How Do You Spell [ch]?
1. About two-thirds of the time [ch] is spelled either <ch> or <tch>, and <ch> is about five times as common as <tch>. Underline the letters that spell [ch] in the following words:
2. Sort the words into the following matrix:
Words in which the [ch] is . . .
at the end of a free stem and following a stressed short vowel
the only consonant in a VCC string with a stressed short head vowel
located anywhere else in the word
Words with [ch] spelled <tch>
Words with [ch] spelled <ch>
3. Among the words in Items 1 and 2, when [ch] comes (a) at the end of a free stem and following a stressed short vowel or (b) in a VCC string, it is spelled <tch> ; everyplace else it is spelled <ch>.
4. On the basis of the analysis you've just done, be ready to discuss the following questions:
(i) Why can we say that <tch> behaves like a double <ch>?
(ii) What is unusual about the sounds in front of the <ch> in bachelor and treacherous? What rule did you recently learn that would explain the unusual sound in front of <ch> in these words?
(iii) What is there about the following six words that makes them holdouts to the pattern you've just found and described?
There is little we can say about these six, except that they are clear holdouts to an otherwise useful and reliable rule and that there are fortunately very, very few of them.
Item 2. In words like spinach (also sandwich and ostrich), which end in <ch> following a. vowel, the vowel in front of the [ch] is not stressed.
Item 4. (i) We can say that <tch> behaves like a double <ch> because it is used after stressed short vowels the same way that other double consonants are. (ii) The sounds in front of the <ch> are stressed and short, so we would expect <tch> rather than <ch>. Both words are instances of the Third Vowel Rule, which says that if the third vowel from the end of a word is stressed, it will be short. (iii) The six words are holdouts because they have <ch> after a stressed short vowel, where the pattern would call for <tch>.