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A question for the grammar pedants. - helen-louise
baratron
baratron
A question for the grammar pedants.
Today I was on the bus, and I saw a sign advertising "signwriters". As it was written all as one word, I mentally pronounced it differently, and was confused for a few seconds about what the sign meant. So how come we pronounce "sign" as SINE - but we say SIG-NA-TURE? Why do we elide the gn in "sign" but pronounce both letters in "signature", which is almost the same word and is often found in the same context? e.g. "Sign here with your usual signature"?

Yes, the answer is probably "because English spelling is eclectic, and once upon a time 'knight' was pronounced as keh-nig-huh-tuh", but I just want to know.

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mactavish From: mactavish Date: 4th February 2006 00:01 (UTC) (Link)
grammargasm might know. My brain isn't on today. Even my google-fu is weak.
_nicolai_ From: _nicolai_ Date: 4th February 2006 00:27 (UTC) (Link)
Because sig-uhn is awkward.
sig-na-ture is from sig-nos, which clearly isn't siguhn-os.
If you're shortening it to sign then you have to think up a new way to pronounce it that doens't involve trying to swallow your tongue.
baratron From: baratron Date: 4th February 2006 03:37 (UTC) (Link)
Richard thought that it might have come from French, where the verb would be "signer" and the noun "signature" - both pronounced with the g semi-silent. I need a decent etymological dictionary.
abigailb From: abigailb Date: 4th February 2006 00:47 (UTC) (Link)
There are a bunch of words where the etymology is only apparent in the long pronunced form and we keep the short, worn down, version around as a complicated spelling, in order to show the link.

The only example I can think of now is "damn". People say that the same way as "dam", but when you add a suffix to it it becomes "damnation" and people pronounce the n - dam-nation. There is a name for this but I forget what.
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