Sunday, 21 January 2007

Er, probably

The letters 'our' within a word generally make the sound 'aw', 'or', 'ow-er', 'ow' or 'oor', and are pronounced in other ways too for all I know.

Is it possible that there is only one English word of one syllable in which these letters* are pronounced 'er'? I can think of only one, but I cannot be sure because, sadly, the advanced OED search engine cannot search by number of syllables and there are 5,802 words in it containing 'our'.

“Try it again, General:
‘This urgent surge will purge the insurgent scourge

If you think this sort of discussion is boring, look HERE for a joke which is a source of much hilarity wherever top linguists foregather.

[*There must be a technical term in linguistics for a group of letters within a word; I thought it might be morpheme, but that's something else.]


Pennyroyal said...

As someone whose second language is English, I also find the difference in pronunciation between enOUGH and bOUGH quite fascinating!

English pronunciation can be a real challenge to the non-native speaker!

Tony said...

And don't forget thrOUGH and thOUGH.

Julius said...

Sorry, but I don’t understand that joke. Is it funny?

Tony said...

I’m not surprised; it is a bit arcane.
What you need to do if you have the time is to look up the technical terms mentioned, either in Ludwig Giesecke’s 'Glossar von Linguistik' or in 'Applied Linguistics for Dummies', and then you may get the point, though I wouldn’t bet on it. And no, it isn’t funny.

Grumio said...

'Honour' and 'colour'?

Tony said...

...and hundreds of other words like that.
I said words of one syllable.
Do try to keep up.

Grumio said...

Oh yes.


Julius said...

This was a new word to me and I cannot say I was ecstatic to learn it.
I looked it up here:

Grumio said...

Get your drift.

'nuff said.