Why is the english language so irregular when it comes to pronounciation?

Hey everybody,

While looking at the English language you have to admit, that it isn't the most regular one when it comes to pronounciation, in fact it seems to be super irregular in some points.

What's the Reason behind those irregularities?

Some Examples: When you write two "o"s it is mostly pronounced like a "u" would be pronounced here in Germany. As in "roof", "good", but the word "blood" is pronounced with an "a" sound and the word "floor" with an "o" sound.

Sometimes words are written the exact same why but pronounced differently like in "I read a book" (present) and "I read a book" (past)

English seems to have very different ways to prounce "ough" like in "though", "tough", "through" and so on..

I could go on many with more examples but I am too lazy to write more text.

So I already asked my question, it might be a stupid one but it just interests me.

P.s : If there actually are rules why for example "good" is pronounced like "gud" and "blood" is prounced like "blad" please tell me.

February 11, 2015

8 Kommentare

It has mainly got to do with the history of Britain. When the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes first came to Britain, they spoke mostly Old German(ic) dialects, not unlike those that would later develop into Dutch, modern standard High German, etc. But already in the early Middle Ages, Northmen (Vikings) from what is now Scandinavia and other coastal regions of the North Sea repeatedly invaded Britain and pillaged, stole and so on. Some also stayed (at least shortly) and brought some words from their Norse dialects. Other Northmen settled in northern France and adopted the local French dialects of the time. These "Normans" famously invaded Britain and ruled it for a few hundred years. They (i.e., the aristocracy) mostly spoke French, which is why so many words in modern English are of French origin. That also led to a lot of grammatical changes, by the way (some say that even earlier contact with the Celts had some influence, but it probably was not large). Another thing that happened is that people later on repeatedly tried to standardise or simplify the spelling, but they never quite succeeded (evidently), which is why it's so inconsistent today. (Please excuse any inaccuracies in my post. I'm not an expert on history and therefore tried to keep it vague.)

This video is also quite informative and interesting.

February 11, 2015

You also need to keep in mind that the Great Vowel Shift (a significant change in the pronunciation of English vowels) was taking place right around the same time that English spelling was becoming standardized, which means there are plenty of words that, for example, had their spelling locked down by convention but then had their pronunciation change so it was no longer consistent with how the word would theoretically be spelled if it just followed basic rules of English pronunciation.

Throw in a large number of loan words from a variety of different languages that kept the -non-English) spellings to greater or less degrees, the various aforementioned attempts to standardize spelling that only half-succeeded at any one time and plenty of attempts to "correct" spelling based on ideas about etymology that may or may not have been particularly accurate. ('aisle' has a silent 's' added to it by association with 'island' which had its spelling changed from 'iland' based on a mistaken belief that it had a Latin root).

February 11, 2015

The Britons were actually a celtic people and spoke celtic languages at the time of roman occupation, up until the Germanic invasions. Welsh, Scottish and Irish gaelic, Manx and cornish, are still celtic languages spoken today. Also the norsemen had an entire Kingdom called the danelaw, from their invasions at the start of the ninth century up until the mid tenth.

February 11, 2015
February 11, 2015

"good" is pronounced so because it has two "o"s.

February 12, 2015

The thing is that the "oo"s in e.g. "good", "blood" and "mood" are all pronounced differently.

February 12, 2015

There are also many words with ea like head, heard, hear, streaker, steak, meat, ... .

February 13, 2015

English is a mixture of other languages, every word in English comes from another language, and the pronunciation usually carries with it.

October 31, 2018
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