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13.15: Lesson Fifteen

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The Sound [k] before <le>#

1. Here are some words that have [k] right in front of an <le> that comes at the end of the word. Sometimes the [k] is spelled <k>, sometimes <ck>, sometimes <c>. Sort the words into the two groups described below:

&\text{wrinkle} && \text{ankle} && \text{sparkle} && \text{trickle} && \text{tackle}\\&\text{spectacle} && \text{tickle} && \text{barnacle} && \text{miracle} && \text{obstacle}\\&\text{particle} && \text{cycle} && \text{chronicle} && \text{twinkle} && \text{vehicle}\\&\text{icicle} && \text{chuckle} && \text{freckle} && \text{article} && \text{bicycle}\\&\text{pickle} && \text{heckle} && \text{shackle} && \text{receptacle} && \text{oracle}

2. In words in which [k] follows a consonant and is in turn followed by an <le> that comes at the end of the word, the [k] is spelled <k>.

3. Read aloud each of the words in which the [k] follows a vowel. In each word mark the vowel that has strong stess on it, like this: wrínkle and spéctacle. The vowel with strong stress will not always be the vowel right in front of the [k]. If you get confused, don't be afraid to ask for help or to look words up in your dictionary.

4. Now sort the words you just marked into these two groups:

5. In words that have a [k] right in front of an <le> that comes at the end of the word and a vowel that does not have strong stress right in front of the [k], the [k] is spelled <c>.

6. Now read over your list of words with a vowel with strong stress right in front of the [k]. Sort the words into these two groups:

7. In words that have a [k] right in front of an <le> that comes at the end of the word and a vowel with strong stress right in front of the [k], the [k] is spelled <ck> if the vowel is short, and it is spelled <c> if the vowel is long.

8. In words that have a [k] right in front of an <le> that comes at the end of the word:

(i) If there is a stressed short vowel right in front of the [k], the [k] is spelled <ck>;

(ii) If there is a weak vowel or a strong long vowel right in front of the [k], the [k] is spelled <c>; and

(iii) If there is a consonant right in front of the [k], the [k] is spelled <k>.

Teaching Notes.

Item 2. The statement that [k] is spelled <k> between a consonant and word-final <le> is a good one, but there are two glaring holdouts: circle and uncle. Circle comes from the Latin circulus and appeared in Old English as círcul. During the Middle English period it was spelled with <k> as often as with <c>, as for instance, cerkle, cirkle, cerkil, serkle, serkell. The spelling with <c> became standard during the 16^\text{th} century enthusiasm for making the spelling of English words reflect their Latin roots. Uncle comes from the Old French uncle, which in turn came from the Latin avunculs “mother's brother.” During Middle and Early Modern English uncle suffered even a wider variety of spellings with <k> than did circle: unkle, unckle, unkel, vnkel, unkell, unkil, unkyl, hunckyl, ownkyll, onkill, unckall . . . .

Though the <le> is not at word's end, nuclear could also be seen as somewhat odd.

This pattern is discussed in more detail in AES, pp. 366-67 and 149-51. (If you are particularly interested, there is still more information referenced at the item “VC'C' le” in the index.)

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1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5

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Feb 23, 2012

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Apr 29, 2014
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