The silent ‘e’

The joy of un-learning and re-learning

Phonetically, the letter ‘e’ in the word CHOICE is silent. I was amazed to learn this interesting fact only last week. During my early childhood days, I learned that the English alphabet had 26 letters, A to Z. I also learned that each letter made the sound that I memorised using the ABCD song.  The line that has stuck in my mind is, “…. if you don’t like it, better go to bed.” I am not sure whether children of the present era learn the same song or not.

Regardless of how I learned the English alphabet in my childhood, I have used the language extensively for over 3 decades. It has only been in the recent past that I have been exposed to English through phonics. I am not studying phonics but have gained awareness of it because of the extensive work done by my team for the NumberNagar® phonics programme and phonics kit.

In the last week or so, I have been shooting videos of phonics sessions and the learning materials in the kit. This is mainly for marketing purposes; however, I had a great time exploring the phonics kit during the shoot. I also discovered some amazing things.

Fun facts

Did you know that English words do not end with the letters ‘i, j, v, and u’? The exceptions to this rule are the words ‘you’ and ‘I’. No pun intended; ‘I’ is a word in the English language. I found this discovery most fascinating.

While I continued my study of how phonics helps build reading skills another interesting thing happened. The usage of the silent letter ‘e’. I chose this to be the theme of today’s article too. There are 9 rules for the usage of the silent letter ‘e’. A sample of these rules is given below.

  1. The preceding vowel in a ‘vowel-consonant-e’ combination makes its alphabet sound. Eg: cake, bike, core, cure
  2.  English words do not end in v or u. Eg: have, blue
  3.  Where c makes the /s/ sound and g makes the /j/ sound. Eg: choice, large
  4.  ‘e’ is added so that singular words ending in ‘s’ are not confused to be plural. Eg: house, case
  5. ‘e’ is added to clarify meaning when other words of similar spelling are present. Eg: or/ore, teas/tease

Pondering on my learning

I found the usage of ‘e’ to avoid words ending with u and v most interesting. There is also a rule – ‘no explained reason’ – this combines all the usages that do not follow the other listed rules. I have not found such approaches in Indian languages.  

These nuances have fascinated me over the last few days. I have now decided to explore such interesting aspects of different languages. I believe that Indian languages will have a plethora of surprises in store for me.

Here is a teaser –

I have observed that the Tamil language has letter to sound ratios of <1.

Eg: the same letter க் (k) is used for the sounds क् (/k/) ख् (/kh/) ग् (/g/) घ् (/gh/)

Stay tuned for more such titbits of languages in articles to come. Also watch this space for the much awaited launch of the NumberNagar® phonics kit.

Until then, take care and stay safe.

Featured image credits: Michael Schwarzenberger from Pixabay

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Sriraghavan S M

Sriraghavan (Raghu) is an Astronomer by qualification (MSc, Astronomy, Bangalore University) and a teacher by passion. He is a trained counsellor and psychotherapist. His firm belief and conviction to transform the education system in India led him to be an entrepreneur through NumberNagar®. His core work at NumberNagar® revolves around product presentations, academic content, and training. He teaches Maths and Science to young students, rubbing off his passion to them. He trains teachers as well, inspiring them to better themselves. He has taught Physics in educational institutes, during his early career days. He has travelled extensively all over Karnataka, training teachers and popularising Astronomy. He advocates multiple intelligence and is constantly on the lookout for new things to learn. He is ambidextrous and enjoys sketching. He was an avid cricket player in his younger days. He is an enthusiastic biker and uses long solo motorcycle rides as means of reflection and rejuvenation.

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