Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Silent Letters

The English language is an odd mishmash of German, Dutch, Norse, French, Celtic, and Latin. So many pieces that don't fit together so well have resulted in a language that is really odd.

Consider how many words in English have utterly irrelevant letter polution. A silent letter is one that is neither (a) pronounced nor (b) operative. A letter is pronounced if its sound appears in the word in its place in the word and a letter is operative if it affects the way a word is pronounced, even if it itself is not pronounced. So the second “s” in kiss is pronounced, but not operative – there is an s sound at the end, but it does not depend on that “s” being there. The “e” in rate is silent, but operative because the “a” would be short without it.

Below is a partial list of words (no proper nouns) with silent letters. Words in parentheses are operative, but not pronounced; and words in brackets are pronounced, but non-operative. Any help filling in the missing letters?

A – weather
B – bomb
C – science
D – (edge)
E – lye, give
F – [raffle]
G – gnu
H – rhyme
I – waiter (I know it becomes water, but it's a degenerate pronunciation)
J –
K – knight
L – [bill]
M – mnemonic
N – damn
O – phoenix, double
P – psychology
Q –
R – [ferry], (sommelier)
S – scent
T – catch
U – building
V –
W – two, crow
X –
Y – (play)
Z – [dazzle]