B is for Bridge

This bridge spans the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Canada.
This bridge spans the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Canada.

The Letter B

B is a consonant and may be spelled, “bee”.

B is derived from the Greek letter beta and the Phoenician and Hebrew, beth. The original meaning of beth was “house”.

Beta means second. For example, the beta version of software is the next version, usually on trial and somewhat incomplete.

Silent Bs

Words with a silent b include

bdellium (a mineral), and subtle.

Words that end in bt

debt, doubt

Words that end in mb

bomb, climb, comb, crumb, door jamb, dumb, lamb, limb, numb, plumb, succumb, thumb, tomb, womb

Note that words ending in bt or mb keep the silent b, even with the addition of suffixes.

debtor, bomber, plumber

Exceptions

limber, timber [pronounce the b]

 

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.