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10.19: Sometimes [n] is Spelled <gn>

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Sometimes [n] is Spelled <gn>

1. There are several English words in which [n] is spelled <gn>. Many of them come from the Latin word signum, which meant “mark, sign”:

\begin{align*}& \text{sign} && \text{assign} && \text{consign} && \text{design} && \text{resign} && \text{ensign}\end{align*}

Five of these six words all contain a prefix plus the free base sign. Write each of these five words below and analyze each one into prefix and base, showing any assimilation that occurs. (The prefix en- in ensign is the French form of the prefix in-, “in, into.”)

Word = Analysis

2. Very often when you add suffixes to these sign words, you can hear the <g>. Here are some examples. Analyze each one as instructed. Then in the right column write down whether or not you can hear the <g> in the word in the left column:

Word = Analysis Do you pronounce the <g>?
signal = Free base + suffix =
resignation = Prefix + free base + suffix =
designate = Prefix + free base + suffix =
insignia = Prefix + free base + suffix =
signature = Prefix + free base + suffix =
signing = Free base + suffix =
designer = Prefix + free base + suffix =
resignation = Prefix + free base + suffix =
unsigned = Prefix + free base + suffix =
consignment = Prefix + free base + suffix =
assigns = Prefix + free base + suffix =
signify = Free base + suffix =
signet = Free base + suffix =

3. Below are the sign words with which you worked in Item 2. Hyphens mark the boundaries between syllables. Be ready to discuss when we do and when we do not pronounce the <g> in these words so far as syllable boundaries are concerned:

\begin{align*}& \text{sig-nal} && \text{sign-ing} && \text{as-signs} \\ & \text{res-ig-na-tion} && \text{de-sign-er} && \text{sig-ni-fy} \\ & \text{des-ig-nate} && \text{re-signed} && \text{sig-net} \\ & \text{in-sig-ni-a} && \text{un-signed} \\ & \text{sig-na-ture} && \text{con-sign-ment}\end{align*}

4. The sound [n] is also spelled <gn> in the word reign, as in “The king reigned for fifty years.” Reign comes from the Latin word regnum, which meant “the power of a king” and in which the <g> was pronounced.

But [n] is also spelled <gn> in sovereign and foreign, which come from the Latin words superanus and foranus, with no <g>'s. So why are there <g>'s in sovereign and foreign? Long ago people decided that sovereign and foreign must have come from the word reign. So they changed the spelling to make the three words look more alike.

5. In design and other words with the base sign, [n] is spelled ________. And [n] is also spelled <gn> in the words ________. ________, and ________.

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Date Created:
Feb 23, 2012
Last Modified:
Oct 09, 2015
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