Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The R sound

No, this isn't talk like a pirate day. I'm talking about the r sound, often spelled are, or in a nod to pirates, ARGH Matey! But say this to yourself:
bar
car
far
jar
mar
par
tar
war
Oops, wait a minute. Did I just hear wore? Let's try again with the e and see what happens. On second thought, lets ring in the changes on the vowels, just to see what happens.


letter are air ear ere eer eir ire ore oor our
b bare bair bear bere beer beir bire bore boor bour
c care cair cear cere ceer ceir cire core coor cour
d dare dair dear dere deer deir dire dore door dour
f fare fair fear fere feer feir fire fore foor four
g gare gair gear gere geer geir gire gore goor gour
h hare hair hear here heer heir hire hore hoor hour
j jare jair jear jere jeer jeir jire jore joor jour
k kare kair kear kere keer keir kire kore koor kour
l lare lair lear lere leer leir lire lore loor lour
m mare mair mear mere meer meir mire more moor mour
n nare nair near nere neer neir nire nore noor nour
p pare pair pear pere peer peir pire pore poor pour
qu quare quair quear quere queer queir quire quore quoor quour
r rare rair rear rere reer reir rire rore roor rour
s sare sair sear sere seer seir sire sore soor sour
t tare tair tear tere teer teir tire tore toor tour
v vare vair vear vere veer veir vire vore voor vour
w ware wair wear were weer weir wire wore woor wour
x xare xair xear xere xeer xeir xire xore xoor xour
y yare yair year yere yeer yeir yire yore yoor your
z zare zair zear zere zeer zeir zire zore zoor zour

Go ahead and say those to yourself. It doesn't matter if you go down or across, your tongue is going to stumble over some of them, and not because they are nonsense words.

What's odd to me is that if you look at the ones starting with z, they are all perfectly pronounceable even though as far as I know none of them are actual words in English. A few of the combinations are words in other languages (lire) or are names (Lear), and lots are nonsense words.

But this is one of the examples of why English is so difficult, and why we need to reform it. It's clear that words ending in are and air are almost always pronounced the same even though are and air themselves are pronounced quite differently. Why do all the ar words except war get pronounced the same? Why don't bear and fear get pronounced the same? Look at hour and dour, compared to four and pour. Door and poor. Heir and weir. There are probably lots more but you get the idea.

A native English speaker shown the c line as a whole is likely to pronounce all the words starting with the K sound, but if presented with cere or ceer by themselves might pronounce them starting with the S sound. The cour might go either way to rhyme with hour or door. Some of the G words might get pronounced starting with a J sound.

And that's just one sound in English. It's fallout from where the words came from originally, and modified inconsistently during the Great Vowel Shift. Don't get me started on the various ough combinations. I struggled against this when I was in school. The whole i before e except after c, except for some exceptions, including my name, made me crazy for years. I went through a phonetic spelling craze for a while, but gave it up.

Even though I'd like to see English reformed for more sensible rules around spelling and pronunciation, there is one big use for it if you ignore the "don't read the comments" rule. Run your eye over the comments and look for misspelled words. Ignore those comments. Yes, I suppose that makes me an English snob. But maybe not. It's aluminum, not aluminium and program not programme in my English. But neighbour not neighbor. "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

I've had these various words going through my head in all sorts of chains and sequences. I had envisioned some xl highlighting and marks to trace pronunciation, which ones I prefer, which I think are useful variations, and which I think we should drop. Then I remembered blogs are text only, and gave it up as being too much like work. I hope this gets it all out of my head, along with that damn theme song for Empress of China that Linda has been watching.  Some of the political intrigue is interesting, and the costumes and sets are stunning, but the soundtrack is killing me. It's pretty bad when a non-English song is what's stuck in your head.

You've seen the skyline from here in a previous photo, but you can be forgiven for not connecting the dots. The other one was a night shot, cropped in a bit too much, with not enough lens. This is hand held on a hazy day, tired after a long scouting trip. Anyone want to take a guess where I was standing? As a hint, that's Rocky View hospital just in front of Banker's Hall.


1 comment:

  1. I should show you my notes from my university class on phonemics and transcription of French language. I believe they all end in a zigzag Z and downward line as I fell asleep in class pre-coffee. My class started at the crack of dawn. English is just plain weird. I can't place the photo but it is SE of home

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