commonly mispronounced words

 In Accents and Pronunciation, Grammar

There are many commonly mispronounced words, words mispronounced because the spelling tells you nothing about how they should sound.  Commonly mispronounced words are not just long words with too many consonants or vowels grouped together.  They include simple and small words such as  ‘the’ and ‘two’.  The English language has so many words with letters that are silent and don’t seem to have any function, or groups of letters which are pronounced one way in one word, another in another word.  There are so many of these kinds of words that a list is impossible, but there are some words that a not only commonly mispronounced, they also have a funny history attached to them about how they got that way.

commonly mispronounced words

Thought  (gh and th sounds)

Pronounced as thort, this word is once of those ‘gh’ words whose pronunciation must be learned by memory rather than knowing any  rules.  Look at enough – a gh word pronounced enuff.  The history of gh in English words comes from the Roman invasion. The Latin alphabet had nothing to mimic these Anglo Saxon sounds.

Knead   (kn sounds)

Pronounced ‘need’ , the ‘k’ was sounded out when the printing press was invented. As the language evolved, the k was dropped in the pronunciation but the spelling stayed as it was.

Receipt, debt, doubt, salmon, indict   (pt, bt, lm, ct  sounds)

Pronounced receet, det, dowt, samin, indite, the silent letters seem to have not function at all. Receipt comes from both the French word which omits the ‘p’ and the Latin root word receptus. It is said that the effort by linguists to ascribe words to Latin root words explains all the other commonly mispronounced words with silent letters in combinations such as pt, bt, and lm.

How do we explain why words such as island, debris, listen, knife, chord came about?  Each word origin has a story and is why the study of word origins called etymology is so vast.  Yet more commonly mispronounced words whose pronunciation must be learned by memory rather than knowing any  rules include some words that are directly borrowed from other languages:  guerrilla, llama, gnocchi, and zucchini.

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