Why does Bush go “nucular”? By Kate Taylor – Slate Magazine:
To say “the word is spelled (x), and therefore should be pronounced (y)” doesn’t make any sense. Spelling is not a legitimate basis for determining pronunciation, for the following reasons:
1) English spelling is highly irregular. For example, “move”, “dove”, and “cove” are spelled similarly but pronounced differently. Likewise, “to”, “too”, and “two” are spelled differently and pronounced the same.
2) English spelling is frequently based on factors besides pronunciation. For example, the “c” represents three different sounds in “electrical”, “electricity” and “electrician”, but is spelled the same in all to show that the words are related.
3) Most importantly, spoken language is primary, not written language. Speaking is not the act of translating letters into speech. Rather, the opposite is true. Writing is a collection of symbols meant to represent spoken language. It is not language in and of itself. Many written languages (Spanish, Dutch, etc.), will regularly undergo orthographic reforms to reflect changes in the spoken language. This has never been done for English (the spelling of which has never been regularized in the first place), so what we use for written language is actually largely based on the spoken language of several centuries ago.
I’ve never really considered the implications of written vs. spoken language. This will give me lots to ponder.