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Homophones

Postby Perry Lassiter » Fri Oct 05, 2012 5:55 pm

This afternoon on Jeopardy, they had several homophones that I find only similar in sloppy speech. Do you pronounce aural and oral the same? How about verses and versus? There was another similar that I forget.
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Re: Homophones

Postby Slava » Fri Oct 05, 2012 9:35 pm

Perry Lassiter wrote:This afternoon on Jeopardy, they had several homophones that I find only similar in sloppy speech. Do you pronounce aural and oral the same? How about verses and versus? There was another similar that I forget.

I agree that these can be pronounced differently, but I must also say that in standard speech (sloppy or not) they come out so closely that the difference is not always obvious. It boils down to context.

Seeing them together makes us think of the difference. Using them in a spoken sentence, we may perhaps not make any particular effort to enunciate perfectly. Context will make it clear which one we mean.
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Re: Homophones

Postby Perry Lassiter » Fri Oct 05, 2012 10:56 pm

Maybe as a public speaker I pay more attention than some, but AW and O do not sound alike, and neither do short e and short u. Verses is almost equally accented, so the short e is nearly emphasized. If there's a schwa, it will be in versus, although I say and hear it nearly equal to the u in up. Perhaps others pronounce them differently. Te Jeapordy staff obviously thought so. True homophones are like blue and blew or right and write.
Last edited by Perry Lassiter on Sat Oct 06, 2012 11:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Homophones

Postby Philip Hudson » Sat Oct 06, 2012 12:01 am

Perhaps my sensitivity to homophones vs. not homophones also comes from my having been a public speaker; although my professional speeches were not in the same venue as Perry's speeches. The examples Perry gave would never pass for homophones to me in any context. But we all have our own ears and, as in my inability to hear high notes, we do not all hear alike. When I was a public school teacher I had a student that could not hear or speak the words "all" and "oil" except as homophones. To my father: "wrench", "rinse", and "ranch" were all homophones. Then there are some people for which "oil" and "earl" are homophones.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps homophones are in the ear and mouth of the listener and speaker.
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Re: Homophones

Postby bnjtokyo » Sat Oct 06, 2012 10:51 pm

The Random House Dictionary indicates that the pronunciations of "oral" and "aural" are identical. The first vowel is an "o" with a circumflex over it. Unfortunately, the phonetic guide inside the front cover indicates that this symbol denotes the vowel in "order," "ball" and "raw," and I don't pronounce the "o" in "order" the same way I pronounce the last two. For me, the first is similar to the "o" in "boat" but a bit lower and the latter two are the "a" in "father."

The dictionary also says the first vowel in "verse" and "versus" is pronounced the same and that the second vowel in "versus" is a schwa. And that would make the pronunciation of the plural of "verse" the same as "versus."

While I agree with the other posters who say "verse" and "versus" differ in the pronunciation of the second vowel, I think that they may often be pronounced alike. Consider how a sports announcer might say "Tonight's fight, Ali vs Forman, will start at 10 o'clock." I suspect that the second vowel in "versus" would be reduced to a schwa in this context.
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Re: Homophones

Postby Philip Hudson » Sun Oct 07, 2012 12:46 am

Random House seems to assign pronunciations randomly. I see many fewer homophones than some people do. Look at the new discussion of malapropism. It is impossible, by definition, to switch two homophones when speaking. Who would know?
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Re: Homophones

Postby bnjtokyo » Sun Oct 07, 2012 2:55 am

In general you are correct: with true homophones neither the speaker or the listener would know. However, from time to time, two different words with the same pronunciation can make sense in the particular context.
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