Tuesday, 4 December 2012

I blame the parents

One reader of yesterday's post has presented 'canine' as a counterexample to my
The spelling of <consonant> + 'anin' is rare in English, according to my dictionary of choice (the one I have installed, the Macmillan English Dictionary ['MED' in my comments], which allows me to do 'clever' searches), especially where the a is stressed (as in caning, waning and so on); where the a is unstressed there are a few words such as melanin). 
Here's some more detailed reference to my source dictionary. Words of this sort are:

Stressed a:
  • canine
  • caning
  • craning
  • planing (and the derivatives 'aquaplaning' and [pardon me!] 'deplaning'; also 'replaning', I suppose, though The MED doesn't mention that explicitly)
  • profaning
  • waning

Unstressed a:
  • melanin
  • mezzanine
  • pickaninny
Only a handful; I think my 'rare' is justified. MED gives the pronunciation of all the words with stressed a as having the diphthong /eɪ/. When I was young (mid twentieth-century, middle-class, West London) I gave that stressed a in canine an /æ/. Often today I hear (and probably say, such is the power of 'proximal assimilation' - or 'copying people nearby', to give it its less academic title) /eɪ/. I suspect online dictionaries can be found with either {or both} pronunciation{s}. My guess is that in a couple of generations, the /æ/ pronunciation will be confined to a few grey-hairs. But, having just read David Crystal's closing words in The Story of English in 100 Words [and that may be my last quote from that book for a little while, though  not from other Crystal books!] I wouldn't bet on it.

As for Twitter [the word under discussion is Twittersphere] if you had asked me as recently as 2005 whether I thought there was anything interesting about the consonant cluster tw, I would have said 'nothing at all'. If you had suggested that one day it would be the basis for coining hundreds of new words [he has previously mentioned 'twitterhea', 'twitterati', 'twitterholic', 'celebritweet', and many others, listed in full here], I would have said you were mad. Moral: word buffs should never try to predict the future.

Update: 2013.10.02.16:20
Header updated:

 Mammon (When Vowels Get Together V4.0: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs – AA-AU, EA-EU, and  IA-IU, and – new for V4.0 – OA-OU.  If you buy it, contact  @WVGTbook on Twitter and I'll alert you to free downloads of the forthcoming volumes; or click the Following button at the foot of this page.)
And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources: nearly 32,400 views**,  and  4,400 downloads to date. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with 1570 views/700 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.

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