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How to launch new ideas V Inside the words - 1 (Presentation)

As you approach the English Language from the west, you will see a
lighthouse, which is there because in the sea nearby are some rocks
where many ships have been lost in the course of history.
If you take a time machine and approach from the East however, you
are following in the footsteps of those who brought a Germanic tongue
from a place in Northern Germany – now Schleswig Holstein – called
Angeln.

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The ancestors of the English – the name of our language itself – came
from there. How about the Georgians? There were two groups: in
Lazica and Iberia. And the Romans were in both countries.


North German landscape – Angeln
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The first word was cow. On the cover picture. It is easy – it has
the same sound as out or thousands or sound itself. And in
crown, which is on the letter box.

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So that sound ou is one you know. There are maybe twenty-two, so be
prepared for some mental activity!
ou and ow for example are two ways of spelling ‘owoo’. And because
‘owoo’needs to be said quickly, I am going to underline it like this owoo
- the underlining means: ‘say it quickly’.
We had signpost – also on the cover. In order to indicate how to
pronounce words, I am going to use some special graphics, which we
will evolve together. Meanwhile, here is another signpost…!

Irish signpost at Ballyvaughan (pre 2011)
sign starts with an s and finishes with a n. Now, the letters b c d
f g h j k l m n p r s t v (w) and (z) are consonants ; that means
‘letters which sound together with vowels’. So our first job is to
classify and distinguish between these.
bcd fgh jkl mnp stv w r uayie o
sixteen or …seventeen five or…..six
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The vowels are a e i o u and sometimes y. You can forget q(u)
until you see it: I can promise you that you will only find it at
this level in one word, queen. It’s really a special case of a
vowel oooii with a kw stuck on the front and a n at the end.
q in English always needs a u after it in the spelling, by the way.
z you will not see after First Grade, when you learn zebra. This
is not a word I have ever needed in my life, not even when I
visited the zoo – which, actually, is another z word, not one you
will use very much, if at all. So we can forget z. And w and v are
best considered as one sound with two variants. We will talk
about y later.
sign has vowel i but only if there comes immediately after it a
consonant or consonant group (for example in sink or swim) is
vowel i pronounced iiih.
sign in fact is pronounced saiin. g in this word is a ‘sleeping
letter’ – which means that it does not contribute to the
pronunciation, except to tell us that the vowel sound will not
be iiih. Sleeping letters are one of the trickier things in English.
But they do a useful job telling us that there is something not so
simple going on as well, so we could call them, ‘sleepy signaling
letters’. The most famous ones are the consonant pair gh which
when they occur together are perhaps the sleepiest letters in
the English language!
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Vowel, by the way, are, ‘the sounds which give a voice to the
letters which sound with them’ – or simply, ‘the sounds which
go with the consonants’: some before them, some after them;
and even (as I told you) sometimes working together with one
in front and one after the consonant, as in the word make:


m a k e


a is a and e is eh but together they are ai-ee so the word is mai-
eek  which I have underlined because when actually spoken, it
is spoken quite fast.
Quite similar was the name, Shakespeare. The first part of it,
shake rhymes directly with make plus an s. You then just need
two consonants – consonant friends – sp – which is easy
enough and a very common English sound. The second vowel
group is pronounced ee-yeuh but immediately followed by r
like this ee-yeuhr – and rhymes exactly with year. The last e is
probably just there to get us to make a soft breath at the end;
and although the writer himself wanted it spelt like that; but
not everybody (even Shakespeare himself!) has always done so.
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The six surviving examples of Shakespeare’s signature
In the post part of signpost we have a ‘moonlighting consonant’
– the s.
Moonlighting means doing a second job which you do not want
people to know about; and generally being in the wrong place
at the wrong time…

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We might also call it a ‘diligent consonant’ – a consonant that
works hard, like those children you find in every school… It is
doing a job of work, making up the first half of the consonant
pair st, but it is also pretending to be a hidden e or something
like that: po(e)st. I have used an arrow to show what the s is
doing, it is affecting the o; and I have given the result – it is
generating an e which we do not see in the spelling – in blue, in
brackets.
We could say that it is signaling - by being there as part of the st
 that the preceding o is not pronounced as in simple words
with the fundamental sound of o such as got, not, plot (which is
a piece of land or a plan to do something bad) or cot (which is a
small bed for a baby).
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We could also say that the st is making the o sound different.
Some of you might then say: ‘Well then, it’s like one of those
bad bullying children you find in every school, who are bigger,
and twist the arms of the smaller boys unmercifully...’
True – but if you are learning a language it is better to think of
the letters in it as your friends, not your enemies. Not even as
the enemies of other letters! – though it’s easy to spot
occasional conflicts going on between them, isn’t it?


Thanks for listening so far and good luck on your journey! Credits

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