Silent letters <k> and <g> in English

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U Kyaw Tun
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Joined: Fri Dec 23, 2011 10:19 pm

Silent letters <k> and <g> in English

Post by U Kyaw Tun » Sun Feb 12, 2012 2:34 pm

Silent <k> and <g> in English
-- UKT 120212

Pronouncing the velar-plosive-stops /k/ and /g/ before the dental sounds in Modern English is a problem. I have found a similar situation in the pronunciations of Sanskrit [क ् ष = क्ष] and Pali [चक्-ख].

[The following presentation needs Myanmar graphemes, however, since they do not appear in emails, I have given their equivalents in Devanagari. Also note that Bur-Myan {sa.} stands for both palatal plosive-stop [च] /c/ and dental fricative-sibilant [ष] /s/. However, they are differentiated in Romabama as {sa.} for [च] and {Sa.} for [ष]. ]

In {sa.kSa.} [च-क ् ष], we have two syllables, {sa.} [च] and {kSa.} [क ् ष = क्ष] if you are using the Sanskrit pronunciation. The conjunct {kSa.} [क ् ष = क्ष ] is not readily pronounceable, because {ka.} [क] /k/ the velar has to be pronounced immediately before the dental {Sa.} [ष] /s/. The pronunciation I can come up is /kə.sa/ with a schwa after /k/. Thus, {kSa.} [क ् ष = क्ष ] cannot become a medial but remains a disyllabic conjunct.

This reminds me of cases of a velar-before-dental in English <know> and <gnome>. In modern English both <k> and <g> are made 'silent'. Such silent letters are not permissible in the akshara-system which is a very rigid phonetic system preceding the International Phonetic Association (IPA) by thousands of years.

Since क्ष «ks» is not readily pronounceable for Bur-Myan and presumably for Pal-Myan, it is pronounced as {hka.} [ख] . Thus I have dubbed as pseudo-{hka.}.

An interesting point is what happens when the two syllables are pronounced very rapidly as in continuous speech. This amounts to the graphemes moving closer. {kSa.} conjunct in {sa~kSa.} is broken apart, and the pronunciation becomes: {sak~Sa.} [चक्-ष] . Since dental fricative-sibilant {Sa.} [ष] is absent in Bur-Myan, it is changed into {hka.}  [ख] : resulting {sak~hka.} [चक्-ख]. I am waiting for input from my peers.

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Re: Silent letters <k> and <g> in English

Post by DGA » Mon Feb 13, 2012 2:59 pm

It's been a long time (decades) since I've done any work in linguistics. This isn't a linguistics board either, it's a Buddhist board with a subsection on language study as it pertains to Buddhist practice. I'm willing to give your post a shot, though.

The silent "k" and "g" as expressed in written (not spoken) contemporary English are orthographic fossils. They remain in our orthography even though they are no longer pronounced in spoken English, and haven't been for centuries. Chaucer and Langland probably pronounced the "k" in "know," but Shakespeare and Middleton probably did not.

The letters k and g do not correspond to phonemes /k/ or /g/ in spoken English, that's the point. Unless you are talking about orthography, it's not at all clear what relevance they have to your question.

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