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Tue Jul 20, 2021, 07:15 AM

is there a law of linguistics that says words change to what is easier to pronounce?

For example:

“Blackguard” is pronounced blaggard.

“Boatswain” is pronounced bow-zun.

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Reply is there a law of linguistics that says words change to what is easier to pronounce? (Original post)
raccoon Jul 2021 OP
JackintheGreen Jul 2021 #1
zuul Jul 2021 #4
sorcrow Jul 2021 #2
viva la Jul 2021 #3
viva la Jul 2021 #5
LastDemocratInSC Jul 2021 #6
enough Jul 2021 #7
JackintheGreen Jul 2021 #8
flotsam Jul 2021 #9

Response to raccoon (Original post)

Tue Jul 20, 2021, 07:56 AM

1. Yeah, sort of...

I’m no expert, but there are a couple of ways languages tend to change in this way. The first is to reduce acoustical interference, in other words to take out sounds that seem (unconsciously) not to do much to the word. Think about how we say the word “talk” versus how we spell it. Verbally we mostly drop the ‘l’ but don’t lose a any ability to understand. The ‘l’ isn’t necessary to differentiate different words in most instances.

The second is the tendency to simplify anything that can be simplified (a kind of speaking laziness) known as the principle of least articulation effort. Think “knight”, which even as recently as Middle High German pronounced all the letters.

But neither holds always true. Sometimes languages just change for no apparent (or discernible reason), and not always to become easier to say. And languages also change because of outside influences - for example two language groups being in close contact for a long time (English and Danish in the Danelaw sections of England or English and French post 1066). These other two principles sometimes have the opposite effect (like English’s ridiculously inconsistent pronunciation rules around ‘ough’).

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Response to JackintheGreen (Reply #1)

Tue Jul 20, 2021, 08:13 AM

4. The original pronunciation 'ka-nig-it' was way too hard.

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Response to raccoon (Original post)

Tue Jul 20, 2021, 08:04 AM

2. Interesting observation

I listen to a lot of audio books. It hurts my ears when the reader says boat...swain, or fore...castle, or gun...wale. Nautical argot seems seems especially rife with these sort of simplifications or maybe it's my choice of literature. My personal favorite is "stunsul" for studding sail.

Best regards,
Sorghum Crow

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Response to raccoon (Original post)

Tue Jul 20, 2021, 08:08 AM

3. Lexicon valley is a good podcast for linguistic discussion

https://slate.com/podcasts/lexicon-valley

He talks about the mouth.... how sounds that are hard to pronounce move forward in the mouth over the centuries. Pronunciation gets sloppier!

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Response to raccoon (Original post)

Tue Jul 20, 2021, 09:13 AM

7. An example that's happening now --

Everybody is saying “tryna” instead of “trying to.”

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Response to enough (Reply #7)

Tue Jul 20, 2021, 10:24 AM

8. Going to -- gonna n/t

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Response to raccoon (Original post)

Tue Jul 20, 2021, 12:56 PM

9. Ask Worchester sauce...N/T

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