English is a non-phonetic language

Xavier da Silva

Senior Member
Hello there,

I'm trying to formulate a sentence that explains one of the characteristics of the English language.Is the structure below correct?

English is a non-phonetic language,which means that words aren't spelled the way they sound.


Thank you very much in advance!
 
  • boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    I understand what you mean because of your explanation. For the sake of exactitude, though, I would probably say:
    The English spelling is not phonetically-based, which...

    This is only my view, though. Others may disagree.
     

    soccergal

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I agree with Ewie and Boozer. Also, to be more accurate, I would say that many/most words are not spelled the way they sound.
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    English spelling is based on a phonetic system.

    English spelling has many irregularities and inconsistencies, but the spelling of every English word will give you some phonetic information.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    If I was being very pedantic, Xavier, I'd have to end the sentence with something like:
    ... which means that the pronunciation of many words cannot easily be deduced from the spelling.

    :eek:
    I suppose it depends how pedantic you want to be;)
     

    Wishfull

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Hello there,

    I'm trying to formulate a sentence that explains one of the characteristics of the English language.(space) Is the structure below correct?

    English is a non-phonetic language,(a space is necessary here)which means that words aren't spelled the way they sound.


    Thank you very much in advance!
    Hi.
    I think it is very important to make a space, after ",".
    Because a famous language teacher of English said so.
    Without space, you will ruin your writing.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Hello there,

    I'm trying to formulate a sentence that explains one of the characteristics of the English language.Is the structure below correct?

    English is a non-phonetic language,which means that words aren't spelled the way they sound.


    Thank you very much in advance!
    I agree with ewie that it has to be "English spelling is non-phonetic."

    One could certainly argue instead that English spelling is "imperfectly phonemic." See the Wikipedia articles Alphabetic principle, subentry English orthography and Phonemic orthography. However, most native speakers of English are unfamiliar with the term phonemic, and phonetic would get across your point sufficiently well.
     

    nzfauna

    Senior Member
    New Zealand, English
    I don't agree with your "non-phonetic" concept for English. In my opinion English IS phonetically spelt.

    It is true that the same letters can have different sounds, that some groups of letters can have a different sound when combined than the individual letters that make them up, and that there are rules governing what verbal sound occurs with various letter placings. This makes English spelling more complex than, say, Spanish, but it does NOT make it "non-phonetic".
     
    Last edited:

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Yes, I have some concerns about the categorical "non-phonetic".

    I'd be very happy with "English spelling is not phonetic";).
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    1. I don't agree with your "non-phonetic" concept for English. In my opinion English IS phonetically spelt.

    2. It is true that the same letters can have different sounds, that some groups of letters can have a different sound when combined than the individual letters that make them up, and that there are rules governing what verbal sound occurs with various letter placings.
    Well, NZ, your sentence 2. defeats your argument in sentence 1. :)

    It is exactly the many different ways the same letters are pronounced in different positions that make English spelling non-phonetic. A phonetic spelling would be something like:

    It is true that the same letters...
    It iz truu that tha seim letarz...

    My language has a spelling that approximates a perfectly phonetic one, so I know the difference. :)
     

    nzfauna

    Senior Member
    New Zealand, English
    What is the difference between a single letter as a symbol for a sound, and a group of letters as a symbol for a sound?

    A non-phonetic language would have a complete dichotomy between the written and the verbal. This is not the case in English.

    How do you know that "ж" is pronounced like that in the Bulgarian alphabet? The same way that I know "th" is a voice consonant in various words in English.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    The point is, NZF, that 'phonetic spelling' (as it's generally understood) means: One letter represents one sound only; each sound is always represented by the same letter. Which is far from the case with English.
     

    nzfauna

    Senior Member
    New Zealand, English
    If you define it that way, of course I agree, Ewie. However, I'd like to think that we, as linguists/linguisticologistseses would have more than a "general" view of language.

    I hope my argument shows that the term "non-phonetic" can be misleading. Or, that I'm an ass.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I hope my argument shows that the term "non-phonetic" can be misleading. Or, that I'm an ass.
    Well, it's definitely one or the other, flower;)

    I suppose we could do with knowing exactly who Xavier's piece of writing is aimed at. (I was assuming it was for a general audience.)
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    What is the difference between a single letter as a symbol for a sound, and a group of letters as a symbol for a sound?
    None - it doesn't matter how many symbols stand for one sound. As long as those symbols always stand for the same sound. And this is hardly the case with English

    A non-phonetic language would have a complete dichotomy between the written and the verbal. This is not the case in English.
    I am quite happy to accept that no spelling in the world is perfectly phonetic. And that no "aphabet" spelling is perfectly non-phonetic. And that we have varying degrees of both in-between those two extremes. In which case the English spelling would be somewhere between the mid-point and "non-phonetic", I think.

    How do you know that "ж" is pronounced like that in the Bulgarian alphabet? The same way that I know "th" is a voice consonant in various words in English.
    Except that I would know how to pronounce this letter always, even in isolation, while you would have to guess at the exact pronunciation of "th" depending on what follows it - whether it's going to be THink, or weaTHer. :)

    We will all be hanged for going off-topic. :D
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    To be really, really, pedantic the spelling system of English is not perfectly phonemic (not phonetic).

    As others have said above this whole area can be as general or specific as you like. People can, and do, write essays, books and theses on the subject.

    Although I see NZFauna's point I think that most people would get the point with "English spelling is not consistently phonetic" (like him I wouldn't say simply that it isn't because in many instances it is (well phonemic anyway but that's another barrel of herring)).

    Although I think that many people would know what you meant if you said "English is not phonetic" this would be going too far for the pedant in me. All languages have phonetics if they are spoken.

    A middle ground for me would be to say "there is no one-to-one correlation between sound and spelling in English".
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top