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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: 18 January 2022

That’s Enough Now, English

That’s Enough Now, English

(p.243) That’s Enough Now, English
Highly Irregular

Arika Okrent

Sean O’Neill

Oxford University Press

This chapter explains that the answer to most “why does English do this?” questions will be a variation on things that were discussed in the previous chapters: old habits getting reinforced while new habits take over, unnoticeable slow drifts in pronunciation, the practice of extending or borrowing or creating in order to get something useful, reusing materials at hand in new ways, the drive to get more emotional impact, the need to look smart, impress, send social signals, express national pride. It will be because of the old Germanic layer, the French upheaval, the consolidating force of the printing press, the purposeful manipulation done by snobs, or the natural tendencies of our human language endowment. When language changes it is never the whole system changing at once. It happens one piece at a time, and the pieces do not coordinate or even communicate with each other while they do this. Contradictions will not be noticed until they are already baked in. English, because of its history, has a lot of them, but that does not stop the system from working. It does not stop people from learning to use it and making sense of what does not seem to make sense.

Keywords:   English language, language habits, English pronunciation, French words, printing press, human language

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