Sunday, 15 June 2014

words with a soft c or g sound after a or u

proud womon's comment on my previous post about the pronunciation of the word gaol has given me food for thought. I'm wondering what other words there are in English that don't follow the 'rule' that a soft g or c precede the letters i, e and y.

I looked at and found some words:
gear, get, gelding, give, girl, gift, tiger, celt

Now, of course, I wonder why they are pronounced the way they are.
Celt interested me, because my mother was from Edinburgh, and I seem to remember she said Celtic (the Glascow football team) with a soft c. There's a discussion about this issue at and Calum Mac Neill has written what I think is a really informative response
So, I looked at the words give, girl, gift. What's the story there? As part of a discussion by J Robert Lennon about the word gif, I found:
GIF comprises the first three letters of "gift", which has a hard G. In fact, most words in English that begin with a G and are followed by a vowel and another consonant are pronounced with a hard G. Gibbon, gilt, give, gimme, gum, gelding, gun. There are a few that are pronounced with a soft G - gym, gibbet - but they're few and far between. Instinct invites us to go with the hard G.
Now I'm starting to get a headache. How fortunate it is that most people who learn English as their native language don't have to figure out the 'rules'. I'm not sure I could ever work it out. But don't get me started on how hard it is to learn Danish...


Mary said...

I get the 'g' examples you have given, I'm not so sure about 'c' though because 'circle, circus' come to mind and they have the soft sound. Maybe it's because it's 'ir' which has its own sound again. English is very complicated.

parlance said...

Yeah, maybe for some weird reason 'ir' has different rules...