Linguistics

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Linguistics

Post by Ringdrotten on Sun Mar 02, 2014 11:36 pm

A topic dedicated to questions about languages! A question to get the thread started: In school we learned that the 'e' in "the" should be pronounced almost like an 'i' in "fish" if the next word starts with a vowel. A while ago I heard a native speaker pronounce the 'e' like he would have done it if the word next had started with a consonant, yet it started with a vowel. After that I got aware of this "phenomenon" and have heard it lots of times, but almost exclusively from people who speak American English. So my question is this: Were our teachers wrong, or is there a difference between American and British English in this particular instance, like in so many others? We were taught to speak and write British English, so what we choose to learn about the American variety is entirely up to ourselves. So, native speakers, can you answer this for me and give me piece of mind? Smile

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Re: Linguistics

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Sun Mar 02, 2014 11:42 pm

Mmm not sure about this one- I suppose the way 'the' is pronounced it does have an i sound at the end. I have never really thought about it before.
But the only alternative I know is to say it like it has a pronounced 'e' ending 'thee' which is usually used to denote special importance or uniqueness, so you might say of a jewel that was considered the most valuable in the world that it was 'the(e) jewel' as opposed to the(i) jewel which would just refer to any ordinary jewel.

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Re: Linguistics

Post by Norc on Sun Mar 02, 2014 11:48 pm

yes, true petty, and when talking about something that starts with a vowel, you would say thee too?right? like the ocean or the openin.. wait.. now i am in doubt too.

good question ringo..
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Re: Linguistics

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Sun Mar 02, 2014 11:51 pm

when talking about something that starts with a vowel, you would say thee too?right? like the ocean- Norc

I wouldnt, thats certainly not part of spoken english in my bit of the world, but might be elsewhere in the UK. I would only use the thee sound as in the above example I gave (which in writing is quite often put in italics to denote the difference so 'the jewel' rather than 'the jewel')

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Re: Linguistics

Post by Ringdrotten on Sun Mar 02, 2014 11:51 pm

Yeah, I would pronounce it like 'thee' if I wanted to emphasise something, but I'm pretty sure we were taught that there is a difference in the pronounciation of 'the' depending on what letter the following word starts with (consonant or vowel) scratch Maybe they lied to us in school Shocked

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Re: Linguistics

Post by Ringdrotten on Sun Mar 02, 2014 11:56 pm

Norc wrote:yes, true petty, and when talking about something that starts with a vowel, you would say thee too?right? like the ocean or the openin.. wait.. now i am in doubt too.

good question ringo..

In Norc's example here I would have pronounced the 'e' like the 'e' in 'scene' (better example than 'fish' come to think of it). That's what we were taught. A little mystery this! Though I must say it's good to know that we seem to have been taught the same thing, Norc Very Happy

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Re: Linguistics

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Mon Mar 03, 2014 12:01 am

I wouldnt use 'the ocean' unless I wished in some way to denote it was the most important, or biggest or some other noteworthy reason for it deserving the 'thee' sound.
I would just say the ocean, or the sea, as they are one of many.

If there is a vowel rule on pronunciation I was never taught it.

I wonder if its a bit like the 'i before e except after c' rule, of which there are many examples of words that dont fit it at all!

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Re: Linguistics

Post by Bluebottle on Mon Mar 03, 2014 12:08 am

A problem with the premise of the question is that it has it's basis in that very english idea that there is a right way to speak. The queens english and so on.

And anyone who knows anything about linguistics knows that there are no rules for oral language. Each dialect is as right as the next one.

And Petty might very likely not be aware of it because it's not a thing in his dialect.

Not that it helps with your questions. Laughing  It's just this claiming there is a right way to speak tends to annoy me.

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Re: Linguistics

Post by bungobaggins on Mon Mar 03, 2014 12:09 am

When I speak if the word following "the" begins with a vowel I say "thee." If it begins with a consonant I say "the".
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Re: Linguistics

Post by Ringdrotten on Mon Mar 03, 2014 12:17 am

Bluebottle wrote:A problem with the premise of the question is that it has it's basis in that very english idea that there is a right way to speak. The queens english and so on.  

And anyone who knows anything about linguistics knows that there are no rules for oral language. Each dialect is as right as the next one.

And Petty might very likely not be aware of it because it's not a thing in his dialect.

Not that it helps with your questions. Laughing  It's just this claiming there is a right way to speak tends to annoy me.  

Being from Sør-Trøndelag I'm the last to claim that there is a "rule" for how to speak correctly Wink Though there is a difference between rules of pronounciation and dialects, at least to an extent. Like 'Det' or 'hvorfor' in Norwegian - according to our rules of pronounciation you don't pronounce the 't' and 'h'. It's this sort of "rule" I'm talking about here, or at least, that's what I've always thought this was Smile

Bungo - thanks a lot! Your answer pretty much proves my little theory false (you're American, right?). So perhaps it is as Blue says - it all boils down to dialect in this case as well Smile

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Re: Linguistics

Post by Bluebottle on Mon Mar 03, 2014 12:27 am

Yeah, I got that. Wink

There can of course be a more or less right way to speak for one way of speaking. As in for one dialect.

I just get annoyed at the english asserion that there is a right way to speak.

So no real annoyance directed at your question.


Last edited by Bluebottle on Mon Mar 03, 2014 12:28 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Linguistics

Post by bungobaggins on Mon Mar 03, 2014 12:27 am

I am American. And I think this rule is pretty much standard for all of the USA. I think. scratch

Any other Americans want to chime in here? David? Eldo? Anyone? Bueller?
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Re: Linguistics

Post by halfwise on Mon Mar 03, 2014 1:32 am

Not exactly. I think the type of vowel sound matters.

We have 'thuh' and 'thee'.

I say "thee ayes have it", but "thuh ice is cold". (Sometimes "thee ice...")
"thuh itsy-bitsy spider" but "thee inner tube".

It seems to be that if the vowel sound is elongated, you say "thee", but if short you say "thuh".

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Re: Linguistics

Post by bungobaggins on Mon Mar 03, 2014 1:35 am

I say "thee itsy-bitsy spider."  cyclops 
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Re: Linguistics

Post by David H on Mon Mar 03, 2014 1:53 am

I think there are guidelines, but they're flexible depending on occasion and dialect.

For me, I find that I do make a distinction depending on if it's followed by a vowel or a consonant.

If I'm speaking casual rural speech my 'the' becomes  very short so as almost not to have a vowel at all, like "th-land", and before a vowel it picks up a quick glottal stop to suggest a separation:  "th'-ocean".  

In more business or academic conversation I think I usually say "thee" before most vowel-words, but I would almost never say "thee" in front of a consonant, even for emphasis.  

Thinking a little more, I think I'm more likely to occasionally use "thee" in front of soft consonants like "f" and "th" for emphasis, but not always.
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Re: Linguistics

Post by halfwise on Mon Mar 03, 2014 2:23 am

No you're not.

"What thuh f...??"

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Re: Linguistics

Post by David H on Mon Mar 03, 2014 2:41 am

halfwise wrote:No you're not.

"What thuh f...??"

"What thee actual F...???"
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Re: Linguistics

Post by Norc on Mon Mar 03, 2014 4:55 am

what "F" are u looking for? i have lots.


btw, i think u might be thinking of "an" and "a" Smile
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Re: Linguistics

Post by David H on Mon Mar 03, 2014 7:37 am

Norc wrote:what "F" are u looking for? i have lots.

It's the same "F" you're thinking of. It's just that as gentlemen, Halfwise and I are too polite to use such language in front of Ladies.  Embarassed 


Norc wrote: btw, i think u might be thinking of "an" and "a" Smile

"a", "an" and "the" are all articles (indefinite and definite) and follow almost exactly the same rules. The a/an rule is written so the rules are clear, but there's a similar thing that can happen with the thee/thuh/the in spoken English, which is what Ringo was asking about before Halfy and I got sidetracked with the grammar of swearing.
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Re: Linguistics

Post by Norc on Mon Mar 03, 2014 12:48 pm

the same? i was thinking of about five different ones...

(i know they are different articles)
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Re: Linguistics

Post by Elthir on Mon Mar 03, 2014 1:19 pm

'Let them sa-si, if they can speak no better.'

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Re: Linguistics

Post by Ringdrotten on Mon Mar 03, 2014 1:27 pm

Thanks a lot for all the answers Smile I often wonder about things like this, so I'm glad I made this thread - now I can bother you guys with questions Very Happy

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Re: Linguistics

Post by Mrs Figg on Mon Mar 03, 2014 2:54 pm

I think regional accents can change how vowels are pronounced. In the South they pronounce bath like barth but in the North we pronounce it bath as in baff. We also use it more, at least once a day.
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Re: Linguistics

Post by Norc on Mon Mar 03, 2014 4:32 pm

Laughing see what i did there  figg Very Happy
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Re: Linguistics

Post by halfwise on Mon Mar 03, 2014 4:37 pm

I always wonder what the British actually means when they say "pronounce it like barth"

We've been through this before: Americans actually pronounce the 'r' like it's an actual letter, the British just shilly-shally around and claim they are pronouncing it.

we wouldn't use 'bath' and 'barth' as examples, I suspect what you are trying to represent we'd write as 'bath' and 'bahth'.

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