Creolization? Or Globalization?

Ronald Kephart rkephart at
Sun Feb 20 21:12:07 UTC 2000

Matt Joanis wrote:

>...some of the words (which are still "in use" today) simply don't rhyme at
>all-at least not according to current accepted pronounciation. For example:
>peirce [sic]

I'm taking an educated guess here (I am forcibly home-bound at the
moment, and don't have access to the resources that might help me be
more precise), but I suspect that around 1600 neither of these words
was pronounced like it is today (by most of us):

verse was probably something like "vair-suh"
pierce was probably something like "pair-suh"

Now, 1600 was at the end of the English Great Vowel Shift, so the
vowel in "pierce" might well have been higher, i.e. more like its
modern pronunciation, by that time. But then, poets do sometimes
allow for approximations in their rhyming, right?

>I grant this is a weak example-it is the only one I could think of
>off the top of my head, but either way the point is that there is
>not necessarily a "rule" here from which we can infer prounciation
>from the spelling...

Actually, English was spelled fairly phonologically *before*
"standardization."  The reason spellings and pronunciations no longer
match is found in the various sound changes that English has
undergone, including loss of the /x/ phoneme (spelled h or gh) in
postvocalic environments, the Vowel Shift, neutralization and erosion
of final unstressed vowels (the infamous "silent e" in pierce and
verse), and so on, *without* any (or many) corresponding changes in

>I guess what I am driving at, Ron, is that [...] with the advent of
>standardization [of a writing system] the language on some level has

Matt, I would say that *use* of the language has changed, but not the
language itself.

>In other words, it may not be readily apparent to anyone, but when
>you say that "Šwriting systems are not part of the structures of
>languages." I must disagree with you with respect to English and
>probably other written languages the two have become fused. Perhaps
>the analogy here is that language becomes "domesticated and/or
>hybridized" with the standardization of spelling, grammar, etc.,...

Wait; we've been talking about writing systems up to now, and now you
throw in "grammar" which is a different issue, and not one I want to
tackle right now. Instead, a couple of questions:

(1) If standardization of spelling is so important for pronunciation,
how come the Vowel Shift is *still* going on right here in the US,
and not only that but in different ways in different parts of the

(2) What exactly does a language become "hybridized" with when a
spelling system is standardized?

Ronald Kephart
English & "Foreign" Languages
University of North Florida

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