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4.10: The Consonant Sounds [th] and [th]

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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The Consonant Sounds [th] and [th]

1. There are two sounds that are spelled <th> and that sound very much alike. You worked with the first one in Lesson Thirty-three: the [th] sound that you can hear at the front of the word thin.

You can hear the other sound at the front of the word then. You can hear the difference between the two if you say thin and then right after one another two or three times. Thin starts with the sound [th]. Then starts with the other sound, which we will write out as [th].

So thin starts with [th], and then starts with [th].

You can also hear the two sounds at the end of bath and bathe. Bath ends with [th]. Bathe ends with [th].

2. Sort the words below into the two groups:

\begin{align*}& \text{thank} && \text{breath} && \text{that} && \text{further} \\ & \text{theif} && \text{breathe} && \text{fifth} && \text{athlete} \\ & \text{though} && \text{thought} && \text{cloth} && \text{clothes} \\ & \text{thick} && \text{thousand} && \text{they} && \text{this} \\ & \text{there} && \text{smooth} && \text{father} && \text{tooth}\end{align*}

Words that contain ...
[th] [th]
thank thousand though they
thief fifth there father
thick cloth breathe further
breath athlete smooth clothes
thought tooth that this

3. In all of the words that contain [th], how is [th] spelled? <th>

4. So in this lesson you've seen that <th> spells two different sounds. The two sounds that are spelled <th> are [th]. and [th].

Word Find. This Find contains twenty words that all start with the sounds [th] or [th]. But this one is a little different from the ones you've done so far. We are not going to tell you what the twenty words are ahead of time. You will have to find them on your own. After you have found them, sort them into the two groups described below:

Words that Start with [th]: Words that Start with [th]:
three thin the then
threw thank that therefore
thug thousand thee them
thanks thoughts themselves those
thirty theft this they

Teaching Notes. The sounds [th] and [th] are another unvoiced-voiced pair: [th] is unvoiced, pronounced with no vibration of the vocal cords; [th]is voiced, pronounced with the vocal cords vibrating. Some students may have trouble hearing the distinction between the two. A good strategy is to have them try to feel the difference: If you put your fingers lightly against the middle of your throat right under your chin and say [th] and [th] several times, you can feel a buzzing in your throat when you say [th]. That buzzing is the vocal cords vibrating. Or you can simply repeat several times a pair contrasted with the [th]-[th] distinction:bath, bathe; breath, breathe; wreath; wreathe; lath, lathe, etc.

Because of the subtle difference between the two sounds, you may find it a good idea to refer to them as unvoiced <th> and voiced <th>, assuming that the students know what voicing is.

Item 2. Clothes has two pronunciations, \begin{align*}[\mathrm{kl}\bar{\mathrm{o}}\underline{\mathrm{th}}\mathrm{z}]\end{align*} and \begin{align*}[\mathrm{kl}\bar{\mathrm{o}}\mathrm{z}]\end{align*}. In this exercise we are looking for the pronunciation with [th].

Item 4. The sound [th] is spelled like [th]—that is, <th>. But, except for smooth and the verb mouth,at the end of words the <th> spelling [th] must have a silent final <e> added, as in bath and bathe or breath and breathe. Lesson 16 in Book 4 discusses this use of silent final <e> to mark [th].

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