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1.8: Lesson Eight

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12

Letters and Sounds

1. Letters and sounds are two different things: Letters are things you see. Sounds are things you hear.

2. Say the word else. You should hear three sounds in it:

The first sound is spelled by the letter <e> at the front of the word.

The second sound is spelled by the letter <l>

The third sound is spelled by the letter \begin{align*}<\mathrm{s}>\end{align*}

The letter <e> at the end of else does not spell a sound.

So you can see four letters, but you can hear only three sounds.

3. First count the letters in each of the words below. Then count the sounds you hear in each one. Be careful: Sometimes two letters work together to spell just one sound.And sometimes a letter may not spell any sound at all, like the final <e> in else. Fill in the blanks:

How many letters? How many sounds?
above \begin{align*}5\end{align*} \begin{align*}4\end{align*}
below \begin{align*}5\end{align*} \begin{align*}4\end{align*}
always \begin{align*}6\end{align*} \begin{align*}5\end{align*}
know \begin{align*}4\end{align*} \begin{align*}2\end{align*}
seventy \begin{align*}7\end{align*} \begin{align*}7\end{align*}
queen \begin{align*}5\end{align*} \begin{align*}4\end{align*}
because \begin{align*}7\end{align*} \begin{align*}5\end{align*}
before \begin{align*}6\end{align*} \begin{align*}5\end{align*}
bridge \begin{align*}6\end{align*} \begin{align*}4\end{align*}
knee \begin{align*}4\end{align*} \begin{align*}2\end{align*}
would \begin{align*}5\end{align*} \begin{align*}3\end{align*}
through \begin{align*}6\end{align*} \begin{align*}4\end{align*}

Watch the Middles!

writes
write s
write s
write s
writes
whoever
who ever
who ever
who ever
whoever
because
be cause
be cause
be cause
because
before
be fore
be fore
be fore
before
government
govern ment
govern ment
govern ment
government
wouldn't
would n't
would n't
would n't
wouldn't

Teaching Notes.

1. Hearing the individual sounds in words can be difficult for some students. In cases of great bafflement it may be necessary for you at first to sound out the words, sound by sound. Some students would probably benefit from a bit more practice than this lesson entails. With just a little practice even students who start out baffled usually get quite adept at counting sounds. On the other hand, it is probably not necessary to fret too much. The point of this sound-counting exercise is simply to underline the difference between sounds and letters. And after Lesson 10 the ability to count sounds is not assumed in any later work in the Basic Speller.

2. There are nearly always more letters than there are sounds in English words. Seventy, with an equal number of each, is somewhat unusual. The only case where you would have more sounds than letters would be in words with the letter <x>, which when it comes in the middle or at the end of words, spells either of two composite sounds [ks] or [gz]. Thus fix has three letters but four sounds: [fiks].

There are two main reasons that there are nearly always more letters than sounds: (i) English contains many vowel and consonant digraphs, or two-letter combinations that spell a single sound, like the vowel digraph <ea> and the consonant digraph <th> in a word like breath. (English even contains some trigraphs, like the <iou> in gracious or the <sch> in schlemiel.) (ii) For various reasons many words contain letters that are not pronounced. Most of these were pronounced in the past but are now not; some apparently never were pronounced. The most common of these silent letters is the silent final <e> in words like above and because. For more on digraphs and English sounds, see AES, pp. 201-212.

3. Watch the Middles. The be in because was originally by in the phrase by cause. The spelling may have changed because people assumed it should be one of the prefixes spelled <be>, which are common in verbs like become, besiege, befriend and in adverbs and prepositions like behind, between — and before.

The -ment in government is a very common suffix for making nouns, as in refreshment, ornament, fragment, etc. Students will study -ment in Book Five. The n't in wouldn't is the contraction of not. Students will study such contractions in Book 5, Lesson 36.

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