How and why did silent letters emerge in English?

The easy answer is “because English can’t leave well enough alone.” When we first started speaking English around 600 AD, it was totally phonetic: every letter had a sound, and we sounded every letter in a word. But English—and England itself—were influenced quite a bit by the French, who conquered the island in 1066 and held it for a long time, and then later by Dutch and Flemish printers, who were basically the main publishers in England for a solid two centuries, and then by further trading contact with just about every continent on the planet. And while we’re shaking hands and stealing language from every single people-group we meet, different parts of the language start changing at uneven rates. By the 1400s, English starts to lose its phonetic-ness: the way we articulate vowels in words like “loud” changes slowly but dramatically, and that has an effect on the rest of the word. (This is called “The Great Vowel Shift” and it took place over a few hundred years.) Somewhere in the middle of the GVS, though, English spelling becomes fixed primarily because of the printing press and the easy distribution/availability of printed materials. In short: we have silent letters because the spelling of words stopped changing to match their pronunciations.

This information was taken from Quora. Click here to view the original post.

Have you ever wondered about it? Do you think silent letters should be present in English?

#Culture #language #Quora


What are your thoughts on this subject?
Jessie Franklin
Interesting. We seem to take a lot from the French language.
Sep 26, 2022 10:35AM
Leticia Olsen
👍🏼English Language is the best! You pronounce the words of every letters written down. There are still few borrowed words but that words were left by the conquerors in there own terms. Denmark have three extra letters in their alphabet. We have to remember England was invaded by the Vikings and once had King Canute of England.
Oct 17, 2021 6:01AM
ms forshaw
Norman William he Conquerer conquered England in 1066 and Normandy was integrated ino he Kingdome of France in 1204 so I don’t think France conquered England in 1066.
Oct 12, 2021 7:32PM
Linda Evers
A lot of Yorkshire dialect words are derived from old Norse, the language of the Vikings, as are a lot of our place names.
Nov 21, 2020 6:46PM
Julie Domaille
Thar makes sense but disagree with English being spoken from 600AD we were celts then and had ni latino influences.
May 7, 2020 7:24AM
In medieval times today’s silent letters were pronounced. ie. knight was ku-nikht.
Dec 15, 2019 4:24PM
Frank P. Araujo Re: “Worse of all...”. I believe “worst” is the correct word if your intent is to use the superlative.
Oct 23, 2019 7:57AM
Marge Cromack
That explanation is as clear as mud!
Sep 13, 2019 3:20AM
Jim Harris
The power of the press.
Sep 9, 2019 4:51PM
I have been certified as a tutor for adult remedial reading. Trying to teach an adult in itself requires patience. This coming from a person who had a difficult time learning to read,as an elementary school student.
Sep 3, 2019 7:33PM
Angela James
Do the English have anything that’s actually their own and not taken from somewhere else
Jul 30, 2019 2:06AM
Lynne Cage
Informative thnx Bit of a mixed up language
Jul 13, 2019 11:55PM
Donna Carder-Kummer
I have noticed that many commonly used words keep changing pronunciation to this day. Countries names especially but if you listen to Alex on Jeopardy he has many times changed how he pronounces several several words. Then you’ll start hearing others, especially celebrities, say those words the same way. Then guess what, it trickles down to the little people like us.
Mar 31, 2019 9:44PM
hector tubens
Interesting info.
Mar 15, 2019 8:33PM
Michael Johnston
Hmmm I wonder how many countries in the world that only speak English?...Not many
Mar 13, 2019 4:21AM

People also liked

Interesting Facts

5 Latin phrases people think they understand 6/17/2021

Latin is considered a dead language but some expressions survived extinction. Here are 5 Latin phrases and their true meanings.

Read more

#Culture #History

9 things that should be used to make our lives easier 8/15/2021

With these nine images, we would be showing things that should be used worldwide to make our lives better!

Read more

#Culture #Society

7 mind-blowing futuristic sculpture projects 6/13/2021

These incredible sculptures designed by a highly talented 3D artist, Chad Knight, are placed in real life locations. Let's take a look at what sculptures of the future would look like.

Read more

#Culture #art

6 amazing countries where you can live better for cheaper 7/25/2021

There are many underrated countries with beautiful views and picturesque cities. Most of them are incredible cheap to live in. Let's learn about 6 such countries.

Read more

#Geography #Culture #Society