alphabet quirks

February 24th, 2009

Have you noticed that every language seems to deamonize a particular letter of the alphabet? Users of the language either refuse to pronounce it, or they pronounce it as a different sound, or they banish it altogether.

Polish

Polish has excommunicated the V. This is really strange, because all its linguistic neighbors use the V all the time. All words get rewritten with Ws instead.

Norwegian

Norwegian vowels are heavy, industrial strength. Somehow this has made the O into a Polish U or an English OO. To compensate for this lacking, the Å was invented as a makeshift O.

English

English has caught onto the fact that V and W are really the same sound, and have co-opted the W for a completely different sound. Polish has a ready made letter for this sound: the Ł.

English also disfavors the J, and uses the Y as a J when need be.

Needless to say, the R was mutated into a sound that defies definition. This is lost on many English natives who plainly assume that the crazy English R is the standard for all languages.

French

French refuses to pronounce the H, yet it keeps using it in written form.

French also uses the J as a Polish Ż.

The R, of course, is the most eccentric of them. It was made into a gargling sound that stings the throat.

Dutch

Dutch will pronounce the G only as an H. And the H.. er.. also as an H. It may be that the G and the H are slightly different in speech, but if so it still eludes me how.

Spanish

Spanish doesn't like the J. In its place it improvised the LL (but also the Y is used for this). The J is used as an H, in place of the real H, which refuses to be pronounced. Sounds pretty obsessive, doesn't it?

And the V becomes a B, depending on who you ask.

Italian

Like all its latin friends, Italian pretends the H doesn't exist, but still keeps writing it.

:: random entries in this category ::

7 Responses to "alphabet quirks"

  1. Graham Bae says:

    Good read Martin, interesting stuff.

    Don't even get me started on Basque...

  2. numerodix says:

    Basque, huh? What have you been doing with your nights

  3. erik says:

    I'm just glad you haven't bothered to learn Dutch cause you'd fill a book with a hateful rant on Dutch vowel combinations

  4. Graham Bae says:

    Martin: Actually, my very limited knowledge of Basque comes from looking at footballers' names, like Bixente Lizarazu and Joseba Etxeberria.

  5. Graham Bae says:

    btw you might find this interesting:

    http://strangemaps.wordpress.com/2009/02/26/362-greek-to-me-mapping-mutual-incomprehension/

  6. numerodix says:

    I wonder what say English speakers say once they learn Greek.

  7. xen says:

    I wouldn't say the Dutch G is pronounced like H (at least from a Norwegian pronunciation point of view). I would rather say that a Dutch G is the sound you make when you are clearing your throat or hocking a loogie.
    I'm no expert in Dutch though, but I'm able to speak a little bit when forced to.