Tuesday, May 14, 2013

One pronounced like wun - question answered by an expert (some do answer questions I write about!)

My question had been asked about the reason why "one" is more pronounced as "wun" than as "own". I asked it via the feedback on Simon Ager's omniglot site, and here is his answer:

This might help - from the OED: http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/131358?rskey=194bWD&result=1&isAdvanced=false#eid

The expected Middle English form in the south and midlands would have open ō ( < Old English ā : see O n.1), a shortening of the reflex of which is reflected in the modern English regional pronunciation /wɒn/ . The vowel in the usual modern pronunciation arises from shortening of /uː/ , the reflex of Middle English close ō , in a variant showing the result of raising of the vowel from open ō to close ō . The usual modern pronunciation also reflects the development of a back glide before Middle English open ō and, more rarely, close ō , although this has been only rarely reflected in the spelling; compare oat n., oak n. The widespread non-standard enclitic 'un (evidenced in rhyme at least as early as the late 17th cent: compare quot. 1675 at sense C. 13b) represents the survival of a form without the back glide. English regional (northern) and Scots forms in y- reflect the development of a front glide before e ; compare oat n. and see further A. J. Aitken & C. Macafee Older Sc. Vowels (2002) §22.2.1. On the pronunciation history see discussion in E. J. Dobson Eng. Pronunc. 1500–1700 (ed. 2, 1968) II. §§ 36, 37, 150, 429, 431.

Simon Ager

Omniglot - the online encyclopedia of writing systems and languages http://www.omniglot.com

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