Elements and Procedures
Teacher's Edition of Chapter 9
Silent Final <e>
Back in Array 22, as you were getting your first data for your Twinning Rule, you also worked with some words where the silent final <e> was deleted when you added a suffix that began with a vowel, as in a word like taping: tap/e + ing. In this chapter and the next we will examine that process, working toward a clear and reliable statement of a Final <e> Deletion Rule. This chapter will discuss the different functions of silent final <e>. The next chapter will discuss how and when final <e> is deleted.
Silent Final <e> as Vowel Marker. A silent final <e> often affects the sound of the preceding vowel. Sort the twelve words in Array 32 according to the vowel sound each contains:
Write a sentence describing how silent final <e> affects the sound of the preceding vowel in these twelve words: In a stem one syllable long silent final <e> will mark a preceding vowel as long.
In order to test and expand the description you just wrote, sort the words in Array 33 into the appropriate blanks:
So far you've seen that a silent final <e> will mark the vowel in front of it as long, if the <e> and the vowel come right together (as in flee, tie, toe, glue, or dye) or if there is only one consonant letter between them (as in mate, site, rode, flute, or style). Sort the words in Array 34 into the appropriate blanks:
Now write a sentence that summarizes what you learned in Array 34 about how many consonants can come between a vowel and a silent final <e> when the final <e> marks the vowel as long: A silent final <e> marks a preceding vowel as long if no more than one consonant comes between the vowel and the <e>.
So far you've seen that a silent final <e> will mark the vowel in front of it as long, if the <e> and the vowel come right together or if there is only one consonant letter between them. There are three groups of words that complicate that conclusion a bit. Look at and pronounce the words in Array 35. Then sort them into the appropriate blanks:
Write a sentence in which you describe how the effect of silent final <e> is unusual in the words that end in the spellings <ange>, <aste>, and <the>. In words that end in <ange>, <aste>, and <the> the silent final <e> will mark the preceding vowel as long even though there are two consonants between the vowel and the <e>.
Look at and pronounce the words in Array 36. Then sort them into the appropriate blanks:
Write a sentence that describes the effect of silent final <e> on the preceding vowels in words that end <le>: In words that end <le> the silent final <e> will mark the preceding vowel as long if there is only one consonant between the vowel and the <le> but not if there are two consonants.
Now write a sentence that summarizes all that you have learned so far about the effect of silent final <e> on the length of a preceding vowel: In words that end <le> a silent final <e> will mark a preceding vowel as long if there is only one consonant between the vowel and the <le> and will mark the <a> long in words ending <aste> and <ange>, but normally it will only mark a vowel as long if no or only one consonant comes between the vowel and the <e>.
The following puzzle contains 16 words, all with a silent final <e>. But be careful: The words run left and right, up and down, and diagonally. They are tightly interwoven and often overlap.
The pattern you just described for silent final <e> as a long vowel marker is a very widespread and powerful pattern in English spelling. It is one of the first patterns you learned, probably, when you started to learn to read.
There is one small complication to the description that we might as well look at. Pronounce these words:
As you read through those twelve words, you should have noticed that although they all behaved exactly as your description of silent final <e> predicts, something else was going on, too. In cute, for instance, you should have heard the expected long [u], but you should also have heard a [y] sound creeping in there. (The sound [y] is the first sound in you.) The [y] creeps in before the long [u]: [kyut]. You can hear it clearly if you compare cute with coot. Or mute with moot.
That extra [y] (which is called a glide) is no big problem. We can simply treat the vowel sounds in cute and coot as two different forms of long <u>. Just remember that although several words have that [y] glide in them, there is no letter <y> spelling it.
Silent Final <e> as a Consonant Marker. Sometimes silent final <e> does not affect the preceding vowel, but does affect the preceding consonant. The sound a consonant spells is often marked by the vowel that follows it.
For instance, the consonant letter <c> spells the sound [s] when it is followed by the vowel letters <i>, <y>, or <e> — including silent final <e>: chancing, chancy, chance; mysticism, choice, farce. A <c> that spells [s] before <e>, <i>, or <y> is called soft <c>.
The consonant letter <c> spells the sound [k] everywhere else, including the end of the word: career, discuss, nucleus, critic, arc. A <c> that spells [k] is called hard <c>.
The letter <g> can also be soft or hard, depending on the letter that follows it. Usually, the letter <g> spells the sound [j] when it is followed by the vowels <i>, <y>, or <e>, especially silent final <e>: gin, gyp, general, lounge, siege. When <g> spells [j], it is called soft <g>. Otherwise, <g> spells [g]— as in gun, gap, fig— and is called hard <g>.
Sort the words in Array 37 into the four groups described:
Write a sentence that describes how silent final <e> affects a preceding <c> or <g>: Silent final <e> marks a preceding <c> or <g> as soft — that is, is pronounced [s] or [j], respectively.
The spelling <th> is also affected by a silent final <e> following it. The spelling <th> is a digraph — that is, two letters working together to spell a single sound and behaving in many ways like a single letter. Notice, for instance, that in the contrast between bath and bathe, the final <e> marks the long <a> just as if <th> were a single letter. But you should also hear a difference in the sounds <th> spells in bath and bathe. The difference is the same as the difference between the <th> in thin and the <th> in this. When they write out these sounds in their pronunciations of words, most dictionaries usually represent the sound in bath and thin with <th> and the sound in bathe and then with <th> in italics or underlined. We will use [th] to represent the sound in bath and thin and [ th ] to represent the sound in bathe and then.
The [th] in bath is voiceless. The [ th ] in bathe is voiced. In voiced sounds the vocal cords vibrate; in voiceless sounds they do not. Sometimes, even if you have trouble hearing the difference between these voiceless and voiced sounds, you can feel the difference. Put your fingers lightly on your throat just up under your chin and say bath. You should feel nothing as you pronounce the [th]. Then say bathe. You should feel some vibration in your throat as you pronounce the [ th ]. The vibrations are caused by your vocal cords.
A silent final <e> will mark a preceding <th> as voiced, pronounced [ th ]. Sort the words in Array 38 into two groups, depending on the sound <th> spells in them. If you're not sure of the sound in a word, check in your dictionary.
Write a sentence that describes the effect of silent final <e> on a preceding <th>: A silent final <e> marks a preceding <th> as voiced, pronounced [ th].
Silent Final <e> as an Insulator. Silent final <e> serves other purposes than marking the sounds of preceding vowels and consonants. Sometimes it is used to keep certain letters from coming at the end of the word. Sort the words in Array 39 into the three groups indicated.
Only sometimes do words ending in <s> have a final consonant sound different from words ending in <se>, as when tens, for instance, is [tenz] while tense is [tens]. But the difference in sound is not always there. Laps and lapse, for instance, both end with a [s] sound. Silent final <e> is important to <s> in a different way.
Look closely at the <s> words in Group 1 in Array 39. What does the <s> mean in these words? Is it part of the base, or is it a suffix? You may find these questions easier to handle if you make up sentences for the words:
The <s> in the words in Group 1 of Array 39 is an inflectional suffix adding either the meaning "more than one, plural" to nouns or the meaning "third person singular present tense" to verbs. However, the <s> in the words in Group 2 is not a suffix; it is part of the base. This leads us to the third use for silent final <e> in English spelling: It is sometimes used to keep a word from ending with a single <s> unless that <s> is in a suffix.
If the <s> has a short vowel right in front of it, another <s> will be added rather than an <e>: mass, mess, miss, moss, muss. Be ready to answer this question: Why do we use a second <s> here rather than an <e>?
So a base that comes at the end of a word and otherwise would end in a single <s> preceded by a consonant or a long vowel will usually have a silent final <e> added, to insulate the single <s> from coming at the end of the word. The same pattern holds for the letter <z>. The letter <z> is fairly rare in English, and the sound [z] is most often spelled <s>. As with <s>, we tend to avoid ending a word with a single <z>. If there is a short vowel preceding the <z>, we add a second <z>, as in fuzz, fizz, and jazz, but if there is a consonant or a long vowel preceding the <z>, we add a silent final <e>, as in bronze, wheeze, and booze.
Back in Array 39, six of the words in Group 3 have a <v> before the silent final <e>. The final <e> does not always affect the sound of the preceding <v>. For reasons that go hundreds of years back into the history of our language, we avoid ending words with <v>. Long ago <v> and <u> were actually different forms of the same letter. So the pattern for <v> extends to <u> today as well. We use silent final <e> to insulate an otherwise word-final <v>, and except for a few recent foreign borrowings — like gnu, bayou, and tabu — we also use it to insulate an otherwise word-final <u>, as in plaque, tongue, league, statuesque.
Fossil Final <e>. The silent final <e>'s that mark or insulate consonants and vowels make up most of the final <e>'s you'll meet in English — most, but not all.
Look at the spelling of the fifteen words in Array 40a. Pronounce each of them. If you're not sure of a pronunciation, check your dictionary. Then sort them into the two groups described. You should find four words in which final <e> is marking or insulating vowels or consonants. They go into Group 1. In the other eleven words the final <e> does not mark or insulate a vowel or consonant. These eleven go into Group 2.
If you can't make up your mind about a word, try writing it without the final <e> and deciding how it would be pronounced if it were spelled that way. If the pronunciation doesn't seem to change, then the final <e> does not mark a consonant or vowel sound. If the word minus the final <e> doesn't end with a <u>, <v>, or a single <s> or <z>, the final <e> is not insulating anything either — and the word belongs in Group 2.
The eleven words in Group 2 of Array 40a came from French, where final <e> has some functions quite different from its functions in English. For example, in French final <e> marks feminine words: Un voisin, "a neighbor," is masculine, but une voisine, "a neighbor," is feminine. Since French does not pronounce most final consonants, the final <e> will often affect the pronunciation. Thus, absent, "away," (masculine) is pronounced [opsóng] (more or less), with stress on the second vowel and the <t> silent. But absente, "away," (feminine) is pronounced [opsónt] (again more or less), still with stress on the second vowel, but now with a final [t] sound. Many French words borrowed into English retain their French spellings even though the final <e> does not retain its French function and very often does not serve any normal English function. These borrowed words, with their fossilized final <e>'s might be called words with "French Fossil <e>'s."
In the "English" column below fill in the eleven words from Group 2 in Array 40, and then in the "French" column fill in the French spelling for each word. You will find the French spellings in the words' etymologies. If your dictionary says "French" and doesn't give you any French word, you can assume that the French word was spelled like the English:
Array 41 gives you a chance to work with some more words with French fossil <e>'s. Sort the words into the two groups described:
The Short Word Rule. For centuries there has been a tendency in English spelling to keep the two-letter words — such as be, is, to, and an — to a small, select group. That's one reason we have otherwise unnecessary final double-consonants — such as in egg, ebb, add, and err. Also some silent final <e>s appear at the ends of words to keep them longer than two letters, so we have, for instance, gee rather than <ge>. This tendency to double consonants in words like egg or add otherwise unnecessary final <e>'s to words like gee is due to the Short Word Rule. Sort the words in Array 42 into the two groups described.
Back in Middle English times (from about the 12th through the 15th centuries) final <e> was not silent. It was pronounced as a separate weak syllable. Over the years the final <e> fell silent though it tended to stay in the spelling. (In general, spelling does not change as fast as speech.) So we have a number of words with fossil final <e>'s that were once but are no longer pronounced. Of those words, the eight you put into Group 2 in Array 42 are perhaps the most important.
Final <e> after Unstressed Vowels. Silent final <e> only marks a preceding vowel as long if that vowel has either primary or secondary stress. It does not mark as long a preceding vowel with weak stress. Pronounce the following sentences carefully and notice the sound and stress pattern of the underlined words:
All of the underlined words in the six sentences contain the derivational suffix -ate›, which forms verbs and adjectives. In the three (a) sentences the underlined words are used as adjectives; in the (b) sentences, as verbs. As the words are used differently, the stress shifts, and thus the pronunciation of -ate› changes.
In Array 43 mark the primary and secondary stresses and the pronunciation of -ate› in intimate and the other five words as they have been marked for elaborate. Try at first on your own. Then check your ear against the stress patterns and pronunciations in your dictionary.
The list below contains a number of other words with the -ate› suffix. Find six other words in the list that can function as both adjectives and verbs, and add them to the appropriate columns in the array. Mark their stress patterns and the pronunciation of -ate›:
If it is "normal" for final <e> to mark a long vowel, does the adjective or the verb have the "normal" pronunciation of -ate? The verb
The cases where -ate› is pronounced [it] can be explained by stress-shifting. In the adjective forms the vowel in -ate› is weakly stressed. And the silent final <e> only marks a preceding vowel as long if that vowel has either primary or secondary stress, as it always does in the verbs with the suffix -ate›. Strange as it may seem, the letter <a> in a weakly stressed syllable often spells [i], especially in the suffixes -ate›, -age›, and -ace›, as in words like adequate, manage, and furnace.
Find six words in the list in Array 43 that can function as nouns and write them into Array 44:
Are nouns that end with the suffix -ate› usually pronounced like the adjectives or like the verbs? The adjectives
The words in Array 45 all contain the suffix -ite›. Sort them into the four groups indicated. The words that go into Group 4 are words that can function as either adjectives or nouns.
The pronunciation of the words in Array 45 is affected by stress shifting, like the -ate› words.
How is the -ite› pronounced in the two verbs? [i]
Where is the primary stress in them? on the final syllable.
How is the -ite› pronounced in the seven words that are either adjectives or adjectives/nouns? [it]
What level of stress is on the -ite› in these seven words? weak
A number of words ending in <ine> have what seem to be fossil <e>s. Some of these are the fossils of Middle English verb endings; some are the fossils of Latin noun and adjective endings. Check the etymologies of the words in Array 46 and sort them into the four groups described
It may be wise, here at the end of this long chapter, to look again at words in which silent final <e> serves a function — or in many cases, more than one function. Study the words in Array 47. Look at their spelling. Pronounce them to yourself. Consider how they would be pronounced if you were to leave off the final <e>. Put a check in the "Marking vowel" column if the final <e> is marking a long vowel in that word. Put a check in the "Marking consonant" column if the final <e> is marking a soft <c> or <g> or a voiced <th> in that word. Put a check in the "Insulating" column if it is keeping a <v> or <u> or a single <s> or <z> from coming at the end of the word. Notice that in some words final <e> is doing more than one thing at a time.
Summing Up. Write a sentence or two (or three) summarizing the functions of final <e> you've dealt with in this chapter. Make it clear that sometimes final <e> can be doing more than one thing at a time. Also be sure to mention the fossils and the role of silent final <e> after weakly stressed vowels.
Some final <e>'s are fossils with no function, but most final <e>'s mark or insulate vowels or consonants. Final <e>'s mark preceding <c>'s or <g>'s as soft and preceding <th>'s as voiced. They insulate otherwise word-final <u>'s, <v>'s, or single <z>'s, or single <s>'s that are not in a suffix. They mark a preceding stressed vowel as long in words that end <aste>, <ange>, or <the>. They mark a preceding vowel as long in words that end <le> if only one consonant comes between the vowel and the final <le>. They mark other stressed vowels as long if no or one consonant comes between the vowel and final <e>.