The Whys and Wherefores of Sound/Spelling Discrepancies
There are five principal reason for the discrepancy between the written representation of many English words and their actual pronunciation:
  1. English orthography had several diverse origin with different spelling conventions:
  2. The system that had evolved in Wessex before the Norman Invasion of 1066 gave us such spellings as ee for the sound in words like deed and seen.
  3. The system that was overlaid on the Old English system by the Normans, with their French orthographic customs, gaves us such spellings as queen (for the earlier cween) and thief (for earlier theef).
  4. A Dutch influence from Caxton, the first English printer, who was born in England but lived in Holland for thirty years, gave us such spellings as ghost (which replaced gost) and ghastly (which replaced gastlic).
  5. During the Renaissance, an attempt to reform spelling along etymological (that is, historically earlier) lines gaves us debt for earlier det or dette and salmon for earlier samon.