xander wrote:Stewsburntmonkey wrote:That's true to some degree, but with most languages the pronunciation is tied closely to the spelling.
The reason for that, largely, comes from the fact that the alphabet used by European languages is the Roman one. Roman, or Latin, pronounciation tends to follow the phonetics of the alphabet, because the alphabet was created for that language. The further you get from the original Latin, the stranger spelling has a tendency to get. To some extent, this has been mediated by shifts in spelling through time, and later contact with the alphabet (i.e. German, where it fits fairly well). In the case of English, there is a lot of variation, because the history of the written language is so different from the history of the spoken language.
I would submit this as a general guideline: the longer that a language and alphabet have been linked, the more different pronounciation will be from spelling, and the more pronounciation will vary for a given spelling.
You seem to contradict yourself here. The Romance languages, Latin, Greek, Hebrew and even Chinese have all been linked to their alphabets for centuries and all have fairly consistent pronunciations within their dialects.
The issue with English has less to do with its alphabet and more to do with the way the language developed. English is somewhat unique in that it is largely borrowed from other languages and unlike other languages that tend to evolve mainly from a single language (the Romance languages from Latin for example), English borrows heavily from several languages in different language families (most notably from Romance and Germanic families). This means that the pronunciation of some words follows a more Romance style and some words follow a more Germanic style (and some follow entirely different styles).
English has also been a fairly bottom up language, meaning that changes in the language have tended to percolate up from the commoners up through the social ranks to a much greater extent than in other languages where the language was more formalized from the top (generally due to strong cultural identification), French or Chinese for example.