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3.12: Why -ed Has Different Pronunciations

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Why -ed Has Different Pronunciations

1. Below are six words in which -ed is pronounced [t]. Divide each one into a free base and the suffix -ed:

Word in which -ed is pronounced [t]: = Free Base + Suffix
helped = help + ed
guessed = guess + ed
reached = reach + ed
laughed = laugh + ed
fished = fish + ed
kicked = kick + ed

2. Listen to the last sound in the six free bases above. Each of them ends in one of four different sounds. List the sounds below:

\begin{align*}& [p] && [s] && [ch] && [f] && [sh] && [k]\end{align*}

3. The suffix -ed is pronounced [t] when it is added to words that end with the sounds [s], [f], [p], [ch], [sh], and [k].

4. The suffix -ed is pronounced [id] whenever it is added to words that end with the sounds [d] or [t].

5. Now you know when -ed is pronounced [id] and when it is pronounced [t]. Everywhere else it is pronounced [d].

6. The suffix -ed is pronounced [t] when it is added to words that end with the sounds [s], [f], [p], [s], [ch] and [sh],; it is pronounced [id] when it is added to words that end with the sounds [d] and [t]; and everywhere else it is pronounced [d]. The suffix -ed is always spelled <ed>.

Word Squares You'll find some hints here and there:

Four-letter words: open, hard, kind, fuel

Five-letter words: could, would

Six-letter words: opener, number, kinder, should, fueled

Seven-letter words: hardest, kindest, fueling,

Eight-letter words: numbered, numberer

Nine-letter word: numbering

Teaching Notes. What is involved in the three pronunciations of -ed is that same distinction between voiced and unvoiced sounds that was discussed back in Lesson 6 and earlier in Lesson 14 of Book 1. In general, in English we avoid putting certain voiced and an unvoiced consonants together. In Lesson 6 it was pointed out that [s] and [z] are identical sounds except that [s] is unvoiced and [z] is voiced. It was also pointed out that in the plural dogs the \begin{align*}<\mathrm{s}>\end{align*} is pronounced [z], [dogz] while in the plural cats it is pronounced [s], [kats]. That difference is due to the fact that [g] and [z] are both voiced, so they go together, while [t] and [s] are unvoiced, so they too go together. But we avoid mixed combinations such as \begin{align*}*\end{align*}[gs] and \begin{align*}*\end{align*}[tz]. For more on this tendency to avoid mixed voicing, see AES, pp. 73-76.

In the case of the suffix -ed the reasoning goes as follows: (1) After the unvoiced sounds [s, f, p, ch, sh, k] -ed has the unvoiced pronunciation [t]. (2) After all voiced sounds except [d] it has the voiced pronunciation [d]. And (3) after [t] and [d] the vowel [i] is inserted to avoid the endings \begin{align*}[\mathrm{tt}]\end{align*} and [dd], which would be difficult to pronounce and inevitably would be simplified to [t] and [d]. Such a simplification would cause the loss of the spoken distinction between present and past tense. So the three pronunciations of -ed, which might at first seem like a perverse and unnecessary complication, are in fact part of a larger logical and ruly pattern.

Item \begin{align*}3\end{align*}. The suffix -ed is also pronounced [t] after \begin{align*}[\mathrm{th}]\end{align*}, but this is only in the words berthed, unearthed, toothed, and frothed.

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