Instances and Holdouts to the <l>-Before-<E> Rule
1. Our <l>-Before-<E> Rule describes the following five cases::
- When we're spelling long <e>, anywhere except after <c> , it's <i> before <e>
- When we're spelling long <e> after <c>, it's <e> before <i>.
- When we're spelling long <a> it's <e> before <i>.
- When we're spelling long <i> at the end of free stems, it's <i> before <e>.
- When we're spelling long <i> anywhere else, it's <e> before <i>.
Any words that fit any of those cases are instances of the rule. Any words that do not fit into any of the cases are holdouts.
Instances of the Rule
Case 1: [e¯] = <ei> not after <c>
Case 2: [e¯] = <ie> not after <c>
Case 3: [a¯] = <ei>
Case 4: [i¯] at the end of free stems = <ie>
Case 5: [i¯] at the beginning or in the middle of stems = <ei>
3. In addition to the fifty-seven instances, among the sixty-four words there are just a few holdouts. Two of these holdouts can each be pronounced two different ways. When pronounced one way, they are holdouts. When pronounced the other way, they are instances. These two only apparent holdouts are
Item 3. These five words (leisure, protein, seize, weird, financier) are hardcore holdouts to the <l>-Before-<E> Rule. There are seven others: fiery, foreign, counterfeit, sovereign, heifer, weir, hierarchy. Only a dozen holdouts to a rule that covers as many instances as this one does is not too bad. One way to help students remember this list of holdouts is to ask each of them to think up a little scene, the whackier the better, such that a sentence that describes that scene would include all of the holdout words. The following scene and sentence include all twelve, but you may choose to have the students deal with fewer than that:
Scene: A strange looking man with flashing eyes and a tall silk hat is grabbing a young cow alongside a small dam in a small creek while the king and his court sit idly by.
Sentence: The weird foreign financier with fiery eyes and no taste for counterfeit protein seized the sovereign's heifer beside the weir as the hierarchy took their leisure.
The scene helps remember the sentence, and the sentence helps remember the hardcore holdouts. It is important that each student composes a scene and sentence on his or her own. It can also be useful to have them draw a picture of their scene. The more different kinds of mental processing they can do of the list, the more likely they are to remember it.
Counterfeit analyzes to counter+feit, twp other words with that same base are forfeit and surfeit. In hierarchy the first element is the bound base hier,which shows up in a number of words, hierocracy hieroglyphic, and hierophant. In the scene and sentence above the bases feit and hier are represented by counterfeit and hierarchy.