Friday, 6 June 2014

Comb your hair!

Why can't my German students of English pronounce the word for
used under this licence: creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en
properly? After 7-9 years of English many of them still call it /kɒmb, kɒm, kuːm/.
Take it from me - it's /kəʊm/ in GB and /koʊm/ in GA.

6 comments:

  1. There are words like bomb, aplomb in /-ɒm/, and others like tomb, womb in /-uːm/ — but is morpheme-final /-mb/ phonotactically possible at all in RP or GA?

    Charlie

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    Replies
    1. Yes, take, for example, the words "iamb" and "dithyramb" which also have a rare variant with /-mb/.

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    2. Oh, the Greek contribution to poetry doesn’t seem to have undergone plosive dropping in certain consonant clusters as completely as the rest.

      Thanks for the information, Alex. I wasn’t aware that such pronunciations were considered RP.

      Charlie

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    3. As Alex rightly points out, the pron of iamb or dithyramb with a final /b/ is the less frequent variant. As we talk about words with -mb-, items such as clamber or amber are pronounced with /b/ whereas bombing, plumber or climbing are not. The whole thing is rule-governed.

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  2. There is at least one homograph where "mb" is pronounced differently depending on the meaning. The spelling is "number" and it's |ˈnʌmbə| meaning "1, 2, 3, ..." but |ˈnʌmə| meaning "more numb".

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  3. Excellent example, Mariano!

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