Sunday 8 July 2012


I have decided to suspend this blog until further notice.

The wi-fi in hospital is not only expensive but also unreliable and very slow.

And I’m not very good at typing one-handedly (I still have post-stroke problems with my left fingers.)

So that’s it for a few weeks, at least until I am home again.


  1. Rest well, and we'll all look forward to your safe return.

  2. Yes we will! Hoping to read you soon...!

  3. How awful that they charge the Wi-Fi! Or at least, that they charge it so much! I am shocked.

    I'm sad that I won't be reading your posts regularly, but I understand. Must find something else to read in the morning.

    I wish you a quick recovery!

    1. Agreed. To have free healthcare of a high standard (per earlier blog entry), but then to have only expensive, slow, unreliable wifi does seem to be "spoiling the ship for a halfpennyworth of tar", when considering that providing free, fast, reliable wifi would have enormous benefits to patients and cost a very small fraction of what the healthcare does.

      Get well soon!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I am going to write to the Queen to tell her that the champions of her language must be given unfettered access to the Internet wherever they are. Please do not suspend the blog, you might never return.

  6. I hope that you, Professor Wells, take some time out to recover.

    In the meantime, we can be entertained by a new video from the young Londoner who featured on this blog on 4th October 2010. This is funny. I'm sure that we'll all notice a few problems though.

  7. There will be a phonetic void in our mornings until you resume. Get well soon.

  8. Take care. Will miss you.


  9. Here's another lurker wishing you a good bettering.

  10. Jen ankoraŭ unu deziro por rapida resaniĝo kaj feliĉa reveno al tiu ĉi estimata blogo.

  11. 'The Lord bless you and keep you ...'

  12. I've been reading your work for almost longer than I can remember (the 1970s in fact) and I'm looking forward to reading more of your work and thoughts when you get home. Get well soon, John.

  13. Get well soon, and best wishes.

  14. Get well soon, and we eagerly anticipate your return!

  15. I have prepared a list of words in the NORTH and FORCE lexical sets, which is for the moment posted on a recent Language Hat post in the comments (currently at the bottom of the page). While we all wait for John's return, I'd appreciate it if any of you from Scotland, Ireland, Eastern New England, the American South, or the Caribbean (or who speak AAVE) could look at these words and see if any are obviously in the wrong group. Thanks.

    1. Wow, that's fantastic. I'm exited to see that someone else is also interested in the HORSE-FORCE merger. It's been my wish for a long time to hear a speaker of a rhotic Northern American accent (preferably Mid-Western) to demonstrate the difference. There still must be millions of such speakers who make the distinction, but I've never heard a good recording.

    2. I found a lot of mistakes in your list, something must have gone wrong when you were exporting it.

      You put the word "force" in the NORTH group.

      I checked the words that looked to me to be in the wrong category (for AmE) in PDAE, but found so many mistakes that I got tired with the checking. Here are the words that are definitely NORTH not FORCE and are in your FORCE list:

      abnormal, acorn, chord, cohort, conform, consortium, cord, cornice, cuspidor, dormitory (-tory is FORCE, of course, but that's generally true), enormous, forgather, forgo, format, formula, formidable, forswear, forte (music), fortissimo, fortitude, fortuitous, harpsichord, hormone, inordinate.

      "forge" can be either NORTH of FORCE among those who make a distinction.

      It also has to be kept in mind that the different non-merging accents don't always agree. For example, "important" is FORCE in BrE, but NORTH in AmE.

    3. Here is a better list I compiled based on Kenyon's American Pronunciation and Jones's Outline. I tried to exclude all words that waver or belong to different groups in different regional standards.


      accord, adorn, border, born, chord, cord, cork, corn, corpse, corse, dormer, drawer, exhort, for, forfeit, fork, form, fortify, fortune, forty, forward, George, Gordon, gorge, gorse, horn, horse, lord, morn, morning, mortar, nor, normal, north, or, order, quart, record, reform, remorse, resort, scorn, short, snort, sort, stork, storm, swarm, torch, war, warn, York.


      adore, afford, Azores, before, boar, board, boarder, bore, borne, chore, coarse, core, course, court, courtier, deport, divorce, door, export, import, floor, force, ford, fore, fort, forth, four, fourteen, fourth, glory, gore, hoard, hoarse, hoary, horde, ignore, implore, lore, more, mourn, Nore, oar, ore, porch, pore, pork, porous, port, pour, proportion, resource, restore, roar, score, shore, snore, soar, sore, source, spore, sport, store, story, sword, swore, sworn, tore, torn, toward, wore, worn, yore.

      Good minimal pairs are:

      border-boarder, born-borne, cord-cored, corse-coarse,course, for-four, horse-hoarse, Laura-Lora, morn-mourn, morning-mourning, or-oar,ore, therefor-therefore, war-wore, warn-worn.

    4. @Levente:

      It seems that the vast majority of the FORCE (and none of the NORTH words) fall into one of the following categories:

      * spelled oVr or orV (where V represents any vowel)
      * spelled por
      * past participles

      Makes it easier for the rest of us to remember what is what :)

      BTW are you sure about "toward" being a FORCE word?

    5. According to PDAE, interestingly, it is in AmE if it's monosyllabic ("tord"), but the pre-merged disyllabic pronunciation can only be /təˈwɔrd/ (NORTH).

  16. vp:

    It isn't true that no NORTH words fall into these categories. E.g.:

    NORTH words spelled por:

    porcupine, porn(ography), porpoise

    And of course the NORTH word "born" is a past participle.

    1. Good point on the por- NORTH words.

      "Born" must originally have been a past participle, but it isn't any more.

    2. Yeah, you're right :) I remembered that "born" and "borne" had an interesting history, but was too lazy to re-read the discussion in Kenyon.

    3. I have FORCE in "porcupine", presumably from the similarlity to "pork", but NORTH in "porn" and "porpoise".

    4. JHJ, thanks for your comment. What accent of English do you speak?

    5. A bit of a mishmash, but basically northern English, of the type which splits FOOT and STRUT but not TRAP and BATH. I'm from an area where the distinction is very obvious in the traditional dialect but seems to be dying out; I wouldn't entirely trust my judgement on which words have which vowel, though it's generally fairly close to your list (and vp's rule).

  17. Although I have the FORCE-NORTH merger, I live near Boston and listen to public radio, and I've been trying to figure out whether org (as in has the FORCE or NORTH vowel in New England. Does anybody have an answer?

  18. Yes, something obviously went very wrong with my automated process. I'm going to try again with a different method.

    AHD4 lists organ and organization as NORTH, and I assume .org would follow.

  19. Okay, here's my revised AHD4 list, verified against Levente's list above and against the information in Wikipedia. Corrections are still welcome, of course — AHD4 is not infallible.

    NORTH words

    abhor abort absorb accord accordion adorn amorphous amortize aorta assorted award

    border born

    California cantor Capricorn cavort centaur chord chortle churchwarden concord condor conquistador contort cord cordial cordite cordon corduroy corgi cork corm cormorant corn cornea corner cornet corporate corpse corpulent corpus corpuscle corridor corsage corsair corse corset cortege cortex corvette

    dinosaur discord distort dormant dormer dormouse dorsal drawer dwarf

    endorse escort exhort exorbitant extort

    for forceps forfeit fork forlorn form formaldehyde formalin formation Formica formless fornicate forsythia fortify fortnight fortress fortunate fortune forty forward

    George Gordon gorge gorgeous gormless gorse guarantor

    headquarters horn hornet horse horticulture

    immortal important importunate

    lessor lord lorgnette

    matador morbid mordant morgue Mormon morn morning morpheme morphine morphology morsel mortal mortar mortgage mortician mortify mortise

    nor Nordic normal Norman Norse north Norway

    or orb orbit orchard orchestra orchid ordeal order ordnance ordure organ organize orgasm orgy ornery orphan orthodox orthography

    popcorn porcine porcupine porphyry porpoise

    quart quarter quartet

    record remorse resort reward

    scorch scorn short snorkel snort sorbet sorcerer sordid sorghum sort sortie stork storm sward swarm swarthy

    thorn thwart tor torch toreador torment torpid torpor tort tortilla tortoise torture



    war ward warfare warm warn warp wart wharf


    FORCE words

    abnormal aboard acorn adore afford aforesaid anymore apportion ashore Azores

    before boar board boarder Boer bore borne Borneo Bourne

    carnivore chloroform chore coarse cohort commodore comport concourse conform consort consortium coordinate core cored cornice corporeal corps course court courtier cuspidor

    davenport deplore deport discourse disport divorce door dormitory

    encore enormous explore export

    fjord floor forbore force ford fore forebode forecast foreclose forefather forefinger forefoot forefront foregather foreground forehand foreleg foreman foremast foremost forenoon forerunner foreshore foreshorten foresight foreskin forestall foretaste foretell forethought foretold forewarn foreword forgather forge forgo format formidable formula forswear fort forth forthright fortissimo fortitude fortuitous four

    galore glory gore

    harpsichord hoard hoarse hoary horde hormone

    ignore implore import inordinate intercourse


    mentor metamorphose more mortuary mourn mourning

    Nore norm

    oar ordain ordinal ordinance ordinary ore ormolu ornament ornate

    pianoforte picador pinafore platform porcelain porch pore pork porn porous port portend portent porter porterhouse portfolio portico portion portly portmanteau portrait portray Portugal postmortem pour primordial proportion

    quarto quartz

    rapport recourse report resource restore roar Roquefort

    score scorpion semaphore shore shorn smorgasbord snore soar sophomore sore source spore sport stevedore store story suborn support sword swore sworn sycamore

    therefore tore torn tornado torpedo torsion torso tortuous toward troubadour

    unicorn uniform uproar

    wardrobe wherefore whore wore worn

    yore your

    AHD4 contradicts other sources

    adorn cord form normal order sword

    1. NORTH, not FORCE:

      abnormal, acorn, cohort, conform, consort, consortium, coordinate, cornice, cuspidor, dormitory, format, formidable, formula, forswear, fortissimo, fortitude, fortuitous, harpsichord, hormone, inordinate, mentor, metamorphose, mortuary, norm, ordain, ordinal, ordinance, ordinary, ormolu, ornament, ornate, picador, platform, porn, postmortem, primordial, quarto, quartz, scorpion,
      ?smorgasbord?, suborn, tornado, torpedo, torsion, torso, tortuous, unicorn, uniform, wardrobe

      About the contradictions:

      "cord", "form", "normal", "order" are typical examples of very common NORTH words, so if AHD4 says they're FORCE, it's obviously wrong.

      "adorn" is also NORTH according to three independent sources (including the online 2009 edition of the AHD).

    2. I'd be interested to know whether anyone in England still make a three-way distinction NORTH-FORCE-CURE. They must be very thin on the ground nowadays.

      It's interesting to know that "sort" is a NORTH word. In the traditional dialect of my area, it is a CURE word. I say it with my NORTH/FORCE though.

  20. Get well soon, Professor Wells.

    Beata from Poland

  21. @John Cowan, Levente:

    I haven't read those references but as a native of Northern Ireland who's had the NORTH-FORCE distinction since birth, I have to agree with Levente's corrections - abnormal, acorn etc. are definitely NORTH for me, as I think for everyone in my hometown. So is pianoforte (and forte).

    There are also lots of FORCE words in JC's NORTH list: adorn, forceps (for me anyway), porcine, porcupine and probably others.

    Porcine and porcupine are both FORCE for me, presumably influenced by pork. However, porcine is a scientific word so it may have a more traditional, learned pronunciation with NORTH, which would be more regular given the etymology.

    And yes, dot org definitely has NORTH because it's short for organisation, which is NORTH.

  22. Get well soon, sir. My internet is less precise and pedantic without you. I wanted you to tear up my new boss for this interview on the BBC's Learning English site. I do admire his neck though.

    A speedy recovery, Dr Wells. This is one of my all time favourite blogs and I only spell favourite that way for your benefit so don't go and ruin it by quitting.

    1. Oh dear! I thought for a moment he was going to make a sensible point about contrasting law and lore. But no, it just sounds like he's heard non-rhotic speakers using intrusive R and hasn't given any thought to when they do so.

  23. Just letting you know that SIL released the maintenance versions of their fonts and that it would be advisable to download them.

  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

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