The Spelling of Cannot

Bruce Dykes bkd at GRAPHNET.COM
Tue Jan 30 15:54:14 UTC 2001

----- Original Message -----
From: "Laurence Horn" <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
Sent: Monday, January 29, 2001 21:31
Subject: Re: The Spelling of Cannot

> Let's assume these observations are all correct.  I still don't see
> how they are more applicable to "CAN + NOT" than they are to "COULD +
> NOT", but we can't spell the latter as a single item "couldnot".
> That's why I think there's a certain amount of arbitrariness here.
> The one persistent difference is the phonology--the fact that
> "cannot" can, but "could not" cannot, be pronounced with stress on
> the first syllable and, when it is, with the second vowel reduced to
> schwa.  (Not that it MUST be, but that it CAN be.)  But what led to
> these possibilities?

There's also the presence of various letter doublings in English spelling:
ll,ss,tt,oo,ee, and of course, nn. Perhaps it's less a matter of phonetics
and meanings than following already present spelling conventions?

And I haven't seen many -ldn- or -lln- letter combinations...


More information about the Ads-l mailing list