WORDS in English are made from symbols and symbol combinations.
Unlike many other languages, some of these symbols and symbol combinations produce different sounds in different words.
This multi-sound attribute can make it difficult to know what sound is being made in a word and how a particular word should be pronounced.
That difficulty is evident when one compares the sounds made by the consonants “c”, “g”, “s” and “x” in captain, citizen, six, sure, treasure, gun, giraffe box, exit, xylophone and X-ray.
Other consonants that make more than one sound are “n”, “q”, “y” and “l”, while some consonants sometimes make no sound at all, ie. they are silent consonants.
Examples: honest, know, receipt, listen, bomb, calm, iron, island, indict.
Sounding the vowels
The problem becomes greater when the different sounds made by the vowels are also put into consideration.
·The eight “a” sounds: cat — ape — want — saw — ask — about — air — orange.
·The five “e” sounds: egg — eat — eight— chateau — pretty.
·The four “i” sounds: sit — side — radio— onion.
·The eight “o” sounds:hot — goat — son —two — woman —
corn — women —colonel.
·The seven “u” sounds:hut — unit — rude— put — busy — bury— buy.
·The four semi-vowel
“y” sounds: young— pony — sky —gymnast.
Speakers must also know the different sounds made by symbol combinations, ie., the blends, digraphs and multi-symbol combinations if they are to be able to pronounce words accurately.
Imagine the problems a person would encounter pronouncing some of the common “ch” words like chimney, Christmas, architect and choir if it was not known that “ch” can make different sounds.
by Keith Wright, the author and creator of the 4S Approach To Literacy and Language (4S).