Are there any English words pronounced with sounds/syllables that aren’t part of the spelling?

There are many English words with silent letters, words like gnome or island that are spelt with consonants that aren’t pronounced, but are there any words that work the other way round, with a pronunciation that includes extra sounds or syllables that are not in the spelling?

I can’t think of any real examples, hence this question, but a made-up example would be if gnome were spelt nome but pronounced with a g at the start. Or if people started pronouncing offer as “ofter” as a sort of weird parallel to after.

Note: I don’t mean words like rough, where the f sound is spelt gh, because in those cases the spelling does still include letters (however seemingly illogical) for each of the sounds.


Probably "yes", but it depends on what you mean. There isn’t actually a clear way to identify which sounds in a word correspond to which letters: for example, rough, which you say has letters for "each of the sounds", could be analyzed as r- + -ou- + -gh or as r- + -o- + ugh. When similar issues arise with other words, it makes it pretty subjective to decide whether the word has consonant sounds that "aren’t part of the spelling" or that just have an complex relationship to the spelling.

Some words that could be considered to meet your criteria:


  • Any word with an epenthetic voiceless plosive between a nasal and a following consonant. For many speakers, a productive process causes a sound like /t/, /p/ or /k/ to be inserted after the sounds /n/, /m/ or /ŋ/ respectively in various environments. In most words, the epenthetic plosive is not written, so you could say that there is a /p/ in the pronunciation but not the spelling of warmth, dreamt, hamster, seamstress, a /t/ in the pronunciation but not the spelling of sense, glance, a /k/ in the pronunciation but not the spelling of strength, angst.

  • In eighth and in one pronunciation of threshold, a digraph that usually represents a single sound corresponds instead to two sounds: /tθ/ and /ʃh/ respectively. You could say that the /t/ in eighth or the /h/ in that pronunciation of threshold isn’t part of the spelling.

    Something similar applies for speakers who use the pronunciation /haıtθ/ instead of /haıt/: whether it’s spelled height or heighth, it seems like one of the two sounds at the end is not explicitly represented in the spelling.

  • In some accents of British English, the vowels found in words like saw and draw is regularly followed by epenthetic /r/ before another vowel. This means that the words sawing and drawing are pronounced with an /r/ that "isn’t part of the spelling".

Vowels or syllables

  • Many words with syllabic resonants, or sequences of a schwa followed by a resonant, have no particular letter that marks the syllabicity. Words ending in -thm or -sm are the most obvious example. Other examples are more dialect dependent, but words like hour are disyllabic for some speakers.

Source : Link , Question Author : nnnnnn , Answer Author : herisson

Leave a Comment