Spellings of the English Phonemes

 It has often struck me as surprising that many even thoroughly fluent users of EFL continue year after year using strikingly inappropriate pronunciations of various individual words. Perhaps some such speakers, knowing that many English words are current in two or more variant but equally acceptable forms, imagine that their version is a valid alternative. I have long pondered on what might be the best way to tackle this problem. I suspect that one possible line of attack would be to recommend that users of English as an extra language should undertake to review their impressions from time to time of how the GB (ie General British) or GA (ie General American) English phonemes are represented in traditional orthography. With this in mind I included in the chapter Orthography in my 1969 Guide to English Pronunciation a section which went through the English phonemes one by one showing the ordinary spellings they received and listing the most notable departures from those patterns. The following is an enlargement of that list. The generalisations it contains should not necessarily be taken as applicable to proper nouns and adjectives nor to subvariant alternant pronunciations. 

Vowel 1 / i / also often transcribed for GB as / iː/

 /English children learn to say  I before E except after C

                                    So long as it has the sound of EE

By this < ee > is meant / i / or, where an r follows, / ɪə /.

Examples are conceive, deceive,  receipt, receive etc
The commonest exceptions to this rule are seize and either & neither (both otherwise / i /). Less common words which break this rule are weir, plebeian, and counterfeit. This last word, like forfeit and surfeit, more often ends with /-fɪt /.
    Certain other words, which mainly reflect their being borrowed from Scottish English, are weird and such names as Keith, Leith, Neil, Reid, Reith and Sheila. Also the Islamic festival Eid.
    Borrowings from Latin may spell / i / with ae or oe as with aegis, Caesar, formulae; amoeba, foetus, phoenix.  Some such words may fluctuate between spellings with ae and simple e. When this is so the American preference is usually for the simple letter and sometimes also the shorter vowel /e/.
    The spellings key and quay, both / ki /, are unique. So is people / `pipl /.
This vowel also occurs in various words borrowed relatively recently (ie from the seventeenth century onwards) from Continental and some other languages, eg élite, caprice, clique, casino, expertise, machine, police, pastiche, prestige, technique.

Vowel 2 / ɪ /

This is the vowel heard in General British pronunciation where letter < i > precedes a double consonant or word-final single consonant.
    It is also commonly heard in the endings -age as in average, cabbage, village, in the suffixes forming verb past tenses ending -ded and -ted and forming plurals with -es when the noun’s singular ends with any of the sibilant consonants/ s, z, ʃ, ʒ, ʧ, & ʤ /. It also corresponds to the letter a  in spinach.
It is usually suitable for the unstressed endings -ess, est, and -et though many such words may equally or more often take schwa / ə / and in the case of some words indicating females by a final / -ess / which syllable may also then take stress. Examples are hostess, lio`ness, forest, largest, honest, bullet. Most words ending with a syllable beginning with any of /k, ɡ, ʧ, & ʤ / eg pocket, target, hatchet, budget regularly have this vowel in GB.
    This vowel / ɪ / corresponds to the letter e in a stressed syllable only in the single word pretty. Compare the proper noun England and proper adjective English. Probably the most usual variants of Cecil and Cecily have / ɪ / corresponding to their e spellings. / ɪ / is represented by the digraph ie in one monosyllable, the word sieve, and also in mischief, mischievous and in the most usual pronunciation of handkerchief.
    It should be noted that, though the letter e is ‘silent’ (ie has no sound value) in past participles like marked and designed etc, when such words are extended by the addition of the suffix -ly to the forms eg advisedly, allegedly, assuredly /ə`ʃɔrɪdli/
avowedly, fixedly, markedly, deservedly, designedly, preparedly / prɪ`pɛrɪdli /, professedly, supposedly etc the e is heard as / ɪ /. But note admiredly /əd`maɪədli/. If the verb ends with an unstressed syllable eg embarrassedly, the e of the -ed, regularly ends with / -ɪd /. Adjectives ending <-ed> have it as / -ɪd / eg aged, blessed, crooked, cursed, dogged, jagged, learned, naked, ragged, rugged, sacred, wicked and wretched. Because these usually precede substantives they owe this no doubt to the working of the English ALTERNATE STRESS PREFERENCE.
    Only in the word breeches is / ɪ / used for the spelling ee. This is now tending to be replaced by the regular value of ee and the spelling is tending to be replaced by britches. In the early twentieth century Greenwich was often / `ɡrɪnɪʤ/. The first edition of the Jones EPD in 1917 gave only that pronunciation for the word but it’s is now usually / `ɡrenɪʧ /.
    Only in busy, business, lettuce, minute and missus does / ɪ / correspond to the spelling u. Only in build and biscuit and formerly in now obsolete forms of conduit viz /`kʌndɪt & `kɒndɪt/ does it equate with the spelling ui. (Words beginning gui- like guild, guitar and guinea do not contain their u as contributing to vowel representation but as identifying the ‘hard’ (ie plosive) value of the preceding g). 

Vowel 3 /e/

This corresponds to the spelling a only in any and many and the proper noun Thames.

The word ate is pronounced / eɪt / the north of England and by educated Americans. In the early twentieth century it was by GB speakers almost universally / et / but there is now in an increasingly large minority a tendency to conform this word to the value suggested by its spelling.
    The verb forms said and says have as normal GB values only / sed / and / sez /. The form /seɪz/ has been relatively recently recognised, perhaps controversially, by MWO (Merriam Webster Online). The word again is either /ə `ɡen/ or /ə `ɡeɪn/.
    This vowel is represented by the spelling ee in the most usual version of Greenwich / `ɡrenɪʧ /. When the word threepence was common currency (before the British adoption of a decimal coinage system in 1971) a very widely spread form of it was / `θrepəns /. It was very widely heard as / `θrəpəns / but also as / `θrʌpəns /,  in London as / `θrʊpəns / and occasionally by conservative elderly speakers as / `θrɪpəns /. Irish people it seems widely used to say / `θripəns/. These have all now been replaced except in archaistic or metaphorical usage by three `pence or three `p /pi/.
    The spelling ei for this vowel only occurs in leisure, heifer and, among common placenames, Leicester / `lestə /. In America leisure is usually / `liʒər /.
Only in the word friend / e / is represented by ie.  
    A few common words have eo for / e / eg leopard, and jeopardy. Cf Geoffrey.
Only in the words bury and burial / e / is u. The placename Bury (St Edmunds) also has / e /.
Although the suffix -ment is usually / -mənt /, in verbs when it becomes a penultimate syllable it is often /-ment /, eg in complemented, experimented and supplemented.
    In a notable number of words a final unstressed syllable spelt with e may not undergo the usual weakening to schwa but exhibit / e / eg comment, congress, contents, contest, digest, progress, protest. In American usage congress generally weakens to / -rəs / or / -rɪs /.

Vowel 4 / a / Also often transcribed as / æ /. It has the name ‘ash’.

This vowel corresponds to ai in plaid and plait. Of loanwords lingerie may be /`lanʒəri/, meringue /mə`raŋ/ and timbre /`tambrə, `tambə/ or /`tãbrə/. It also may be heard in the first syllable of daiquiri as a subvariant form ie pronounced by a minority. The military term reveille is /rə`vali/. The names `Caithlin and `Plaistow have /a/ in their stressed syllables. See also the second paragraph on /ɑ/ immediately following this.

Vowel 5 / ɑ / Also often transcribed as / ɑː/

This is chiefly spelt ar but also al in balm, calm, embalm, napalm, palm, psalm  and qualm.   Other unusual representations occur in aunt, draught, laugh, laughter; Berkshire, clerk, Derby  and Hertfordshire; heart , hearken and hearth; sample and example; chorale, corral  and other (mainly slightly exotic) words such as banana, drama, lava, mam`ma, ma`scara, pa`laver, pano`rama, plaque, padre, pa`pa, plaza, so`prano, so`nata, sul`tana, spa and the exclamatory a`ha , bah  and hur`rah. Sheep are represented as saying baa.
This vowel is used in a fair number of common words in which most Americans and people in northern England and many in Australia employ / æ / or /a/. This is sometimes known as using “flat A” instead of “broad A” . This choice of / ɑ / occurs chiefly when the following sounds are /nd, nt, ns, nʃ, f, θ, ð / or / s /. Not counting proper nouns or adjectives, there are about three hundred common words with the letter a preceding such sounds but only one third of these have / ɑ / more than two thirds taking / a / in General British. 

The seventy or so most common words which usually have /ɑ/ in General British are
/ ɑnd / command, countermand, demand, remand, reprimand, slander ; Flanders.
/ ɑnt / advantage, cant, chant, grant, plant, shan’t, slant.  
/ ɑnʃ / avalanche, branch, ranch.
/ ɑːn / aunt, banana, sultana, soprano.
/ ɑns / advance, answer, chance, chancellor, dance, France, glance, lance, trance.
/ ɑm / drama, example, panorama, sample.
/ ɑf / after, behalf, calf, craft, draft, graph, half, laugh, shaft, staff, telegraph.
/ ɑθ / bath, path.
/ ɑð / lather, rather. These have /a/ in GA.
/ ɑs/ ask, bask, basket, flask, mask, rascal, task;brass, class, glass, grass, pass; clasp, gasp, raspberry / `rɑzbri /.
aghast, blast, broadcast, cast, castle, contrast, disaster, fast, fasten, forecast, ghastly, last, mast, master, nasty, past, vast.

It corresponds to the spelling au only in aunt, draught and laugh.
It corresponds to the spelling ear only in heart and hearth.

The vowel /ɑ/ corresponds to the spelling er only in clerk and sergeant and the names Berkshire, Berkeley, Hertfordsire and Derby. In General American Berkeley, clerk and Derby have /-ɜr-/.

These matters are dealt with more fully at §3.1.27 on this site.

Vowel 6 / ɒ /

This is usually spelt o but corresponds to the spelling a in yacht /jɒt/, au in because, cauliflower, sausage, laurel & the names Laurie, Maurice, Vauxhall and to aw in Lawrence and Lawrie.
It corresponds to the spelling o .. e only in gone and shone (Tho this last rhymes with bone in GA).
It corresponds to the spelling ou in cough, lough /lɒx/ trough /trɒf/. Cf Gloucester.
It corresponds to the spelling ow only in acknowledge and knowledge.
There is no direct regular equivalent to this GB vowel in GA. Such words as borrow, dog, fog, long, orange, wash and water may be heard in GA with either / ɔ / or / ɑ /.
Anomalously it corresponds to the spelling eau in bureaucracy and tho in the last is simply regarded as an error by LPD and ignored by EPD and ODP. 

Vowel 7 / ɔ / often transcribed  / ɔː/ for GB.

This is usually spelt au, aw, oar or or but corresponds to the spelling oa only in broad and abroad.
It corresponds to the spelling oor exclusively only in door and floor and it is the usual vowel in poor, sure and moor.

Vowel 8 / ʊ /

This is usually spelt u or oo but corresponds to the spelling o only in bosom, wolf, woman and worsted. Cf courier / `kʊriə/ and the placename Worcester.  The suffix -ful has this vowel in nouns eg boxful, mouthful, spoonful but not in adjectives eg useful, beautiful, hopeful which instead have either /ə/ or more usually no vowel.  
    Of the twenty GB vowel phonemes /ʊ/ rates only 13th in frequency of occurrence. It appears mostly after labial consonants. Examples are bull, full, pull, bush, put, bushel, butcher, pudding, pulpit, push, sugar.

Vowel 9 / u / Also often transcribed as / uː / for GB.

This vowel is usually represented by the spelling oo but it corresponds to o only in cantonment, tomb, womb, who, whom and do.
It corresponds to the spelling oe only in canoe, manoeuvre and shoe. It also occurs in the name The Domesday Book.
And to the spellng o..e only in lose, move, prove and whose.
And the spelling ui in bruise, bruit, cruise, fruit, juice, nuisance, pursuit, recruit, sluicesuit etc.
And the spelling uu in vacuum (and the rare exotic words muumuu and puukko).

Vowel 10 / ʌ /

This is usually represented by <u> but corresponds to the spelling oe only in does.
It corresponds to the spelling oo only in blood and flood.
    In many words spelt with non-final ur-, urr-, or- GB has this vowel rather than GA / ɜː/. These include borough, current, curry, flurry, furrow, hurry, nourish, occurrence, thorough and worry. However, when the final element of the word is not a derivative but an inflectional suffix, then GA and GB agree on / ɜː/ as in furry and occurring. This vowel is used in the GB names Durham, Murray etc.
    Beside and between the letters  m, n, v, w and h as well as the digraphs sh, th etc the letter o more often than not has this sound as in among, brother, colour, come, comfort, cover, done, dove, front, govern, honey, love, monger, mongrel, monk, monkey, mother, none, nothing, one, once, other, plover, pommel, shove, shovel, smother, son, stomach, ton, tongue, won, wonder and worry. GA is more conservative in its preservation of /ʌ/ in hover which GB has converted to a better spelling match with /ɒ/.
    It corresponds to the spelling ou in courage, flourish, nourish; chough, rough, slough, sough, southern, tough, young; Brough, Clough, Hough, Loughborough, Southwell.   (This pattern is traceable to deficiencies in medieval handwriting.)

Vowel 11 / ɜ / Also often transcribed for GB as / ɜː/. It is sometimes known as "long schwa".

This is usually spelt er, ir or ur but it corresponds to the spelling or only in attorney, whorl, word, work, world, worm, worse, worship, worst, worth and worthy.
    It corresponds to the spelling our only in courteous, courtesy, journal, journey and scourge; and to yr(r) in myrrh and myrtle. Also to eu in adieu, milieu
    It corresponds to the spelling ear in dearth, earl, early, earn, earnest, Earp, earth, heard, hearse, learn, pearl, rehearse, search, yearn and in subvariant versions of hear, here, year and less commonly in words of the types Europe, curious etc.

Vowel 12 / ə / 

1. This is the vowel of unstressed syllables par excellence and by far the most often heard of all the English vowels in unhurried conversation. Among those knowledgeable about pronunciation matters it has its own special name schwa /ʃwɑ/. Most textbooks tend to claim that it never occurs in stressed sylables. This is quite untrue because most people have some words in which they stress it at least at times. The Queen has plainly been heard saying / `dəznt / for doesnt in recordings. She shares this with many of us, but occasionally she pronounces doing as / `də.ɪŋ/ and then she tends to sound 'posh' to many of us.
As we havent got an accepted spelling for /ə/, when it develops from changes to words whose original spellings can't be used, people invent new spellings which aren’t really satisfactory but can’t be improved upon. Some examples of this are the very common conversational word-forms /kəz/ and /`gənə/ which have come to have their present pronunciations thru shortening of because and going-to.
    In the middle of the twentieth century /ə/ was the predominant stressed vowel in threepence / `θrəpəns / but that word became relatively unusual after the UK adopted decimal currency in 1971. The important fact for the EFL user to know is that stressed schwa is never essential for use in any word. More sophisticated speakers over the north of England use schwa wherever GB speakers use their / ʌ / eg saying funny as / `fəni/. (Less sophisticated northerners tend to say / `fʊni/.) Many American speakers have a quality of their / ʌ / which is closer to schwa than the usual GB values for / ʌ /.

2. The very common unstressed suffix -ate in adjectives and nouns regularly has schwa but is usually / eɪ / in verbs (and chemical terms). Compare alternate and separate, as adjectives or nouns / ɔːl`tɜːnət/ and / `seprət / but as verbs / `ɔːltəneɪt / and / `sepəreɪt /. There are a few exceptions. Candidate has all three possibilities / `kændɪdət, `kændɪdeɪt / and / `kændədɪt/. Climate is often / `klaɪmɪt / and private is / `praɪvɪt / for the majority of GB speakers (pacë LPD).

3. The words from twopence /`tʌpəns/ to elevenpence have since the 1971 British coinage decimalisation been superseded by compound expressions with pence as /pens/ except in historical and figurative contexts.

4. All words ending -berry and most ending -man or -land may take schwa.
Schwa or its elision is the predominant form in at least the commonest -berry words. However, they usually end with unreduced /-beri/ in GA.
Examples: blackberry, Burberry, cranberry, elderberry, gooseberry /`ɡʊzbri/, mulberry, raspberry GB /`rɑzbri/, strawberry /`strɔːb(ə)ri/. Items regularly spelt as two words or hyphenations such as logan berry don't belong in this group.

5. Most words ending -man take schwa barman, chairman, churchman, clergyman, dairyman, dustman, fireman, foreman, Frenchman, freshman, frogman, gentleman, horseman, henchman, infantryman, madman, milkman, penman, ploughman, policeman, salesman, seaman, spokesman, statesman, tradesman, Walkman, woodman.
Exceptions with /a/ include anchorman, badman, bogeyman, caveman, chessman, conman, gasman, handyman, jazzman, Kingsman, middleman, snowman, superman, whiteman.

6. Most words ending -land take schwa eg: Finland, foreland, highland(s), Holland, island, lakeland, lowland, Netherlands, Sutherland. Newfoundland is /`njufəndlənd /˃/-land/˃/nju`faʊndlənd/. Exceptions with usually or always predominant /a/: badlands, borderland, clubland, Disneyland, dreamland, fairyland, farmland, fatherland, gangland, grassland˂, headland˃, heartland, hinterland, homeland˂, mainland˃, moorland˃, motherland, overland, parkland, ploughland, (US plowland), swampland, tableland, tideland, wonderland. Names of specific countries or regions include: Baffinland, Dixieland, Lapland, Thailand and notably various African names including Basutoland, Bechuanaland, Matabeleland, Somaliland, Swaziland etc.

7. The suffix -ful in adjectives may have schwa but more often it's / -fl /. With all nouns it's /-fʊl/. Eg awful / `ɔfl /, beautiful / `bjutəfl /; boxful / `bɒksfʊl /, mouthful / `maʊθfʊl /, spoonful / `spunfʊl /.

8. The suffixes -less and -ness both regularly contain schwa. A few (especially Conspicuous GB speakers) can still be heard to use the Victorian and early twentieth century preference / ɪ / but its value is probably nearer to schwa than the one that they use in stressed syllables with / ɪ /. The main exceptions are business, which is to be heard with either schwa or / ɪ / about equally often, and the name Guinness which practically universally has / ɪ /. The tendency to vowel harmony seems to be at work in these two.

9.More than GA, GB  avoids sequences like /ndn, ntn, nzdn, nstn ŋtn, ŋdn, ŋdm, mdn, mzdn, ndm, bdn, m(p)tn, ptn /. Thus schwa is regularly heard in words like abandon, abundant, accountant, acquaintance, attendant, badminton, correspondent, defendant, dependant, descendant, eastern, independent, informant, instance, kingdom, lantern, lieutenant, penance, piston, random, redundant, remnant, sultan, superintendent, tendon, wanton and western; and in names like Antony, Ashton, Boston, Brompton, Camden, Clarendon, Compton, Constance, Hampton, Hebden, Huntingdon, Kempton, Lipton, London, Rampton, Ramsden, Repton, Rushton, Stilton, Swindon, Taunton, Upton, Vernon, Wellington, Weston, Whittington, Winston and Washington.

Diphthongal Vowel 13 / /

This usually corresponds to the spelling  a...e as in babe, made, fade  etc but is ao only in gaol / ʤeɪl / which normally in America and alternatively in Britain is spelt  jail.
It is found as  ae in some extraneous words (mainly Scottish names) eg Ballantrae, brae, Gaelic, maelstrom, reggae etc.
It corresponds to the spelling  au only in gauge / geɪʤ /.
It is appropriate for the historical term halfpenny ie /`heɪpni/ and is found in the less usual version /reɪf/ of Ralph.
It corresponds to the spelling ea only in break, great and steak and the name Yeats.
It corresponds to the spelling ei in (one version of) heinous, reins,  skein, vein  and, followed by 'silent g', in deign, reign; extraneous items include (chow) mein, Seine and Sinn Fein.

Diphthongal Vowel 14 / əʊ /

This usually corresponds to the spellings oa, oe, o..e as in road, toe and bone but is oo only in brooch, eo only in yeoman. Other very irregular spellings occur in oh, dont and wont.  Extraneous ones are gauche, chauffeur, eau (de Cologne), beau, bureau, plateau, sauté and mauve.     
    It corresponds to the spelling ew only in the word sew and the placename Shrewsbury. An old spelling shew has now given way to show.

Diphthongal Vowel 15 /aɪ /

This usually corresponds to the spellings i..e as in ice and  y..e as in dye but is ei only in eider(down), either, height, neither, seismic and sleight (of hand). In England less often and in America regularly either and neither have / i /.     
    It corresponds to the spelling uy in buy and guy, and to i in  island, iota, night, sigh, sign (before silent s, gh and g), and magi, foci, fungi and other Latin plurals and also in the names Isaiah /aɪ`zaɪə/, Eli, Levi, Rabbi. It stands for ae in maestro.

Diphthongal Vowel 16 / aʊ /

This corresponds to the spelling ou in out, house, loud, south etc and to ow in cow, brown, crowd, how, now, owl etc.
    It is au in some extraneous words such as gaucho, hausfrau, sauerkraut, umlaut etc, and ao in Mao, Maoist, Maori, tao.

Diphthongal Vowel 17 / ɔɪ /

This corresponds to the spelling oi in avoid, boil, join, spoil  etc and to oy in boy, joy, toy, royal, employ, oyster etc.

Diphthongal Vowel 18 / ɪə /

This corresponds to the spelling  eer in beer, deer, cheer, steer  etc, to  ere in adhere, here, mere, atmosphere  etc and to ear in clear, dear, fear, hear, near, rear  etc. It is heard in the names, Leah, Mia, Pia and Sofia.
    Very exceptional are weir and certain forms with Celtic connections Deirdre, Ian, Keir, Liam and weird. 

Diphthongal Vowel 19 / /

This corresponds to the spelling  air in fair, chair, hair, pair etc, to are in bare, care, dare, spare etc.
It corresponds also to the spelling  ear only in  bear, pear, swear, (to) tear and wear. (Most other -ear words have / ɪə /).
And to the spelling ere only in there and where except in items not used in ordinary speech eg e'er and ne'er.
    This phoneme, which has, in any case, long had most of its allophones as [ɛː], is now heard  it seems from most younger GB speakers exclusively in that monophthongal long simple vowel transcribed here as /ɛ/ or alternatively /ɛː/.

Diphthongal Vowel 20 / ʊə /

This corresponds to the spelling ure in abjure, cure, pure, endure  etc  and as ur in during, jury, furious, injurious etc.
It was formerly commonly heard also in poor and sure in which it has now mainly given way to [ɔː].
    This conversion to Vowel 7  has  occurred  amongst  many speakers in  a variety of words. 

Consonant 1 / p /

Orthographic < p > is the regular and sole spelling of /p/.  If it’s doubled to <pp> as in supper or puppy  the spelling never stands for /pp/.
      Orthographic <p> is ‘silent’ in  corps, cupboard, pneumonia, psalm, psychology, ptarmigan, pterodactyl, Ptolemaic, ptomaine, raspberry, receipt .
    For the orthographic digraph <ph> see  Consonant  9.

Consonant 2 / b /

This corresponds to the spelling <b> with total regularity.
However, orthographic <b> is ‘silent’ in a small group of words ending -mb including bomb, climb, comb, dumb, lamb, numb, thumb, tomb and their derivatives.
    It is ‘silent’ also in debt, doubt & subtle and in the rare word bdellium.

Consonant 3 / t /

Orthographic < t > is ‘silent’ in words where the spelling has < st > followed by syllabic /l/ or /n/ eg   castle,  thistle, whistlefasten, listen, mustnt. Christmas has no /t/. Soften never has a /t/ but often often does. The words asthma and isthmus most often have no sound corresponding to their <th>.
    It is also ‘silent’ for many speakers in words where the spelling has initial <ts> eg tsar (most usually /zɑː/and spelt czar), tsarina, tsetse, tsunami,Tswana etc.
    In many words with endings like <-tia, -tion, -tial, -tious> orthographic <t> corresponds to /ʃ/ eg  inertia, militia, nation, motion, initial, impartial, ambitious, facetious.  In equation only it's replaced by /ʒ/.
    Orthographic <th> is /t/ in the words  thyme, discotheque & posthumous and some names including  Anthony, Esther, Thames / temz /, Theresa, Thomas, Thompson and Mathilda (which is more commonly spelt  Matilda).
The first < t > is silent in Matthew.

Consonant 4 / d /

This regularly corresponds to the spelling < d > as in  day, did, dyed except that in past forms of verbs ending with voiceless consonants such as with cooked, dropped, washed  etc when it is /t/ unless the <ed> ending has its vowel sounded as in dusted, pasted etc.
    The words procedure and soldier usually end with /-ʤə/; gradual and individual end  with /-ʤuəl/.
Orthographic <d> is most usually ‘silent’ in  and, sandwich, Wednesday and often in  grandpa,  handbag etc.

Consonant 5 / k /

This regularly corresponds to the spellings < k & ck > and very often to < c > before  < a,o & u >. For example  keep,  kick, cake, cat, cost, cut.
    It is sometimes < cc, ck > in eg  accord, accurate, accuse, tobacco; chicken, pocket If <e> or <i> follows
immediately < cc > is usually /-ks-/ as in  accept, accident, occidental.
    In certain words it is correponds to qu, eg in quarter, quiet, quick, quite;aqueduct, equal, liquor, mosque.
In some others it appears as x: eg axe, box, six, fix, luxury, mixture, exit.
    Orthographic < k > is ‘silent’ in  knack, knapsack, knee, knickers, knife, know and all other words beginning <kn->except in the foreign name Knesset.
    The digraph <ch> has the sound of /k/ in words taken from Greek or Hebrew via Latin, Italian, or French, as in  character, chasm, chimera, chirography, chiropody˃, scheme Schedule and schism, in GB traditionally /`ʃedjuːl/ and /sɪzm/, are being increasingly heard with /sk-/ the former possibly influenced from America where it's the usual version of the first and a common version of the second. .

Consonant 6 / ɡ /

Orthographic < g > is  / ɡ / in Germanic words but in Romance etc words /ʤ/ before <e> and  <i>.
For example /ɡ/ occurs in get, give, glass, grass.  See Consonant 8.
    The comparatives and superlatives of  long, strong & young have /-ŋɡ-/ eg / `lɒŋɡə / longer and / `jʌŋɡɪst / youngest
Orthographic < g > is ‘silent’ in align, arraign, assign, benign, campaign, design, feign, foreign, impugn, malign, phlegm, reign, sign, sovereign; gnat, gnaw,gnome.

Consonant 7 / ʧ /

This corresponds to the spelling  <ch> as in  church, to <tch>  as in catch.
    In tube, tune, attitude  etc /ʧu/ alternates with /tju/.
The ending <-ture>  is usually /-ʧə/ as in adventure, architecture, furniture, future, manufacture, nature, picture.
    Words like actual, effectual, intellectual, mutual, punctual, ritual, spiritual, virtual  end with/-ʧuəl/.
Other occurrences include the first sound in cello,concerto, Czech and the last in catch, match, itch, & hotchpotch.

Consonant 8 / ʤ /

This corresponds regularly to the spelling  < j >  and  if < e > or < i > follows in Romance etc words to < g >.
For example /ʤ/ occurs in gem, generous, genial, geology and in gesture, giant, gin, giraffe. Also in Gengis (Khan).
    It is represented by the spelling ch in the most usual pronunciation of spinach and also anomalously for the <g> in the sequence <ga> in margerine.

Consonant 9 / f /

This corresponds always to the spelling < f > except solely in the word of where it is /v/.
It is the value of < ph > in words of Greek etc derivation eg photograph, pheasant, philosophy, Philip, phone, diphthong, diphtheria.
     The first < p > in sapphire and Sappho is ‘silent’ except in so far as it may se said to betoken that the preceding vowel is short.

Consonant  10 / v /

This corresponds to the spelling ph only in one version of nephew which has given way noticeably during the past three decades or so to the more notional value of the spelling viz / `nefju /, the usual form in America. This has not happened to the name Stephen which whether so spelt or as Steven is invariably / `stivn /.
    It corresponds to the spelling < f > only in of. And it rarely occurs doubled except in pretty informal words like bevvy, divvy, luvvy, navvy, savvy and skivvy.

Consonant 11 / θ /

This corresponds to the spelling th in the great majority of its occurrences eg  thing, thought , bath, width,  ethical, cathedral etc. See Consonant 12 /ð/.
    A few names have /t/ for < th >: Anthony (tho chiefly not in America), Esther, Thailand, Thames, Theresa, Thomas, Thompson; Pathet Lao. So do thyme and discotheque but not Pathé or Pathétique.

Consonant 12 / ð /

If you ask any native speakers of English to say the sound of < th >  it’s virtually certain that they’ll say [θ]. This may thus be called its  “notional’  value. It shd make a good basis for any EAL user’s attempt to remember whether <th> stands for /θ/ or /ð/ that English <th> stands for /θ/ in the very great majority of its occurrences.
    Word-initially /ð/ occurs only in the mainly functional dozen common words (and their derivatives) than, that, the, their, them, then, there, these, this, those, though. Besides these there are only the mainly literary and archaic items thence, thither, thus, thou, thee, thine and thy.
    Word-medially /ð/ occurs in a moderate number of common words (and their derivatives) of fairly obviously Germanic origin including  bother, brother, either, father, farther, further, gather, leather, mother, neither, other, rather, weather, whether, worthy. Less common items include bathe, (come)-hither, lathe, loathsome, northern, scathe, scythe, teething, tether, wreathe and a few plurals including baths, mouths, oaths, paths, wreaths, youths.
    Word-finally /ð/ occurs mainly in with and a few mostly uncommon items eg bequeath, booth, smooth,

Consonant 13 / s /

This interpretation of the letter s of English spelling is very often extremely difficult. There are many words that show variation between / s / and / z / within one variety and many more that show differences of usage between varieties. Within GB there is more or less equal favouring of the alternative values of the s of numbers of words including abrasive, absorb, delouse, derisory, evasive, explosive, grandiose, resource, supposed-to, treatise, valise etc. Yet the greatest number of words have settled usages.  
    One pattern that should be noted is the alternation between pronunciation / z / as verb and / s / as noun etc in the words abuse, close, diffuse, excuse, house, use and misuse. Notice that disuse, which is mainly a noun, shows the same pattern by having /s/. The noun usage is heard with both values but /s/ seems the more usual.
This pattern is made explicit by the occurrence of spelling with c of the nouns in the pairs advise/advice and devise/device.     The verbs grease and mouse no longer commonly have / z /. Cf peace and appease / ə`piːz/. In the pairs practise/practice and prophesy/prophecy the differentiation is purely visual only / s / being used for both s and c. Whether verb or noun crease, increase and release have only / -s /. Compare also grass/graze and brass/brazen.  
    Common EFL problems include failing to differentiate cease from seize and loose / lus / from lose / luz/ and failing to notice the very anomalous way in which house / haʊs / has the plural / `haʊzɪz /.  
    The way the past of the verb use differentiates its two senses of was accustomed to with / s / and employed with / z / is exemplified in the sentence It was what they used to use to heat houses / ɪt wz wɒt ðeɪ `jus tə `juz | tə hit `haʊzɪz /.     
    The sequence supposed to is very commonly heard with / s / though / z / is common enough not to sound unusual.
The spellings c, sc and st often represent / s / but virtually never / z / (See Consonant 14 for electricity).
    The suffix <-ous> only has / s / eg in amorous, famous, porous, raucous.
Orthographic < s > is ‘silent’  in aisle, corps, desmene, island, isle and also in French loanwords like the rare pas and as the commoner element of compounds like pas de deux.
    The letter z represents / s / in chintz, chutzpah, eczema, howitzer, quartz and waltz.

Consonant 14 / z / 

This corresponds to the spelling ss only in brassiere, dessert, dissolve, possess, scissors, hussar and common variant pronunciations of hussy, business and pessimist. A few informal names have /z/ for ss including Aussie, Issy and Ossie. So have Rossetti and Missouri.
    The word electricity has a common subvariant form with its c represented by /z/.
Different preferences between / z / and / s / are notable contrasts between varieties of (educated) English. GA prefers or at least uses / s / in names such as Chrysler, Denise and Leslie in which GB usually employs / z /. A similar contrast occurs with the words blouse, erase and valise. In GA the suffix -ese may be heard with / s / which is hardly known in GB except in Peloponnese. Scottish English often has / z / for the c in December, but / s / for the first s in houses which is normally /`haʊzɪz/ in GA and GB.
Orthographic z is /s/ in blitz, intermezzo, quartz, scherzo & schizophrenia.

Consonant 15 / ʃ /

Word-initial < s- > is / ʃ / in sugar and sure, and at least a variant from s in loanwords chiefly from German eg schnauzer, schnapps, spritzer.
/ ʃ / is the regular value of word-final -tion, -lsion, -nsion and -ssion as in eg nation, compulsion, tension and session. Vowel plus -sion gives / -ʒn / eg in explosion.
    The words issue and tissue have also / ʃ / for their < ss > more often than /s/ in GB and exclusively in GA.
/ʃ/ is represented by <ch> in a few words eg chivalry. Cf Chandos, Chicago, Michigan and by <chs(i)> in fuchsia.

Consonant 16 / ʒ /

This is the value of the s when a vowel which is not immediately preceded by a consonant precedes the ending -sion.
    Compare abrasion, collision, explosion, fusion, lesion etc with / ʃ / in expansion, tension, compulsion etc.
Anomalously the t of equation much more often has / ʒ / than / ʃ /.

Consonant 17 / m /

This is written only <m> eg  minimum. It is ‘silent’  initially before <n>in words from Greek eg   mnemonic.
Double < mm > is only /m/ eg in accommodate, dimmer, jemmy, mummy.

Consonant 18 / n / This is written only < n >.

It’s usually ‘silent’ in government and also often in other words containing the  sequence < nm > before unstressed /-men(t)/ viz  abandonment, environment, imprisonment, Tiananmen.
Its always silent finally in autumn, column, solemn, condemn, damn, hymn.

Consonant 19 / ŋ /

This is always represented by <n> preceding  /k/ or  /ɡ/ as in anger, finger, bank, ink.
    Deriatives of words ending <ng> eg   have simple /ŋ/ as with singer /`sɪŋə/.
The comparatives and superlatives solely of  long, strong and young have /-ŋɡ-/ eg / `lɒŋɡə / longer and / `jʌŋɡɪst / youngest.

Consonant 20 / l /

This is always represented  by the letter  <l> which when doubled only represents the single sound except in the word  wholly (which, however, has a weakform with single /l/) and words like goalless, soulless, wheelless etc.
    Orthographic < l > is ‘silent’ in could, should, would;  chalk, stalk, talk, walk;  calf  , half and salmon..
There is no /l/  in the spoken forms of various words like alms, balm, calm, palm, psalm, qualm  etc in GB.
    Some GA speakers do employ /l/ in this group.

Consonant 21 / r /

This is never heard in GB before a pause or as the invariable possibility where it precedes another consonant sound. (In GA any written r may be uttered tho many more are elided than is no doubt the general impression eg in a word like surprise which often loses its first /r/.)
    In GA in one unique word / r / is heard where no r appears in the spelling viz  colonel / `kɜrnl /.)
Any word ending with the spelling -r or -re when followed in close rhythmical connection with a vowel sound usually has the an r pronounced. Such an / r / is known as a linking / r /.
    It is also normal in GB to insert a linking / r / between any word-final schwa and a rhythmically closely following vowel sound as in the idea of it / ði aɪ `ər əv ɪt /.
    Linking / r / is also used  by most GB speakers when / ɜ / ends a word in such situations and also similarly with  / ɑ / or / ɔ / even when no < r > is involved in their spelling. At one time purists criticised such usages as not being "justified" by the spelling but they are now so commonplace that they almost invariably pass unnoticed.

Consonant 22 / j / (often known as "yod")

This is chiefly notable for the considerable number of words from which it is usually omitted rather than kept. These include most words of which a minority pronunciation exists with one of the sequences / θju, sju, zju/ or / lju/ such as enthusiast, suit, supermarket, lewd, ludo, lure and absolute. However, assume, consume, presume, resume and subsume predominantly have yod in GB. Never now heard with yod are lunatic and the names Lewis, Lucy, Luke, Luther, Luton, Sue and Susan. GA avoids all such yods and, unlike GB, has no yod in such words as tune, due and new.
    After / ʧ, ʤ, r / and / l / plus a consonant no yods are used (in GA or GB) eg chew, clue, June, rule and blue.
In the expression hallelujah alone /j/ is represented by the letter j thus usually differing solely from Alleluia /alə`lujə/ by the presence of its initial /h/. There are also the proprietary German loanword terms Jaeger /`jeɪɡə/ and Jagermeister (Jägermeister) /`jeɪɡəmaɪstə/.

Consonant 23 / w / (which may conveniently be called "wyn")

This occurs silently, ie unrepresented by any sound, in the spelling of one / wʌn / and once / wʌns /.  
    It corresponds to o in choir / `kwaɪə /and to u after g and s in a few words, after c in very few indeed and after q (which then has the value / k /) in very many. Examples are anguish, language, languid, penguin; assuage, persuade, suede; cuirass, cuisine; quality, quarter, queen, quick, square, and squeak.
    The orthographic w of who, whole, whom, whooping-cough, whore and whose has no sound value eg / hu , həʊl / etc.

Consonant 24 / h /

This consonant is not heard in the words spelt heir, honest, honour, hour and their derivatives nor after the prefix ex- in words like exhaust, exhilarate and exhort. However, it is used in exhale and by some GB speakers in exhume.
    It is not heard in shepherd or posthumous and often not in abhorrent and adhesive. It is not ordinarily heard in words beginning wh- in GB but is a common minority usage in them in GA. It is often omitted from words in which it begins an unstressed initial syllable like historical. Unlike GA, GB doesn't omit / h / from herb, huge, human or humour.
    In the Spanish loanword junta it is the usual sound for the <j>in American usage as /`hʊntə/ but the predominant form of the word in Britain is /`ʤʌntə/.  
    It corresponds to the spelling ch in chutzpah and Chaim to j in La Jolla.
See also blog 335.