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9.8: Digraph Spellings of Long ‘oo’

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Digraph Spellings of Long ‘oo’

1. You have seen that the long ‘oo’ sound, [u¯], is often spelled <u> or <o>. It is also often spelled with combinations of two vowel letters. When two vowel letters work together as a team to spell a single vowel sound, they are called a digraph. In all but three of the following words [u¯] is spelled with vowel digraphs. Underline the letters that spell [u¯]:


2. Sort the words into these groups:

Words in which [u¯] is not spelled with a digraph...


Words in which
<oo> <ou>
choose mood coupon
goose proof through
too poodle groups
loose boots you
noodles brood cougar
smooth routine
Words in which
<ui> <ew>
bruise chews
nuisance threw
juice knew
suit jewel
cruise dew

3. You have worked with six ways of spelling [u¯]. Write them below and give at least one word that contains each spelling:

Spellings of [u¯] Example Words
<u> junior, rumor, ruble, . . .
<o> shoe, who, prove, . . .
<oo> choose, loose, noodles, . . .
<ou> cougar, coupon, group, . . .
<ui> bruise, juice, nuisance, . . .
<ew> chew, threw, jewel, . . .

4. You have learned eight patterns, like VCC and VCV, for marking long and short vowels. Unfortunately, although these patterns are very useful when vowels are spelled by single letters, they are not useful when vowels are spelled with vowel digraphs. So vowel patterns like VCC and VCV cannot help when you are spelling vowel sounds with digraphs. But there are other kinds of patterns that can help, as we'll see in the next lesson.

Word Venn. All of the following words contain the sound [u¯]. Into circle A put only those words that contain a digraph spelling of [u¯]. Into circle B put only those words that contain an instance of final <e> deletion. Inside the rectangle but outside the circles put any other of the words in the list:


Teaching Notes.

Item 1. The word through raises the complexities posed by the consonant digraph <gh>. Old English had consonant sounds that linguists call velar fricatives, which means that they were pronounced back in the mouth at the velum and they were pronounced with a hissing or friction. In Old English one of these was spelled <g> and the other <h>. Over the centuries the two converged and came to be spelled <gh>. Thus, hundreds of years ago <gh> spelled a velar fricative sound like that at the end of the Scottish pronunciation of loch or the German pronunciation of Bach. Over time that sound dropped out of English, but the <gh> usually stayed in the written words, with a new pronunciation. After short vowels spelled with a digraph it came to be pronounced [f], as in laugh, tough, cough..

The complexities arise with words like brought, freight, straight, and tight and like weigh, though, and through. In the first group, with the cluster <ght>, we treat the <gh> as part of the spelling of the sound [t]. Thus, in such words [t] is said to be spelled <ght>, due to a simplifying of earlier pronunciation with no concomitant change in spelling. However, after long vowels the <gh> (with no following <t>) is no longer pronounced, as in the second group of words: weigh, though, through. To say that in weigh, for instance, [a¯] is spelled <eigh> blurs the consonant-vowel distinction. It seems better to treat the <gh> in such words as a diacritic, marking a preceding long vowel, much like silent final <e>. Thus we would say, for instance, that [a¯] is sometimes spelled <ei> before <gh> (weigh) or <ght> (weight).

(At the front of words <gh> is pronounced [g], as in ghost and ghastly, ghetto, ghoul. It is also pronounced [g] inside recent adoptions from Italian, like spaghetti. This <gh> does not come from the earlier sound in loch and Bach. For more on <gh> = [g] see AES, pp. 209-10, 352.)

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Date Created:
Feb 23, 2012
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Jul 07, 2015
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