Thursday 29 August 2013

count words

credit: Lupin
No, I don't want you to tot up words! Rather, this post is about words starting with the letter sequence <count->.
  • count
  • countenance
  • counter,-act, -bid,-...
  • countess
  • county
  • ...
They are all pronounced with an initial /kaʊnt/.
But in the case of
  • country and its derivatives
the pronunciation is /kʌntri/. This is so obvious that my regular readers might wonder (/wʌndə/) why I mention this at all. Well, many a German student of mine pronounces the word as /kaʊntri/.


  1. When they've mastered country vs county, go and confuse them with pastry vs pasty.

  2. Ah, poor dears! That would be just too ˈnɑːsti

  3. I can recommend a surefire way of getting a student never to forget not to say
    /kaʊnt/ as the first syllable of that word which is to say that you can't say the correct
    syllable for them because it would be too improper to utter in polite society since it
    constitutes currently the single most obscene word in the English language.

    1. Thanks, Limey, for your competent recommendation. I shall give it a try in my next course and have sal volatile ready for the sensitive ladies.

    2. Next lesson: the difference between course and curse…

  4. I often feel tempted to curse in my course!

  5. Because of EFL mistakes? Off curse!

  6. You can help him with some kind of explanation (whether adhoc or not), or some mnemonic. In words with 'countV-' , the is historically long. In 'country', is short. In the history of English, you can see many examples where vowels got lightened before clusters.

    wide ~ width
    deep ~ depth
    child ~ children
    break ~ breakfast
    wise ~ wisdom
    boil ~ ebullient

    To this list, you can just add another "count ~ country".

    There is a great book that deals with these kind of phenomena. Check Charles-James Bailey and Karl Maroldt's "Grundzuge der Englischen phonetelogie Allgemeine systametik". The above set of examples came from page 102 of that book. Check Charles-James Bailey's "English Phonetic Transcription" as well.