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14.18: More Spellings of [sh]: < c >, < sc >, < ss >, and < s >

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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More Spellings of [sh]: <c>, <sc>, <ss>, and <s>

1. Underline the letters that spell [sh] in the following words:


2. Sort the words into these four groups:

Words with [sh] spelled...
<c> <s> <ss> <sc>
social extension expression consciously
racial suspension intermission conscience
official dimension succession
suspicious apprehension missionary
financial mansion possession

3. Look carefully at your four groups of words and answer the following questions:

a. When [sh] is spelled <s> <c>, <sc>, or <ss>, are the next two letters always vowels or consonants or what? Always vowels

b. What letter always comes right after the <s> ,<c>, <sc>, or <ss>? <i>

c. Do the vowels after the <s>, <c>, <sc>, or <ss> have weak stress or heavy stress? Weak

4. There is one more spelling of [sh]. Underline the letters that spell [sh] in these words:


In these words (and pretty much these words only) [sh] is spelled <s> or <ss> with no <i> or second vowel following.

a. In these words what letter always comes after the <s> or <ss>? <u>

b. What letter almost always comes after that one? <r>

5. In each of the following pairs of words the <t>, <c>, <s>, <ss>, and <sc> sometimes spell [sh] and sometimes do not. Be ready to discuss why they do not spell [sh] in those words in which they do not:


6. Eight ways of spelling [sh] are <sh>, <ch>, <sch>, <t>, <c>, <s>, <sc> and <ss>.

7. Those spellings of [sh] that are always followed by an unstressed <i> and another unstressed vowel are <t>, <c>, <s>, <sc>, and <ss>.

Teaching Notes.

In this lesson it is important that the students see that the setting in which <c> and <sc> spell [sh] is basically the same as the setting in which <t> spells [sh] and that the settings for <s> and <ss> are also usually the same, though <s> and <ss> also can spell [sh] before <u> The underlying cause for these spellings is once again the palatalization described in the previous lessons.

2. Item 1: Notice that the <sc> spelling is pretty much restricted to words that contain the bound base sci, “know.” Sci also occurs in the words science and scientific, without palatalization because the <i> is stressed.

3. Item 3(b): One noteworthy holdout to this stipulation is ocean, with [sh] spelled with a <c> that is follwed with <e> rather than <i> From its first appearance in English until the 17th century, ocean was often spelled <ocian,> in line with the pattern described in 3(b). But in the 17th century the spelling settled on the French spelling, with <e> rather than <i> Two other holdouts are the suffixes -aceous and -acean, which have kept the original Latin spelling.

4. Item 4: Notice that we are dealing here almost exclusively with words that contain the base sure or the suffix -ure added to a stem that ends <s> or <ss>. It seems likely that earlier there was a [y]-like glide at the front of the <u> vowels in these words, as there still is in words like fuel. In the case of the words with a following [r] listed here, the [y]-glide triggered a palatalization similar to that triggered by the <i> in words like dimension.

The wildcard, of course, is sugar. Probably the same thing happened with it, though it is not clear why it happened just to sugar. There is, in fact, more than one unknown in the history of this word. For instance, we are not even sure where the [g] and <g> come from, since its earliest English forms had [k]. There is a distant relationship with saccharin. We adopted the word from French, and the Modern French word is sucre.

5. Item 5: The discussion question asked here requires that the students know the normal conditions for the palatalized spellings of [sh]. For students who still have trouble holding all of those conditions in their minds at once, ask them to look at and listen to the words in the table and do the following things: (i) underline the letters that spell [sh], (ii) mark ‘v’ or ‘c’ the two letters following those letters, (iii) mark the heavy stress in each word. That bit of analysis should help them see the larger pattern at work.

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