英文

John Larrysson's Column:Is the K sound a C or an S?

【明報專訊】The letter K has a few issues to be aware of. Sometimes the K-sound is spelt with a letter K or C. Today I will look at K sound pronunciation patterns and the reasons behind them.

The letter K was rare in Old English, instead the letter C was used for the K-sound. Even Latin used C or Q for the K-sound. However in English the letter C before E, I or Y became a problem, after the Norman invasion of England in 1066. In Norman French that spelling would be a soft C, with an S sound. So in Middle English C was switched to K before E, I or Y. For example the Old English cyning became king and cene became keen.

The first K-sound spelling pattern suggests another. If C was switched to K before E, I or Y, what happened to the letter C before A, O and U? When the letter C is before A, O or U it still makes a K sound as in cake, coin and cup. The result of this spelling pattern is that Modern English words from Old English are usually spelt with a C for the K-sound before A, O and U.

There are words in Modern English with a K before these vowels, but these exceptions were borrowed later from other languages. These exceptions include: KA Examples: kangaroo (native Australian) and kaolin (China). KU examples include kumquat (Cantonese) and kung fu (Mandarin). KO examples include the Koran (Arabic), kosher (Hebrew) and kowtow (Mandarin).

There are some miscellaneous patterns to note. The KH and KK combination only appears in foreign words and in the middle of compound words.

This simple letter sound is not simple at all. Be sympathetic with children trying to learn this stuff.

■Audio and full text: link.mingpao.com/15488.htm

上 / 下一篇新聞