"-ough"--why so many pronunciations?

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Sun Nov 16 04:03:57 UTC 2003

A friend has asked me why English words ending in -ough have so many
different pronunciations--as in bough,though, through, cough, tough.
In general he wonders why English spelling so often poorly predicts a
word's pronunciation (another example: "laughter" vs. "slaughter").

   Would anyone have an explanation?

Gerald Cohen

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