Confirmed part of my expectation that French's pronunciation was involved in some cases. Feb 24, 2018 at 2:28

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