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Smart Strategies for Star Spellers: Spelling Review Study Guide (page 2)

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Updated on Aug 25, 2011

LISTENING TO LETTERS

Now that you're thoroughly terrified with all this talk of endless rules and exceptions that must be memorized, let's take a look at the most basic, most easily remembered rule of them all, which will work in an incredible number of circumstances: Sound the words out.

Anyone who can read and write is already familiar with the process of sounding words out. Once children have learned to recognize the letters of the alphabet, the next thing they are taught is the sound each letter makes. You may remember studying phonics when you were younger. With phonics, you learned to connect letter patterns to the sounds they represent. Later, you learned how to break words down into syllables. Nowadays, this process has probably become automatic for you, but you still use it every time you encounter an unfamiliar word. For example, take a look at this word:

    intemperate (unrestrained)

You may have never seen this word before, but just by knowing the basic rules of phonics and syllabication, you can probably figure out how to pronounce it. You've seen the prefix before in words like invisible and inside. The second syllable, -temp-, is pronounced just as it would be in temper or temperature. The third syllable, -er-, is pronounced just as it looks, and the suffix, -ate, is pronounced as it would be in words like moderate and passionate. Taken all together, you can figure out that intemperate is pronounced .

CAUTION!

THE "OFFICIAL" PRONUNCIATION of a word is not always the same as the conversational pronunciation. Slang usage and accents often change the way words are used when they're spoken out loud. For example, some people pronounce the word aunt as ant, while others pronounce it as ahnt. Both pronunciations are perfectly acceptable; however, if you are one of those people who says ant, you will have no indication when you sound the word out that there is a u after the a. Be careful of words like this; differing pronunciations can sometimes lead to mistakes in spelling.

Another example is the letter g in words that end in -ing. It is common in conversation to drop the letter g, so a word like running becomes runnin, or saying becomes sayin. If you use these words in conversation, people will know what you mean and they probably will not correct you. If you spell them the way you pronounce them, however, it will count against you.

In almost any dictionary, immediately following each word, you will find a strange sort of code. Look up the word dictionary, for instance, and you might find a lis ting that looks like this:

dictionary n: a reference guide containing an alphabetical list of words, including information relating to definition, pronunciation, and etymology

The code that follows the word explains how to pronounce that word. This is called a pronunciation guide. Most of the letters are immediately recognizable—d, k, sh, n, a, i, and r. Other letters look familiar but have strange symbols above them— and . One letter looks like it was dropped to earth from an alien spacecraft—.

FUEL FOR THOUGHT

THE INTERNATIONAL PHONETIC Association was formed in 1866 with the goal of creating a distinct symbol for every sound used in human language. The alphabet they created was called the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). This alphabet uses Latin and Greek letters to stand for common sounds. Today, there are 107 letters used for consonants and vowels and a number of marks and symbols used to give further information about these letters.

Although the IPA is an internationally recognized system, most dictionaries use a simplified form of it in their pronunciation guides. The IPA can be difficult to understand for people who have not seen it before. For instance, in IPA, the word uncle is written . Someone who was trained in languages could look at those symbols and know exactly how the word was pronounced, but it is not very practical for the average reader. Most dictionaries use a combination of IPA characters and ordinary letters to make it easier for their users. The downside of this compromise is that pronunciation guides change from dictionary to dictionary; so if you want to know how to pronounce an unfamiliar word, you'll still probably have to start by learning how your dictionary works!

The pronunciation guide is mostly necessary for vowels. Most consonants have one pronunciation that is always the same; for example, the letter d is always pronounced duh. There are some exceptions, of course—c can be pronounced as an s or as a k—but for the most part, consonants are constant (try to say that three times fast!).

Pronunciation guides also typically show which syllable should be stressed. In this book, the accent is designated with an apostrophe. In the word broken, for instance, the first syllable is stressed. So the pronunciation would be written

The following chart lists the pronunciation symbols used in this book.

a as in apple n n as in fun
a as in ace o as in mop
a as in star o as in toe
ar as in care o as in torn, a as in warm, aw as in awkward
a as in about, e as in the, i as in pencil, o as in bishop, u as in supply oi oi as in noise, oy as in boy
b b as in baby oo as in foot, u as in put
ch ch as in chicken ow ou as in out
d d as in dog p p as in pin
e as in bet r r as in real
e as in complete, y as in hungry s s as in mess, c as in city
er as in butter, ir as in bird, or as in doctor, ur as in urge t t as in tiny
f f as in fast, ph as in phone th th as in thin
g g as in good th th as in the
h h as in hat u as in run, o as in honey
i as in him u as in uniform
ier as in pier, ear as in fear oo as in boot
i as in ice u as in cure, cute
j j as in job v v as in visit
k k as in kid, c as in cookie w w as in why
l l as in lie, le as in beetle z z as in zombie
m m as in man zh si as in vision, ge as in garage
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