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15.11: VCV and the Third Vowel Rule

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12

VCV and the Third Vowel Rule

1. You have seen that the rule that calls for a long vowel in a VCV string can be overruled by the rule that calls for a short vowel in front of the suffix -ity. The Suffix -ity Rule is part of a larger rule that explains why many other words have VCV strings with short head vowels. Notice that in a word like sanity the short ‘a’ is the third vowel sound from the end of the word:

sanity     3 2 1\begin{align*}& \text{sanity} \\ & \ \uparrow \ \uparrow \ \uparrow \\ & \ \ 3 \ 2 \ 1\end{align*}

There is a very strong tendency for the third vowel sound from the end of a word to be short if it is stressed, even if it is the head vowel in a VCV string.

2. Notice the length of the vowels spelled by the letters in bold type in the pairs of words below:

\begin{align*} &\text{n}\mathbf{a}\text{tion} && \text{n}\mathbf{a}\text{tional}\\ &\text{comp}\mathbf{e}\text{te} && \text{comp}\mathbf{e}\text{titor}\\ &\text{cr}\mathbf{i}\text{me} && \text{cr}\mathbf{i}\text{minal}\\ &\text{n}\mathbf{a}\text{ture} && \text{n}\mathbf{a}\text{tural}\\ &\text{r}\mathbf{a}\text{tion} && \text{r}\mathbf{a}\text{tional}\\ &\text{gr}\mathbf{a}\text{de} && \text{gr}\mathbf{a}\text{dual}\\ &\text{r}\mathbf{i}\text{te} && \text{r}\mathbf{i}\text{tual}\\ &\text{s}\mathbf{o}\text{lo} && \text{s}\mathbf{o}\text{litude}\\ &\text{supr}\mathbf{e}\text{me} && \text{supr}\mathbf{e}\text{macy}\\ &\text{n}\mathbf{a}\text{vy} && \text{n}\mathbf{a}\text{vigate}\\ &\text{l}\mathbf{e}\text{gal} && \text{l}\mathbf{e}\text{gacy}\end{align*}

The two words in each of the pairs are closely related. In most cases the word on the right is formed from the word on the left, by adding one or more suffixes. In other cases both words have the same stem. But you should hear a difference in how the vowels in bold letters are pronounced. In each pair one vowel will be long, one will be short. Fill in the blanks:

a. In the left-hand column how many of the vowels in bold letters spell the third vowel sound from the end of the word? _______

b. In the right-hand column how many of the vowels in bold letters spell the third vowel sound from the end of the word? _______

c. Are the vowels in bold letters in the left-hand column long, or are they short? _______

d. Are the vowels in bold letters in the right-hand column long, or are they short? _______

e. Are the vowels in bold letters in the left-hand column the first vowels in VCV strings? _______

f. Are the vowels in bold letters in the right-hand column the first vowels in VCV strings? _______

g. Are the vowels in bold letters in the left column stressed? _______.

h. Are the vowels in bold letters in the right column stressed? _______.

3. Third Vowel Rule. The third vowel sound from the end of a word will often be _________ if it is _______________, even if it is the first vowel in a _______________ string.

4. Each of the following words contains a vowel that is an example of the Third Vowel Rule at work. Underline the vowels that are examples of the rule and be ready to discuss why they are and the others are not:

\begin{align*}&\text{legacy} && \text{positive} && \text{hesitate} && \text{assimilate}\\ &\text{citizen} && \text{accelerate} && \text{analysis} && \text{criticize}\end{align*}

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