Consonant spelling patterns

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English spelling is notoriously complex, with complex mappings of spelling patterns onto sounds. This is due to the complex history of English, having been influenced by Old German, Old French, modern French, Latin, Greek, Spanish, and other languages. Thus, English spelling reflects the sounds and spellings of the various languages from which much of its vocabulary has derived. Unfortunately, these are not generally taught in academic English courses.

The following are fairly common sound-spelling or orthographic-phonological correspondences in English sounds, especially in academic English. Some of these are place names transcribed in other languages, e.g., 'Chicago' is a native American word transcribed by French settlers, hence the spelling. Caveat: Complex word derivations across multiple languages and complex phonological histories mean that this chart may be a bit oversimplified.

Spelling Sound Pattern/source Examples
c /s/ Latin ceiling, century
c /k/ Latin cantata, recant
ch /ʧ/ Old English charming, chance, change, chart, cherry
ch /k/ Greek psychology, psychiatric, chiasm, ischiatic
ch /ʃ/ French (Old & Modern) Michelle, chanson, champaign, Chicago, Michigan
g /g/ Old English great
g /g/ Latin aggregate
g /ʤ/ Latin intelligent
g /ʤ/ Greek genetic, androgynous
g /ʒ/ French (Modern) rouge, beige
g /g/ Greek, via German gynecology
gh (silent) Old English though, sigh, sight, thought
gh /f/ Old English tough, rough; trough
gh /g/ Old English ghost, ghoul
gh /g/ various languages ghurka, ghetto
gn- /n/ Old English / Old Germanic gnaw
gn- /n/ Greek gnostic (cf. non-initial, e.g., agnostic)
j /ʤ/ Latin eject
kn- /n/ Old English / Old Germanic know, knave
ph /f/ Greek physics, phenomenon, schizophrenic, phycology, nephritic, anaphase, anaphylactic, acrophobia
pn /n/ Greek pneumatic, pneumonia, pneumonococcus
ps /s/ Greek psychiatric, psoriasis, psychological, pseudonym
q(u) /kw/ Latin query, quote, quadratic, eloquent
q /k/ Arabic (& Hebrew) Qatar; burqa (burka); qoph
rh /r/ Greek rhythm, diarrhea, rhetoric, rhotic, rhinology, hemorrhagic
x /z/ Greek xylophone, xylose
x /ks/ Latin ataxia, taxonomy. laxity, extra, fix, exaggerate
x /ks/ Old English, Latin box, X-ray
y /y/ Old English yelp, yellow
y /i/ Greek dysentery, mycology
y /i/ Old English healthy
z /ts/ Greek schizoid, schizophrenic
z /ts/ Italian pizza, mozzarella
z /z/ Old English buzz, buzzard


1 See also


1.1 Other pages

Portal:Phonology