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View Diary: Origins of English: Some Rare Words (185 comments)

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  •  English is difficult to master and control, yes; (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thenekkidtruth, Joy of Fishes, Ojibwa

    however, it's actually fairly easy to learn enough so that you can communicate well.  The pronunciation is really quite difficult for speakers of most other languages.  Several points in this regard come to mind:

    Dipthongization -- Almost no English vowel maintains the same sound throughout its utterance.  They're almost always combinations -- mixture is a better word -- of at least two, sometimes more.  We "slide around"on our vowels. (BTW, "dipthong" is a combination of two vowel sounds, e.g., "I" is not one single sound, but a combination of "ah" and "ee".  It starts off as ah but quickly changes to ee and we hear ai.  

    American English has, more or less, sixteen separate, phonemically distinctive vowel sounds; UK English can have as many as twenty-three.  This alone is a nightmare for foreign learners, especially those who come from languages with only six or eight or so.  

    Stress and intonation -- Again, this is a nightmare.  It's not bad enough that English has three levels of stress on syllables in words, primary, secondary, and unstressed, but we use stress to signal both emotional and (even) grammatical meaning, e.g., record (reh-KORD - a verb) and record (RECK-urd - a noun).  As for unstressed syllables being a problem, the point is that if a syllable is unstressed, it makes NO difference how that vowel is written, it is pronounced as "shwa", the phonetics term for "uh" written as an upside-down e, which is more or less the sound you make if someone punches you in the stomach.  

    Anyway, I don't have time to continue this now, but these are a few thoughts on just how bloody difficult this lingo of ours is.  And I certainly am damned glad I grew up with it as my mother tongue.  

    -7.13 / -6.97 "The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion." -- Edmund Burke

    by GulfExpat on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 02:39:18 AM PST

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