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The most phonetic languages

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Joined 5904 days ago

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Speaks: English*
Studies: Hindi, Italian

 Message 17 of 96
19 May 2009 at 4:53pm | IP Logged 
Sanskrit in Devanagari is 100% phonetic, probably more so than any other writing system apart from IPA. The writing system includes Sandhi! When sounds come together in any spoken language, there are slight changes made to make things flow more easily. Sanskrit reflects this in writing. For example:

graamaat + jaayate = graaamaajjaayate

The dental "t" is assimilated into the "j" in speech, and so it is written down this way. Let's take an English example of Sandhi. I speak Canadian English of the variety dominant in Toronto. "I fought him" sounds more like "I foughddim", with the double "dd" being a flap similar to the "r" in Spanish. If I were to actually write out "I foughddim" in written English, I'd be doing what is done in Sanskrit! It'd be much less precise, however, as English doesn't have a character to represent this phoneme.

While this can all be a bit of a headache for Sanskrit students doing translation work, especially when the sound combination creates something which looks like an independent word, it's really quite wonderful when one gets used to it.
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Senior Member
United States
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Speaks: English*
Studies: Finnish
Studies: Thai, Polish, Afrikaans, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Spanish, Swedish

 Message 18 of 96
21 May 2009 at 7:27pm | IP Logged 
I agree with those who claim that Finnish is spelled phonetically, one phoneme really does seem to equal one sound. There are very few consonant clusters, mostly from recent loanwords, and though there are many diphthongs they always sound the same. I do sometimes struggle with pronouncing the double consonanats, but that's only because English makes no distinction between, to give just two examples, how "r" and "rr" or "p" and "pp" should sound; while Finnish requires double consonants to be lengthened which is always evident from the spelling of a word.

As for Indo-European languages, I believe German is spelled phonetically, but I thought I read somewhere that this is only true for High German as taught in schools, the various dialects may not be as phonetic. Afrikaans is also pretty close , because of it's simplified Dutch spelling, but the "ê" has more than one sound.

I think I read somewhere that Swahili is also pronounced exactly as it is written, but I'm not sure about this one.
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William Camden
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United Kingdom
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Speaks: English*, German, Spanish, Russian, Turkish, French

 Message 19 of 96
23 May 2009 at 2:12pm | IP Logged 
Modern Turkish is very phonetic. The Arabic script used for Ottoman Turkish was much less so. The change to the Roman alphabet is too recent for sound changes to arise that are different from the written language.
Less-educated speakers still spell words wrongly. I have found the spelling anatar - "key". The correct spelling is anahtar. However, I think the h often gets lost in pronunciation.
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Joined 5239 days ago

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Speaks: Finnish*, Swedish, English
Studies: Italian

 Message 20 of 96
23 May 2009 at 2:46pm | IP Logged 
Finnish has only two "exceptions":

1) the velar nasal sound "ŋ" between syllables:
nk = ŋ
ng = ŋŋ

for example "kenkä" (shoe) is pronounced [keŋ.kæ], NOT [ken.kæ] and kengät (shoes) is pronounced [keŋ.ŋæt], NOT [ken.gæt].

2) the aspiration or the glottal stop "ʔ" in compounds, between wovels:

for example "hääyöaie" (wedding night intention) is pronounced [hæ:ʔyœʔaie], NOT [hæ:yœaie].

But I think these sound quite natural.

EDIT: Now I remembered the words magneetti (magnet) [maŋ.ne:t.ti], NOT [] and signaali (signal) [siŋ.na:li], NOT []. But even native people may pronounce it "wrong".

Edited by sakvaka on 23 May 2009 at 4:28pm

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Senior Member
Joined 5834 days ago

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Speaks: Arabic (Written)*
Studies: English, Japanese

 Message 21 of 96
23 May 2009 at 11:08pm | IP Logged 

staf250 wrote:
Turkish, my opinion, is a very phonetic language.

I entered this thread to say the same thing :)

It's not phonetic only, but it is also very logical. There are one or two irregularities only!

[[[ When you started posting here?

In the last weeks, I visit the forum rarely, and it seems that you wrote many things here :) Your posts increased from 2 to 21 within 3 weeks only I think!

I think you are learning Turkish now, so do your best :)

I hope you didn't stop learning Arabic :)   ]]]

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Senior Member
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Speaks: English*

 Message 22 of 96
24 May 2009 at 4:15am | IP Logged 
The correct answer is:

no language.
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Joined 6469 days ago

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Speaks: Swedish*, Finnish, EnglishC2, Spanish
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 Message 23 of 96
24 May 2009 at 4:55am | IP Logged 
Of the languages I know anything about Finnish clearly comes closest to perfect. It's one letter one sound consistently, with just a couple of isolated exceptions that were mentioned above.

Spanish is also phonetic to some degree, but with many exceptions, such as many letters (c, g, b, v, n, y, d, s, z) being pronunced differently depending on what letter combination they are found in etc.

Not phonetic: English, German, French, Scandinavian languages.
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 Message 24 of 96
24 May 2009 at 1:42pm | IP Logged 
I haven't studied Hawaiian, but I've lived there for 13 years. As far as I know, it's 100% phonetic. The closest thing to an exception is W, which is pronounced like an English V unless it's at the beginning of a word, in which case it's pronounced like an English W. With my basic knowledge I cannot think of any exceptions to that rule though.

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