How Do You Spell Language?

December 1, 2023
David Sunnyside

Impeccable spelling skills are one of the most important things a writer can possess. It makes the writing look professional and it also allows the reader to trust what the author has written.

However, English spelling is so irregular that it can seem like total chaos. Fortunately, it does have some order behind the chaos. The first three principles reveal how the spelling of words is related to their language of origin, sound structure, and meaning.

English is a multilingual language that has absorbed sounds, letters, and words from several other core languages, including Anglo-Saxon, Norman French, Latin, and Greek. These core languages each contributed their own conventions for spelling speech sounds, syllables, and meaningful parts of words.

For example, the letter g can be spelled either with its hard sound (as in gem and guide) or soft sound (as in guest and gym). The distinction between these two spellings is based on a rule that says g cannot appear before the vowel letters e, i, or y.

Another example of an English spelling convention is the way we spell the phoneme /k/. The letter k can be spelled as c, ck, qu, or ch. These differences are related to the fact that English syllables can be open or closed. The open syllables usually have a long vowel sound and end with a consonant (as in program, camp, and hostel). The closed syllables have short vowels and end with an a or a vowel sound, such as pan, must, and tan.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
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