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Why the “h” in Rhode Island? 
Posted: 11 March 2018 07:58 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Was the “h” in Rhode related to a pronunciation that I don’t hear? Or, was it thrown in there just to make me wonder why? I did not find anything that explained it.

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Posted: 11 March 2018 10:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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According to the wiki article,

It is unclear how Aquidneck Island came to be known as Rhode Island, but two historical events may have influenced the name.

Explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano noted the presence of an island near the mouth of Narragansett Bay in 1524 which he likened to the island of Rhodes (part of modern Greece).[20] Subsequent European explorers were unable to precisely identify the island that Verrazzano had named, but the Pilgrims who later colonized the area assumed that it was Aquidneck.[21]
Adriaen Block passed by Aquidneck during his expeditions in the 1610s, and he described it in a 1625 account of his travels as “an island of reddish appearance,” which was “een rodlich Eylande” in 17th-century Dutch, and one popular notion is that this Dutch phrase might have influenced the name Rhode Island.[22][23] (Historians have theorized that this “reddish appearance” resulted from either red autumn foliage or red clay on portions of the shore.)[24]

The earliest documented use of the name “Rhode Island” for Aquidneck was in 1637 by Roger Williams. The name was officially applied to the island in 1644 with these words: “Aquethneck shall be henceforth called the Isle of Rodes or Rhode-Island.” The name “Isle of Rodes” is used in a legal document as late as 1646.[25][26] Dutch maps as early as 1659 call the island “Red Island” (Roodt Eylant).

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Posted: 11 March 2018 10:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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The Big List, although this doesn’t address the H specifically.

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Posted: 11 March 2018 11:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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So, the “Rh” in this instance is possibly influenced by the name of a Greek island? Does “Rhode” sound different in Greek than “rode” in English? I’m just trying to understand why the “h” is there. In other words, if the Greeks wrote it as “Rh”, does it have a distinct sound that we don’t pronounce.

[ Edited: 11 March 2018 11:23 AM by Eyehawk ]
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Posted: 11 March 2018 12:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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So, the “Rh” in this instance is possibly influenced by the name of a Greek island?

Almost certainly, since there’s no other plausible explanation for it.’

In other words, if the Greeks wrote it as “Rh”, does it have a distinct sound that we don’t pronounce.

No, in Greek it’s an automatic feature—a “rough breathing” is automatic with initial r-, so there’s no such thing as a word starting r- without the -h-.

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Posted: 11 March 2018 12:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Which, I would guess, is why the name of the Greek r (ρ) is spelled “rho” in English.

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Posted: 11 March 2018 01:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Exactly.

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Posted: 11 March 2018 03:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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languagehat - 11 March 2018 12:06 PM


In other words, if the Greeks wrote it as “Rh”, does it have a distinct sound that we don’t pronounce.

No, in Greek it’s an automatic feature—a “rough breathing” is automatic with initial r-, so there’s no such thing as a word starting r- without the -h-.

The “rough breathing” phrase suggests that there is a sound that is not (any longer?) there but still represented by the “h” after the “r” in the Greek letter “Rho”.

According to Wikipedia this ” rough breathing” also appears in the diacritic over the epsilon and eta which makes a difference between the initial vowel sound of “ἔρως” and “ἥρως” that is, “erotic love” and ”hero.”

Is that it?

Edit:

every word-initial vowel must carry either of two so-called “breathing marks”: the rough breathing (ἁ), marking an /h/ sound at the beginning of a word, or the smooth breathing (ἀ), marking its absence. The letter rho (ρ), although not a vowel, also carries a rough breathing in word-initial position.

see “breathings" here.
[ Edited: 11 March 2018 04:10 PM by Oecolampadius ]
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Posted: 11 March 2018 08:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Eyehawk - 11 March 2018 11:19 AM

So, the “Rh” in this instance is possibly influenced by the name of a Greek island? Does “Rhode” sound different in Greek than “rode” in English? I’m just trying to understand why the “h” is there. In other words, if the Greeks wrote it as “Rh”, does it have a distinct sound that we don’t pronounce.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the Greeks did not (and do not) write it starting with Rh.

They wrote it starting with Ρ. They call it Ρόδος. 
Ρ was usually transliterated into Latin as Rh, for reasons others have stated.

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Posted: 12 March 2018 05:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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They wrote it starting with Ρ. They call it Ρόδος.

No, they wrote it starting with Ῥ: Ῥόδος.  That little apostrophe-looking thing is called a rough breathing (δασεῖα in Greek), and initial r- is never written without it.  (The modern Greeks have sensibly dropped it, since it has no influence on pronunciation.) If it weren’t there, Greek words would have been transliterated with r-, not rh-.

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Posted: 12 March 2018 07:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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languagehat - 12 March 2018 05:15 AM

They wrote it starting with Ρ. They call it Ρόδος.

No, they wrote it starting with Ῥ: Ῥόδος.  That little apostrophe-looking thing is called a rough breathing (δασεῖα in Greek), and initial r- is never written without it.  (The modern Greeks have sensibly dropped it, since it has no influence on pronunciation.) If it weren’t there, Greek words would have been transliterated with r-, not rh-.

Huh.
Thanks for that.

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Posted: 13 March 2018 08:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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The following site has a pronunciation of “Rho” in which I think I hear a slightly forced sound at the start of the word. Is that the rough breathing we are talking about?

http://www.foundalis.com/lan/grkalpha.htm

A site where they can be compared:

https://www.howtopronounce.com/search/latin/Rhode/?h
https://www.howtopronounce.com/search/greek/Rhode/?h

[ Edited: 13 March 2018 08:12 AM by Eyehawk ]
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Posted: 13 March 2018 09:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Rhode is one of many English words beginning with the RH letters, e.g.:

Rhinoceros, rhythm, rhotic, rhemes, rhubarb, rhapsody,.. ad infinitum.

Rhotacism.

OED

Origin: A borrowing from German. Etymon: German Rhotacismus.
Etymology: < German Rhotacismus (1819 or earlier; 1824 in the passage translated in quot. 1830 at sense 1) < Byzantine Greek ῥωτακίζειν rhotacize v. + German -ismus -ism suffix. With sense 2 compare French rhotacisme (1793 denoting an unusual pronunciation of r ; 1850s or earlier in sense 1).(Show Less)
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1. Linguistics. The changing of another sound, esp. the phoneme /s/, into the phoneme /r/, and thus often also the changing of the spelling.

[ Edited: 16 March 2018 09:43 PM by Logophile ]
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Posted: 13 March 2018 09:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Rhinoceros, rhythm, rhotic, rhemes, rhubarb, rhapsody

All of these follow the same path from Greek to Latin. (A few come from French and were originally spelled without the H, but that “correction” was added back in to reflect the etymology.)

But as for rhotocism, I don’t know what the definition is doing here. Rhotocism has nothing to do with spelling, but relates to pronunciation of the phoneme /r/.

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Posted: 13 March 2018 12:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Dave Wilton - 13 March 2018 09:33 AM

But as for rhotocism, I don’t know what the definition is doing here. Rhotocism has nothing to do with spelling, but relates to pronunciation of the phoneme /r/.

There are two definitions, though. One of them (the first one here) does relate to spelling, at least indirectly.

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Posted: 13 March 2018 01:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Indirectly and not in all cases, and nothing whatsoever to do with the Rh spelling.

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