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On English Orthography

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On English Orthography

Postby Lucus Eques » Fri May 02, 2008 12:23 am

Could someone tell me why, exactly, every final '-v' in English is necessarily followed by the letter '-e'?
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Postby timeodanaos » Fri May 02, 2008 10:37 pm

Final schwa is dropped in English pronunciation around the time of the great vowel shift, but why there has to be a schwa after -v-, that's more of a problem.
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Postby Lucus Eques » Sat May 03, 2008 6:11 am

Most final '-e's in English are not fully "silent," and although they do not stand for sound on their own, they affect the sounds of the words in which they stand, and are called "qualifying E." They have a phonetic purpose, whether to lengthen a preceding vowel ("fate"), or to soften a preceding consonant ("orange").

But why do no English words end simply in '-v'?
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Re: On English Orthography

Postby benissimus » Sun May 04, 2008 10:42 pm

Lucus Eques wrote:Could someone tell me why, exactly, every final '-v' in English is necessarily followed by the letter '-e'?

There are a number of English words (mostly of more recent vintage) that end in v, e.g.: shiv, Slav, rev, vav. The way your question was worded did not exclude borrowed words, but I will do my best to address the tendency of native English words not to end in V.

I hope that an Old English scholar will be able to elaborate on this for us, and I expect there are exceptions to this rule that I am about to put forth which have peculiar explanations. In OE, unlike in Modern English, the voiced and unvoiced pair which we would call respectively V and F were allophones, and both were represented by the letter F. When the letter F happened to be interconsonantal, it became voiced and produced a V sound. As far as I am aware, this is the only time the V sound would be produced in OE, and so that sound would naturally have to be followed by a vowel in its every occurrence. At some point thereafter, I would venture, a separate letter was produced to represent the letter V, but the following vowel still remained, and the spelling came down to us in this way.
flebile nescio quid queritur lyra, flebile lingua murmurat exanimis, respondent flebile ripae
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