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Topic 10B – Spelling English language codes. Sound-spelling relationship. Proposals for the teaching of writing code. Applications spelling in written productions.

This unit is about English orthography, how it changes depending on the morphological functions of words.

The topic is divided into six different sections:

– The first section is a brief introduction.

– The second one is the orthographic codes.

– The third one is the relationship between sound and letter.

– The fourth one is where we are going to talk about different activities to improve the pupil’s writing.

– The fifth one is the conclusion.

– And the last section is the bibliography.

As an introduction to this topic we can say that English orthographic system was fixed between the 8th and 9th centuries.

In English there is no a univocal system of orthographic reference for all the different sounds such as in Spanish. This is due to the evolution of the phonological system and the evolution of the written system which took place in different centuries.

The written system took place between 14th and 15th, whereas phonological one appeared between 18th and 19th.

Now we are going to go on the next point, which deals with spelling codes. I am going to talk about the main orthographic rules in English, but of course, there are so many that it would be impossible to remember each one of them.

I will start by these concerning capital letters.

The initial letter of the following cases must be written in capital:

– Days, months and bank holidays.

– People first name and places.

– Mr, Miss, Mrs, Dr.

– Countries, places of origin and language.

– The first written word of tittles in books, films, places, etc, as well as the rest of initial except prepositions and articles.

I will continue with plural formation. Plural is usually formed by adding –s to the singular. But there are some cases which must be named:

– When singular words end in –y and when preceded by a consonant will change to –i and will add –es. ( lady/ ladies). But –y when preceded by a vowel will just add –s. ( boy/ boys)

– When singular words end in –ch, -sh, -s, -x, -z,-o, in plural formation will end in –es. ( church / churches). But ending in –o of foreign origin just adding –s.( piano/pianos)

– Among the words ending in –f, -fe there are three different solutions:

· there are twelve nouns which form their plural by changing –f , -fe to –ves. ( knife/knives)

· nouns such as scarf, wharf and hoof form their plural just adding

-s, or –ves indistinctively. ( scarfs/ sacarves).

· other words ending in –f, -fe form their plural just adding –s. (safe/safes).

– There are other nouns which form their plural by means of a vocalic change. ( man /men). (an exception, child/children).

– There are nouns which do not admit any plural feature. Animal species, (fish).

– To sum up the plural point I will includ all those cases which don’t follow the rules for several reasons:

· Some words have only singular forms, (news, knowledge)

· Others always have plural form, ( police, glasses, clothes)

· Words ending in –ics, (mathematics). But when they are referred as sciences they are considered as singular words.

· There are words with plural form but the verb accompanying them is singular.( news)

– Words of foreign origin.

Greek and Latin words which are kept exactly the same change to plural according to the rules of the language where they come from. (terminus/termini).

However, there is an increasing tendency to assimilate those very common words to the English plural formation. (dogma/dogmas).

Sometimes both forms, that of origin and the English one co-exist, but the meaning is different. (index/ indexes/ indices)

– Compounds. In compound words is normally the last word the one which adds the plural form. (armchair/ armchairs).

· If the first part of a compound word is man or woman, both parts will take plural form. ( men students)

· When compounds words have been formed by prepositions or adverbs only the first part of the noun takes plural form.(brothers in law)

· When the last part of a compound word is an adjective, the first word is the one taking plural form. (courts martial)

· Abbreviations may also take plural form. (WIPs)

After having seen plural formation, we are going to look at duplication of final consonants.

When we add the following endings: -ed, -ing, -er, -est, to a word in order to form compounds, the final consonant duplicates whenever it is –b, -d, -g, -l, -m, -n, -p, -r, -t. (rob/ robber)

Nevertheless, there are cases where the consonants don’t duplicate even though the circunstances stated above are given. (open/ opening).

It is due to the fact that the consonant duplicates only when the accent falls on the last syllable of the word.

Another item will be the suffix –ly.

The addition of this suffix to an adjective makes it become a manner adverb. (nice /nicely)

The addiction of this suffix sometimes implies an orthographic change in some words.

– When a word ends in –y will change to –i. (happy / happily)

– If an adjective ends in –le will change its ending to –ly. ( possible / possibly)

– If the adjective ends in –ic when adding –ly a vowel –a also be added. ( tragic /tragically)

– Exceptions to this rule are: ( truly, publicly)

Now the change of –y to –i. Apart of the rules already stated above, there are some more changes:

– Whenever any suffix is added to any word ending in –y, it will change to –i . (hurry / hurried, easy / easier)

– Exceptions, a suffix beginning in –i such as –ism, -ish, -ize, -ing makes –y be kept. ( boy / boyish). Except ( say/said, lay/laid, pay /paid)

– Words ending in –ie change this ending to –y before –ing. ( die/ dying, lie/ lying).

Another item is numerals.

Hundred, thousand, million, when used as a specific number have no plural form. ( six hundred people)

However plural must be used when the idea of a large non specific number is given. ( hundreds of years)

One more orthographic rule in English is weights and measures.

– Ounce, pound and ton take –s when used as nouns. Stone doesn’t take plural.( two pounds of sugar, my weigh is five stone).

· Numerals never take –s when used as compound adjectives. ( six-pound note).

-Length measures usually take plural –s. ( six inches, two miles). Foot and feet may be used.

· never these measures change to plural when used as compounds. (a ten mile walk, a six foot quilt).

One more rule is –e in final position.

– We omit it when adding a suffix beginning with a vowel. ( write/ writing). This doesn’t happen when the word ends in –ee. ( disagree/ disagreeable).

– When a word ends in –ce and the suffix –ous is added then –e changes to –i. ( vice/ vicious).

– If a suffix beginning with a consonant is added, then –e is kept. ( hope / hopeful).

– Except in some words: true/ truly, argue/ argument.

Another rule in spelling is the suffix –full.

The suffix –full loses the last consonant when added to a word to form an adjective. ( beauty/ beautyful).

The original suffix is kept when adverbs from these adjectives are formed.

( beautiful / beautifully).

When the words to which the suffix is added ends in –ll one of them will be lost. ( skill/ skilful).

Ise or –ize in final position is another rule.

Both groups –ise, .ize appearing in some English verbs may sometimes be used indistinctly. ( computerise / computerize).

The written form –ize is preferred but with some exceptions.

– Two syllable words. ( revise, advise).

– The following words.( advertise, improvise, exercise)

– Nevertheless –ise is used more in British English, and –ize is more in American English.

The last rule we are going to mention is hyphened compouns, but as we said before there are too much rules that is impossible to explain each one.

– Compound adjectives are usually joined by a hyphen. ( blue-eyed).

– A group of words which are commonly used as adjectives before a noun are also joined by a hyphen. ( a five-pound note).

– Hyphen is also used in group of words forming a compound whose first word is the stressed one.

Once having studied some orthographic rules in English we are going to move onto the next point in the topic which deal with the relationship between sound and orthography.

Whereas the English written form starts to be fixed during the 8th and 9th centuries, the phonological system takes a more or less fixed structure about 18th and 19th centuries.

This fact makes almost impossible to establish a correct correspondence between phonemes and letters, in order to have a model to follow both when writing what we hear and when pronouncing what we read.

When an equivalence is observed and we try to systematise it, exceptions are so many than it is useless to establish a rule.

Nevertheless, among the very few equivalences we will point out the following:

– At the end of a word and after a vowel, both phonemes /k/ and /tf/ may be represented by –ck and -tch. ( pack, watch)

– After a consonant or two vowels both phonemes /k/ and /tf/ are usually represented by –k and –ch.( bank, bench).

– The vocalic phoneme /i:/ is frequently written –ie and in some cases –ei. ( believe, ceiling).

– The consonantal group –gh usually represented the phoneme /f/. Sometimes it is no pronounced. ( cough, enough). Exception ( although)

– The phoneme /k/ is represented by –ch when it is in between-vowel position. ( headache)

– The letter a is read as /e/ in: any, many.

– The letters ea are read as /e/ in : breakfast, head.

– In other cases the letters ea are pronounced /ei/. (steak).

– The vowel o is pronounced as /^/ in : mother.

– The phoneme /^/ may be also represented by the letters ou: country.

– The letter u is read as /u/: put.

– The phoneme /ai/ corresponds to several different letters: buy, dial.

– There are letters which in particular positions within the word don’t represented any phoneme, they are not pronounced, ‘ silent letter’.

· L, should, walk.

· T, preceded by s, castle, listen.

· W and K in initial position when following by a consonant: writer, knife.

· G, sign, campaign.

· Consonants B, N preceded by M, plumber, autumn.

· H, when, where.

· R after a vowel makes the vowel be long, car, iron.

– We can find three-syllable written words, the stress falls on the first one and the central vowel is not pronounced. ( evening) .

– As far as plurals are concerned, the regular ending is –(e)s has three different pronunciations:

· After /s/, /z/, /f/, /tf/ and /d3/ the plural ending is –es, which corresponds with the phoneme /iz/. ( buses).

· After any voiceless phoneme /p/, /f/, /Q/, /t/ and /k/ the plural ending –(e)s corresponds with the phoneme/s/. (caps).

· After all the vowels and voiced consonants the plural ending –(e)s correspond with the phoneme /z/. (plays).

· Exceptions to this rule are found in words where the plural ending affects the pronunciation of the word root.(house).

– Third person singular of the present of verbs and possessive case followed these rules above.

I should like to say that it is difficult to establish rules for the pronunciation of words in English that students should learn.

To follow with this topic we are going to analyse some proposals for the teaching of the written code. And also, orthographic applications in written productions.

We shall start this section by saying that the pupils to whom we are teaching the foreign language in the first year are likely to have problems when reading or writing their own mother tongue. Therefore, introducing them a new writing code may be confusing for them. We must also consider that in real life they write very little, even in their mother tongue, that is why we propose that the students should start by copying words.

Which serves as a starting- point for making this activity enjoyable or boring and monotonous.

– We can try to avoid it by giving them a card with drawing and card with words related to these drawings, they only have to combine the words with the drawings, by copying both in their notebook.

– We can also give them a strip of comics with the chosen words and the students will have to insert the words in the speaking bubbles of each comic. Matching pictures to speech bubbles.

– Another activity is called word machines, consisting of obtaining one word by means of two or more transformations of a previously given word. ( pin from den).

– We may also ask the students to group the words containing two or more equal letters in different order.

– We may give them groups of four or five words in which one of them is not correctly written and they will have to find one and tell why it is incorrect.

– Another rather successful game is called hangman, where we can eliminate as many elements as we think necessary according to the difficulty of the words for our student’s level. Similar to this game is the shark with stairs.

– We cam also use crosswords or word games focused on words about a particular topic. It is useful for warming up and relaxing activities.

– Another game is ‘I spy with my little eye’ which has endless possibilities of explotation. With good level, make sentences with mistakes and students have to correct them.

– The well-known game ‘noughts and crosses’ may be adapted to our orthographic needs.

– We find also very valuable the use of a dictionary. It is convenient to have a dictionary in the class. Tasks and games in groups or pairs are particularly useful, that is, when the teacher plays the role of a facilitator. Another encouraging task for the students is to make their own dictionary where they can include the vocabulary already studied in class.

– In order to make the students aware of how difficult it is the relationship between sounds and letters we can also make colleges where to include drawings referred to a word which they know both the orthography and the pronunciation and then add a short clue referred to a different word which is pronounced the same and, however, is written differently.

After having studied some proposals to achieve orthographic rules in English, we are going to finish the topic with a brief conclusion.

It will be interesting that all these different changes produced must be taught little by little, and also in an enjoyable way to motivate students, otherwise they will reject them because they will find them too difficult to be assimilated.