THE GREEK SOUND \F\ = PH

Audio blog post by Dr. Isaacs. Click to listen and read along! The sound \f\ is, simply put, a sound with a very reliable spelling in Greek-derived words. Spell it with ph, and you’ll most probably be set. This is because the single letter f did not exist in ancient Greece. However, the Greek letter phi did. (It originally sounded a bit like the sound \p\ in ancient Greek, but began to sound more like \f\ after the fourth century AD.) This rule is extremely – though not 100% –…

Read More

THE TWO DISTINCT SOUNDS OF C AND G

Audio blog post by Dr. Isaacs. Click to listen and read along! One of the most basic lessons in phonics is that two consonants in the English alphabet each can make two distinct sounds. If you were lucky enough to learn phonics as a young child, you may find this particular blog post a bit easy. But if not, this will still be a simple lesson to learn. Let's go! The hard and soft sounds of C The letter c can make two distinct sounds: a hard sound \k\, as…

Read More

PRONUNCIATION – FOREIGN SOUNDS IN ENGLISH

Audio blog post by Dr. Isaacs. Click to listen and read along! Okay. So you're an expert speller. You've already handled the four blog posts about basic vowel sounds, and the post on consonant sounds was a snap, right? Ready to tackle some foreign sounds that aren't native to American English? This may take some practice. And let's be honest...this will also take some willingness on your part to sound or even look a bit foolish. Keep in mind that millions of people around the world make these sounds every…

Read More

THE ADJECTIVE SUFFIXES -CEOUS / -CIOUS / -TIOUS

Audio blog post by Dr. Isaacs. Click to listen and read along! For many spellers, the three adjective suffixes -ceous / -cious / -tious can provide a world of confusion. The main reason is that all three have the same pronunciation: \shəs\. With this post, I hope the confusion can end, once and for all. These three adjective suffixes can actually be differentiated quite simply. (This rule is certainly more straightforward than the rules dictating -able vs. -ible!) -ceous This suffix, which is Latin in origin, is almost exclusively preceded…

Read More

CHEMICAL ELEMENTS

Audio blog post by Dr. Isaacs. Click to listen and read along! The list of chemical elements on the periodic table is a perennial favorite of spellers and word panelists alike. It's an easy list to gather, and it's full of words that run the gamut from very easy to nearly inscrutable. In fact, when Paideia first replaced the first iteration of Words of the Champions in 1995, a list of elements was one of the very first ones to appear in its pages. Here are a few guidelines to…

Read More

-ABLE VS. -IBLE – PART 4

Spelling correctly is possible street sign

Audio blog post by Dr. Isaacs. Click to listen and read along! Well! We've reached the end! Almost. So far, we've explored three aspects of the -able/-ible spelling conundrum. We've learned that -able is, by far, the more common of the two suffixes - and therefore, a better choice if you're guessing a spelling. We've learned that if you can think of a similar suffix to add to the end of a word, the first letter of that similar suffix should point the way to the correct choice of -able…

Read More

-ABLE VS. -IBLE – PART 3

Audio blog post by Dr. Isaacs. Click to listen and read along! Whew! This is a long-winded answer to such a fundamental spelling question, right? Well, we have revealed some good insights on how to tackle this most troublesome of suffixes. Let's attack the words that end in -able. We'll finish the -ible words in our next and final post. Words that end in -able: the most basic rule Usually, if you have a word in English, you can just add the suffix -able, and you'll be in good shape.…

Read More

-ABLE VS. -IBLE – PART 2

Audio blog post by Dr. Isaacs. Click to listen and read along! In Part 1 of this post, we established that, purely from a statistical perspective, if confronted with a word that may end in -able or -ible, you'd be much better off guessing -able. But spellers are not necessarily statisticians. So let's go to a more linguistic argument. Similar suffixes and -ible One reliable way to determine which suffix to spell involves looking at other suffixes. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you're looking at the word…

Read More

-ABLE VS. -IBLE – PART 1

Hard to decide whether to spell -ible or -able

Audio blog post by Dr. Isaacs. Click to listen and read along! Welcome to what is probably the one spelling question spellers ask me more than any other. If you get a word that ends in what the dictionary shows as \əbəl\, do you spell it -able or -ible? For example, is it corrodable or corrodible? Acceptable or acceptible? Divisable or divisible? And once you figure out which of the spellings is correct...why is it correct? And how can we apply a pattern or a rule to other words for…

Read More

SPELLING COMPOUND WORDS

Audio blog post by Dr. Isaacs. Click to listen and read along! The English language - and by this, I mean pure English, not touched by Latin or French or any other language - loves its compound words. (For that matter, so do other Germanic languages, like Dutch and German.) These are words created simply by putting two words together. Sometimes, one of these original words may not be very common, but the compound word that contains it is common. Most of the time, the spelling of each of the…

Read More