English spelling origin (OT?)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Dec 12 21:09:37 UTC 2002

At 3:52 PM -0500 12/12/02, James E. Clapp wrote:
>Dave Hause wrote:
>>  A relayed question from a friend's six year old daughter, who had missed one
>>  word on a spelling test and thus sentenced herself to have to write out the
>>  spelling words for the rest of the week and retake the test:  "quick"
>>  spelled as "quik."  "But Mommy, why is that wrong?  They would both be
>>  pronounced with the same sound."  I haven't the vaguest idea where to
>>  research this.
>Thom Harrison gave what for me was a very enlightening answer, but
>not one intended for a six-year-old.  For the child, this seems like
>a good opportunity to reinforce the point that spelling is not just
>an arbitrary process; there are principles of sound-spelling
>correspondence that are pretty consistent.  The principle here is:
>When a word ends with a "k" sound after a "short" vowel, it is
>usually spelled "-ck".  This isn't something special about the word
>"quick"; it's a general rule you can use to spell lots and lots of
>words--even if you've never seen them before.  "Back" and "tack" and
>"neck" and "peck" and "lick" and "stick" and "lock" and "sock" and
>"luck" and "duck"--if you know the rule, you can write them all.
Including obscenities to be written or spray-painted on walls that
one would certainly want one's six-year-old to spell correctly.


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