Alphabet/Talk

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I would find it hard to support the statement that the letters of the alphabet represent (or approximate) phonemes. In English, due to its historical development, this is hardly the case. There are, supposedly, at least seven phonemes represented by "gh." In Italian, this statement has more validity.

The language ends up being very far from phonetic, but it's evidently organized on such principles. The letters generally have one or two primary sounds associated with them, so that when we see a new word we can usually guess about how it sounds, or transcribe foreign words into English. There are exceptions a lot of the time, but they are still the exceptions rather than the rule, I'd say. Maybe the best way to sum it up is: English is written with the Roman alphabet. ;)

PS - a quick search finds /g/ as in ghost, /gh/ as in doghouse, /f/ as in enough, /p/ as in hiccough, /w/ as in plough, /h/ as in Callaghan, and if you accept them, /k/ as in lough, /θ/ as in Keighley. Also it can show up as part of /ng/ or /ngh/ or as //, as in light. Tolkien used it to represent /γ/, but he was clearly being ridiculous.


Someone should add something here about George Bernhard Shaws proposals.----Are we referring to the "Fresh Fish" spelling item?


Question: Anybody know what this alphabet is called, and if it's already included:

A Alpha B Bravo C Charlie D Delta E Echo F Foxtrot

Answer: Nato phonetic alphabet. It is a so-called "phonetic" alphabet, not to be confused with the IPA. There are various "phonetic" alphabets of that kind. See http://www.bckelk.uklinux.net/able.html for a few. --STG


I don't think Tolkien was being that ridiculous when choosing "gh" to represent the voiced "kh" or the fricative of "g". A couple other languages do that. Besides, it fits: k voices to g; kh voices to gh. I was kidding - I think it is completely reasonable, far more so than any of the actual options except g+h.

If syllabaries cannot have parallelism between sound and symbol (otherwise they would be called abugidas), can alphabets have parallelism between sound and symbol (such as a predictable mutation of the symbol from stop to fricative to nasal to semivowel or from voiced to voiceless)? --Damian Yerrick


Can hiragana and katakana be called an alphabet? There are some usages such as the kyo as in Tokyo which is used like an alphabet instead of syllable.


There are lots more alphabets remaining on the Unicode consortium list that could be added to the link farm at the end of this article -- The Anome


The examples in 'collating order' seem to be broken - shouldn't there be a few more characters in the examples than I can see?

-- The Anome