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Re: Cómo se dice ther[o]pod y synapsid e

Have to disagree with you there. English is toward the extreme un-phonetic end for an alphabetically written language (not quite Tibetan, but getting kind of close).

I'm not that familiar with the Mexican Spanish dialect you describe, but I'm willing to bet that the pronunciation is generally predictable from the spelling (if not always the other way around), given enough evidence about the phonetic environment (e.g., whether the adjacent vowels are rounded or not, in the case of the pronunciation of <v> as [w]).

True, the spelling of the sound [h] with the letter <j> is unusual cross-linguistically, but it is consistent, and that's the important thing when determining whether a spelling system is "phonetic" or not. It also makes sense if you know a little bit of the history of Spanish:

1) <j> starts off in Latin as representing the sound [j] as in "yam" (actually, <j> starts off as a fancy way of writing <i>, which remained the case through the late Middle Ages);

2) In early Romance, [j] shifts to [d3] as in "judge" in most positions;

3) In something like the common ancestor of Spanish and Portuguese, [d3] weakens to [3] as in "trea_s_ure";

4) In late medieval Spanish, [3] merges with [S] as in "shiny";

5) In early modern Spanish, [S] shifts back in the mouth to [x] as in "Bach";

6) In some contemporary Spanish dialects, [x] shifts to [h] as in "happy".

A quick note on the linguistic notation used above:

angle brackets (<>) are used to indicate when we're talking about written symbols (letters, for instance);

square brackets ([]) are used to indicate sounds that actually come out of people's mouths;

and slashes (//) are used to indicate distinctive classes of sounds within a particular language (for example, the "t" sounds in "top", "stop", "bit", "bitter", and "bitten" are phonetically quite distinct in General American English, but their distribution is predictable based on stress and the surrounding sounds, to the extent that native speakers have trouble hearing the difference, so we say they are all variants of a single phoneme /t/).


Quoting Dora Smith <villandra@austin.rr.com>:

English is pretty strongly phonetic as well as long as you know the rules. gh and final e are usually silent, for example. Trouble is, most modern readers of English were taught to read the language as hieroglyphics.

Spanish phonetics are pretty complex. For instance, in some Mexican and southwestern U.S. dialects, certain v's inside of words morph into w's. In some parts of South America, and occasionally in Mexico, ll is pronounced j or ch. In Mexican Spanish, vowels in weak syllables are silent. In some Mexican and southwestern U.S. dialects, final vowels are often schwa's. The pronunciation of g depends on where it falls in a word. Allegedly g or h, but in some dialects it can become w in the middle of a word. Which ones? You just have to learn it - just like you often do in English. J is usually pronounced h, which is hardly how it is spelled. And anyone think b and v are pronounced b and v? No, they merged into a common sound that does not exist in any language but Spanish. Except when v is w.

Dora Smith
Austin, TX

----- Original Message ----- From: "Raptorial Talon" <raptorialtalon@gmail.com>
To: <keenir@hotmail.com>
Cc: <dinosaur@usc.edu>
Sent: Friday, April 16, 2010 7:27 PM
Subject: Re: Cómo se dice ther[o]pod y synapsid e

"well its certainly accurate - compared to pretty much every other
lethal device, nukes are new and recent."

There's just no good etymological reason to assume a connection there,
at least not that I can imagine . . .

At least Latinate names are always phonetic in some sense. No worries
about contrived mispronunciations.

Nicholas J. Pharris