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Dogs and Cats

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franciscosan View Drop Down
WorldHistoria Master
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Joined: 09 Feb 2015
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    Posted: 12 Aug 2015 at 15:01
Say: "dogs"
Now say: "cats"
now do it again, but listen to the "s" at the end of each word when you say the word.
Do you hear that the "s" in "dogs" is kind of a "zzz" sound? whereas the "s" in cats, is a "ss" sound as in "hiss"?  We like to think there is a one to one relation between letters and sounds, especially if the sounds are in the same 'place' as each other in the word and are functioning in the same way, here as the plural.  
How about "woman" and "women"?  For the later, the plural, one sometimes gets the feminist version of wymyn, I guess they don't like having "men" anywhere around.  But if you come up with a spurious etymology of womb-an (or womb-man (with a silent "b"???), then the pronunciation is thoroughly flumixed.  (I am sure that people can hear the sound of "woman," without me getting into the sound the "o" makes (an easy comparison escapes me).)  In "woman," the m belongs with the "-an", not with the "wo-", whereas for women it is more like a split (or 'slurred') between the two parts, "wym-myn."

Or so it seems to me, I must confess that I find women marvellous and confusing, dogs and cats also, but in an entirely different way.  Or maybe I am just making much about nothing....

The point though is that the alphabet is not strictly representative.  But that is in English, which is in the tradition of the Greek alphabet.  From what I understand, it is even worse in Hebrew or Aramaic.  Originally the vowels were not indicated, and one had to know what one was reading, in order to pronounce it, and "properly" interpret it.  One was limited by the interpretation which dictated the pronunciation, which determined how it was read aloud.  Or so I understand.  What the Greeks invented was secular literature, where one could read if one had the vocabulary and the grammar, but one did not have to be informed by the interpretation beforehand.  
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