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Highly IrregularWhy Tough, Through, and Dough Don't Rhyme—And Other Oddities of the English Language$
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Arika Okrent

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780197539408

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2021

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780197539408.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 02 December 2021

What the Hell, English?

What the Hell, English?

(p.1) (p.2) What the Hell, English?
(p.iii) Highly Irregular

Arika Okrent

Sean O’Neill

Oxford University Press

This chapter provides an overview of the oddities of the English language. It begins by looking at the poem of Dutch writer Gerard Nolst Trenité and how he spent his career nitpicking defense of his own native language. Nolst Trenité saw that the Dutch language had its own inconsistencies. His complaints about the way his fellow citizens butchered the Dutch language were different from his complaints about English, but they came from the same expectation that language should be a logical, orderly system. The patterns are often overshadowed by what looks like randomness, and there are irregularities everywhere, not just in the spelling system. At every level of language, from spelling to vocabulary to grammar to word order to meaning there are violations of harmony and order. This book is thus a collection of answers to questions about English. It also presents a history of English that explores the tension between logic and habit in language development.

Keywords:   English language, Gerard Nolst Trenité, Dutch language, spelling system, vocabulary, grammar, language development

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