It seems we have an influx of questions relating to non-native English speakers attempting to, for lack of a better term, wrap their tongues around the English tongue.

The arguments:

  1. It should be here, because of course it's about the English Language and Usage. How can we grasp the usage without being able to pronounce it properly?
  2. It should be in [ell.se] because the question is obviously about someone who is learning the English language (or not, this could be a shibboleth instance of long time non-native speakers)
  3. It should be in [linguistics.se] because it's about pronunciation. (or not, because linguistics seems to be a bit high-level for someone trying to learn how to enunciate properly.)
  4. some other thing/Flag for deletion, send to /dev/null or Y! Answers.

Ideas? Direction? Consensus? New SE?


Or just browse for more examples.

  • Do you have any example questions that you're thinking of? Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 7:02
  • 6
    Pronunication is specifically listed as on-topic at the moment, although there is always scope for adjustment of that list.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 9:41
  • 1
    Please note that the recently added examples to this meta question are not well received by the community in general, so the consensus of them being not-so-good questions is already established.
    – SrJoven
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 12:40

2 Answers 2


English phonetics and phonology are part of English Language and Usage.
I.e, they are on topic — very specifically on target.
Since English is a living language, and therefore spoken, it could hardly be otherwise.

Familiarity with English phonology is necessary for understanding (among many other things)

  • English grammar (e.g: a/an and /ðə/ði/ distinctions; noun plural inflections)
  • English lexical items (e.g: can/can't [kʰɛn/kʰæ̃ʔ],; address /'ædrɛs/ (n), /ə'drɛs/ (v))
  • English idioms (e.g: have to = must /'hæftə/; used to = (1) accustomed to (2) past /'yustə/)
  • English syntax (e.g: contractions of quantifiers, auxiliaries, complementizers, prepositions, etc)

To become a grammarian — or indeed a linguist of any description — phonetics is essential.
It's a required subject for every graduate program I know, all over the world.
And it has been for over two hundred years, in the West.
In India, that's over two thousand years.

So questions are on topic. Answers are another matter.
If you don't actually know English phonetics/phonemics, don't bother answering questions about it.
Learn phonetics/phonemics instead.

  • Thank you for that. I believe my question is more about how to get around shibboleth than how the words are supposed to sound.
    – SrJoven
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 1:04
  • 1
    "Shibboleth" is all about "how the words are supposed to sound". Judges 12:5–6. Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 1:07
  • There is a difference between being able to make the sounds and the sounds themselves. That words are supposed to sound that way is understood by the example questions in the question. The training of a person's tongue to make those sounds aren't necessarily English Language and Usage. (That is to say, native speakers are distinguished by their ability or not to make the sounds, per Judges).
    – SrJoven
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 1:10
  • 2
    Which is precisely why we shouldn't follow Judges' practices. Anyone who can distinguish sounds in others' speech can distinguish them in their own speech. English has a relatively simple phonology compared to many other European languages. Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 2:50
  • Granted. Is this the SE forum that should teach one the method to formulate the sounds with one's tongue. mouth, and lips?
    – SrJoven
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 3:30
  • 1
    @SrJoven Yes - unless you can make those sounds using your bottom. ;) Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 9:14

The title question and the questions in the content seem to be different.

  • phonetic pronunciation is totally appropriate for this site. There's no argument there.

  • those particular questions do seem to be more for ell than here.

So the answer as it is to every thing is 'it depends'. ell if it is basic language learning situation, linguistics is it is not particular to English, elu otherwise

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