A is for Aphids

Hemiptera, aphids, plant lice
These unusually red aphids are attacking a plant in Edwards Gardens, Toronto.

Vowel—vowel combinations
Read through the two lists, below, and note that it is the first letter in a vowel–vowel combination that dominates the pronunciation.

List 1

aa, aardvark

ae, aerate

ai, air

ao, aorta

au, auburn

List 2

aa, Aaron (boy’s name)

ea, meat

ia, striate

oa, float

ua, actual

Special reading assignment

  1. “Ambition is putting a ladder against the sky.”                          —American proverb.

 

A is for Asparagus

asparagus
In springtime, you can find asparagus for sale at the local greengrocer.

A is for alliteration
Alliteration repeats the same sound at the beginning of words close enough to produce a kind of rhyming effect. Usually, an alliteration features consonants rather than vowels, but with a little creativity, you can create an alliteration for a vowel.

Exercise

Practise alliterative sentences to strengthen your reading skills. The fun is to see how fast you can go. Here is an example:

An aardvark ate ants, on an African afternoon.

A is for Alvar

alvar
This alvar is near Ottawa, Ontario.

Alvars can be found around Canada’s National Capital Region.

Some letter combinations

ae— is found in words derived from Latin and may have different pronunciations, depending on regional dialects.

Aesop (an ee sound)

palaeontology  (ee or A sound)

aerial (ai sound)

aesthetic (soft e sound)

ar ─ The letter R may change the pronunciation (this is called an R-controlled vowel).

arch, arbour, archangel, argon, argument, ark, arm, art

Exceptions:  Arab, arid, arise, array, arrest, arrive

au─  The au letter combination is not pronounced the same way each time. A diphthong is a way to slide a sound. Try these out.

auburn, auction, audio, August, aura, Australia, auto, automatic, autumn, because, caught, cause, clause, daughter, faucet, fault, Paul, sauce, taught, taut, vault

In some ─au─ words, this letter combination is not pronounced as a diphthong.

aunt, beautiful, quay (pronounced key)

The aw  and ay combinations are also diphthongs. Try these words.

aw

caw, claw, crawl, dawn, draw, flaw, gnaw, hawk, jaw, law, lawn, macaw, paw, pawn, raw, slaw, straw, thaw, Warsaw, yawn

ay

ay, aye (yes), ayah (Hindu nurse)

air─ is a common combination in many words. Are these diphthongs?

chair, fair, hair, lair, pair, stair

Exception:  naïve [French]

all─ is a common combination in many words.

all, allow, ball, fall, hall, small, wall

alt─ is a common combination in many words.

alternate, cobalt, halt, malt, salt

alk─ is a common combination in many words.

alkaline, chalk, stalk, talk, walk

Exercises

  1. Read through the lists of words. Can you think of any more to add in each category?
  2. Play with the words a little. Act them out. Write them up in the air using your left hand and your right. Write them down on paper.
  3. Listen to your friends. Do they pronounce the letter a differently? Which words do they pronounce and how? What do you prefer?

Special reading assignment

An alvar is a limestone plain with little or no soil and unique vegetation.

A is for Another Ape

Gorrilla
It’s time for a snack at the Toronto Zoo.

Suffixes

There are many suffixes that begin with the letter a. This table provides the meaning of each suffix and some examples.

a  usually indicates a Latin noun in the singular.

agenda, diploma

able creates an adjective, fit for doing or able to be.

adorable, capable, valuable

ably creates an adverb, fit for doing or able to be.

adorably, inevitably, probably

aceae used to form the names of plant families.

Aceraceae [maples]

ade  creates a noun describing action done, something produced.

parade, blockade, lemonade

ae  at the end of a scientific name, signals the taxonomic level, Family.

Falconidae [falcons], Picidae [woodpeckers]

ae  at the end of a Latin noun: feminine, plural.

alumnae, algae

al or  ─ally  creates an adjective or descriptor.

formal, formally

an or ─ane  creates an adjective or descriptor.

reptilian, Anglican, urbane

ance  creates a noun describing a quality, state, instance, or action.

arrogance, chance, trance

ang  the past tense of verbs ending in ing.

ring, rang; sing, sang

ant  creates an adjective that attributes an action or state.

expectant, flippant, pendant

ant  creates a noun describing an agent of action.

assistant, deodorant

arch  denotes a kind of ruler.

matriarch, monarch

ate  resembling, having (or with) characteristics.

laminate, pontificate

ative  of, relating to, or associated with.

talkative, narrative, sedative

Exercises

1. Are you able to think of how to use any of these suffixes as prefixes? Try to think of some words, e.g., anterior.

A is for Aster

Flower

Asters are like living asterisks.

You may see the similarity between an aster, an asterisk, and a star.

Another special character or symbol is the “at sign” (@), which we use most often in an e-mail address, e.g., janedoe@serviceprovider.com.

Traditionally, the at sign is used for listing prices in an inventory or invoice, and means “at the rate of”.

e.g., 5 apples @ .50 = $2.50.

A is for Ape

Orangutan
A young orangutan discovers water at the Toronto Zoo.

Prefixes

The meaning of the following common prefixes may help you both to understand words and to build them.

Prefixes

a— stands for on, in, or at

atop, alike

a— onward or away (especially for verbs of motion)

arise, awake

a— not or without

amoral, agnostic

a— to or into a state

agree, avenge

ab— off, away, or from

absent, abstain

ad— to, towards, addition, or change into

adapt, adhere, advance

aero— air or aviation

aerate, aerobics, aeroplane

al, all— everyone or everything

all-day, all night, all-purpose, all right

almost, alone, already, also, altogether

al— to, towards, addition, or change into (similar to ad—)

alliterate, allocate, allotment, allow

an— without or not

anarchy, anorexia

an—  on, adjacent, or attached

ancestor, anchor, ankle

ambi— both, around, or uncertain

ambidextrous, ambiguous

ana— anew, again, up, or back

analyst, analogy

ante— before

antecedent, antedate

anti— opposite, against

antibody, anticlockwise

arch— superior

archbishop, archduke

Exercise

  1. Can you think of more examples for each prefix?

A is for Apple Blossom

Apple tree in bloom
A crab apple tree in full blossom, a joy to all passers-by.

 A is for alphabetic.

There are many ways to organize things: alphabetic, numeric, alphanumeric, chronological, or by priority or importance.

To alphabetise means to put a list of things into alphabetic or alphanumeric order, letter-by-letter or word-by-word. Computers alphabetise lists automatically, placing special characters first, then numbers, then letter-by-letter. Computers may have a “stop list” of little words that don’t count, e.g., a, an, the, to. Dictionaries and phone books usually place special characters and numbers within the alphabet as if they were spelled out.

Letter by letter

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Word by word

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