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Why did Old English lose both thorn and eth?

My understanding is that Old English had two letters, thorn and eth, which were used interchangeably to represent the sound th as in thin or father. Pretty much. In some languages they were distinct, ...
Draconis's user avatar
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56 votes
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Why is “ß” not used in Swiss German?

It is because of the typewriter. A Swiss typewriter needs to support three languages: German, French, and Italian. Therefore on the Swiss typewriter, there was no ß key. It also has only lowercase ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
41 votes
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Are there modern languages without standardized spelling? If not, why?

First, let's define our terms. Spelling is "standardized" if there's some authority that people listen to on the topic. This can be a government agency, like the Académie Française, or a ...
Draconis's user avatar
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36 votes
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Why are J, U, W considered part of the basic Latin Alphabet?

Despite its name, the ISO Basic Latin Alphabet isn't particularly concerned with representing Latin. It was developed in the modern day, so the fact that I~J and U~V weren't consistently distinguished ...
Draconis's user avatar
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32 votes

Why doesn’t a language modernization initiative adopt pure phonetic spelling?

Because most of the benefits of such a change would be to learners, while most of the costs would fall on the existing users of the orthography. Where there is no established writing culture (or ...
Colin Fine's user avatar
  • 7,314
31 votes

Why can "autarchy" be spelled with an "k" while other words not?

Actually, “autarky” and “autarchy” are two different words. The former means “self-sufficiency” and comes from the Greek arkein “to suffice”. The latter means “absolute rule” and comes from Greek ...
fdb's user avatar
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30 votes

Why is “ß” not used in Swiss German?

The Swiss government has an explanation on p. 18. One contributing factor is typography, namely the rise of use of the Antiqua font, which was claimed to not include ß. I have no evaluation of the ...
user6726's user avatar
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30 votes

Why are the orthographies of Ancient/Proto Languages so Impractical?

First, it's worth noting that these are transcriptions, used by linguists, not actual orthographies used by native speakers. The ancient Sumerians didn't write their word for "god" as diĝir; they ...
Draconis's user avatar
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30 votes
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Are there languages where a change of character casing can lead to a different meaning of a word?

It’s worth pointing out that uppercase and lowercase characters are mostly a quirk of the Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic alphabets.[1] While these alphabets probably make up a plurality of written texts,[...
Jan's user avatar
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26 votes
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What is the function of the soft sign (Ь) in Russian?

WARNING: The question is sooo many-sided, it is very wide and can be split into at least 3 different questions. I'll answer it all, don't tell me later that you haven't been warned the answer would be ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
  • 17.3k
22 votes

Are there modern languages without standardized spelling? If not, why?

As Katai has pointed out in the comments Swiss German is a modern langauge that has no standardised spelling. In "Mundartwörterbüchern"(=Dialect dictionaries) one can see two different ideas ...
SirHawrk's user avatar
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22 votes

Why doesn’t a language modernization initiative adopt pure phonetic spelling?

wʌn ˈɹʷijzn̩ iz ðæɾ ɪndʌˈvɪdʒl̩z ˈdɪfɹ̩ʷ səp̚ˈstæ̃ʃəli ɪ̃ ðɛɹ prʷəˈnʌnsiɛiʃn̩ ʌ wɹ̩ʷdz. In fact, it is extremely difficult to get undergraduate students in a linguistic class to produce an accurate ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 77.2k
20 votes

Are syllable initial consonant clusters pronounced in Ancient Greek?

There is very little doubt they were pronounced: they are still pronounced in many languages other than English where they were loaned, and crucially in modern Greek; they were also spelled with those ...
LjL's user avatar
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20 votes
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Is calling a spelling "defective" acceptable in the linguistics of languages other than Hebrew/Aramaic?

A "defective" spelling in Hebrew is one without matres lectionis. This term exists in Hebrew because Hebrew is an abjad which doesn't always mark vowels, and consequently, words can be spelled either ...
b a's user avatar
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20 votes

Ncuti Gatwa is, according to Wikipedia, pronounced /ˈʃuːti ˈɡætwɑː/ - where is the NC orthography derived from?

In Kinyarwanda, <nc> represents phonetic [n̥tʃʰ], at least in a somewhat-conventional style of IPA transcriptions. The [t] portion of the cluster is brief, and English speakers generally do not ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 77.2k
19 votes

The letter "ff" in the name “Richard ffrench”?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary's page for F: In manuscripts a capital F was often written as ff. A misunderstanding of this practice has caused the writing of Ff or ff at the beginning ...
Laurel's user avatar
  • 438
18 votes
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Origin of h as a modifier letter

To my understanding, it comes from TH and PH. In Ancient Greek, there were "aspirated" consonants written Θ and Φ, which literally sounded like "t followed by h" and "p followed by h". So when words ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 60.3k
15 votes

Why did Old English lose both thorn and eth?

The explanation I remember seeing for the rise of the digraph “th” and fall of the letters thorn and eth in English spelling is influence from French spelling habits. You can see more details if you ...
brass tacks's user avatar
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14 votes
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Why does Polish use "w" instead of "v"?

It wasn't always written this way: in the earliest records of written Polish (such as the Bull of Gniezno), the letters "u" and "v" were used for this sound as well. There was no official "standard" ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 60.3k
14 votes

Are syllable initial consonant clusters pronounced in Ancient Greek?

I'll assume you're a native English speaker. Since English doesn't have these clusters, it's difficult for an English speaker to hear or produce them correctly. But it is not impossible, and there is ...
brass tacks's user avatar
  • 17.3k
13 votes
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Recognize this script?

Sorry for digging up this old question but we finally have an answer. I reposted this question to puzzling stackexhange thinking they would be better equipped to solve it. Surely enough, within ...
cyco130's user avatar
  • 2,175
13 votes

Why did Old English lose both thorn and eth?

Here are my notes on the question, a summary of most important linguistic research with relevant quotes; perhaps someone, who is more into linguistic theory, might find them useful. Old English Hogg ...
Alex B.'s user avatar
  • 8,603
13 votes

Why doesn’t a language modernization initiative adopt pure phonetic spelling?

Designing an orthography is a difficult task, and having a phonemic orthography is only one of several goals in this task. Other goals may may include recognisability of morphemes (this is why, e.g., ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
12 votes

How are English spellings determined for words from eastern languages

General Remarks Different languages have different sound systems. So no romanization system can be perfectly faithful to the native language, and at the same time perfectly intuitive to speakers of ...
brass tacks's user avatar
  • 17.3k
12 votes
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How is French written in telegraphy and other settings in which diacritics are not possible?

There is no common conventions in French for replacing letters with diacritics by digraphs. In contexts where the diacritics are not available, the usage is just to omit them. This is still common ...
AProgrammer's user avatar
12 votes
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Why does the NATO Spelling alphabet contain words with more than two syllables

The goal of the NATO spelling alphabet is to make the symbols as easily-distinguishable as possible, even over noisy channels (such as radio). Brevity (keeping the words short) is secondary to that. ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 60.3k
12 votes

Why are there spelling inconsistencies in Spanish and Italian? What is the historical origin of this spelling pattern?

It is all about the spelling conventions in those languages. "Latin does not follow spelling changes" because the alphabet Latin uses was conceived specially for the Latin language, Latin ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
  • 17.3k
12 votes

Are there modern languages without standardized spelling? If not, why?

It depends on what you mean by "standardized", also "are written down". In Logoori (a Bantu language of Kenya), there are multiple observed spelling practices, but they can ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 77.2k
11 votes

Spelling of laryngeals in Proto-Indo-European

Typing these characters is fairly straightforward, if you have an appropriate keyboard (or can customize yours): they're simply the lowercase Latin letters <e a o>, followed by the character U+032F ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 60.3k
11 votes

Which languages have words containing the same letter three times in a row?

The number 22 in Dutch (and other numbers ending with 2) are written as tweeëntwintig - a compound of twee (two), en (and), and twintig (twenty). In Dutch, the diaeresis are added to the last ...
Adam Elsodaney's user avatar

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