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Old 07-16-2015, 07:08 PM
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Default They said they paid for that yesterday....

But I say they didn't pay at all!


And with that example, I would like to know why the past participle of say is not pronounced like the past participle of pay. I can't find the reason on the Internet, perhaps someone is better at finding out why there is a discrepancy in pronunciation?
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Old 07-16-2015, 07:27 PM
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Default Re: They said they paid for that yesterday....

Both say and pay are regular weak verbs, though the spelling in the most common sense (i.e. she paid money) doesn't conform to regular orthography that one would expect, e.g. payed. They are just inflected differently. Pay forms the past and past participle by adding -(e)d/t, like most verbs.

Say shortens the vowel in the stem, like sleep -> slept, hear -> heard, deal -> dealt. There are several different species of verb inflections in English where the vowel changes. Weep -> wept, bleed -> bled, etc.

I don't know why they are inflected differently but if I had to guess I would guess that it has to do with their disparate etymology. Say is an older word in English (Old English secġan), and pay is newer, via Middle English (old French paier). Newer verbs tend to be more regular. But then again there's lay->laid, with no shortening and exactly the same regularity and orthography as pay->paid, but OE in origin. :shrug:

I used to know stuff about the Great Vowel Shift but dumb law school stuff shoved it out of my brains.

Last edited by ChuckF; 07-16-2015 at 07:38 PM.
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  #3  
Old 07-16-2015, 07:38 PM
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Default Re: They said they paid for that yesterday....

Ah yes. Also known as the Great Vowel Movement.
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Old 07-16-2015, 08:05 PM
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Default Re: They said they paid for that yesterday....

So basically, your guess is that it's a result of a historical event, and not due to some underlying rule I can't discern. OK, that's a bit helpful.
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Old 07-16-2015, 08:26 PM
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Default Re: They said they paid for that yesterday....

The way I say pay rhymes with say (and way).

But as you indicated, 'said' rhymes with fed, dead and lead (the metal).

As to spelling of all these words I understand they really were pronounced like that when the spelling became regularized - so in ye olden days people pronounced the K on the front of knife and such. :shrug:

It's a common mistake for infants to say, 'he sayed that...' and infants usually grok the rules before they learn all the exceptions to the rules.
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Old 07-16-2015, 11:10 PM
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Default Re: They said they paid for that yesterday....

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChuckF View Post
Say shortens the vowel in the stem, like sleep -> slept, hear -> heard, deal -> dealt. There are several different species of verb inflections in English where the vowel changes. Weep -> wept, bleed -> bled, etc.
My favourite example of this present/past vowel inflection is, for obvious reasons, read -> read.
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Old 07-16-2015, 11:21 PM
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Default Re: They said they paid for that yesterday....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Porter View Post
So basically, your guess is that it's a result of a historical event, and not due to some underlying rule I can't discern. OK, that's a bit helpful.
Probably? I think it's because they fall into different categories of how weak verbs are inflected, but I don't know why they do. Paid is pretty much exactly what you would expect, except for the spelling, and said is a different category of inflection. I don't think there's a rule to be teased out, except that they are different, but I may be wrong about that. My eyes pretty much roll back in my head and I lose consciousness whenever people start talking about ablaut and stuff. The root of the difference may be etymological, which is my guess, but it may be just because.
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Old 07-17-2015, 12:55 AM
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Default Re: They said they paid for that yesterday....

My guess is that it's simply because "say" is one of the most common verbs and "said" is simply a somewhat reduced pronunciation. In other words, it's similar to how "can" is often pronounced like "kin".

However, it seems that the truth is that it was originally "segde" and as the "g" was lost from the verb (cf. Swedish "säga" for "say"), the vowel in past tense remained. "Lay" was similar, but became completely regularized (in pronunciation, not spelling). However, more common words tend to be more resistant to regularization, hence "said" remains irregular. That fact is partially just random chance though, as that tendency is statistical, not absolute.

"Pay" as Chuck pointed out, is a more recent borrowing and hence received a regular inflection.

This still leaves the matter of "says" being pronounced "sezz".

One might ask similar questions of "did", "does" and "don't".
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  #9  
Old 07-17-2015, 03:57 AM
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Default Re: They said they paid for that yesterday....

lay-verb ORIGIN Old English lecgan, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch leggen and German legen, also to lie.

lay, lays, laid

may-verb (modal) ORIGIN Old English mæg, of Germanic origin, from a base meaning ‘have power’; related to Dutch mogen and German mögen, also to main and might.

may, might

say-verb ORIGIN Old English secgan, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch zeggen and German sagen .

say, says, said

pay-verb ORIGIN Middle English (in the sense ‘pacify’): from Old French paie (noun), payer (verb), from Latin pacare ‘appease,’ from pax, pac- ‘peace.’

pay, pays, paid

I was musing over words one night and this "discrepancy" popped out. I do crosswords in bed and I often "brute force" my way to a word solution if I have some letters already in place in the puzzle. This just seemed odd to me because I hear the words in my head when I do this and the difference between laid, paid, and said became very apparent. I got curious, but could not find anything about it on the Internet.
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Old 07-17-2015, 02:44 PM
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Default Re: They said they paid for that yesterday....

I feel like there are people who pronounce it more like it rhymes with paid in the north of England. I can hear it in my head that way and my gut says Manchester. But it could be Yorkshire or a Geordie accent instead. I can't seem to focus my memory on where I heard it.
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Old 07-17-2015, 02:54 PM
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Default Re: They said they paid for that yesterday....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Porter View Post
lay-verb ORIGIN Old English lecgan, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch leggen and German legen, also to lie.

lay, lays, laid

may-verb (modal) ORIGIN Old English mæg, of Germanic origin, from a base meaning ‘have power’; related to Dutch mogen and German mögen, also to main and might.

may, might

say-verb ORIGIN Old English secgan, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch zeggen and German sagen .

say, says, said

pay-verb ORIGIN Middle English (in the sense ‘pacify’): from Old French paie (noun), payer (verb), from Latin pacare ‘appease,’ from pax, pac- ‘peace.’

pay, pays, paid

I was musing over words one night and this "discrepancy" popped out. I do crosswords in bed and I often "brute force" my way to a word solution if I have some letters already in place in the puzzle. This just seemed odd to me because I hear the words in my head when I do this and the difference between laid, paid, and said became very apparent. I got curious, but could not find anything about it on the Internet.
The past tenses of leggen and zeggen are different in Dutch too.

Leggen > legde
But zeggen > zei (pronounced about like zai). It may once have been zegde though.
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Old 07-17-2015, 03:03 PM
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Default Re: They said they paid for that yesterday....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Janet View Post
I feel like there are people who pronounce it more like it rhymes with paid in the north of England. I can hear it in my head that way and my gut says Manchester. But it could be Yorkshire or a Geordie accent instead. I can't seem to focus my memory on where I heard it.
My mom (midwest US) says that she recalls hearing some young children pronounce it thusly, and speculated that they were trying to apply known rules on how to conjugate verbs.
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Old 07-17-2015, 11:04 PM
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Default Re: They said they paid for that yesterday....

Let's look through the alphabet at some common -ay words and their -aid forms. The spellings and pronunciation might be interesting.

bay bayed
bray brayed
flay flayed
fray frayed
lay laid
neigh neighed
pay paid
pray prayed
say said
slay slew or slain
stay stayed
weigh weighed

:shrug: I suppose all it really reveals is how irregular and inconsistent the English language is, both in spoken and written form.
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Old 07-17-2015, 11:06 PM
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Default Re: They said they paid for that yesterday....

English needs more fiber in its diet.
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