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Curious English spelling patterns: the versatile letter <e>

What is <e> doing in these words?!

scathe

made

love

ice

egg

feet

feat

judge

 

Venezky (1999) discusses how the letter <e> often serves as a  “marker” for a specific letter-sound pattern. "For example, <v> does not normally occur in final position in English; where it would, a final <e> has been added (e.g., have, love)."  (p. 78)  

 Here are some of the patterns:

<-ve>

 “After what would otherwise be a final <v> or <u>, an <e> is added. This practice developed during the Middle English period, partly because of the graphical identity of <u> and <v>.  Examples include love, glue, have, plague, glove, and continue. “  (p. 86.)

 

<-ge> and <-ce>

The <e> is a marker for the “soft’ sound of the consonant.  (age, fleece)

 

<-the>

The <e> is a marker for the voiced sound of <th>  (bathe)

 

<-se>

The <e> is a marker for the marker for an /s/ sound as opposed to the /z/ sound  (tense vs, tens)

 

REFERENCES

Venezky, R. (1999) The American Way of Spelling: The Structure and Origin of American English Orthography.

Children of the Code interview with Dr. Richard Venezky -  http://www.childrenofthecode.org/interviews/venezky.htm

 

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