Pronouncing letters

Barbara Need nee1 at MIDWAY.UCHICAGO.EDU
Thu Aug 10 02:42:47 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>.

No, the <l> in _could_ was not pronounced, because the <l> in that word
doesn't belong there: it has come into the word from _would_ and _should_.
My guess is is after /l/ in those words was no longer pronounced (perhaps
an early velarization of /l/) and then the words sounded alike. _could_ is
from OE _cuD_ (the D is an edh, so, ModE couth). Obviously, there was also
a change in teh pronuniciation of the final sound.

Barbara Need

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