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12.19: When You Hear [g], Sometimes There's an < x >!

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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When You Hear [g], Sometimes There's an <x>!

1. Sometimes the letter <x> spells the combination [ks], and sometimes it spells the combination [gz]. Sometimes a word can be pronounced either with a [ks] or [gz]. For instance, some people pronounce exit with a [ks], [e´ksit], and some people pronounce it with a [gz], [e´gzit]. Either pronunciation is correct.

Almost always the <x> that spells [gz] is in the prefix ex-, and the stem that follows the prefix begins with a vowel. Analyze each of the following words, all of which contain the prefix ex-.

Word = Formula = Analysis
exercised = Prefix + stem = ex + ercised
inexactly = Prefix + prefix + base + suffix = in + ex + act + ly
explosion = Prefix + stem = ex + plosion
extensive = Prefix + stem = ex + tensive
exhaustive = Prefix + base + suffix = ex + haust + ive
exhibit = Prefix + stem = ex + hibit
examined = Prefix + stem = ex + amined
exposure = Prefix + base + suffix = ex + pose+ ure
exclude = Prefix + stem = ex + clude
extended = Prefix + base + suffix = ex + tend + ed
executive = Prefix + stem = ex + ecutive
exorbitant = Prefix + stem = ex + orbitant
exclusive = Prefix + stem = ex + clusive

2. Some other things about [g] and <g>:

One other common word in which <x> spells [gz] is auxiliary.

The only word that ends in <gg> is egg.

In the word mortgage, the [g] is spelled <tg>.The word mortgage is a compound that contains two bases:: mort, which means “death” (as in words like mortal and mortuary), and gage, which means “promise or pledge.” When we try to pronounce [t] and [g] together, we find it difficult, and to simplify the pronunciation, the [t] sound is left out. So in mortgage [g] is spelled <tg>.

Teaching Notes.

The combination [gz] is voiced; its counterpart, [ks], is voiceless. Normally, [gz] occurs when the <x> is preceded by a weakly stressed vowel and followed by a voiced sound. When the <x> is followed by a voiceless sound, like [t] or [p] in extend or expand, we normally get the voiceiss combination [ks]. But usage varies (and not all dictionaries agree). For instance, execute seems usually to have [ks], but executive seems usually to have [gz]. If disagreements or questions or doubts should arise in class about some of the [gz] combinations claimed in this lesson, it would probably be best to say that the pattern is not completely fixed and that there is room for honest disagreement and that the answer book is not always the last word. For more on the <x> spelling of [gz], see AES, pp. 351-52. For more on [ks] and its spellings, see pp. 370-71.

Item 2. The extra <g> in egg is almost surely due to the Short Word Rule, which restricts words of one or two letters to the function words like an, in, he, or, etc. For more on the Short Word Rule, see AES, pp. 87-89.

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Date Created:
Feb 23, 2012
Last Modified:
Jul 07, 2015
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