Date: Fri, 1 Dec 1995 14:08:48 EST
From: Larry Horn LHORN[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]YALEVM.CIS.YALE.EDU
Subject: Re: I before E
Does anyone know any other weird exceptions?
"Weird" isn't an exception if you think of the rule the way I do: i before
e except after c as long as it sounds like [i]. I say [wIrd], not [wird].
If you extend that rule to all pronunciations you're aware of, even if they're
not your own, you're left with almost no exceptions at all -- e.g., some
people pronounce the first syllable of "leisure" as [lE] rather than [li],
some people don't have [i] in "either" and "neither."
--Natalie (maynor[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]ra.msstate.edu)
That is a really neat explanation, predicting e.g. why we spell "leisure" the
way we do, i.e. because some people pronounce it to rhyme with "measure". Un-
fortunately there are still exceptions: as far as I know nobody pronounces
"seizure" that way, so we should spell it (and the verb it derives from) with
-ie-. It does work nicely for "either" and "neither", which most of us are
aware CAN be pronounced with a diphthong even if we refrain from doing so our-
selves. This strategy does work better as a rationalization than as a peda-
gogical tool, though, since it requires us to be aware of everyone else's
phonological practices (perhaps after the fashion of Hilary Putnam's socio-
linguistic principle, the division of linguistic labor)--I never knew "weird"
wasn't pronounced everywhere with an [i].