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8.21: Lesson Forty-five

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The Letter <v> After Short and Long Vowels

1. Earlier we saw that, except for the word of, the sound [v] is always spelled one way.

That way is <v>.

One reason we have spellings with double letters like <pp> and <\mathrm{tt}> is to mark the difference between long and short vowels:

& \text{taped} && \text{tapped}\\& \ \text{vcv} && \ \text{vcc}\\\\& \text{later} && \text{latter}\\& \ \text{vcv} && \ \text{vcc}

But since we don't regularly use <vv>, we have no way to mark short vowels before [v] the way we use <pp> and <\mathrm{tt}> to mark them before [p] and [t] in words like tapped and latter. So the letter <v> cannot tell us whether the vowel in front of it is long or short.

2. Put a ‘c’ for “consonant” under the <v> in each of the following words. Then mark the letter right in front of the <v> and the letter right after the <v> with either another ‘c’ if it's a consonant or with a ‘v’ if it's a vowel

& \text{avenue} && \text{arriving} && \text{driven} && \text{remove} && \text{novel} \\& \text{vcv} && \ \text{vcv} && \ \ \text{vcv} && \ \text{vcv} && \quad \text{vcv} \\\\& \text{flavor} && \text{having} && \text{driver} && \text{woven} && \text{overtake} \\& \ \text{vcv} && \ \text{vcv} && \ \text{vcv} && \ \text{vcv} && \ \text{vcv} \\\\& \text{haven’t} && \text{gives} && \text{shovel} && \text{several} && \text{civilized} \\& \ \text{vcv} && \ \text{vcv} && \ \ \text{vcv} && \ \text{vcv} && \ \text{vcv} \\\\& \text{haven} && \text{evening} && \text{improve} && \text{fever} && \text{lovely} \\& \ \text{vcv} && \ \text{vcv} && \quad \text{vcv} && \ \text{vcv} && \ \text{vcv}

3. You should have found that all twenty words have the same pattern. That pattern is VCV.

4. Sort the twenty words into the following two groups:

Words in which the <v> comes right after a . . .
short vowel: long vowel:
avenue shovel flavor improve
haven't several haven remove
having novel arriving woven
gives civilized evening fever
driven lovely driver overtake

5. Usually in the pattern VCV the first vowel is long. But do all of the words with <v> as the consonant in the pattern VCV have a long vowel right in front of the <v>? No.

6. The word ambiguous means “to be indefinite; to have more than one possible meaning.” Be ready to discuss this question: Why can we say that so far as long and short vowels are concerned, the letter <v> is ambiguous?

Word History. Ambiguous analyzes to amb\cancel{l} + ig + uous. The prefix amb(i)- means “both.” The base ig means “drive, lead, act.” The suffix -uous forms adjectives with a meaning like “tending to.” So ambiguous has a root meaning like “tending to drive both ways or act both ways, tending to wander around.”

Teaching Notes.

Item 1. In English we avoid <vv> because in earlier English, before <\mathrm{u}> and <v> came to be treated as two separate letters and were still used more or less interchangeably for spelling both vowel and consonant sounds, <uu>, or <vv>, grew together to become the letter <w>, “double-u” (see AES, pp. 128-29, 207-08).

Item 2. Avenue is from a French word that meant “arrival,” which is in turn from Latin advenire “to come to.” Its earliest meanings were more like “an approach,” especially the tree-lined drive leading to a country estate. It was not used to refer to a wide, often tree-lined city street until the 19^{\mathrm{th}} century. It analyzes to a\cancel{d} + ven\cancel{e} + ue. Shovel comes from an Old English word and is related to shove and shuffle. Driver and driven illustrate nicely the ambiguity of <v> so far as the VCV pattern is concerned. Both are formed from the infinitive drive, with a long <\mathrm{i}>. In driven (driv\cancel{e} + er) the <\mathrm{i}> stays long; in driven (driv\cancel{e} + en) it is shortened to [i], as with other old past participles: ride, ridden; bite, bitten, etc.

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Feb 23, 2012

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Apr 29, 2014
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