Episode 159: Elizabethan Voices

In 1569, an English scholar named John Hart published a manuscript called ‘An Orthographie.’ The text argued for a phonetic spelling system, and it provided one of the earliest detailed descriptions of the sounds of English. In this episode, we explore the difference between voiced and voiceless consonants, and we examine how changes in voicing shaped the English language. We also examine how these sounds were utilized during the Elizabethan period according to Hart’s manuscript.


18 thoughts on “Episode 159: Elizabethan Voices

  1. Regarding the “f” sound spelled “gh” at end words, there is a semi-famous street in the city I live, San Francisco, with a spelling which can confuse tourists. It’s Gough St. Pronounced like “cough”. Non-locals always say it like the word “go”. Thanks

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  4. The end of this episode reminded me of the spelling/pronunciation of draught house. It always throws me off. I occasionally see some places in the US use this spelling, though it is apparently more widely used in Brush English.

    • Yes, it is the British spelling. It’s sort of like British “plough” and US “plow.” There is actually quite a bit variation in the way some of those words are spelled on each side of the Atlantic.

  5. I’m so happy to find this podcast after all these years!! Thank you for also including your transcripts of the episodes. It makes it much easier to follow along in the meatier parts of the phonetics. Thank you for all your hard work on this! 🙂

  6. The way that people deal with THS as in clothes is that the S becomes voiced. That’s another way in which the S sound turns into the Z sound in a plural.

  7. Still love this podcast!
    In grad school, I did a project on the pronunciation of /s/ and /z/. Fun to hear you talking about it.

    You bring so much wonderful information in an easy to understand way. I love hearing about the history and how words were pronounced. I run an international group with lots of folks from Scotland and Ireland and often (pronounced with the /t/ ;)) find myself listening for some tidbit you’ve brought up here.

    Thank you so much. It’s obvious this is a labor of love.

  8. Mike’s car.
    I thought that this was a contraction of “Mike, his car”.
    (signed)”Not a student of language” of Bonavista

  9. Dear Sir,

    Are we going to get an episode in July? I check here everyday for it! Yours is by far my favorite podcast in the world

    Nick D

  10. The part about intervocalic t becoming a d, then a tap, reminds of an interesting phenomenon. By that, latter and ladder ought to become homophones. But they don’t exactly. My wife can clearly distinguish when I say the one or other by the length of the preceding vowel. Which is curious as vowel length does not generally play any role in English, AFAIK. Same remarks apply to writer and rider. Anyone know any other examples?

  11. Wait a minute. In this episode you explain that people voice the t in ‘later’ and drop the th in ‘clothes’. Yes, that’s the case in American English. For both these examples, nearly all British English speakers will leave the t unvoiced in later, and indeed pronounce the voiced th in clothes. This is so much so that to many Brits, the American contracted pronunciation of clothes is jarring!
    It’s fascinating to understand why this happens, but I wonder why it has not happened in all cases.

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