How To Pronounce Silent Letters?

silent letters

Silent Let­ters

Have you ever won­dered why a word is not pro­nounced as it is spelt? I am sure, you would have felt awk­ward more than once over this issue. Some­times they arise due to silent let­ters whereas at other times it is due to stressed pro­nun­ci­a­tion. These are the two major cat­e­gories of con­fu­sion when it comes to Eng­lish pro­nun­ci­a­tion. In this arti­cle we would explore the pos­si­bil­i­ties and nuances of silent words and their pronunciation.

Silent Let­ters

Let us begin by under­stand­ing what a silent let­ter is in alpha­betic writ­ing sys­tem. A silent let­ter is a let­ter that appears in a par­tic­u­lar word, but it has no effect on the pro­nun­ci­a­tion of the word. In other words silent let­ters effec­tively exist in writ­ten world whereas they do not make their pres­ence felt in ver­bal world. This fine line of dif­fer­ence not only causes prob­lems for non-native Eng­lish speak­ers but also for the native Eng­lish speak­ers. It becomes dif­fi­cult to guess the spelling of the word by hear­ing its pronunciation.

Causes for silent letters:

Over the period of time the sound has dropped out of the spelling of the word. This essen­tially means they would still be retain­ing the same spelling but a dif­fer­ent pro­nun­ci­a­tion. The word knot would fit this his­tor­i­cal change quite aptly. Apart from this his­tor­i­cal change, the major cause of these silent let­ters is Eng­lish lan­guage bor­row­ings from other lan­guages. Words like Khaki made their pres­ence felt from non-native Eng­lish ori­gins. Since accent and pro­nun­ci­a­tion dif­fer, let­ters may be silent for some speak­ers but not for the oth­ers. In some accents, is silent in such words as hard, feath­ered; in h-dropping accents, is silent. A speaker may pro­nounce in “often” or “tsunami” or nei­ther or both. All of these make silent let­ters more than impor­tant for Eng­lish com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Just to quote an exam­ple, how else would you dif­fer­en­ti­ate a whole from a hole or a plumb from a plum with­out the help of silent letters?

Exam­ples of Silent Letters

Unfor­tu­nately there are no hard and fast rules to learn silent let­ters. Their usage is learnt by prior expo­sure and expe­ri­ence. Here is a list of silent let­ters for your learn­ing purpose.

Silent Letters Examples

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