There was a very recent question "Why is “threepenny” pronounced as THREP.NI?" on this SE. And the spectacular answer by a very cooperative contributor Void. Under Void's answer, one user commented and said:

This is a brilliant post, but is ELL.SE the right place for the answer (and by extension, the question)? This seems more like something graduate students in linguistics would chew on for a paper thesis than someone learning English could make use of.

The comment has 5 upvotes on it.

My question is: can we ask pronunciation questions like this on this SE?

I find this kind of questions very interesting and I myself ask this kind of questions a lot (check my profile). There are a few reasons why I don't ask such kind of questions on English Language and Usage and Linguistics SE. I am much more comfortable in this SE than in the other SE's. All contributors whether here or on other SE's are helpful and we (the askers) are so much obliged for their help! None of them gets paid for answering, they are here to help us.

However, the main problem that I myself have faced many many times before on the other SE's is that most of the time, they close questions without any good reason. Even if you include the research as required. Secondly, most members make such comments that we find kind of unpleasant or jokey.

This SE was a perfect place for that "threepenny" question, as I see. There are many other questions like this that have been answered here and are related to linguistics.

It is what I think. Of course others may have different point of views.

So should we ask such kind of questions here or not?

EDIT: I ask deep questions about etymology and that require complex answers on English Language and Usage and Linguistics SE. But the ones that I don't think require complex answers, I ask here.

  • Well, for one many hold this opinion that why something is pronounced like something shouldn't be the main aim for a beginner, which I believe is absolutely true. Because they already have lot of decorative things on their platter to gulp down their throat, like grammar rules with hundreds of exceptions, right, left and center. This being said, this questions aren't very necessary for this site, but that doesn't mean they are unwelcome. Dec 1, 2020 at 13:50
  • Now coming to the point of other SE's not being welcoming and friendly, I have personally experienced this (though not on ELU), but many SEs out there want to keep their standards high, hence they reject many questions, even the ones with optimal amount of research done. Can't do anything about it. Dec 1, 2020 at 13:50
  • But I believe if a person feels welcoming and heard on this platform compared to our sister site, then they should feel free to stick here, regardless of what others say. This comment was neither unpleasant, nor sarcastic by any means. Hence I find no reason to flag it whatsoever. And yes, knowledgeable people do have their way with words to make you feel low (not talking about this comment, just in general). I try to stay passive to such opinions. Dec 1, 2020 at 13:50
  • 6
    What will I do if you don't ask such kind of questions?! :P
    – Void
    Dec 1, 2020 at 14:48
  • 2
    @DhanishthaGhosh: IMHO people at an intermediate stage of ELL can meaningfully begin to learn more general rules of pronunciation (such as the trisyllabic laxing that is the answer in this case), and so such rules ought to be on-topic, which in practice means you get "why?" questions (the asker is actually trying to find out "Is there a pattern that this fits into?" but phrases it as "Why is this word pronounced like that?" instead).
    – Kevin
    Dec 6, 2020 at 4:14

1 Answer 1


Since it is not always obvious how to move from a written English word to its pronunciation questions about how to pronounce a word, especially about less familiar words, seem to me eminently on topic here.

Like all questions they receive answers varying enormously in scope from the simple "Cat rhymes with mat" style to the complex showing how the pronunciation has evolved over time and setting out the rule which is being followed. Since that rule may well be generalisable to other situations it is a potentially useful answer not only to the original questioner but also to other people facing unfamiliar words. So I feel that the detailed answers are very welcome and instructive.


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