Re: Definately

Subject: Re: Definately
From: Joanna Sheldon <cjs10 -at- CORNELL -dot- EDU>
Date: Wed, 31 May 1995 08:19:25 -0400

>I've seen "definately" so many times recently on so many lists that it can't
>be a typo. A large number of people seem to believe that's the correct
>spelling of "definitely."

Richard, this will not help you understand why it bothers you so much (us
curmudgeons are just born with a critical gene ( and I know it's we
curmudgeons, I'm being funny).

I'm writing to point out WHY people have trouble spelling *definately* --
and* seperate*, and all the rest! It's because we English speakers,
whatever our national origin, tend to pronounce unaccented syllables the
same way: as a "shwah," -- which as you know is the linguistic symbol (a
sort of upside-down "e") for a slight "uh" sound. Just try it out on any
sentence: listen to how you pronounce most of the unaccented vowels.
(people = peepuhl, trouble = truhbuhl, definitely = defuhnuhtely, separate
(the adjective) = sepuhruhte, separate (the verb) = sepuhrayt, English =
Ingluhsh, speakers = speekuhrs, and so on.)

SO, since we can't HEAR the difference, unless we read a lot I suppose we're
bound to forget what vowels go with what unstressed syllables. Italians
don't have this problem. For that matter, neither does anybody else, that I
know of (I'd be interested to hear from anyone who knows of a similar
phenom. in another language). For foreign students of English it's one of
the language's most puzzling aspects, and terribly difficult for many to learn.

Hope this helps recuhncile you to thuh probluhm.


C. Joanna Sheldon, Ph.D.
GRAPHTEX Consulting
Technical Writing, Information Design,
Translation (French, German, Italian)
cjs10 -at- cornell -dot- edu

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