33: Why spelling is hard — but also hard to change

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Jun 20 2019 32 mins   1.1k
Why does “gh” make different sounds in “though” “through” “laugh” “light” and “ghost”? Why is there a silent “k” at the beginning of words like “know” and “knight”? And which other languages also have interesting historical artefacts in their spelling systems? Spelling systems are kind of like homes – the longer you’ve lived in them, the more random boxes with leftover stuff you start accumulating. In this episode of Lingthusiasm, your hosts Lauren Gawne and Gretchen McCulloch get enthusiastic about spelling, and celebrate the reasons that it’s sometimes so tricky. We then dive into quirks from some of our favourite spelling systems, including English, French, Spanish, Tibetan, and Arabic. This month’s bonus episode is about direction words! When you’re giving directions, do you tell someone to go north, left, or towards the sea? In this bonus episode, e talk with Alice Gaby about how different languages use different direction words. Support Lingthusiasm on Patreon to gain access to the directions episode and 27 previous bonus episodes. Because Internet, Gretchen’s book about internet linguistics, is coming out next month, and if you like the fun linguistics we do for Lingthusiasm, you’ll definitely like this book! You can preorder it here in hardcover, ebook, or audiobook (read by Gretchen herself) – preorders are really important because they signal to the publisher that people are excited about linguistics, so they should print lots of copies! We really appreciate your preorders (and you can look forward to a special Q&A episode with behind the scenes info on Because Internet once it’s out!) For links mentioned in this episode: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/185735719586/lingthusiasm-episode-33-why-spelling-is-hard