Date: Thu, 4 Jan 1996 21:11:53 -0700


Subject: Re: Respelling

Re Ben Barrett's comment on Greek pronunciation of the Theta : the point

here is simply that English speakers regularly assume that the spelling

th , except in historically voiced function words, verb finals, and some

noun plurals, represents the English phoneme /THETA/ (our e-mail ASCII

limitations don't include a direct representation of the symbol). Thus the

modern English spelling-pronunciation of words like theater , Anthony ,

Elizabeth , and Neanderthal ("valley [dale] of the Neander river"),

which were imported with the spelling th , though it represented a /t/ in

the language from which it was directly imported. The historical reasons for

the th in the borrowed form are various (Hellenism, elegant variation, etc.),

but since English did not borrow directly from spoken ancient Greek, the

actual pronunciation of 500 B.C. is not immediately relevant, except insofar

as someone may have had a theory about it which influenced the English

spelling, and hence the spelling-pronunciation (e.g., the re-introduction of

/k/ in perfect (cf. Chaucer's parfit , the original borrowed form).

--Rudy Troike (rtroike[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]