English Language Etymology from a French Perspective

English Language Etymology from a French Perspective

English is the product of many cultures and despite being of Germanic origin, an important part of English language etymology finds its source in the French language. In Twenty Years After – the sequel to The Three Musketeers by French novelist Alexandre Dumas – D’Artagnan said “English is little more than badly pronounced French”. Several years later, George Clémenceau (early 20th century French PM) said the same. Is there any truth in their claim? To find out, we need to go back in time and look at English language etymology in its historical context. But first, here are a few useful definitions. English Language Etymology: Definitions Cognates Cognates are words that share a common ancestry. True cognates might not be instantly recognizable; they only share the same etymology. But they can also have the same spelling and meaning, or they can be loanwords or calques. They can be close cognates (same meaning but slight variation in spelling) and even false cognates (or “false friends” – same spelling but different meaning). For example: True cognates: to attest < attester, from Latin ad-testari, curfew < couvre-feu, from the Old French cuevrefeu (used in the Middle Ages when fires had to be covered and people had to be home and off the streets by a certain time), coward < couard, Old French.Close cognates: analytique > analytical, créatif > creative, banque > bank.False friends: magasin (FR) = shop (EN) not magazine (publication), douche (FR) = shower (EN) not douche (EN) (medical term or type of person), bras (FR) = arm (EN) not bra (EN) (undergarment). Read more about the etymology of words between...
T-glottalization: what is it and where has the letter /t/ gone?

T-glottalization: what is it and where has the letter /t/ gone?

T-glottalization or t-glottaling? T-glottalization: the misperception of the letter /t/or T-glottaling, is when the sound of the consonant /t/ changes into a glottal stop. A glottal stop is literally the spot to take a break when you are supposed to produce a sound, in this case, the ‘t’ sound. It just stops in your throat. It’s like when you are about to say something and someone cuts you off.  This pronunciation of the /t/ occurs in many varieties of English. Take an example of writ’t’en, Bri’t’ain, or impor’t’ant. Before pronouncing the /t/, there is a sudden pause and then you go for /ː(ə)n/ː(ə)nt/. To find out more about what is a glottal /t/ sound and how it is used in English, check out this informational video on glottal /t/ sound in American English. Using this video, practice your American pronunciation and speak like a native!  The glottal stop or T-glottalization  The glottal stop can actually replace a consonant so, for example, the letter /t/.  Therefore we call it “T-glottalization”: the misperception of the /t/. Check out the pronunciation of ‘button, cotton or kitten’ and other words in the video above. Certain studies such as the one of Jeremy Obrien from UCSC Linguistics Research Center showed that the place of articulation of the letter /t/ could be confused with one of the glottal stops. The letter /t/ is part of the stop consonants which are /t/, /p/, /k/ but the /t/ is the only consonant that can get dropped for a glottal stop. It rarely happens with the /p/ and the /k/. In general, the glottal stop occurs especially on...