why do I have a sig-nah-cher instead of a sine-ah-cher?

Es­ti­mated reading time is 1 minute.

THE FOLLOWING RAMBLE from me to you was borne of a thought that me­an­dered into my head at 3:30 this morning. And, as the title tells you, it deals with the pro­nun­ci­a­tion of a word: sig­na­ture (sig-nah-cher). The modern Eng­lish word sign as a noun orig­i­nally meant “a ges­ture or mo­tion of the hand, es­pe­cially one meant to com­mu­ni­cate some­thing.” It is de­rived from the Old French signe for “sign, mark.”

Signe is pro­nounced (more or less) as ‘seen-eh’ and it evolved into our pro­nun­ci­a­tion of ‘sīn’ (with a long ‘a’ as in ‘eye’) or ‘sine’ (also with a long ‘a’ and a silent ‘e’ at the end—a use­less habit that needs to be dropped).

The modern Eng­lish word sign as a verb means “to affix one’s name” and is also from the Old French sig­nier, which means “to make a sign to someone, to mark.” It is also pro­nounced (more or less) as ‘seen-eh.’

Modern Eng­lish sig­na­ture is from the Middle French sig­natura, which orig­i­nally meant “to mark with a stamp.” Sig­natura is (more or less) pro­nounced as ‘seen-yah-tyoor.’

They are both de­rived from the Latin signare, “to set a mark upon” and this was adapted from On­line Et­y­mology Dic­tio­nary.

So, I wrote all of the above (most of which most of us never need to know) to ask this rather trivial ques­tion: If sign is pro­nounced ‘sine’ then why isn’t sig­na­ture pro­nounced ‘sine-a-cher’?

Or, knowing what we now know about the Old French words, how did the French word pro­nounced ‘seen-yah-tyoor’ evolve into the Eng­lish pro­nun­ci­a­tion of ‘SIG-nah-cher’ in­stead of ‘SINE-ah-cher’?


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