Miscellaneous language questions

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Derek
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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Derek » Fri Aug 24, 2018 9:36 pm UTC

The interesting question occurred to me, what word in English has the most homophones? With some googling, the best I found was /ɛɹ/:

1. Air
2. Are (unit of area)
3. E'er (ever)
4. Ere
5. Err
6. Heir

Can anyone come up with anything as good or better? To lay some ground rules: I'll call two words homophones if they are spelled differently or have etymologically unrelated meanings (so bat (animal) and bat (club) count). And of course some words may only be homophones in some dialects, so I think it's fair to be lenient and say any dialect is acceptable as long as it's consistent in your word list.

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Soupspoon
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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Soupspoon » Fri Aug 24, 2018 10:01 pm UTC

Well, "eyrie" is essentially homophonic with its noted alternate spellings of (at least) "aerie", "aery", "ayrie" and "eyry" plus different words "eerie"(/"eary" - like an ear!?) or "airy"(/"hairy" with a dropped-H?), perhaps, depending on pronunciation. But I don't even know which of these I should be counting.

Maybe them all, as they're within the same scope of "err" (like my uneducated pronunciation of the ancient city of "Ur", to me) from the others with close but not strictly identical pronunciations.

There's maybe something of a list starting with "new", "knew", the letter ν and one of the (three?) pronunciations of "gnu"? I think a lot relies on accent, though. For example, does "poor" sound like with "paw" (and "pore" and "pour") or "pooer" (one who poos), or both, or neither?

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ThirdParty
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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby ThirdParty » Sat Aug 25, 2018 12:59 am UTC

Derek wrote:Can anyone come up with anything as good or better?

How about /siz/?
  • sees (perceives visually)
  • sees (cathedral sites)
  • seas (bodies of water)
  • seize (grab)
  • seise (take possession, in a legal context) [same etymology as "seize"]
  • sis (musical notes) [from the ut-re-mi-fa-sol-la-si solfeggio]
  • Cs (letters)
  • see's (pertaining to a cathedral site)
  • sea's (pertaining to a body of water)
  • si's (pertaining to the musical note)
  • C's (pertaining to the letter)
  • see's (contraction of "see is" or "see has") [as in "The Holy See's facing another pedophilia scandal."]
  • sea's (contraction of "sea is" or "sea has")
  • si's (contraction of "si is" or "si has")
  • C's (contraction of "C is" or "C has")
  • cees (alternate spelling of "Cs")
  • cee's (alternate spelling of "C's")
  • cee's (contraction of "cee is" or "cee has")
  • sease (obsolete spelling of "seize")
  • sie's (contraction of "sie is" or "sie has") ["sie" is a proposed gender-neutral pronoun]
  • "sí"s (Spanish-language "yes"s) [as in "The workers replied to my question with a chorus of 'sí's."]

Derek
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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Derek » Tue Aug 28, 2018 4:33 am UTC

That's good, though if you count plural, possessive, and contractions separately then you could apply that pattern to some other words. For example /ɛɹz/, using the above word list for roots.

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ThirdParty
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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby ThirdParty » Tue Aug 28, 2018 5:27 am UTC

Yeah, but since the trick only works on nouns, /ɛɹz/ only ends up scoring about 10, compared to the 20 or so I got out of /siz/.

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Pfhorrest
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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Aug 28, 2018 7:16 am UTC

Soupspoon wrote:does "poor" sound like with "paw"

no
(and "pore" and "pour")

yes
or "pooer" (one who poos)

no
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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby chridd » Tue Aug 28, 2018 8:57 pm UTC

ThirdParty wrote:How about /siz/?
Also See's Candies
Pfhorrest wrote:
Soupspoon wrote:does "poor" sound like with "paw"

no
(and "pore" and "pour")

yes
or "pooer" (one who poos)

no
Same for me. "Paw" doesn't sound like "pore" or "pour" or "poor" for any rhotic dialect. "Paw" would be a homophone with "pa" (father, though not the term I would use, except as part of "grandpa") for me.
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Eebster the Great
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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Eebster the Great » Wed Aug 29, 2018 5:36 am UTC

"Pa" and "Paw" are not homophones for me. "Paw" rhymes with "saw," while "pa" rhymes with "ma," "ha," and "la."

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flicky1991
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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby flicky1991 » Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:16 am UTC

For me:

paw = pour = poor = pore
pa = par
pooer sounds like none of the above
any pronouns
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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Soupspoon » Wed Aug 29, 2018 1:14 pm UTC

I have had relatives for whom "cook" sounds like "kook" (long, and lower) not "cuck" (short, not-so-low), and I presume it's from them (amongst other things) that I have half a chance of saying "poor" as inflected like "pooer" rather than straight-vowelled. Though my cook/book/look are 'u'ish not 'oo'ish (nor 'uh') and the straightened-"poor" is "puhr", probably the' r'-ending is involved in that.

"paw" and "pour" and "pore" are close enough for most purposes. I can try to make the 'r's audibly come out (can't get the 'w' to stand out in the other direction), but I have to wholesale switch to a more Gael-inspired version of my accent to do so, or it sounds weird to my own ears. But ask me tomorrow and I might have talked to someone else enough to have made that subconscious transition. Also "pour" might have the "aw" vowel or "ooer" vowel if I dip far enough into the brogue, but I'd have to be trying (maybe to distinguish from "pore").

"Poor" to sound like "paw" (my "paw", that is, not necessarily the "paw" that people-who-say-Poor-like-Paw say) sounds, in isolation, like an exagerrated accent from a higher class (clarse!). Father-"pa" that sounds like "paw" (ditto) sounds more like <points vaguely and wildly on a map of the US around an area where the term "Hillbilly" might be used, but without confidence>, though that's maybe more Hollywood stereotype than reality (in both directions).

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Eebster the Great
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Re: Miscellaneous language questions

Postby Eebster the Great » Wed Aug 29, 2018 4:03 pm UTC

To me, "cook" sounds nothing like "kook" or "cuck." "Kook" has the same vowel as "food" (/u/), "cook" has the same vowel as "foot" (/ʊ/), and "cuck" has the same vowel as "truck" (/ʌ/). I've never heard anyone rhyme "cook" with "kook."

"Poor" is a homophone for "pour" and "pore" in most cases (/pɒr/), just like "your" and "yore," but in rare cases I might pronounce it more like /puːər/, which is two syllables for me, like "doer" or indeed "pooer," if that's a word. However, if I actually said "pooer," I would exaggerate the second syllable in an attempt to be understood.

I don't know for sure, but I think the stereotypical drawled "pa" that rhymes with "paw" would be common in certain rural parts of the South and Midwest, but not in most parts of them.


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