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Old 01-26-2012, 03:25 PM
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Eighteen, not eightteen

The suffix is "teen", yes? So why is 18 spelled "eighteen" and not "eightteen"? Is there a grammar rule governing double T's?
Old 01-26-2012, 03:49 PM
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There are no grammar rules.
Old 01-26-2012, 03:59 PM
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We use -teen instead of onety-one, onety-two, onety three, etc. as is done for twenty and above, and that we use thirteen instead of threeteen and fifteen instead of fiveteen, etc.

You think there are strict and simple rules that need to be followed?
Old 01-26-2012, 03:59 PM
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It's whatever people want it to be; spelling and grammar evolve by consensus.

Though in this case, it comes from adding -teen (or, rather, -tyne] to ehta. "Eight" did not have the extra "t" until after "eighteen" was coined.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OED
c1000 West Saxon Gospels: Luke (Corpus Cambr.) xiii. 4 Swa ţa ehta-tyne [1160 Hatton ehte-tyna] ofer ţa feoll se stypel on siloa.
Quote:
Originally Posted by OED
1297 R. Gloucester's Chron. (1810) 385 As in ţe ȝer of grace a ţousend ȝer yt was And four score & eyȝte.
(emphasis added)

Last edited by RealityChuck; 01-26-2012 at 04:00 PM.
Old 01-26-2012, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by friedo View Post
There are no grammar rules.
Grammar is nothing but rules.

More to the point, however, there has never been any logic to English spelling conventions.

Last edited by njtt; 01-26-2012 at 04:00 PM.
Old 01-26-2012, 04:05 PM
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Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
It's whatever people want it to be; spelling and grammar evolve by consensus.

Though in this case, it comes from adding -teen (or, rather, -tyne] to ehta. "Eight" did not have the extra "t" until after "eighteen" was coined.
I hate to tell you this, but ehta and eight each have exactly the same number of ts in them.
Old 01-26-2012, 04:26 PM
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Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
Though in this case, it comes from adding -teen (or, rather, -tyne] to ehta. "Eight" did not have the extra "t" until after "eighteen" was coined.
That doesn't look like "eight" getting an extra "t", but rather "ehta" losing the final "a". When that "a" went, the two t's in "ehta-teen" merged into one "t".
Old 01-26-2012, 04:30 PM
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We drop the 've' in "five" and replace with 'f' to get "fifteen." Why not drop the 't' from "eight" to eliminate a silly extra letter.
Old 01-26-2012, 04:33 PM
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Originally Posted by srmccaffrey View Post
The suffix is "teen", yes? So why is 18 spelled "eighteen" and not "eightteen"? Is there a grammar rule governing double T's?
nott that i know.
Old 01-26-2012, 04:41 PM
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Originally Posted by njtt View Post
Grammar is nothing but rules.

More to the point, however, there has never been any logic to English spelling conventions.
I'll vote for this. There is no logic to English spelling conventions. Even the famous "i before e except after c" is fancied to sink under its own weight.
Old 01-26-2012, 04:43 PM
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Why does friedo have Charter Member under his name twice?

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Old 01-26-2012, 04:52 PM
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When you have a two syllable word, and vowel in the first syllable is short, you will find a double consonant after that vowel. Like in "willow". If it were written "wilow", it would tend to be pronounced "WIE-low".

Consider "Tiger" vs "Tigger".

There are exceptions, of course, like "sugar", but that's also a loan word. I can't think of any words where the consonant is double, and the vowel is long.

If we wrote "Eighttenn", it would tend to indicate that the vowel sound before it would be short-- something like "AH-teen". Of course, we have the utter bastardization of the vowel sound "eigh" which has it's own problems, but still, the doublet would be a very odd spelling in English.

Last edited by John Mace; 01-26-2012 at 04:53 PM.
Old 01-26-2012, 04:57 PM
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What really bugs me is that it is "forty" and not "fourty."
Old 01-26-2012, 05:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Alley Dweller View Post
What really bugs me is that it is "forty" and not "fourty."
In one of my programming classes we had a project to write a simple parsing program that translated numbers to their word representations and back (i.e. 112 <-> one hundred twelve). The biggest error by far? Half the people wrote "fourty" for "forty." It was so bad they actually rewrote the test cases to accept "fourty" and only take off a point for the first occurrence of the error, rather than have everybody completely fail every test case where "forty" came up .

Last edited by Jragon; 01-26-2012 at 05:05 PM.
Old 01-26-2012, 05:07 PM
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Can I suggest a perusal of Bill Bryson's Mother Tongue?

It's a discussion of the English language with a bias towards the perceived idiosyncrasies of English and the differences to American English.

Last edited by Bilbo1967; 01-26-2012 at 05:09 PM.
Old 01-26-2012, 05:11 PM
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Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
I can't think of any words where the consonant is double, and the vowel is long.
Plainness
Vainness
Zealless
etc

There's a bunch more, but those are in-line with the OP's question about a stem word+suffix that results in a double consonant.


Quote:
If we wrote "Eighttenn", it would tend to indicate that the vowel sound before it would be short-- something like "AH-teen".
I don't think it implies anything of the sort. "Ei" (or "eigh," really) being shortened to "ah" wouldn't even occur to me as a possibility as a native English speaker. To me, it's that the consonant cluster "ghtt" in "eightteen" looks stupid, so "eighteen" it was.

Last edited by pulykamell; 01-26-2012 at 05:12 PM.
Old 01-26-2012, 05:26 PM
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Okay, iuf you write out "12th" using only letters, how do you spell it?
Old 01-26-2012, 05:45 PM
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th?
Old 01-26-2012, 05:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Giles View Post
That doesn't look like "eight" getting an extra "t", but rather "ehta" losing the final "a". When that "a" went, the two t's in "ehta-teen" merged into one "t".
Indeed, the t in eight has a strong pedigree, both in modern related languages (eight is acht both in Dutch and German, and in both languages the -t- is retained for eighteen, making achttien and achtzehn. But it also shows up in the romance languages (otto, huit, ocho), going back to 'octo' in latin.
Old 01-26-2012, 05:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Polycarp View Post
Okay, iuf you write out "12th" using only letters, how do you spell it?
twelfth? Is this a trick? have a been wooshed? why do you want to know how to spell twelfth?

Last edited by drewtwo99; 01-26-2012 at 05:51 PM.
Old 01-26-2012, 06:25 PM
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Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
When you have a two syllable word, and vowel in the first syllable is short, you will find a double consonant after that vowel.

There are exceptions, of course, like "sugar", but that's also a loan word.
award, await, select, around, begin, rebel . . . and so on and so on.

That's just one general pattern of spelling, but remember there are no "rules" of spelling in the sense that the way something is written dictates how we speak. Spelling follows speech (or tries to) not vice-versa. It helps not to reduce the vowel system of English to a question of "long" and "short," because we have more than ten vowels.
Old 01-26-2012, 08:19 PM
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Why does friedo have Charter Member under his name twice?

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I assume he is a Charter Member and has added the title "Charter Member" to his name. Or something like that.
Old 01-26-2012, 08:26 PM
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Originally Posted by guizot View Post
award, await, select, around, begin, rebel . . . and so on and so on.

That's just one general pattern of spelling, but remember there are no "rules" of spelling in the sense that the way something is written dictates how we speak. Spelling follows speech (or tries to) not vice-versa. It helps not to reduce the vowel system of English to a question of "long" and "short," because we have more than ten vowels.
I should have added "when the emphasis is on the first syllable". And your first two examples are not of a short vowel-- those are schwas. Not sure why you included "begin", since the "e" is long. "Rebel" is questionable, since it can be pronounced either way. Not sure which came first.

There is a general rule, with exceptions of course, that a double consonant signifies a short vowel preceding it. It's why we write running instead of runing.

The idea that there are no rules is laughable. There are rules, with some exceptions. The double consonant is one of them.

Last edited by John Mace; 01-26-2012 at 08:29 PM.
Old 01-26-2012, 08:44 PM
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Grammar is both descriptive and prescriptive.

Descriptive because it must be flexible enough to change with the times.

Prescriptive because it must slow down change enough that we can all generally agree on enough language constructs to allow for efficient exchange.

You can't have it entirely either way.
Old 01-26-2012, 09:36 PM
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Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
I should have added "when the emphasis is on the first syllable". And your first two examples are not of a short vowel-- those are schwas. Not sure why you included "begin", since the "e" is long. "Rebel" is questionable, since it can be pronounced either way. Not sure which came first.

There is a general rule, with exceptions of course, that a double consonant signifies a short vowel preceding it. It's why we write running instead of runing.

The idea that there are no rules is laughable. There are rules, with some exceptions. The double consonant is one of them.
Of course it has everything to do with syllable stress (which is why the "rule" becomes even less of a rule, as it must ignore something so important in English pronunciation). Why would you think a schwa (or a reduced /I/) is not a vowel? It's the most common vowel in English, and vowel reduction is probably one of most important characteristics of the English vowel system. As for the first vowel in begin, few people pronounce it "long" (/i/) in natural discourse--they only do that when they affect their speech--often because of their perception of this "rule," most likely. (Otherwise they pronounce it much closer to /I/, because it's not natural to tense a reduced vowel.) These things (syllable stress, vowel reduction, affectation) speak to my point about "rules." These "rules" are not what tell us how to speak. Rather, they're guidelines for helping us to spell according to convention. We speak the way speak, period--except, of course, for when we affect our speech momentarily because of some perceived notion of how we "should" say something because of spelling. When you record people speaking naturally and analyze their discourse, they drop these affectations.

In general, the "rule" we're talking about is useful as a spelling aid. I just prefer to call it a "guideline" for writing, instead. I don't mean to say that it's not valid--the problem for me is when it somehow gets reversed and people think that the writing "controls" the way we speak. E.g., "Oh, look--there's only one consonant here, so the correct way to pronounce it is like this," etc. (I should add, too, that just because we write two consonant letters, doesn't mean there are two consonants. Tiger and Tigger have the same number of consonants.)

Last edited by guizot; 01-26-2012 at 09:38 PM.
Old 01-27-2012, 12:29 AM
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Originally Posted by drewtwo99 View Post
twelfth? Is this a trick? have a been wooshed? why do you want to know how to spell twelfth?
Not a trick question. I've seen a lot of people, operating under either analogy to twelve or their local dialect voicing the sound, who will make it -vth instead of -fth.
Old 01-27-2012, 12:41 AM
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He was the twelvth of the Elvish kings.
Old 01-27-2012, 03:30 AM
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Originally Posted by guizot View Post
...Why would you think a schwa (or a reduced /I/) is not a vowel? It's the most common vowel in English...
I agree with your post, except for this...the person you are responding to said the schwa wasn't a "SHORT" vowel. This is true, if we use the third-grader definition of "short" -- "a" is in "father", "e" as in "left", "i" as in "sit", "o" as in "boss", and "u" as un "cup", and nothing more.

As others have pointed out, while this does capture SOMETHING about English phonetics, it's pretty limited and misleading to call these the "short" vowel sounds, and just leave it at that. Probably better, in most conversations, to just avoid using the categories "long" and "short". (But keep the concept of "shortening").
Old 01-27-2012, 03:44 AM
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Originally Posted by JKellyMap View Post
I agree with your post, except for this...the person you are responding to said the schwa wasn't a "SHORT" vowel. This is true, if we use the third-grader definition of "short" -- "a" is in "father"... .
I thought that, in the English vowel system, which admittedly is very odd, "a" as in "father" is a long vowel. The "a" in "fat" is a short vowel. The letter "a" has two long vowels (which is part of the idiosyncrasy of English vowels) -- "a" as in "father" and "a" as in "fate".
Old 01-27-2012, 04:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Giles View Post
I thought that, in the English vowel system, which admittedly is very odd, "a" as in "father" is a long vowel. The "a" in "fat" is a short vowel. The letter "a" has two long vowels (which is part of the idiosyncrasy of English vowels) -- "a" as in "father" and "a" as in "fate".
Nope. That's the kind of thing they teach you in third grade, and it's (mostly) crap.

There just happen to be a bunch of vowel sounds in English (something like thirty, IIRC, depending on how you slice 'em, and depending on the regional dialect.) We use the five or six vowel LETTERS to represent these various vowel sounds (and combinations of sounds), in ways that have "rules" (patterns) but also many exceptions.

Some of the sounds we are taught to be "long vowels" are really better analyzed as "dipthongs": two vowel sounds in a row. Example: "a" as in "make" (or "ay" as in "say") is really "a" (the long but clipped "a", spelled "e" in IPA, which doesn't really exist in English, but does in Spanish, etc.), FOLLOWED IMMEDIATELY BY "ee" ("i" in IPA). Others aren't, they're just simple vowel sounds (that "ee" sound, for example).

The "a" as in "hat" is another sound altogether, spelled "ae" (with the "a" and the "e" linked to make one symbol) in IPA.*

Some languages truly have long and short vowels with meaningful (phonemic) distinctions -- in Yucatec Maya, for example, "kak" means "squirrel" and "kaak" means "fire", and the only difference is that the second one is pronounced literally for a longer period of time. English doesn't have this. (There IS a lengthening and shortening involved in some of the English vowel contrasts, but it's not the main thing that's going on, and it's interesting only to historical linguists and to those who study every minute aspect of the speech process.)

(*So, you COULD call this the "second long 'a' sound in English" if you wanted to, but there's no particular reason to.)

Last edited by JKellyMap; 01-27-2012 at 04:04 AM.
Old 01-27-2012, 04:20 AM
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Originally Posted by JKellyMap View Post
Nope. That's the kind of thing they teach you in third grade, and it's (mostly) crap.
I agree with that, but I still find it odd to have the "a" in "father" described as a short vowel. There's a short version of that vowel in German, e.g., in "Fach", which is quite different from the "a" in English "fat". So you can say that short/long vowel is not a useful distinction in English (unlike in languages like Japanese and Latin), but it doesn't mean that "a" in father is a short vowel -- it's just not a diphthong.
Old 01-27-2012, 08:17 AM
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Can I suggest a perusal of Bill Bryson's Mother Tongue?

It's a discussion of the English language with a bias towards the perceived idiosyncrasies of English and the differences to American English.
Bill Bryson's book is absolutely riddled with errors. See this previous thread:

Interested in languages? Stay the hell away from Bill Bryson!
Old 01-27-2012, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Giles View Post
I agree with that, but I still find it odd to have the "a" in "father" described as a short vowel. There's a short version of that vowel in German, e.g., in "Fach", which is quite different from the "a" in English "fat". So you can say that short/long vowel is not a useful distinction in English (unlike in languages like Japanese and Latin), but it doesn't mean that "a" in father is a short vowel -- it's just not a diphthong.
Exactly. Better to call it "open back unrounded" rather than "short".
Old 01-27-2012, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by md2000 View Post
I'll vote for this. There is no logic to English spelling conventions. Even the famous "i before e except after c" is fancied to sink under its own weight.
The entire rule is:
i before e, except after c
and when the sound is "a"
as in "neighbor" and "weigh"

But I know a seismologist who thinks this is kind of weird.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JKellyMap View Post
Some of the sounds we are taught to be "long vowels" are really better analyzed as "dipthongs"...:
"diphthongs"
Old 01-27-2012, 10:20 AM
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I agree with that, but I still find it odd to have the "a" in "father" described as a short vowel.
When we were taught the traditional English system of long and short vowels (as opposed to the linguistic definitions of those terms), I don't recall the "a" in father being placed in either category. I'd consider it short, myself, as in my dialect it is nearly identical (if not identical) with a short "o" sound, as in "cot." The main rule I remember about long vowels is that "they say their name."
Old 01-27-2012, 11:13 AM
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Originally Posted by CookingWithGas View Post
The entire rule is:
i before e, except after c
and when the sound is "a"
as in "neighbor" and "weigh"

But I know a seismologist who thinks this is kind of weird.

"diphthongs"
I was taught in school in central London that "i before e, except after c". Nothing further.

Later the TV program QI pointed out there were more exceptions to this rule than words that obeyed it...

http://qi.com/tv/
Old 01-27-2012, 12:52 PM
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...There is no logic to English spelling conventions. Even the famous "i before e except after c" is fancied to sink under its own weight.
Weird!
Old 01-27-2012, 08:45 PM
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Originally Posted by JKellyMap View Post
Some of the sounds we are taught to be "long vowels" are really better analyzed as "diphthongs": two vowel sounds in a row. Example: "a" as in "make" (or "ay" as in "say")...
It helps to do just that, because one of the characteristics of some dialects (such as southern US) is to produce such vowels more distinctly as diphthongs, which effectively is a kind of lengthening. Standard NE "compacts" them.
Old 01-29-2012, 03:00 AM
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Why does friedo have Charter Member under his name twice?

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At least in my case, if you have a Custom Title Charter Subscription, it seems to default to just restating "Charter Member" again if you don't choose another phrase.
Old 01-29-2012, 10:14 AM
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At least in my case, if you have a Custom Title Charter Subscription, it seems to default to just restating "Charter Member" again if you don't choose another phrase.
Why not?
Why not?
Old 01-29-2012, 10:30 AM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
To me, it's that the consonant cluster "ghtt" in "eightteen" looks stupid, so "eighteen" it was.
Yeah, if a Martian saw us using consonant clusters like "ghtt," they'd think English was related to Klingon.
Old 01-29-2012, 10:41 AM
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Originally Posted by CookingWithGas View Post
The entire rule is:
i before e, except after c
and when the sound is "a"
as in "neighbor" and "weigh"

But I know a seismologist who thinks this is kind of weird.
I was taught:
i before e, except after c,
when the sound is "ee".
Which I think covers a few more cases, including seismologist, although not weird (but then weird should be weird, perhaps).

I am amazed that a question about the spelling of eighteen has now generated 42 replies!
Old 01-29-2012, 10:41 AM
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Originally Posted by JKellyMap View Post
Some of the sounds we are taught to be "long vowels" are really better analyzed as "dipthongs": two vowel sounds in a row. Example: "a" as in "make" (or "ay" as in "say") is really "a" (the long but clipped "a", spelled "e" in IPA, which doesn't really exist in English, but does in Spanish, etc.), FOLLOWED IMMEDIATELY BY "ee" ("i" in IPA). Others aren't, they're just simple vowel sounds (that "ee" sound, for example).
I'm sitting here saying "make, make, make" over and over and apparently we pronounce it very differently. I hear only one vowel sound; the long A.
Old 01-29-2012, 10:49 AM
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When you say make, Rickjay, pay attention to your jaw. As you pronounce the a vowel, do you feel it shifting up and your mouthspace reducing in size? That's your mouth forming the second part of the diphthong, the ee part. For me, if I don't let that happen, saying make comes out sounding like mack.
Old 01-29-2012, 11:20 AM
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When you say make, Rickjay, pay attention to your jaw. As you pronounce the a vowel, do you feel it shifting up and your mouthspace reducing in size? That's your mouth forming the second part of the diphthong, the ee part. For me, if I don't let that happen, saying make comes out sounding like mack.
I can't speak for RickJay, but no, I do not feel this when I say "make", or even "ay" (long a) by itself, even a really long "ay", like Fonzie.
Old 01-29-2012, 11:48 AM
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I'm sitting here saying "make, make, make" over and over and apparently we pronounce it very differently. I hear only one vowel sound; the long A.
When I pronounce it, it's a diphthong, ending with a slight "y" type of sound. This link, if you scroll down to "English speakers tend to pronounce [e] with a diphthong," shows the difference between the sounds with an audio link.
Old 01-29-2012, 12:43 PM
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I can make (ha) myself say 'mayeek', but it's not the natural way I would say it. It's just one vowel for me.
Old 01-29-2012, 12:50 PM
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I can make (ha) myself say 'mayeek', but it's not the natural way I would say it. It's just one vowel for me.
It doesn't sound like "mayeek," though. Most American English speakers, in my experience, say it as a diphthong. It is analogous to the types of diphthongs you experience when you say "lie" and "boy," except with a different initial vowel sound. Do "lied" and "toyed" to you sound like one vowel to you? If so, then you probably will interpret the "ay" in "make" as a pure vowel, when you are pronouncing it as a diphthong. It's one of those pronunciation things that most people simply don't notice. Did you check out the link above that has sound files demonstrating the difference between "é" and "ay"?

Now, there may be dialects of American English where "ay" is not pronounced as a diphthong, but the diphthong is the usual pronunciation.

Last edited by pulykamell; 01-29-2012 at 12:53 PM.
Old 01-29-2012, 12:53 PM
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I'm exaggerating the spelling for emphasis (I took linguistics, so I'm used to hearing the differences between sounds but I hate looking up the IPA symbols). When you say American, do you mean USA or North America? I'm Canadian, and pronounce it like the second example.
Old 01-29-2012, 02:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Inner Stickler View Post
When you say make, Rickjay, pay attention to your jaw. As you pronounce the a vowel, do you feel it shifting up and your mouthspace reducing in size? That's your mouth forming the second part of the diphthong, the ee part. For me, if I don't let that happen, saying make comes out sounding like mack.
My jaw does not move, but my mouth space does contract. It has to, in order to mayeek the "k" sound. Does that mayeek it a dipthong? If so, it's impossible to have a non-dithong "a" before a "k" sound.

Last edited by John Mace; 01-29-2012 at 02:33 PM.
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