|Quoting YYZflyer (Reply 71):|
Indeed, English is basically hypocritical about itself in pretty much every way, especially all the "rules". You must do this except in case of this, that, this, and this, and a million other things.
That's because English is essentially a compound language. Usually one language replaces another in a country to a greater or lesser degree, but for some weird reason that didn't happen in England. Anglo-Saxon still absolutely forms the core of the language, and it's perfectly possible to converse in pure Anglo-Saxon to a large degree, because it comprises all the structural words (and, of, it, the) and basic nouns (pig, dog, cow) and basic verbs (to go, to be, to do) and so forth. The waves of successive Norse invaders didn't supplant English, their tongue was absorbed by it, adding a new layer of words that often shifted in meaning (skill, for example). When the Normans arrived, they destroyed what was by then the richest written "modern" language in Europe, with very few surviving texts beyond the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
English was driven underground, spoken only by the peasants, and rarely written by anyone. When it re-emerged as a recognisable tongue, it had absorbed a huge layer of French words (notably, pig is English, pork/porque is French, cow is English, beef/boeuf is French, emphasising the different social layers) and that is what you find in the work of say, Chaucer, the first man to write in what is recognisable English.
A few centuries later, English went through a further expansion with an influx of Anglicised Latin words, imported directly.
In terms of pronunciation, English also went through the Great Vowel Shift, which for reasons no-one really understands changed the way English was spoken completely. For example, "boat" would have been pronounced "baht". but by then the spelling was beginning to be more or less fixed (there where still some changes, often arbitrary - rime/ryme became rhyme for no good reason whatsoever beyond it being similar to rhythm) and so often to foreigners our pronunciation doesn't seem to conform with the spelling. The answer to that is that it did, for a given pronunciation of old word structures.
|Quoting ANITIX87 (Reply 72):|
"eu", which in Greek is "epsilon-upsilon" makes an "ev" or "ef" sound. So, the British "leftenant" is actually an english-ized version of the Greek pronunciation, and the American "lieutenant" is an english-ized version of the French pronunciation.
I'm not sure that would make much sense though. Lieutenant came to English directly from French, so why would a Greek pronunciation be chosen? I have seen examples of where the word is written Lievtenant, but it seems hard to believe that such isolated examples would impact pronunciation on a widespread basis. More likely, spelling was following pronunciation.