Lorenzo
How do you pronounce "Greenwich?"

The title of this work derives from a simple inquiry we carried out some time ago with some (Italian) friends and relatives and which we suggest readers repeat for curiosity’s sake with foreign friends: if you ask ten people from foreign countries how they read the word "Greenwich", it is almost certain that few (maybe none) of them will use the correct pronunciation. At school they most probably learned that <ee> is read /iː/, <w> is read /w/ and <ch> is read /ʧ/, so they will read the name of the famous British borough through which the prime meridian passes, /griːnwiʧ/, not /grenɪʤ/ as pronounced by natives speakers.
English, for almost a century the international "lingua franca" and mother tongue to nearly half a billion people and second language to around the same number, has never been able to develop a simple and consistent writing system.
Indeed English spelling is highly non-phonetic, in that there is rarely a relationship between graphic signs and speech sounds (to represent 45 phonemes it uses 1120 graphemes!).
Consequently if foreign people have not the opportunity to learn the language of Shakespeare living several years in an English-speaking country, or are not trained in English phonetics, it is probable that they will not be able to pronounce it satisfactorily.
We have therefore developed a writing system, based on the alphabetic principle, which is more consistent and practical than the current spelling sytem (according to some studies basic English literacy acquisition is three times slower than the European average of one year and that there are twice as many dyslexic children in English-speaking countries as elsewhere).
We are aware that spelling reforms, especially as radical as this proposed here, are likely to be accepted by users with reluctance, as changing acquired linguistic habits, is most likely to prove exceptionally difficult. Nevertheless, we hope that our contribution will be considered, if governments will one day take steps to promote a realignment of writing with speech sounds.
As the Auckland publisher Peter Whitmore rightly says, "language is a tool, not a historic artefact. It is much easier to cut down a tree with a saw than with a stone adze. And it is much easier to work with a phonetic writing system than with one in which spelling and pronunciation are not clearly linked".

May 27, 2014 9:05 AM
Comments · 3

Sorry, the "local" pronunciation of Greenwich is the one used in the USA.

The list of failed phonetic English experiments is quite extensive.  English spelling is an artefact that we shall continue to inflict on future generations.  While it is true that their have been small changes since our founding fathers wrote the documents establishing the government of the USA, we treasure the words, and their spelling.

May 27, 2014

GRE-nitch

 

As for English spelling; I loathe it and am completely inept at it. BUT, I also find it extremely difficult to read phonetically spelled English, so I think we are stuck with the traditional spelling.

May 27, 2014

Green-wiTch

May 27, 2014