You: English pronunciation is random and lawless. It is a chaos language no one can make sense of.

@ConfusedImp that is so true that initially i read "green great dragons" as "great green dragons" like my brain saw the words out of order and did an auto correct

@Taweret @ConfusedImp even worse, my brain heard 'green great dragons' and just assumed that a 'great dragon' is a distinct noun, like, there are dragons, and there are greatdragons.

@ConfusedImp I love realizing how little we were taught. Like we have so many more sounds than we let on and this slows us learning languages that recognize those sounds. Like “hi” and “my” don’t rhyme (unless you’re singing) even though we have only one way of describing those two sounds, long i, which is a name for a completely different sound in every other language… (if you think my and hi rhyme, and they might in your local prefecture, try the vowel sounds in fight and mine)

@gayhobbes @ConfusedImp Seeeeeeriously. It’s almost as if most of our primary schooling is just stressful, misleading daycare.

@gayhobbes @ConfusedImp oh they taught us that up North, too. With this simple mnemonic: “Ain’t ain’t a word.” Fuck you, fuckers.

@SpaceForDogs @ConfusedImp where are you from? Just about everyone I know has hi and my rhyming. As for fight and mine, my phonology prof attributes that to vowel lengthening before a voiced consonant (/n/). I fought her on that, though, because I'm convinced that I'm most American dialects length isn't as important as /ai/ taking on middle qualities and becoming [əi] before an unvoiced consonant (/t/)

@axolotl @ConfusedImp Philadelphia (but I don’t have that accent). My is a noticeably longer vowel. I don’t trust Anglo-Saxon linguists any more than Anglo-Saxon philosophers. Vowel lengthening is…a different sound that most languages acknowledge in orthography.

@SpaceForDogs (idk how versed you are in formal linguistics, so by all means stop me if I'm being annoyingly explainy 😂) lengthening is different in English than it is in, say, Japanese or Italian because it's phonetic, not phonemic. So the difference is environmental and will never change the meaning. Like you said though this becomes a problem when learning other languages bc we have these sounds but aren't very good at hearing them even though they do change the meaning there.

@SpaceForDogs if you have a really distinct difference in length between hi and my, it might be that you pronounce hi with a final glottal stop! Uh oh, I think I've begun nerding out 😍

@axolotl Another thing we unacknowledgedly have in English! I used to be quite keen on formal linguistics but Sanskrit ended that. Actually, just the existence of aorist. My purposes aren’t academic but aesthetic; so much English writing meant to be metered and rhymed fails the ear because our sounds are more complex than even most conscientious people learn in school and college. Linguists can describe it but if it’s not put about broadly we are strangers to our own tongues

@axolotl That said I love the flexibility of English pronunciation. It takes quite a lot of shifting and sliding to make things truly hard to understand.

@SpaceForDogs what did Sanskrit do to destroy formal linguistics for you? I don't have any experience with it! Academia was enough to ruin linguistics for me lolsob

@axolotl I could just never wrap my head around the goddamn aorist, I still can’t, and mastering Sanskrit was a prerequisite for me for further studying linguistics (don’t ask)

@SpaceForDogs @ConfusedImp In our dialect (a mix of Southern and Midwestern American English), both hi and my, and fight and mine, have the same vowel sound, something close to /ai/.

@Rosemary They do “have the same vowel sound” for most purposes, even more in some dialects (Appalachian stereotypically tends towards ha, ma, faht, and mahn) but they don’t rhyme properly (in General American) because the lengths of that sound is different (one may well argue whether length constitutes a different “sound,” it obviously does, but I don’t care about classification, I care about use). I read a lot of kiddie books these days and it drives my ears to the point of insanity

@SpaceForDogs I haven't done any actual analysis with recordings or anything, but there is no noticeable difference in length in our dialect either. I'm guessing the (in)famous southern drawl leads to lengthening the vowel of my to where it approximately matches that of hi. You're right, though, they do have different length in General American, but vowel length is non-phonemic in English so they are still considered to rhyme.

@Rosemary That’s my point. The idea that there is a technical definition of rhyme that is separate from sound is a toxic mistake that alienates us from our voices and ears. “We have defined this therefore it doesn’t matter” is Anglo-Saxonry at its mad galloping worst.

@SpaceForDogs I would never consider two things that differ only in vowel length not to rhyme, personally, by either the technical or colloquial definition.

@ConfusedImp Yes. English pronounciation is a mess, but, even without the wordorder shit in the pic, a language that has 9 verb tenses is not lawless. :3

Welcome to Esperanto :-D There are, too, complex tenses even in Passive, but I can't remember whether there also is Sequence of Tenses similar to English.

@ConfusedImp The way English pronunciation corresponds to spelling is the thing that is random and lawless. That's not even considered part of the language as far as the field of linguistics is concerned, and all the parts that are, just like every other natural human language, are highly organized.

@ConfusedImp (It's not like the spelling-pronunciation correspondence being riddled with inconsistencies is unique to English either, though it does seem to be worse than any of the other languages I have any familiarity with.)

@FelixArden When I took German in high school and Frau Saheyda explained spelling and phonemes I thought she was lying to us, hiding the real rules so we wouldn't be scared.

@ConfusedImp Yeah, while it's not quite a one-to-one correspondence between spellings and pronunciations, it's pretty close.

@ConfusedImp Fun fact: while this is one of the strongest grammatical rules in English, there is one exception: when two successive words are sufficiently close to reduplication with altered vowels, front close vowels always precede back open vowels. Hence "big bad wolf" instead of "bad big wolf".

@ConfusedImp This is also why words like wishy-washy, flim-flam, mish-mash, and phrases like "fi fie foe fum" are in that order.

@Rosemary @ConfusedImp Sort of? A blog by linguists points out there have been a number of studies showing this isn't a strong rule at all: The examples are just cases it works

I love these! I recall reading about another one that encourages a vowel-based ordering of words in lists, which is similarly "obvious but why" to English speakers. It had a name but I forgot it. What book is this from? Any other gems in there?

@ConfusedImp unless the name of the specific species we are talking about is "great dragon", then you can have a green great dragon.

@ConfusedImp We were actually taught this in school while learning English, but forgot about it pretty much immediately 🤔

@ConfusedImp I've been rewording this in my head and either I am able to make sense from gibberish or I'm the maniac send help

@ConfusedImp And then there're the rules about reduplication vowel order, which are why you'll never hear someone say "tock-tick," "dong-ding," or "chat-chit." XD

@ConfusedImp “green great dragons” could exist, but their existence would imply that “great dragon” is a discrete concept and not just a dragon that has greatness, and that this is a green one of those.

"Green great dragons" can exist if "great dragon" is a compound noun (like "great lakes", for example)


As a native speaker, who grew up in an English speaking country, I would just like to say that #English is completely wack.

@ConfusedImp Since I didn't see anyone mention this:
The photo is from a book called The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth.

@ConfusedImp No but seriously what the fuck.

English is a weird language.

@ConfusedImp of course green great dragons can exist. they would be a specific variety of dragon, a "great dragon", that happened to be green.

@ConfusedImp Does the "Big Friendly Giant" break this rule? Friendly surely is opinion, and Big size, and yet it is not the Friendly Big Giant.

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