Saturday, 6 September 2008

Spelling not just a bi-product of speech!

In a recent comment, my friend Amethyst asked what a linguist might think of the use of 'net speak' such as "LOL" (laughing out lout) and "pwned" (owned) in speech. While I cannot really comment on the sentiments of the average linguist, what I can say is that the phenomenon of spelling influencing and changing pronunciation is not a recent one -- indeed, after a bit of research, I found that many of the most familiar words in the our language wear a clever phonemic disguise.

Take, for instance, the word "waistcoast" which was originally pronounced as /weskit/. "Clothes" used to be a homonym of "close." The aformentioned "ye" is also a good example of the influence of spelling on pronunication. And Lord of the Rings fans will be happy to know that elephants should not be elephants, but /olifaunts/. In short, all of these words had a written form which influenced the way they were pronounced later on, just like the net lover's dearly beloved "LOL" and "pwned".

What is particularly interesting about "LOL" and "pwned", however, is that these words first took form in writing, whereas all of the above examples were originally used in speech. What I would really like to know is whether there are any other non-technologically related words out there that came about in writing, and subsequently entered spoken language due to their permeation into the written world. Hmmm...!

For more words that have changed in pronunciation due to their spelling, check out this blurb written by Mark Israel.

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