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Is "the" ever pronounced "knee"?

To begin with, it's illogical, and no dictionary or book that I'm aware of has been cited to prove that the consonant portion of "the" should or would ever be pronounced like "knee" by anyone proficient in English.

Personally, I do not believe that was the OP's intent, either. I believe it truly was a usage question, not nearly as technical and complicated as any linguistics question.

And there is a Linguistics SE, where these sorts of spirited and fun debates might take place without the risk of confusing ordinary students of English language. That is if they think it would be appropriate at all, therein.

I don't think it does the OP (or other readers) justice, what has happened to their question. Their question for the most part (with one possible exception), has not been properly answered, or edited. In fact the person running off with it, is the same who edited to fit their agenda.

It is very likely that it should have been migrated to ELL or to Linguistics (if that's really the case) instead, because it most likely is a duplicate anyway. That would have been much simpler, and probably a little boring.

I'm just surprised how far this has gone, to the point where someone like me feels the need to discuss it in Meta (something I really have little experience or desire to do, unless absolutely necessary). But I would feel negligent to just let this matter continue like that, without trying to correct it.

It's like watching the Emperor strutting around buck naked, while a crowd of servants bow and praise him for his nonexistent pride. Quite embarrassing.

Additionally: I should point out that the original OP was tagged Pronunciation only, and had the phonology and phonetics tags subsequently added in edits done by the linguistically gifted user who answered the question.

I mention it now, because although I thought it should have been obvious enough to anyone, apparently it's a relevant detail that was completely ignored or overlooked by everyone but me. I've been told that my edit which was intended to reflect the OP's original intent, was the only "major" change made, among numerous edits. But that hardly seems fair criticism.

I realize the matter is settled already. But I feel a fair decision depends on having all the facts laid out from the beginning. Omission only leads to misinformation.

Also, please take into consideration that mine was the seventh edit on the OP, and my sole focus was to clarify the intended meaning. I missed a few details that had been added by other edits.

Original OP Phonological tags added by Araucaria My attempt to reflect the OP's original intent

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    In fact, I initially voted to close this as unclear, but I retracted that vote and downvoted Dan’s answer instead after rereading the posts and comments and coming to the conclusion that any confusion was based more on some people having an irrationally strong aversion to even considering that “the” might ever be pronounced with an [n] sound than on the OP’s wording. I think the question may be a duplicate but I haven’t bothered to try to make the case for that. – sumelic Mar 17 '18 at 18:26
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    If lack of citations is really the only problem you have with Araucaria’s answer, I’m pretty sure I can provide some links to blog posts about phonetics by linguists that mention this kind of assimilation – sumelic Mar 17 '18 at 18:26
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    Here’s one book citation that mentions pronouncing “the” with an [n] sound in “run the”: ell.stackexchange.com/a/129040/18197. And here’s a blog post by Geoff Lindsey: englishspeechservices.com/blog/lucas-quiz-the-answers – sumelic Mar 17 '18 at 18:30
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    I personally haven’t seen any source so far that supports Araucaria’s statement that assimilation to [n] may occur after other nasal consonants, but it doesn’t seem particularly far-fetched – sumelic Mar 17 '18 at 18:37
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    You can let it go, as I did as soon as it was pointed out the incriminating "sentence" was the OP's. Or you can downvote the answer(s) and the question. But someone in the community found the question interesting and spent a long time composing a very detailed and original answer, and they should be applauded for that alone. An answer, which is comprehensible to competent speakers (much less so for learners) and the ordinary layperson. – Mari-Lou A Mar 17 '18 at 18:39
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    @sumelic ~ It would be much more practical to prove that's what the OP intended, rather than use the OP for entertainment based on a false presumption. Or close the question rather than presume something unknowable. Few trusting souls would take the risk to ask a question, if they see that their question might be handled improperly or treated disrespectfully. What I saw there, was pretty sad. Because if the OP didn't intend it as a technical linguistics problem, then the answer and theories are completely irrelevant. – Bread Mar 17 '18 at 18:42
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    I have no idea what kind of answer the OP wanted, because they seem to have been silent since replying to my comment. Araucaria’s edits to the original question didn’t make any substantial changes, though. The question is what it is, and Araucaria’s answer is a reasonable attempt to answer the question as it was given. I agree that the question could be closed, but I didn’t feel like fighting for that in this case. – sumelic Mar 17 '18 at 18:47
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As far as I can see, the question is currently substantially as asked, and it was your own edit which made a major change (to specify the vowel in the as opposed to the whole word).

The question was asked on a site for linguists and those with some expertise, and received a fitting answer. The can indeed sound rather like knee in certain circumstances, particularly in the circumstances which the OP provided in a comment — subsequently added to the question.

You have assumed that what the author was asking about was not what he actually asked. Araucaria made no substantial changes [that is, the substance of the question was unaltered] and proceeded to answer the question which was asked.

Of course, we can't tell if the OP really did intend to ask the question he did, or the question you believe he did. However, it seems to me that if the OP had actually been asking only about the vowel sound that would have been made clearer in the original question, perhaps by using the word thee. Even if the OP didn't actually know that as a word in its own right, it's a reasonable phonetic representation of the where it precedes a vowel. That he changed the word entirely to knee, in a sentence where a good approximation of that pronunciation is possible, is telling in my view.

Sometimes, we do have to make a call on what the question is about. In this case, I'm content that Araucaria has made the right call.

  • "You have assumed that what the author was asking about was not what he actually asked...Of course, we can't tell if the OP really did intend to ask the question he did, or the question you believe he did...Sometimes, we do have to make a call on what the question is about. In this case, I'm content that Araucaria has made the right call." I see now. I believed wrongly that he was asking about the vowel sound, while others, including yourself, believe he was asking about the consonant sound (in the word, "the"). And the question's editing history speaks for itself. So it's settled, thank you. – Bread Mar 17 '18 at 23:50
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    Hmm... I think the point is that the question is actually interesting as it stands and is thus useful to answer. The other alternative, about the pronunciation of the before a vowel, is trivial. Since an interesting question was actually asked, let's answer that. If the OP didn't intend to ask that interesting question, he can always say so. Thus the call is "Is this an interesting question as it stands?" Circumstantial evidence like not using thee points to the OP actually wanting that answer, which helps in making a decision. – Andrew Leach Mar 18 '18 at 0:02
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    I guess I was thinking of the proper or usual dictionary pronunciation, rather than how it actually sounds to the ear when spoken (or on digital playback, as the case may be), since I took the question to be about pronunciation, not phonology, which seemed irrelevant to me, since everyone has their own unique voice (and hearing quirks). And since both my hearing and pronunciation leave much to be desired, as I suspect the same may be true of many other people -- I tend to go by the book. – Bread Mar 18 '18 at 0:47
  • I was thinking of how I would advise my own children, English language learners, or anyone else who might ask, to pronounce the word, "the". I certainly would discourage them from pronouncing it "nee". On the other hand, I would encourage a little more flexibility with the vowel sound. But that's neither here nor there. I'm ready to turn the reins over to the experts. So glad there are people here who can settle these things for me. Again, thank you for the response. – Bread Mar 18 '18 at 0:47
  • I should point out that the original OP was tagged Pronunciation only, and had the phonology and phonetics tags subsequently added in edits done by the linguistically gifted user who answered the question. I mention it now, because although I thought it should have been obvious enough, apparently it's a detail that was completely ignored or overlooked. – Bread Mar 18 '18 at 18:02
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    @Bread This is ten days late, but I just wanted to note that pronunciation is phonetics (and also includes the more specifically phonological aspect of things). Not that they’re identical, but that they overlap in many ways. All the unique voices and quirks of all people are part and parcel of pronunciation. phonetics and phonology are both perfectly relevant tags to add to the question, regardless of whether Araucaria’s or your interpretation of the question is ultimately the one intended by the asker. His just deals more with phonology than yours. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 28 '18 at 21:34
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    @Janus Bahs Jacquet ~ Thank you. At the time I thought the tags and associated answer seemed irrelevant to the OP's real intent. And frankly, I still do. However it doesn't seem to matter that much anymore, now that it's apparent the OP rather quickly lost interest. Honestly, I wish the question had been closed or migrated before it got to the point of having 9 edits on it by at least four different readers. And if I remember correctly, it also had numerous comments debating the matter on it (about 32, in fact). Closing it would have saved me from embarrassing myself trying to be helpful. – Bread Mar 28 '18 at 21:55

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