What Are the Most Common Reasons for Mispronunciation?
People often mispronounce words, saying them incorrectly or some way other than how they are intended to be pronounced. Although some words do have a bit of variety in their pronunciation, meaning two or more possibilities are still correct, there are definite ways to say words imperfectly. Some of the likely reasons for mispronunciation are reading difficulties, nonstandard spellings, local or regional mispronunciations and hearing problems. All of these can cause people to say words differently from the standard pronunciation.
Reading is a complex task that involves translating abstract symbols, or letters, into meaningful sounds and patterns that have meaning outside themselves. People often have difficulties with reading and understanding words because it is complicated. When this happens, they also can have trouble correctly pronouncing the words they are attempting to read. Even if they know the meaning behind the word, they may not be able to pronounce it the right way.
Nonstandard spellings are another reason for mispronunciation. In English and other languages, there are many words that, if spoken phonetically — or the way they are written — then they would be mispronounced. The word “rough”, for example, might be written as “ruff” if it were to be written as it is pronounced. The English language, as an example, is a complex language based on many different languages and, thus, has variant spellings of words that, in some cases, also change over time. Linguistic factors such as these make mispronunciation of words a common occurrence.
Local or regional mispronunciations can be another factor in the mispronunciation of words. When large groups of people in a certain region mispronounce certain words, this can mean that people who move to the region or who are learning the language as they are growing up there are likely to begin adopting some of the mispronunciations, as well. In some regions of the United States, for example, the word "yellow" might be mispronounced “yeller”. Some people also pick up mispronunciations of words that are specific to their household or their group of friends and family.
Although less common, hearing difficulties are another reason for mispronunciation. When people cannot hear words correctly because their hearing is deficient or almost absent, they are highly likely to mispronounce words. Even if people with hearing difficulties write words correctly, it can be common for them to pronounce words incorrectly, because that is how they hear them.
I had a speech impediment when I was a child, and I still have problems pronouncing certain words correctly. In my case, I had trouble forming "R" sounds. A hard R would sound more like a W, so a red rose would come out as a "wed wose". The vowel sound AR would sound more like ER, so a smart car would sound more like a "smert cur". I was in speech therapy for a few years, and there were others who had problems with forming S sounds without lisping.
I would add this to the list of reasons why people mispronounce words. They may know the proper pronunciation, but they cannot form the word correctly.
I used to be a voice over artist, and sometimes I'd go over my script with the director just to make sure I'm pronouncing certain words correctly. The client might sell products with tricky brand names or the copy may have a lot of professional jargon in it. The last thing I wanted to do was mispronounce an important word and confuse everyone who watched the finished video. Sometimes the client would want different pronunciations for different markets, like countries that use British spellings.
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