Hey maybe this will help you...
Math Forum - Ask Dr. Math
I know it says "math" but these post references why forty is spelled the way it is.
Interested in Language
Is there any reason for '40' being spelt 'forty', not 'fourty'?
But this is definitely a question on spelling. IMO, it has nothing to do with maths.
That's why I said "I know it says "math" but this post [says why] forty is spelled the way it is"
"Math' is AmE. 'Maths' is BrE. So the fact that 40 is spelt 'forty' cannot be explained the way you have done.
di-vine (pronounced div[ai]ne)
di-vin-ity (pronounced div[I]nity)
That process is called tri-syllabic laxing.
Now, take the Old English word feower (four), add the suffix -tig (-ty) and the vocalic segment <w> in the second syllable changes, weakens, and is absorded by crowded vocalic <eor>:
feo-wer + tig
=> feourti OR feorti
=> fourty OR forty
Note, Chaucer used 'fourty', and some speakers today still use that spelling.
All the best.
Thanks. So 'forty' was once spelt 'fourty'.
Geez, that was basically the same thing from the website I found.
Yes, it did, basically. Dr Sarah's explanation was quite informative, but it left out a few things.
True, the variation goes as far back as Old Saxon fiartig and fiwartig, respectively. Middle English had both forti and fourti, as does Modern English forty (Standard) and fourty (non-Standard). In short, that variation didn't disappear in Middle English.
Spelling variant with 3 syllables
Old Saxon: fiwartig
Middle English: fowerti / fourti
Modern English: fourty <non-standard>
Spelling variant with 2 syllables
Old Saxon: fiartig
Middle English: forti
Modern English: forty <standard>
Second, adding -tig (-ly) to an adjective was a productive process in Old Saxon, as it is today in Modern English - except for fused forms such as thirty, fifty, and forty. (Speakers don't add -ly to three then drop <ee> and insert <i>, nor add -ly to five then switch <ive> with <if>, nor add -ly to four then drop u.) But for Old Saxon adding -ly was productive. Speakers, added -tig (-ly) to fiwar (four) giving fiwartig (forty). But it's not that cut 'n dried. Old Saxon speakers had two variants, one with <w> fiwartig and one without <w> fiartig. The question is, why did fiwar lose its <w> when it changed to fiartig? Isn't that the same question as why doesn't forty have <u>?
Why did Old Saxon (OS) have two spellings for the same word? According to Dr Sarah's account it just did. More likely, it was a matter of pronunciation, not dialect variation, but stress. Add -tig to fiwar and the vowel in the second syllable weakens. The result, a redistribution of the syllable's weight.
OS. fiwar + tig => fiw-ar-tig => fiartig > for-ty <coda>
OS. fiwar + tig => fi-wr-tig => fiwartig > fo-ur-ty <onset>
In other words, <w> was ambisyllabic. It could be the coda of the first syllable (fiartig) or the onset of the second syllable (fiwartig). Speakers appear to have had a choice back then, even in Middle English. We don't seem to have that choice today. Someone way back when (and I'd like to know who) told us fourty is non-Standard English. Why? What's odd about fourty? We've spelling variants labour/labor and honour/honor - the list goes on.
How do you pronounce forty? <think about it>
All the best.
Last edited by Casiopea; 16-Feb-2007 at 07:44.
Thanks for the detailed explanatiion. You've put in a lot of effort to help me, and I do appreciate it very much.
Last edited by kohyoongliat; 16-Feb-2007 at 13:06. Reason: missing word