rules of English

Michael Ivie ueymi at GEMINI.OSCS.MONTANA.EDU
Tue Dec 12 09:30:45 CST 1995

Regarding rules for English pronunciation, there really are none.  It is
important to understand that English is a "free" language, unconstrained by
an Academy like the French, Spanish and others.  Therefore, the language
evolves solely through usage.  The purity concepts that have arisen in
German during the Nazi period and French in the recent past have no
parallel in English.

Therefore, there are guidelines, not rules, and they vary among the English
speaking countries.  For instance, the ending of words terminating with a
vowel pronounced with an "r" sound is characteristic of certain areas of
Britian, while ending each sentence with "eh?" is only required in Canada.

For a good review of basic rules, see English-Russian Dictionary, 1988,
V. K. Mueller, Russky Tazyk publishers, Moscow.  Recognize that the
guidelines here are British usage.

Then, remember that the tradition is to follow established pronunciation,
and baring that, pronounce any unfamiliar word as if it is in English.
Looking up a work in the OED is the final arbitrator for most.

English as a phonetic language is a mess.  Thank goodness for French, so
that we may have at least a close second.  Would that the worlds languages
were all so phonetic as Spanish, Russian, or Malagasy.

Mike Ivie

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