35 votes
Accepted

Why isn't there a letter for /b/ sound in Greek alphabet while they have the sound?

The last time the Greek alphabet was truly overhauled was millennia ago, when a version tuned for the Ionian dialect (known as the "Euclidean alphabet" after the archon who championed it) ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 65.2k
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
  • 7,434
23 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
  • 83k
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
9 votes

How unpredictable must vowels be for a writing system to classify as an abjad?

"Abjad", like other labels for writing systems, seems easy to intuitively define but is really difficult to be precise about. Look at examples like Ugaritic, which is pretty clearly an abjad…...
Draconis's user avatar
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9 votes

In english, what's the origin of pronouncing the `e` as /i/ or /e/?

In Middle English (and even earlier), English scribes had a problem: they had a lot of vowels to represent, and not very many vowel letters to write them with. There were seven long monophthongs /iː ...
Draconis's user avatar
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9 votes
Accepted

What sound or letter does this Ogham letter represent?

It says Portlaoise. The original Ogham alphabet, the ‘core’, was created to represent Common Insular Celtic or Primitive Irish (or some stage in between the two), at which stage there was no /p/ – the ...
Janus Bahs Jacquet's user avatar
7 votes

What is the origin of ⟨c⟩ for /ts/?

C and K both represented the /k/ phoneme in Classical Latin, but had different etymological uses: K was relegated to Greek loanwords (and occasionally kalendae), whilst C was the usual orthography (...
Michaelyus's user avatar
  • 7,351
7 votes
Accepted

Why is anekdota written with a "k" in Czech but a "g" in Polish (anegdota)?

It is just a convention. An etymological one, if you want. The pronunciation is of course /gd/. In Proto-Slavic there was a yer between the k and the d or t: kdy < *kъdy. In Czech all these ...
Vladimir F Героям слава's user avatar
6 votes
Accepted

Why do some Vietnamese words have the tone marking on the last letter?

This is a difference in spelling reform, unrelated to pronunciation or meaning. Both the cases you give here (hóa and hoá) represent /hʷa/ in the sắc tone, and both are written and pronounced the ...
Janus Bahs Jacquet's user avatar
5 votes
Accepted

Why is the day of the week capitalized only in Germanic languages and not in Romance languages?

The short version is that capitalization standards are actually a very recent invention, compared to when these languages diverged! The idea of capital and lowercase being the two standardized types ...
Draconis's user avatar
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4 votes

Orthography changes in Italian

For starters, there's a nice overview on the Treccani on the Ottocento and on the history of Italian orthography, with good references to the increasing rates of literacy among the middle classes and ...
Michaelyus's user avatar
  • 7,351
4 votes

Closeness between written words and spoken words over different languages

As far as I know, no signed language has a standard written form in general use, so we can limit the question to the relationship between writing and speech. We then start by eliminating languages ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83k
4 votes
Accepted

Does deep orthography decrease the collision entropy of a written language?

I'm not aware of any studies on this. If there are any, I expect them to be related to old-school cryptanalysis. Intuitively, the collision entropy depends on the frequency distribution of different ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 65.2k
4 votes

In english, what's the origin of pronouncing the `e` as /i/ or /e/?

This, as with so many pronunciations of English vowels that are counterintuitive for speakers of many other languages is due to the Great Vowel Shift (see the diagram below, from Wikimedia). Time ...
Tristan's user avatar
  • 8,196
4 votes

What is the difference between traditional and modern IPA?

The IPA doesn't actually tell you how language sounds are to be transcribed, it tells you what the standard "meaningss" of their symbols are. The letter [ɛ] means "open-mid front ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83k
4 votes
Accepted

How do I draw the Vietnamese ơ and ư characters?

I'm not a language professional, but as a Vietnamese who was born and raised in Vietnam, I was taught to write the vowel letters (u, o, a, e, i, and sometimes, y) first and then following diacritics ...
Nick Vu's user avatar
  • 156
4 votes

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

One reason is that language is fluid. Pronunciation varies by geographic region, and over time. Which point in both space and time do you use as your standard? What do you do when pronunciation is ...
CJ Dennis's user avatar
  • 1,232
3 votes

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

Both Italian and Spanish spelling are very consistent. Italian is very simple. In Italian, C before A, O and U produces a [k] sound but the ch sound before I and E. If you want a [k] sound before I ...
Akshat Goswami's user avatar
3 votes

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

One practical issue is the question of whose English dialect and accent should we standardize to? I pronounce certain words differently than my parents, much less people in other parts of the US, much ...
Kevin's user avatar
  • 131
3 votes

Orthographies that use diacritics to mark grammatical tone

In Lingála, the acute accent is used to mark high tone (and less commonly the grave accent for low tone), whether it's lexical or grammatical. For example, acute accents mark the difference between ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 65.2k
2 votes

In english, what's the origin of pronouncing the `e` as /i/ or /e/?

Modern English "be" derives from Middle English [be:n]. Here is the entry for Middle English. There was a historical sound change where [e:] changed to [i:], [æ:] changed to [e:] and so on – ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83k
1 vote

How did so many Arabic letters converge to hold the same shape?

This convergence took place at two different levels. First there is the purely graphic evolution of the Aramaic-based scripts, leading (in Arabic) to the merger of “j” and “ḥ”, or of “r” and “z”, and ...
fdb's user avatar
  • 24.1k
1 vote

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

Pure phonetic spelling sounds like a very good idea, until you actually try putting it into practice. Take for example Albania. This country has two main dialects: Gheg and Tosk. These dialects do ...
Dakkaron's user avatar
  • 151

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