Date: Fri, 1 Dec 1995 14:08:48 EST


Subject: Re: I before E

Natalie writes,

----------------------------Original message----------------------------

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]


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].