J is for Joe Pye Weed

Eupatorium purpureum
Joe Pye Weed grows along the shores of lakes and rivers, preferring damp places with rich soil.

How to say J

The letter J is pronounced as a soft g or “dzh”, regardless of the following letter.

jar, jelly, join, jug

English words do not end in the letter J. Words ending in a “dzh” sound are spelled with a g followed by an e to make a soft g or j sound.

edge, forge, fudge, sludge

Exceptions:

hadj [Arabic], raj [Hindi]

In some words and names of foreign derivation, a j is pronounced as a y.

hallelujah [Latin] (var. of allelulia [Greek])

Jung [name of Swiss or German derivation]

Juan [name of Spanish derivation]

Marja-Liisa [name of Finnish derivation]

fjord [Norwegian] (var. of fiord)

Silent Js

There are no silent Js in English, except where foreign words have been adopted.

marijuana [Mexican Spanish]

rijsttafel [Dutch]

Exercises

  1. Create a sentence with as many J-words as possible.

Special reading assignments

Two kinds of Joe Pye Weed are common in our area: spotted and sweet. The spotted variety has purple spots on the stems; the sweet smells of vanilla if you crush it.

 

H is for Hens and Chickens

Sempervivum sp.
This succulent garden plant is very hardy. Perhaps you call it a house leek.

Letter combinations

The letter H combined with other letters creates new sounds.

ch—  The H changes the sound of C.

chat, cheese, church, witch

Exception

choir

dh—  The H softens the sound of D a little.

dharma, dhow

 Exception

In compound words, the d and h are pronounced.

childhood

gh— The H is silent.

gherkin, ghost

gh —  The H changes the G to sound like an F.

cough, laugh, slough (pronounced sluff, meaning to shed one’s skin)

gh  The GH combination maybe silent.

eight, slough (pronounced slew, meaning a wetland), through

kh—  The H is silent.

khaki, Khyber Pass

ph—  The H changes the P to sound like an F.

pharmacy, philosophy

Exception

In compound words, the p and h are pronounced.

shepherd

rh—  The H is silent.

rhapsody, rhesus

sh—  The H changes the sound of S.

share, sheep, shore

th—  The H changes the sound of T.

thanks, the, then, thick, thin, thud

Exception

In names, anything can happen.

Anthony, Thomas

wh—  The H changes the sound of W.

what, when, where, who, why

Exercises

  1. Look for letter combinations in words in a book or newspaper. Say them out loud.
  2. Create your own alliteration using one or more of the letter combinations.

Special reading assignment

  1. How do happy hamsters huddle in hutches?
  2. Handymen have hammers.
  3. Hens and chickens are sometimes grown in a thatched roof.

 

G is for Goatsbeard

Tragopogon sp.
Reminiscent of a giant dandelion, goatsbeard grows up to three feet tall.

The sounds of G

Hard G sound

game, get, give, ghee, go, gut, guide

Soft G sound

gene, generate, George, giant, ginger, gyre

Silent G 

G is silent in the gerund ending, —ing,

making, paying, walking

when combined with an n (—gn—) or similarly, an m,

assign, foreign, sign, gnat, gnu

phlegm

and when combined with an h (—gh—). See exceptions below.

flight, nigh, night, right, slough (meaning wetland), weigh

 

Letter combinations

dg— makes a soft G sound.

edge, fidgety, gadget, hedge, judge

ge— makes a soft G sound, similar to J.

gene and jean sound the same

rage, rag

gh— may have different sounds, depending upon the word, or it may be silent (but not a soft G sound).

eight, slough (pronounced slew, meaning a wetland), through

rough, slough (pronounced sluff, meaning to shed one’s skin)

laugh (pronounced laff)

ghee, gherkin (the gh here makes a hard G sound)

gi— may be a soft G sound, similar to J.

giant

logic

Exceptions

gibbon, gild, gingham, give, log-in

gng is silent when followed by an n.

gnaw, gnome, Gnostic, gnu

ing, ung make a nasal sound with a silent g.

king, fling

sung, young

Exercises

  1. Find a text in a newspaper or online. List the words containing the letter G. How do you pronounce them? Make your own sentences with these G words.

Special reading assignment

  1. The gentle gunner gave the growling dog a good gob of gristle.
  2. George begrudged Guy his ill-gotten gains.

E is for Elephant

Loxodonta africana
This African elephant is about to retire from the Toronto Zoo to a sunny place in California.

Silent Es

Truly silent Es do not affect the pronunciation of the word.

are, come, done, ore

English words don’t end in the letter u or v.

blue, cheque, give, have, love

A silent E may serve to create a syllable.

handle, minute (time), pickle, people

A silent letter E affects the vowel that comes before it, making it sound like its name (a hard or long vowel).

Silent E following an A.

bad, bade; cap, cape; fat, fate; late; rat, rate

Silent E following an E.

pet, Pete

Silent E following an I.

line; rip, ripe; spit, spite

Silent E following an O.

hop, hope; not, note; rose

Silent E following a U.

cut, cute; minute (tiny)

Sometimes, the silent E affects the pronunciation of the consonant that comes before it.

Silent E following a C makes an S sound.

lance; place

Silent E following a G makes a J sound.

badge; charge; luggage

Disappearing silent Es

A silent E is sounded once the following suffixes are added to the word:

ed    note, noted; rate, rated

er     cute, cuter; ripe, riper

est    cute, cutest; ripe, ripest

The silent E is also sounded with the following suffix:

age  line, lineage

The silent E disappears with the following suffixes:

able compare, comparable; measure, measurable; value, valuable

age  dose, dosage; pasture, pasturage; store, storage; use, usage

ing   charge, charging; hope, hoping; rate, rating; store, storing

ment abridge, abridgment; argue, argument; judge, judgment (or “judgement”)

The silent E stays put with the following suffixes:

able manage, manageable

age  acre, acreage; mile, mileage

ly     come, comely; late, lately; love, lovely

ment achieve, achievement; move, movement; place, placement

E is for Elderberry

Sambucus
Elderberry bushes are an old-fashioned plant, growing perhaps at the site of an old farmhouse.

How to say E

A hard or long E.

eel, Egypt

Several soft or short E sounds.

elk, everything, exert, forest, rent, web

A flat, short sound.

naked, rely, renew

The E in each of these words has a different sound.

era, the, there, prey, met, England, sew, herb, clerk 

Diphthongs

ew  creates a sliding vowel sound, although it is a vowel—consonant combination.

blew, chew, crew, dew, flew, grew, jewel, knew, news, renew, skew, screw, threw, view

Letter combinations (digraphs)

ea— generally has the same sound as —ee. There are all sorts of exceptions.

Easter, easy, great, meat, peace, zeal

ea— heart

ea— earn, earth, heard, search

ea— head, health, measure, peasant

ea— bear, swear, wear

ea— steak

ea— appeal, arboreal, clear, idea, real, urea

ea— forearm, mileage

ea— bureau, chateau

ee— greet, meet, sleet, wheel

ei— eider, Einstein, either

ei— beige, eight, neigh, vein

ei— conceive, receive

eu— Europe, eureka

eu— museum

eu— neuron

eu— tuneup

Exercises

  1. Using text from a newspaper or book, identify and write down a list of words containing the letter E.
  2. Which of these words has a hard or long e (one pronounced like the letter E)?
  3. Which has a soft e (as in egg)?

Special reading assignment

  1. Eventually everyone exits.
  2. Elderberries make good wine or jelly.
  3. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.

— Monte Python

D is for Drumlin

Glacial landscape feature
A drumlin is a north-south ridge of gravel, the shape of a beached whale.

D is for digraph

 

You can guess at the meaning of digraph because di— means “two” and —graph means “something written.” A digraph is two letters that have one sound. In older forms of English, the two letters might be run together, such as ae (æ). In vowel digraphs, the second letter is usually silent. English dialects introduce some variation in pronunciation.

 

Note: Digraphs are letters.

 

ch         chew

ck        check

dg        judge

ng         doing

sh         shout

th         that, think

ph        pheasant

wh        what, when, where, who

 

ae         archaeology [formerly, archæology]

ai          maid, maintain

au         audit

ay         day, tray

ea         bean, eat, teach

ee         fleece, sweet

ei          eight, receive

ey         key

ie          die

oa        boat, coast

oe        potatoes

oo        book, look

ow       slow

ue         true

D is for diphthong

 

Diphthong also begins with di— for “two”, but the second part of the word is derived from a difficult Greek word, phthong, meaning “sound” but also related to “tongue”.

 

A diphthong is (1) two vowels that act together to create a sliding sound within a syllable (the letters Y and W often act as vowels in this instance). It is also (2) two sounds that slide within one vowel (not a digraph). English dialects introduce some variation in pronunciation.

 

Note: Diphthongs are sounds.

 

a          rate, table

ai          fail, rain

au         daughter, haul

aw        draw, hawk

ea         create, eagle, great

ei          height

ew        dew, jewel, new

ey         convey, obey

i           arrive, high, private, sign

ia          dial, trial

ie          science

io         pioneer, riot, violet

o          ago, no, roll

oe        poet

oi         coil, noise, stoic

oo        cool, fool, moon

ou        out, mouse, soul

ow       down, how, know, throwing

oy        boy, oyster, voyage

ua         casual

 

ue         statue

uy         buyer, Gruyère, guy

y          by, hype, sky

yi          flying, trying

Exercises

  1. Try to pronounce the word diphthong. Do you prefer to say “dip-thong” or “diff-thong”?
  2. Sound out words to identify digraphs and diphthongs. Which ones are the most commonly used?

D is for Daisy

Compositae
Did you ever pluck the petals from a daisy, one by one, “He loves me; he loves me not?”

D is for digraphs, doubles and disappearing

Letter combinations (digraphs)

dg─, usually placed before an e, i, or y, sounds like j.

badge, dodgy, judge, wedge, widget

dh─ is pronounced with a silent h.

dhow, dhoti

Double Ds

English words with double consonants are inconsistent, so there is no reliable rule.

Usually, a double-d serves to signal that the preceding vowel is short rather than long.

buddy, hidden, ladder, wedding

bade, fade, hide, laden, wide

Exceptions:

Sometimes a single d acts as a double-d.

body, credit, educate, study

Three-letter words ending in d usually have a short vowel.

bad, fad, hid, lad, wed

Silent or disappearing Ds

The letter D may or may not be silent or slurred in some words, depending on the dialect of the speaker.

handkerchief, grandson

sandwich, Wednesday, handsome

Exercises

How many words can you think of with double d‘s? Say them out loud.

Now, find similar words with only one d. Does the vowel sound different?

Where do the words, dhow and dhoti, come from?