Right now I’m reading ‘The primacy of writing’, a fascinating chapter in a 1971 book by Fred Householder (an American linguist at Indiana University who died in 1994 at the age of 80). It’s an attempt to integrate orthographic information into the kind of phonological grammar which Chomsky and Halle had presented in their 1968 Sound Pattern of English, which I think is deeply misguided, but which does include a very valuable discussion about the relation of writing and orthography to linguistics and phonology.
But that’s a digression. (How wonderful, to start off with a digression, she adds parenthetically.) The question I really want to ask is, how do you pronounce the word asthma?
There are three options so far:
- /azmə/, ie with “z”
- /asθmə/, ie pronouncing “th”
- /asmə/, ie with “s” and not pronouncing “th”
One of these options is provided by Householder and the other two come from the OED. Two of them I find surprising, but I’m prepared to believe there could be regional differences.
Footnote: I’m allowed to file this under ‘phonology’ because it mentions SPE. The pronunciation question is of course completely trivial from a phonological point of view :)