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15.16: Review of <i>-Before-<e>

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12

“It's <i> before <e>, except after <c>,

or when spelling [ā], as in neighbor or weigh.”

1. The version of the <l> Before <E> Rule that we use is a little different from the old rhyme quoted above: There are two things different in our version:

First, it has an extra line: “Or when spelling [ī] at the beginning or middle of an element.”

And second, it applies only to cases where the <i> and <e> are in the same element in the word.

Our version doesn't rhyme so well, but it is more reliable:

<l> Before <E> Rule.

Within a single element, it's <i> before <e>, except after <c>,

Or when spelling [ā], as in neighbor or weigh,

Or when spelling [ī] that is at the element's beginning or mid.

Spellings that follow this rule are called instances of the rule, and spellings that do not follow it are called holdouts. To be an instance a spelling involving <i> and <e> within a single element must be one of the following:

  1. <cei>, or
  2. <ei> spelling the long <a> sound, [ā], or
  3. <ei> spelling the long <i> sound, [ī], at the front or the middle (but not at the end) of an element, or
  4. <ie> everywhere else.

On the other hand, to be a holdout a spelling must be either

  1. a <cie>, or
  2. an <ei> not in a <cei> and not spelling [ā] and not spelling [ī] at the beginning or middle of an element.

2. The following forty words contain twenty-eight instances of the rule and twelve holdouts. Sort them into the five groups indicated below:

achievedeightbelieveceilingconceiveforfeitcounterfeitdeceitdieproteineiderdownreignfeistyfinancierforeignneighborgriefheiferreceiptsleighthygienesovereignkaleidoscopeleisurelieseismicfriendshippiecepoltergeistweirdreceivepriestrelievesurfeitveintieseizeshriekschlemielweir

Words that contain instances of the rule with ...
<ie> <cei> <ei> spelling [a¯] <ei> spelling [i¯]
achieved ceiling eight eiderdown
died receipt reign feisty
believe concieve neighbor sleight
grief receive vein kaleidoscope
hygiene deceit seismic
lie poltergeist
friendship
piece
priest
relieve
tie
shriek
schlemiel

Words that have holdouts to the rule:

proteinfinancierforeignheifersovereignleisureforfeitweirdcounterfeitsurfeitseizeweir

3. The following words at first sight may seem like holdouts to the rule. Analyze each word into its elements as indicated in the formula: ‘P’ = Prefix, ‘BB’ = Bound Base, ‘FB’ = Free Base, and ‘S’ = Suffix. We've given you a start here and there:

Word Formula Analysis
ancient BB + S anci + ent
herein FB + FB here + in
conscience P + BB + S com + n + sci + ence
iciest FB + S + S icy + i + est
obedient BB + S ob + edi + ent
science BB + S sci + ence
society BB + S soci + ety
experience P + BB + S ex + peri + ence
efficiency P + BB + S ex + f + fic + i + ency
patience BB + S pati + ence

You should have found that in each of these words there is an element boundary (marked by a + sign) between the <i> and the <e>. Since the <l> Before <E> Rule only applies to spellings where the <i> and <e> are in the same element, words like these are not holdouts.

Teaching Notes.

The l-before-E Rule is presented in detail in Book 6, Lessons 31-34.

Item 3. Since the main point in this table is to see that the <i> and <e> are in different elements, it probably is not too important if the students give the full analyses given in the answer sheet. The bare minimum would be for them to have a plus sign between the <i> and the <e>.

The treatment here skips over some minor complexities: Protein is treated as a holdout here although in it the <i> and <e> are actually in different elements: In the technically correct analysis prote + in, the suffix -in is a form of -ine that is used to refer to neutral chemical substances. The analysis prote+in is more obvious in the alternative pronunciation [pro¯-te¯-in]. The analysis prote + in could raise the question of why there is no final <e> deletion, the answer being that prote is a nonterminative base. All in all, it seems better just to treat it as a holdout.

Students may be confused about the analysis of efficiency to ex + f + fic + i + ency. The unusual <i> is inserted to satisfy the palatalization pattern required for the [sh] pronunciation of <c>: Without the inserted <i> we do not have the two unstressed vowels necessary for the palatalization: Sufficently would be pronounced with the <c> spelling [s], not [sh].

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Date Created:
Oct 09, 2015
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