Pronouncing letters

Aaron E. Drews aaron at LING.ED.AC.UK
Wed Aug 9 13:36:22 UTC 2000

Rudolph C Troike wrote:

> Alphabetic representations of
> words may or may not have much historical connection with actual
> pronunciations (such as the <l> in <could>, which has never been
> pronounced

The <l> was never pronounced?  I thought (Middle) English had a phonemic
(ish) alphabet.  I know /l/ has a strong tendency to become a vowel (as
in my .signature: 'fa' in Scots is 'fall' (*not* autumn) in English).
Was the <l> introduced through spelling reformers?  Was it pronounced
before the Normans corssed the Channel?  I'm genuinely curious as to how
the the <l> got into the past tense of our modals, particularly
<could>.  I also will admit complete ignorance as to the history of the
phonology of the modals or high, back vowels followed by <l>.

Apologies to the non-linguists.

>  Letters don't have sounds: people do.

        Is this linguists' response to the Second Amendment? :-)


Aaron E. Drews                               The University of Edinburgh
aaron at                  Departments of English Language and       Theoretical & Applied  Linguistics

Bide lang an fa fair  \\  //
                       \\// /
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