As Jane and I strolled over Magdelen (pronounced ‘maudlin’) Bridge on the way into Oxford yesterday, we were discussing the arbitrary nature of English pronunciation. I quipped that the name of the language ought to be set up to give a clue to the inconsistencies; then I realised that it does.
Without foreknowledge, the likelihood would be that you would pronounce it ENN-glish. The most phonetically obvious spelling would be Inglish. Given the derivation of the name from the roving of the Angles and Anglo-Saxons, Anglish would make more historical sense (I don’t know if the Angles took a straight line on pronunciation, although they did seem to like using the compound æ in their writing, which suggests a bent to the peculiar).
Therefore English (pronounced IN-glish) it is: let the traveller beware and the learner despair should they need to guess at how one of our words is said.
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