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December 06, 2013


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"yard" is the thoroughgoing English word; "garden" came from Germanic to Norman French, then to English after the Norman conquest, thus avoiding the characteristic Anglo-Saxon development of a "g" to a "y" sound.

Because Norman French was more conservative than Parisian French, we retain the "g" in "garden"; compare standard French "jardin".

A similar doublet is seen in "gaol" / "jail"; these variant spellings originally denoted different pronunciations deriving from Norman French and Parisian French respectively.

Incidentally, most houses in the US have a "yard" rather than a "garden": "garden" is reserved for highly cultivated or ornamental areas.

Virtual Linguist

Thanks very much for those informed comments, dw - all very interesting.

Jemmy Hope

I believe that toun/town is still used in the dialect of North-East Scotland for farm. It certainly was into the 20th century.

Virtual Linguist

Thanks, Jemmy. I'm sure you're right. I've never been to the north-east of Scotland, but I'll listen out for it if I ever make it to that part of the world.

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