Chapter 13

SOME RULES OF PRONUNCIATION Icon

January 31, 2022

The following is a list of words which are spelt in one way but pronounced in a different way.

WORDS CORRECT PRONUNCIATION 1
housewife [in the sense of a case for needles, thread] huzif
Dalhousie daluzi
colonel cornel
lieutenant leftnant
sandwich sandich
Greenwich [gren]ich
Gloucester glauster
pall-mall [a game of ancient times] pel-mel
viscount vicount
government guvment
parliament2 parliment
northwestern wind nor’western wind
[The words eighty and eighteen, though correctly pronounced as they are spelt, are sometimes mispronounced “eight-ty” and “eight-teen”.]

Use: The s in use will be pronounced like s when the word is a noun, and like z when the word is a verb.

French and English pronunciation: In French, the definite article the is le in the masculine gender, la in the feminine gender, and les in plural. But the pronunciation of la, le and les is changed while in diphthong with other words. In such cases the system of spelling becomes the primary factor; for instance, the men will be, in French, les hommes (pronounced “lez-omme” instead of “les-omme”).

The English word knife has come from the French word kanif. In this case the letter k remains mute. But as the word originally comes from French, the system of retaining the k in spelling is followed. In French the k is pronounced.

The first h in a French word remains mute; for example, the English hotel is pronounced “otel” in French, and the English hospital is pronounced “aupital” in French. In the case of the word honour, the French pronunciation has been accepted [in English]. Even uneducated French people follow this [as their] natural system of pronunciation.

A historian / an historian: When the first h remains mute in words of French origin, such as honour, hour, heir, history, hospital, and hotel, the article an must be used before the noun. [And when the h is pronounced, either a or an may be used.] In old English, an historian was correct; in modern English, both a historian and an historian are correct.

Of / off: Of, as in “Bank of India,“ is pronounced “ov“ (অব্), (বাঙ্ক্ অব্ ইন্ডিয). Off is pronounced ”of“ (অফ্). Of means র,3off means “far” (দূরে).

Tug of war: Tug of war is pronounced “tug-ah-far” (টগ-আ-ফার).

Is: Is is pronounced “iz”[, not “ij”] (ইজ়), not (ইজ), for example, “He is (“iz”) a good boy.”

Pronunciation of d [as d and as j] in English: The English language follows two main schools of intonation: Anglo-Saxon and Norman. According to Anglo-Saxon intonation, English d [in the middle of a word] is pronounced “j”. According to Norman intonation, English d is pronounced “d”, as in dog. Both these schools of pronunciation are equally correct. For instance:

NORMAN ANGLO-SAXON education ejucation immediate immejiate budget budjet guardian garjian Pronunciation of g as “g” or “j”, and c as “s” or “k”, in English: Sometimes if g is followed by e, i or y, it is pronounced “j” (general, gist). Elsewhere it is pronounced “g” (as in get, give). The word jail has two recognized spellings: jail and gaol. In the latter case it is an exception to the rule because even though g is not followed by e, i, or y (it is followed by a), even then it is pronounced “j”.

In the case of c, if it is followed by e, i, or y, it is pronounced like “s”, but elsewhere it is pronounced like “k”.

For example, cat, but cinema, centre, concede, cycle, etc. In French, c with cedilla [¸] will be pronounced like “s”, as in garçon (“boy”).

Anglo-Saxon vs. Norman pronunciation: Many people are inclined to criticize the English language, saying that it does not follow any particular system of pronunciation. This is completely incorrect. Why is but pronounced in one way and put in another way? There is a clear and consistent rule for this. But is a word of Anglo-Saxon origin, and here u is a short u sound pronounced as in under, unfair, etc.; whereas put is a word of Norman origin.

Double u in English and double v in French: In the English language, to prolong the pronunciation of u, two u’s were used and that has become the letter w. In original French, there was no use for this letter. But in order to properly write [some] words of non-French origin, French-speaking people initially used double-v. The French people gave the letter the name double-v (pronunc. dublve, (দুব্লবে).

Pronunciation of a in English and French: In English the letter a has twenty-one kinds of pronunciation, but in French it has only one pronunciation – like the Bengali á (আ), as in Paris.

A rule regarding French consonants: In the French word Paris the last s remains mute because according to the French rule, all consonants except c, f, l, r, remain mute at the end of a word. To pronounce them fully, a vowel should be added at the end of the word. Many people wrongly spell the French word madame as madam in English. But if madam is written in French, the pronunciation will be mádáṋ (মাদাঁ). To keep the pronunciation of the last letter intact, you will have to write the letter e at the end of the word. In French, mon is used for my in the masculine, ma for my in the feminine, and mes for my in the plural. So the plural of madame will be mesdames. Many people wrongly pronounce this as “mes dames” (mes d́ems, মেস্-ডেমস).

Sanskrit f: The letter f is used in Arabic, Persian, Latin, English and French, but there is no such pronunciation in Sanskrit. In Sanskrit there is ph (ফ), but no f. Thus to spell words such as Fazal [a name], Finnish, fain, kanif, and fraternal in the Sanskrit [alphabet] is impossible. Hence I am in favour of putting one dot under the letter ফ in Sanskrit [ফ়] to indicate the letter f.

Pronunciation of r: When r is the last letter of a syllable (but that syllable is not the last syllable), and is followed by a consonant, it is not pronounced. The time that should have been allotted for r is given to its preceding vowel, for example, “forty” → “fau-au-ty”, “fourteen” → “fo-o-teen”, “party” → “pah-ah-ty”.

If r is the [last] letter of the last syllable, and if it is followed by another word starting with a consonant, then it also remains mute. For example, “For them, I had to start for Calcutta” (here the r’s are mute); “He has come for you” (here the r is pronounced because although y is a consonant, it is pronounced like a vowel). “The Damodar is a big river” – here all three r’s are to be pronounced.

Pronunciation of ch: Ch is pronounced sometimes as “ch” (চ), as in chalk, chair, chess; sometimes as “q” [ক sound], as in monarch, patriarch, matriarch, etc.; and sometimes as “sh” [ স ], as in branch, etc.

In the case of words of French origin, ch is always pronounced “sh”, for example, Pondichery (পঁদীসেরী), Chandernagore (সঁদরনগর), chauffeur, chevrolet. If n is followed by ch in a particular syllable, then ch is pronounced “sh”, for example, branch, inchcape; but when ch follows n in a different syllable, then it is pronounced “ch”, as in charm: for example, enchanting, Ranchi.

When ch in Latin-derived words is not followed by a consonant, it is pronounced “q”, as in monarch, patriarch, etc.

Non-English words incorrectly pronounced in English:

WORD CORRECT PRONUNCIATION enclave আঁক্লাব en masse আঁ মাস্ en route আঁ রূত্ madame মাদাম mesdames মেদাম Paris পারী Argentina Árhentiná, আর্হেন্তিনা royal রোআইয়াল bon voyage বঁ বোয়াজ Rio de Janeiro রীও দ্য জেনেইরো pell-mell পেল-মেল eau-de-Cologne ও দ্য কলোঁ aide-de-camp এদ-দ্য-কঁ chambre (i.e., chamber) শঁব্র viscount বাইকাউণ্ট capita কাপিতা capital কাপিতাল philology ফিলোলোজি (not ফাইলোলোজি) Edinburgh এডিনবরা charge-d’affaires সার্জ-দ্যাফেয়ার restaurant রেস্তরাঁ (1) The author has here used the English alphabet to represent the correct pronunciations. In the last section of this chapter, added for the second edition, the author uses the Indo-Aryan, or “Sanskrit”, alphabet (see p. ix) to represent the correct pronunciations. –Eds.

(2) The word parley is used for “speaking”. Hence parliament means “a place for speaking”.

(3) Bengali possessive suffix. –Eds.