Monday, October 14, 2013

English spelling rules: why?

Why are English speaking rules so different, from word to word? Some letters sound different when they are next to each other than they sound with other letters. When “r” comes before “i” they make a sound like “ring.” But if “I” comes before “r” they make a sound like in “bird.” “Bird” sounds like “heard,” but one uses “ir” and the other, “ear.” Then if “ear” is followed by “d” as in “heard,” it’s pronounced different than “ear” when it’s just those three letters, meaning “the thing on the side of your head that you use to hear!” We have to memorize patterns, so we can organize the right letters for each word!

So let’s pause and think.

English is made from pieces of different languages. The Greeks had one letter, theta, to stand for a “th” sound, as in “earth.” So when you used your “ear,” you “heard” a sound like “earth” has. The Romans created our alphabet, so it uses “th” in place of the letter for “theta.”

Letters together in different ways make different sounds, just like colors mixed together make different colors. Red mixed with yellow makes orange, but red plus blue makes purple. A guitar and flute together make a different sound than a drum and a flute.

Just as colors, music, or even chemicals make specific results in different combinations, sounds come from different languages. They all come together, words and sounds from different times and places, written in one twenty-six letter alphabet. Each word needs sounds made from different rules. Just as people come from all over the world to make one America, sounds come from with meanings from everywhere---to create one English language!

(This is my write-up for my nine year old writing student. What do you think?)

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