White spaces, two letter words, digraphs and whole language
I made a list of two letter words yesterday. Then I wrote as many words as I could think of containing these letter combinations, firstly at the beginning of words and secondly within words. Then I deleted all the words with duplicate pronunciations of the two letters.
This is what I am left with.
came camp llama loam
born before door chorus torrid worry work
is island isotherm
kiss rise raise noise
bus because oust music
rain bin vein find line coin ruin going anoint
bait bit bite fruit with
can cane bean loan want banana many swan
as ash aster
past was waste toast beast wasp
cat date father what path eat
so sock soil sold some soon sort soup south sought sow soya
esoteric monsoon awesome
do door does doe dog dormouse doubt dove down doyenne
go gone good goose gorse got gout gold
me mean men mercy mews
he her head heath heir hell herd here heuristic
she cheap the shepherd their they cherry
no none nose noise north nothing not noun nought
annoy snow snort snout snob knock
be bed been berg bear
we weight were wealth
sweet sweat swear swell awesome
to top toad torch touch tower toilet toot took stone stop stoop store stood
Now, because I know about phonics and grapho-phonemic relationships, I’m stuck in the groove of thinking that the different pronunciations of the two letters from the words mainly depend on the vowel sounds (long or short) or digraphs (including trigraphs and quadgraphs) and that maybe we have to teach these to children before we can expect them to read
ai, ar, au, aw, ay, ea, ee, ei, er, ew, ie, ir, oa, oe, oi, or, ou, ow, oy, ue, ur,
ch, sh, th, ng, qu, ck, ph, wh
a-e, e-e, i-e, o-e, u-e
igh, air, ear, dge, tch,
eigh, aigh, ough,
I have concluded that these relationships depend on phonics, vowel sounds in particular. Of course they do, because that’s all I have considered – orthography and phonology. I have deleted all the other meaningful words to leave only the ones with different pronunciations of the two particular letters. It’s not surprising I am ending up with a conclusion relating to grapho-phonemic relations.
But how many of us older people did not learn about digraphs until we were adults. We could read before we learnt about this ‘body of knowledge’ that is phonics. How did we learn to read?
It has always seemed to me that this analysis of written text is a top down process. Someone can only work it out after they know how to read and spell thousands and thousands of words. Until they reach that point there will always be something missing.
But I didn’t learn to read and write this way. I simply learnt that certain words were written in certain ways. I did not learn all the spellings of the sound /ee/ in primary school -me, see, bean, radio, pony, these, field, marine, protein, key – so that I could choose the correct one for the word I wanted to write. (I may have missed some out in that list. I can’t remember at the moment.) In fact, how would I know which was the correct spelling for a word new to me until someone had told me it was correct.
Only in recent years have I looked at words closely and thought about how the spellings are related to the sounds.
If I see the words ‘soup, out, tour, should, enough, our, though, thought, through’ I simply remember how to pronounce them. I don’t need the extra knowledge that ‘ou’ is a spelling for /oo/ in soup, or ‘oul’ is a spelling for /u/ in should, or ‘ough’ is a spelling of /oa/ in though, or ‘ough’ is a spelling for /or/ in thought, or ‘ough’ is a spelling for /oo/ in through.
Although, I do obviously use this knowledge when I write and spell the words correctly, but that’s because I’ve already memorised the written words, not explicitly chosen a spelling from a bank of knowledge.
There is something missing here. But this line of thought is not leading me to it.
The conclusion I have reached is that we use aspects of language other than orthography and phonology – phonics – when we learn to decode (pronounce) words.
We use spacing (to define words as units of meaning visually), syntax (to predict from our knowledge of word order in spoken sentences) and meaning – I’m not sure whether I mean morphology, semantics or both at the moment.
But this use of phonics as a way of ‘phonological recoding’ – turning visual symbols (graphemes or spellings) into single sounds (phonemes) to be blended together to arrive at a pronunciation of a word prior to recognising it (or not) and thus accessing its meaning (or it being explained) is a very complicated way of seeing two, three or four letters, (all defined in white spaces) and remembering the complete word as a whole from the order of the letters within it.
After all, we only remember these letter combinations when they mean something to us – when they occur in words we know. Any other series of letters are just marks on paper. We can’t turn them into meaningful language. Even written words new to us need more explanation than just the sight of them. Without other reference points they are just letters.
We need ‘whole language’ to be able to read and write and DECODE.
Lists of words containing other two letter words. (I am sure there are many more)
In these lists I have written down words where the particular spellings of two letter words occur within other words.
I think it clarifies that without spaces between words to define them as units of meaning we would have great difficulty reading.
However, I don’t know what else I can gain from this exercise. It is just a starting point.
am Amy ampere amulet
came camp llama loam blame name game fame flame lame same tame bamboo damned dream cream family gamble ham hamster hamper jam pyjamas lamb sham pram ram stammer slam scam tram yam shramrock
waif cliff drift sift skiffle gift lift nifty rift plaintiff
or orb order
born horn corn adorn more score before door poor floor moor porous chorus torrid worry work world worse
loft roof soft coffee
cup dupe soup muppet nuptial croup puppy rupture supper super tup guppy supply
bus because abuse oust pus joust bust dust gust custom lust must muster pus rust trust amuse music blouse
is island isotherm
kiss rise raise noise bliss miss gist hiss listen mist mistletoe mistake mistook atishoo Christ christmas wish fish dish twist fist wrist whistle biscuit
in into introduction intelligent inter
rain bin vein find line coin ruin strain chain plain train brain drain protein sprain plaintiff
shine shin chin kind mind appoint point pint
bait bit bite fruit with within shit lit nit pit quit sit slit spit mitten kitten bitten pittance fritter little flitter flit whither rabbit wait kite site rite website biscuit
an any answer and annoy
can cane bean loan want banana handle pan ban man ran clan span swan band lane mane pane sane vane hand want bang clang hang mangle pantry sanitary spangle bangle fan flan
as ash aster asp aspidistra
past was waste toast beast stash wasp crash mash bashful dash flash clash plaster clasp class feast least Easter fast past chasm last nasty mast pastry pasty
cat date father what path bat sat mat pat rat hate rate mate plate crate late lather rather eat meat seat death feature great creature treat beat heat neat peat teat wheat placate chocolate desolation
so sock soil sold some soon sort soup south sought sow soya sod sob soft soggy solstice sonata sonic
esoteric monsoon bassoon resonate desolate
do door does dock doe dog dormouse doubt dove down doyenne dot dote dozen doily dock doll domino dose doubt double
go gone goon gorse got gout gosh God goes goofy golf going gory gold good gospel goblin
me mean men mercy mews meet mesh met merry memory
my mystic myopia
he her head heath heir hell herd here heuristic heat herb heaven help heavy health
she cheap the shepherd their they there their shed shelter cheep cheer chest cheat chevron cherry
no none nose noise north nothing not noun nought nonsense nod nominate normal Norse
annoy snow snort snout snob anoint knock
be bed been berg bean beast better bet bend below bellow betray best beseech bear
frisby goodbye hobby chubby
we weight were wealth weather
sweet sweat swear swell awe awesome
to top to took too tomb ton tower touch tough toil toll torch torrid stop stone stove stout store stoat stow stock stomp stoop stool stooge stood