General Question

Harp's avatar

Is our "th" sound really so rare among the world's languages?

Asked by Harp (19152points) May 21st, 2008

It seems like so many non-English speakers struggle with this sound; is it really such a linguistic rarity? From which of our linguistic roots did we inherit it?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

34 Answers

wildflower's avatar

I don’t find it particularly challenging. Not compared to say the Icelandic Þ or Dutch ‘gr’ sounds.
In fact, I’m far better at pronouncing ‘th’ than my husband with his London accent, always coming out as ‘f’.

iwamoto's avatar

yes, here in holland (with a high idiocracy rating) a lot of people have trouble pronouncing it, that’s why i feel like a douche when i tell people im from holland, like im from an under developed country

i speak fluent dutch german and english by the way…

gailcalled's avatar

I only know a few of the world’s languages but try to describe the difference between making the “th” sound in “the” and in “this.” (Feel where your tongue hits your teeth – in two slightly different spots.)

soundedfury's avatar

It comes from Anglo-Saxon, from the sound of the ð (eth) as well the Þ (called the thorn), which is the same ancestor of the Icelandic Þ. It’s called a voiceless/voiced dental fricative, and most languages don’t have them. It didn’t exist in the early Indo-European languages that gave rise to most modern languages. It’s purely a Scandinavian concoction.

wildflower's avatar

Sorry about that folks…
(and I guess what soundedfury said would/should explain why I don’t find it particularly challenging)

marinelife's avatar

Since there was no th in Latin, I am thinking its origins may be Anglo Saxon. Gailcalled is right, there is a voiced th and a throat th. Personally, I have a lot of trouble with the rolled French r.

Harp's avatar

@marina
The French “r” was actually copied from the Germans during a period when the French were infatuated by things German (hard to imagine, I know). In many parts of France, that fashion never caught on and they continue to roll their r’s.

marinelife's avatar

@Harp Something else to blame the Germans for :)

iwamoto's avatar

well, one other thing that bothers me, the microwave,
in german, microwelle, meaning, microwave
in belgian, microgolf, meaning, microwave
in dutch, magnetron, meaning, magnetron

ugh, why do we always have to screw up?

ich liebe dich
i love you
ik hou van jou

why do we have an extra word? ugh, this language should be banned!

wildflower's avatar

Because in Dutch you love at that person….?
And speaking of magnet-something. What’s with the French calling video magnetoscope? They just always have to be different….then again, we call it sjónband….(which means vision tape)

iwamoto's avatar

well, in dutch you love “from” that person, ugh, idiotic language, there’s the old spelling, then came the new one, wich wasn’t completed, so now there’s like “is it pannekoek or pannenkoek” ? and it’s so illogical, it should be pannen, because there are multiple pans, but, there is only one sun according to the new spelling, seriously, what a friggin’ mess

wildflower's avatar

Oh don’t get me started on the weird and wonderful Faroese words they invent in order to ‘preserve the language’. I almost can’t speak my native language any more…...

Harp's avatar

@ wildflower
French for “tape recorder” is “magnetophone”; gotta give it to them for consistency : )

wildflower's avatar

hahaha….yea, consistently awkward :)

iwamoto's avatar

well, the tapes are magnetic, phone is…hearing, right? magnetic hearing, makes sense, in a way

wildflower's avatar

But seriously, try reading a manual for a VCR. Every language will mention ‘video’ or some variation of the word – except French. Because they’re special :)

iwamoto's avatar

just like the dutch, that’s why so many dutch people go to france on vacation, and you can always spot dutch tourists, seriously, can’t i change my citizenship to “undecided” ?

wildflower's avatar

Just say you’re Flemish. Most people will never know the difference…....Of course your lack of beer drinking might give you away.

iwamoto's avatar

i think if i tried i could be german citizen within 4 months, but it’s such a hassle, renewing stuff every few years, even my dad, who’s been in holland for 30 years, still has to renew his “strangers permit” every few years, and yes, it’s realy called that way

wildflower's avatar

Why would he need that between two EU states? I’m going with Danish nationality (since Faroes aren’t EU) and that way I need no additional paperwork to live and work in Ireland.

iwamoto's avatar

well, maybe it has something to do with the war, idk, last time i checked, he and my brother stil need to do it

wildflower's avatar

haha…..yea, I guess you gotta keep an eye on those Germans….

Harp's avatar

Anyone know how “th” fares in Asian languages?

jlm11f's avatar

it is used in Asian languages. I know about it being used in Chinese and Hindi which is why most Indians don’t have any trouble speaking English. (tech support, anyone?)

Kay's avatar

In Arabic there is a letter that’s English equivalent is written “tha.” It looks like a lower-case U with 3 dots over it.

morphail's avatar

It’s Germanic. Proto-Indo-European *t became Proto-Germanic *þ, becoming the voiced and voiceless interdental fricatives of English and Icelandic.

The sounds are also found in Greek and some kinds of Spanish, but they have different histories. They are also found in Arabic. They are not found in Hindi.

robmandu's avatar

Native german speakers have difficulty with “th”, often substituting a simple “s” (or “z”) in its place. ==> I went to se store to buy somesing.

Is that a common replacement for other languages that find “th” difficult?

Oh. And what nationality has difficulty with the sound the letter V makes? In engineering school, I remember learning about the wector wee as a wariable.

jlm11f's avatar

@ robmandu – Indian nationality (at an extent you can generalize it to all south-east asians) have trouble with the “v” sound.

wildflower's avatar

This [Zis] is very true….
And I think both German and Dutch struggle with V and W since W is pronounced as V and V as F in those languages.
Even though I’m neither of those nationalities, but in Faroese we don’t use W (at all), I do occasionally get them mixed up and end up saying “You’re Wery Velcome” (or something similar) – it’s really quite embarrassing since I otherwise don’t have much of an accent.

robmandu's avatar

@wildflower, that’s just too cute. Do it again!

wildflower's avatar

No!.....I’ll be over in the corner moping because you’re picking on me!

robmandu's avatar

@wildflower, growing up in the Ole South with an accent that is universally reviled and portrayed as idiotic, I hope you know I’d never pick on you about that.

wildflower's avatar

I guess…..
still think Texan accent just sounds relaxed, polite and friendly – which is why you get away with it :P

robmandu's avatar

Dunno how I’ve allowed myself to go this far offtopic…

In the U.S., “southern” accent is indeed different than “Texan” accent. And like @wildflower, I also prefer it. ‘Course, I might be biased. ;-D

But, as it turns out, the “southern” accent thing is looked upon poorly when it comes to wages, along with other voice inflections.

Answer this question

Login

or

Join

to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
or
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther