(linguistics) how do the pronunciations for letters like ‘c’ or ‘g’ that can make multiple phonemes in English, when they are from the same language or even common root, diverge?


I get that different languages have different sounds e.g. J in loan words from a nordic/germanic language is pronounced like our vowel Y with a hard attack, whereas J and X in a romance language are more like our Scottish or Germanic guttural CH – but in those languages it is ALWAYS the same way or follows specific logic. I’m wondering how, for example, the Greek root gyn/gam for female/wife/mother, came to be pronounced with the hard, forward j/G in misogynist, androgyny, and vagina, but the soft middle-top tongue like a voiced k G in gynecologist, polygamous, gamete, and gynecomastia. Is there a reason it’s pronounced in those two different ways, but never the French way which is so similar to the former but more open than closed?

In: Other

>in those languages it is ALWAYS the same way or follows specific logic

Not really.

Especially local dialects can have different pronounciations and the word that ends up in the “national standard” can come from different dialects.

One example in german is “gucken” (looking). It’s pronounced with a hard K instead of G in standard german (but some local dialects pronounce it with G). And for foreign words it’s quite random if the pronounciation is “germanized” or not.

For english it’s more common because it’s coming from so many different root languages (making it acceptable that things sound different) and is spoken in countries with huge distances between them that there was a lot of opportunity to diverge.

I think the word that describes this a bit is euphony. In your example softening the G makes sense in pronouncing the words easily. In some of your cases the hard G is at the start of a new syllable so it isn’t hard to make flow off the tongue. But you can’t really compare English to French. The former is so polluted from Roman, Viking, Saxon and Norman invasions, making the language a bit of a mess.

I’m a bit puzzled as to your pronunciation here. I pronounce gynecologist and gynecomastia with the same type of G as vagina and misogynist?