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10.20: Sometimes [n] is Spelled <kn>

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

1. The most common words with [n] spelled <kn> have know as their base. In the words below anything in front of the base is a prefix and anything behind the base is a suffix. Analyze each word into prefix (if it has one), base, and suffix:

Words = Analysis
knows =
knowledge =
known =
foreknowledge =
unknown =
knower =
knowable =

2. Here is another little group of <kn> words, all dealing with the knees:

\begin{align*}& \text{knee} && \text{kneel} && \text{knelt}\end{align*}

3. Here are more <kn> words, all of which come from Old English words:

\begin{align*}& \text{knave} && \text{knead} && \text{knell} \\ & \text{knife} && \text{knight} && \text{knit} \\ & \text{knock} && \text{knoll} && \text{knot}\end{align*}

Below we give you the family tree for some of these <kn> words. We give you the Middle English word our Modern English word comes from, and the Old English word the Middle English word came from. Fill in the Modern English word for each of the Old English and Middle English ancestors:

Old English Middle English Modern English
cnafa knave
cniht knyght
cnedan kneden
cnytten knitten
cnocian knokken
cnif knif
cnoll knolle
cnotta knotte

Old English did not use the letter <k>. In Old English and in Middle English the <k> and the <c> before the <n> were pronounced, like [k]. So all of the words that now start out with the sound [n] used to start out with the sounds [kn], which we today find awkward to say.

4. Look at this word: pneumonia. How is [n] spelled at the beginning of pneumonia? __________.

This odd spelling of [n] comes from old Greek and Latin words in which both the \begin{align*}<\text{p}>\end{align*} and the <n> were pronounced. Today it only occurs in the bound base pneum. The only two words with that base that you should have to worry about are pneumonia and pneumatic. Pneum refers to wind or breath or air. So pneumatic tires are tires that are filled with air, like those on a bicycle, and pneumonia is a disease of the lungs that makes it hard to breathe air.

The base pneum also occurs in some really long and technical words. Here is one example, which we give you because it is the longest word in most dictionaries: pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. It's the name of a lung disease that miners get from breathing a certain kind of dust. Along with pneum, you can see microscopic and volcano in that big long word.

5. In one English word [n] is spelled <mn>: mnemonic, [nim\begin{align*}\acute{\text{o}}\end{align*}nik]. You use a mnemonic to help you remember something. For instance, common mnemonics are the jingles that start out “I before E except after C” and “Thirty days hath September.” Our word mnemonic comes from Mnemosyne, the name of the Greek goddess of memory and mother of the muses.

In English we have a prefix a- which means “not,” or “without.” It occurs, together with that same <mn> in words like amnesia and amnesty, both of which have a meaning close to “not remembering” or “without remembering.” In amnesia and amnesty the <mn> does not spell [n]. What does it spell? _________.

Be ready to talk about this question: What do the words amnesia and amnesty have to do with “not remembering?”

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