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# 6.9: Soft < c > and Hard < c >

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12

## Soft <c> and Hard <c>

1. The letter <c> sometimes spells the sound [s] – as in acid. Sometimes it spells the sound [k] – as in actor.

When the letter <c> spells the [s] sound, it is called soft <c> . When it spells the [k] sound, it is called hard <c>.

2. Pronounce each of the following words. Pay special attention to the sounds being spelled by the <c>’s in each one:

servicerepublicignorancejuicyelecteddecidedcomicsproducerdeceptiveagriculturecenterrecovermiscueembraceactivelynoticeconceptdemocraticsincediscount\begin{align*}&\text{service} && \text{elected} && \text{deceptive} && \text{miscue} && \text{concept}\\ &\text{republic} && \text{decided} && \text{agriculture} && \text{embrace} && \text{democratic}\\ &\text{ignorance} && \text{comics} &&\text{center} && \text{actively} && \text{since}\\ &\text{juicy} && \text{producer} && \text{recover} && \text{notice} && \text{discount}\end{align*}

3. Now sort the twenty words into this matrix:

Words with soft <c>: Words with hard <c>:
Words with <e>, <i>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{i}>\end{align*} or <y> right after the <c>:

service

embrace

ignorance

notice

juicy

concept

decided

since

producer

deceptive

center

With no <e>, <i>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{i}>\end{align*}, or <y> right after the <c>:

republic

elected

comics

agriculture

recover

miscue

actively

concept

democratic

discount

4. You should have found that the letter <c> always spells the [s] sound when it has one of three letters right after it. The letters are <e>, <i>\begin{align*}\underline{}\end{align*}, or <y>.

5. The letter <c> is called soft <c> when it spells the sound [s]. The letter <c> is called hard when it spells the sound [k]. A soft <c> always has one of three letters right after it: <e>, <i>\begin{align*}\underline{}\end{align*} , or <y>.

6. Sort these twelve words into the following matrix:

rejoicerecognizedemergencycivilizevictimofficerfiercelyaffectionsurfacelicensearcfabric\begin{align*}&\text{rejoice} && \text{civilize} && \text{fiercely} &&\text{license}\\ &\text{recognized} && \text{victim} && \text{affection} &&\text{arc}\\ &\text{emergency} && \text{officer} &&\text{surface} && \text{fabric}\end{align*}

Words with soft <c>: Words with hard <c>:
Words with <e>, <i>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{i}>\end{align*}, or <y> right after the <c>:'

rejoice

emergency

civilize

officer

fiercely

surface

Words with no <e>, <i>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{i}>\end{align*} , or <y> right after the <c>:

recognized

victim

affection

arc

fabric

7. When the letter <c> has an <e>, <i>\begin{align*}\underline{}\end{align*}, or <y> right after it, it spells the sound [s] and is called soft <c>. Otherwise, it spells the sound [k] and is called hard <c> .

Teaching Notes. In Old English <c> regularly spelled [k], except when it was followed by <e>, <i>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{i}>\end{align*}, or <y>, in which case it spelled [ch]. But during the Middle English period the Norman French scribes used <c> to spell the French sound [ts] before <e>,<i>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{i}>\end{align*}, or <y> and to spell [k] elsewhere. In time the [ts] eased to [s]. So, although the value of what we now call soft <c> has changed, our distinction between hard and soft <c> comes from both the Germanic side of the language family tree (via Old English) and the Romance side (via Norman French).

This distinction arose from the influence of the vowel following the <c> upon the pronunciation of the consonant sound spelled by the <c>. You can experience some of the pressure leading to the distinction if you compare the way you pronounce the [k] sounds in kit and cot : In kit you should feel the [k] being pronounced further forward in your mouth, in cot further back. The difference arises because while pronouncing the [k], your mouth gets itself set to pronounce the upcoming vowel: in kit that vowel is [i], which is pronounced toward the front of your mouth, so your tongue moves forward while pronouncing [k]. In cot the vowel [o] is pronounced towards the back of your mouth, so your tongue moves back while pronouncing the [k]. Over the centuries this modest difference in pronunciation of the [k] increased to our current distinction between hard and soft <c>.

Item 7. When we say that <c> spells [k] whenever it does not have <e>, <i>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{i}>\end{align*} or <y> after it, we are ignoring the digraph <ch>, which normally spells [ch], though it does spell [k] in a few, usually Greek adoptions, such as school and stomach.

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