We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is a Spelling Pronunciation?

By Mark Wollacott
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Spelling pronunciation occurs when a word is pronounced according to its modern spelling and not the way it is traditionally pronounced. There are multiple reasons for such pronunciations to occur, including the addition of foreign words to a language and ignorance of the original pronunciation. Common features of pronouncing words as they are spelled is the inclusion of hitherto silent letters such as the ‘t’ in "often."

In English, spelling pronunciation occurred because of the clash between Old English and Norman French with their separate language structures and orthography. Old English spelled words how they sounded and pronounced every letter written. The Normans changed the spellings of words to fit the French orthographic system. Spelling pronunciation probably occurred when the changed spellings were encountered for the first time and spoken literally based on the English pronunciation system.

Taking the pronunciation of a word from its spelling should not be confused with spelling a word how it is pronounced. The latter is called pronunciation spelling, and as it is a reverse collocation, it is easily confused with spelling pronunciation. Pronunciation spelling is used usually when writing in dialect or when trying to capture an accent. Examples of this spelling change include ‘want to’ becoming ‘wanna’ and ‘going to’ becoming ‘gonna.’

'Clothes' is an example of a change in pronunciation based on the spelling. For generations, it was pronounced the same as ‘close,’ but later on, the written ‘th’ in the middle was added as a pronounced sound. The same occurred with falcon; the original pronunciation omitted the ‘l,’ but it later found its way into speech. The same rarely happens with regards to ‘salmon,’ where the ‘l’ remains largely invisible.

There are a number of differences between each dialect and each major or national form of English. Americans' pronounce ‘figure’ as a rhyme of ‘pure,’ but the British pronounce it as a rhyme of ‘bigger.’ American English tend to speak words with the ‘alm’ cluster as written, whereas British speakers pronounce it more traditionally, when it sounds like ‘arm.’

Other languages also have the spelling pronunciation phenomenon. Spanish takes words into its language often without changing their spelling or re-spelling so the spelling fits the sound. This has led to Rorschach being pronounced ‘Rorsas’ and Bach being pronounced ‘Bax.’ Japanese alters every foreign word that comes into its lexicon in two ways; it either forms a local pronunciation based on spelling or re-spells based on sound. Spelling pronunciation in Japanese has led to ‘symmetry’ becoming ‘shimetorii.’

Noah Webster and other American intellectuals and politicians advanced the idea of re-spelling all American words to fit their pronunciations. This idea would have done away with spelling pronunciation entirely, but would have also created a chasm between British and American versions of English. Webster and others believed a uniform and literal spelling system would aid foreigners learning English as a second language.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon239378 — On Jan 09, 2012

I checked an online diction and figure doesn't seem to rhyme with pure when spoken in "American English".

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.