Live Long and Prosper

The other day, I was told a story about a non-native English speaker who regaled her company about her recent trip to the grocery market. It was there that she spotted “live fish.” She pronounced the word “live” as [liv], which is a verb meaning “to continue to have life; remain alive.” The reason she pronounced the word this way was because she was only familiar with this pronunciation. She was not aware that “live” is a heteronym, specifically a homograph. Heteronyms are “words that are written identically but have different pronunciations and meanings.” She should have pronounced the word as [lahyv], which is an adjective meaning “being alive; living, alive.”

I am not sure whether there is a term in linguistics to describe this type of phonological/phonetical error for non-native speakers. A Google search is not proving to be very successful.

2 thoughts on “Live Long and Prosper

  1. Reminds me of a little argument Sims fans get into. In the popular Sims game, there are three modes: build, buy, and live. How should that last one be pronounced? The creators intended it to be pronounced “liv” (after all, “build” and “buy” are verbs), but for some reason most players pronounce it “lahyv.”

    1. ah, this one seems tricky. i can see the argument that build is being used as an adjective, as in “build mode.” i will probably have to side with the creators on this one because their intention is for it to be pronounced as “liv”, hence it is keeping its verb form.

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