World Library  



  • In the tables, the hyphen has two different meanings. A hyphen after the letter indicates that it must be at the beginning of a syllable, e.g. j- in jumper and ajar. A hyphen before the letter indicates that it cannot be at the beginning of a word, e.g. -ck in sick and ticket.
  • More specific rules take precedence over more general ones, e.g. "c- before e, i or y" takes precedence over "c".
  • Where the letter combination is described as "word-final", inflectional suffixes may be added without changing the pronunciation, e.g. catalogues.
  • The dialect used is RP.
  • Isolated foreign borrowings are excluded.
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

English orthography


English orthography

after /w/ except before /k/, /ɡ/, /ŋ/ /ɒ/ watch, warrior, quantity /æ/ quango
after /w/ before final r or r + cons. /ɔː/ warning, dwarf, war
unstressed /ə/ another, about, woman Ø artistically /i/ karaoke
unstressed, in -age /ɨ/ damage, bondage
aa, ah /ɑː/ baa, blah /eɪ/ quaalude
ae usually /iː/ encyclopaedia, paediatrician /ɛ/ aesthetic /eɪ/ reggae
/aɪ/ maestro
before r /ɛə/ aerial, aeroplane
ai, ay stressed /eɪ/ bait, cocaine, day /ɛ/
said, again, says
samurai, kayak, aye
/æ/ plaid
/iː/ quay
before r /ɛə/ cairn, millionaire, dairy
unstressed /ɨ/ bargain, mountain /ə/ Britain
ao /eɪ/ gaol /aʊ/ Taoism /oʊ/ pharaoh
au, aw /ɔː/ taut, author, lawn, /ɒ/
sausage, because, laurel
aunt, draught, laugh
/eɪ/ gauge
/oʊ/ mauve
  • before single consonant
  • before cons + (-le or r+vowel)
  • final, only vowel in word
  • final, Greek loans
  • before heterosyllabic vowel
/iː/ receding, detail, gene
metre, secret
be, she
simile, catastrophe
ukulele, cafe, crepe
metal, lemon, heron
livelihood, fateful
  • before multiple consonants
  • final vowel in word
  • followed by 2 or more
    unstressed syllables
  • next syllable contains /ɪ/
/ɛ/ better, fetch, merry
get, watershed
legacy, elegant, delicate

crevice, perish, epicness
/iː/ lethal
axes (plural of axis)

/ɪ/ pretty
before final r or r + cons.
(and in derived terms)
/ɜː/ herd, kerb, referral /ɑː/ clerk, sergeant
before r + vowel /ɪə/ serious, series, here /ɛə/
therefore, werewolf
/ɜː/ were
word-final Ø mate, discipline, starve
/iː/ recipe
unstressed /ɨ/ hatchet, target, poet /ə/ taken, decency, moment
usd, before heterosyllabic vowel /i/ create, area, atheist, hideous
ea usually /iː/ beach, eating, please /ɛ/ bread, healthy, cleanse /eɪ/ break, great, steak
before r + cons. /ɜː/ earth, learn, early /ɑː/ hearty, hearth /ɪə/ beard
before final r or r + vowel
(and in derived terms)
/ɪə/ clear, hearing, yearly /ɛə/ bear, pear, swear
eau /oʊ/ bureau, plateau, tableau /juː/ beauty /ɒ/ bureaucracy
ee usually /iː/ bee, feed /eɪ/ matinee, fiancee
before r /ɪə/ cheering, beer, eerie
ei, ey usually /eɪ/ veil, reign, obey /iː/
seize, key, geyser
height, heist, gneiss, eye
/ɛ/ heifer, leisure
after c /iː/ deceive, ceiling, conceit
before r /ɛə/ heir, their /ɪə/ weird, weir, eyrie
unstressed /ɨ/ foreign, counterfeit
unstressed, word-final /i/ monkey, curtsey, jersey
german-derived words /aɪ/ reich
german-derived words, before r /aɪə/ Vorbeigehen
eo /ɛ/ leopard, jeopardy /iː/ people /oʊ/ yeoman
/ɪə/ leotard
usually /juː/ feudal, queue, dew,
ewe, lieu, view
/oʊ/ sew, shew
/ɛf/ lieutenant
after /r/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /j/, cons. + /l/ /uː/ rheumatism, jewel, blew
before r /jʊə/ amateur, neural, Newry
both of the above /ʊə/ Jewry, pleurisy
  • before single consonant
  • before cons + (-le or r+vowel)
  • before -nd, -ld, -gh, -gn
  • word-final
  • before heterosyllabic vowel
/aɪ/ shine, cited, guide
title, idle, vibrant
wild, kind, sighed, ensign
alumni, alibi, radii
vial, quiet, prior, pious
/ɪ/ pivot, give, engine

wind (one meaning)
/iː/ machine, ski
  • before multiple consonants
  • final vowel in word
  • followed by 2 or more
    unstressed syllables
  • next syllable contains /ɪ/
  • before cons. + e/i + vowel
/ɪ/ hitch, fiddle, mirror
cinema, liberty, military

finish, spirit, minute
hideous, position, Sirius
/aɪ/ pint, ninth


/æ/ meringue
/iːɪ/ ski(ing)
before final r or r + cons.
(and in derived terms)
/ɜː/ bird, fir, stirrer /ɪə/ menhir
before r + vowel /aɪə/ hire, firing, enquiry
unstressed /ɨ/ livid, typical /ə/ pencil, cousin Ø business
usd, before heterosyllabic vowel /i/ familiar, alien, radii, idiot
ie finally /aɪ/ die, tie /i/ eerie, selfie
medially /iː/ field, series, siege /aɪ/ flies, tries /ɪ/ sieve
/ɛ/ friend
before r /ɪə/ pier, fierce, bulkier
  • before multiple consonants
  • final vowel in word
  • followed by 2 or more
    unstressed syllables
  • next syllable contains /ɪ/
/ɒ/ or /ɑː/ dot, doctor, torrent
opera, colonise, cooperate
topic, solid, promise
won, monkey, front
gross, comb, brokenly
tomb, womb
/ʊ/ wolf
  • before single consonant
  • before cons + (-le or r+vowel)
  • word-final
  • before heterosyllabic vowel
    (inc. unstressed)
/oʊ/ omen, grove, total
noble, cobra
banjo, go
boa, poet, stoic
moral, proper, shone
to, who, move, lose
come, love, done
purpose, Europe
/ʊ/ woman
/ɪ/ women
before r /ɔə/ ford, boring, more /ɔ/ for, morning
after w, before r /ɜː/ word, work, worst /ɔə/ worn
unstressed /ə/ eloquent, wanton, author
oa usually /oʊ/ boat, coal, load /ɔː/ broad
before r /ɔə/ boar, coarse
oe usually /iː/ amoeba, coelacanth, phoenix
finally /oʊ/ toe, foe /uː/ shoe, canoe /ʌ/ does
unstressed /ɪ/ oedema
oeu /uː/ manoeuvre
oi, oy usually /ɔɪ/ coin, boy
before r /wɑː/ reservoir, memoir, repertoire /ɔɪə/ loir /waɪə/ choir
oo usually /uː/ hoop, booze /ʊ/ wool, foot, soot /oʊ/ brooch
before k, d /ʊ/ look, wood /uː/ food, brood, spook /ʌ/ blood, flood
before r /ɔə/ door, mooring /ʊə/ poor
ou stressed /aʊ/ out, aloud, bough /uː/
soup, you, through
touch, trouble, country
soul, dough, boulder
/ʊ/ courier, should
/ɒ/ cough
before r /ɔː/ tourist, contour, pour /aʊə/
hour, our, devour
journey, courteous, scourge
/ʊ/ courier
/ʌ/ courage
unstressed /ə/ camouflage, labour, nervous
ow stressed /aʊ/ cow, sow, allow /oʊ/ know, show /ɒ/ acknowledge
before r /aʊə/ dowry
unstressed /oʊ/ yellow, rainbow, narrow
  • before multiple consonants
  • final vowel in word
/ʌ/ butter, dump, current /ʊ/ put, full, pudding
  • before single consonant
  • before cons + (-le or r+vowel)
  • before heterosyllabic vowel
    (inc. unstressed)
  • word-final
/juː/ luminous, mute, tuba
bugle, rubric
duel, fatuous, druid,
/ʊ/ sugar /ɪ/ busy
above after /r/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /j/, cons. + /l/ /uː/ rule, chute, June, flu
truant, fluent, menstruate
before final r or r + cons.
(and in derived terms)
/ɜː/ curdle, burr, furry
before r + vowel /jʊə/ lure, purity, curing /jə/ failure /ɛ/ bury
above after /r/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /j/, cons. + /l/ /ʊə/ rural, jury, plural
after g, before e, i Ø guess, disguise, tongue /juː/
argue, ague
linguistics, segue
unstressed /ə/ supply /ɨ/ minute, lettuce
ue, ui usually /juː/ cue, hue, nuisance /weɪ/ suede /wiː/ suite
/ɪ/ build, biscuit
above after /r/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /j/, cons. + /l/ /uː/ blue, tissue, fruit, juice
uy /aɪ/ buy, guyed
  • before multiple consonants
  • followed by 2 or more
    unstressed syllables
  • next syllable contains /ɪ/
/ɪ/ myth, cryptic
cylinder, typical, pyramid
/aɪ/ hyphen, psyche
  • before single consonant
  • before cons + (-le or r+vowel)
  • word-final, stressed
/aɪ/ typing, style, paralyze
cycle, cypress
sky, supply, bye
before final r or r + cons.
(and in derived terms)
/ɜː/ myrtle, myrrh
before r + vowel /aɪə/ lyre, tyrant, gyrate
unstressed /ə/ sibyl, martyr
unstressed, word-final /i/ city, happy
Spelling Major value () Examples of major value Other values Examples of other values
b, bb usually /b/ bit, rabbit, obtain Ø bdellium, debtor, subtle
finally after m
(and in derived terms)
Ø climb, comb, numbing
c before e, i, y, ae, or oe /s/ cellar, city, cyst,
face, prince, nicer
caesium, coelacanth
cello, vermicelli
special, liquorice
Celts, chicer
initially before n, t Ø cnidarian, ctenoid
elsewhere /k/ cat, cross Ø victual, indict
cc before e, i or y /ks/ accept, eccentric, occidental /k/
soccer, recce, siccing
bocce, breccia, cappuccino
elsewhere /k/ account, accrue, occur, yucca
ch usually /tʃ/ chase, chin, attached, chore /k/
Greek-derived words /k/ chasm, chimera, chord
French-derived words /ʃ/ chaise, machine, cached, parachute
Danish-derived words /dʒ/ sandwich, Greenwich
ck /k/ tack, ticket
d, dd, dh /d/ dive, ladder, jodhpurs /dʒ/
graduate, gradual (both also /dj/ in RP)
Wednesday, handsome
-dg- before e, i, or y /dʒ/ lodger, pidgin, edgy
f, -ff /f/ fine, off /v/ of
g before e, i, y, ae, or oe /dʒ/ gentle, magic, gyrate,
page, algae (GA)
get, eager, algae (RP)
collage, gigue
in -gm, gn- or -gn Ø diaphragm, gnome, signing, reign /ɡ/ signify, repugnant
elsewhere /ɡ/ go, great, guest /dʒ/ margarine
gg /ɡ/ stagger, flagging /dʒ/ suggest, exaggerate
gh initially /ɡ/ ghost, ghastly
elsewhere Ø dough, high, right, daughter /f/
/x/ or /k/
/ɡ/, /k/, or /x/
laugh, enough
h usually /h/ he, alcohol Ø vehicle, honest, hono(u)r, piranha
after ex Ø exhibit, exhaust /h/ exhale
j- /dʒ/ jump, ajar /j/
jalapeno, fajita
k, -kk, kh usually /k/ key, bake, trekking, sheikh
initially before n Ø knee, knock
l, ll /l/ line, valve, valley Ø
halve, balk, salmon, tortilla
m, mm usually /m/ mine, hammer
initially before n Ø mnemonic
n, nn usually /n/ nice, funny
before /k/ or /ɡ/ /ŋ/ link, bangle, anchor
finally after m
(and in derived terms)
Ø hymn, autumn
ng finally and in terms
derived from ng-final words
/ŋ/ long, kingly, singer, clingy
medially otherwise /ŋɡ/
anger, finger
danger, ginger, dingy
p, pp usually /p/ pill, happy, soup, corpse, script Ø coup, receipt
initially before n, s, t Ø pneumonia, psyche, ptomaine /p/ psst
ph, pph /f/ photograph, sapphire /v/ Stephen
q (not before u) /k/ Iraq, Iqaluit
r, rr, rh, rrh usually /r/ ray, parrot, rhyme, diarrhoea Ø iron
  • before consonant
  • finally
  • before final e
Ø in non-rhotic
dialects such as RP
cart, burr, fir, care, walker, tear, hurt
See below for combinations of vowel letters and the letter r
s, ss usually /s/ song, ask, message, misled /z/
scissors, dessert, dissolve, Islam
sugar, tissue, aggression
islet, aisle, debris
-s- between vowel sounds
(see also "se" below)
/z/ rose, prison /s/ basis
word-final -s morpheme
after a voiceless sound
/s/ pets, shops
word-final -s morpheme
after a lenis sound
/z/ beds, magazines
sc- before e, i or y /s/ scene, scepter, scissors, scythe /sk/
sceptic, scirrhus
sch- /sk/ school, scheme, schizo /ʃ/
schedule (in RP, otherwise: /sk/), schist
schism (in RP, otherwise: /sk/)
sh /ʃ/ shin, fashion
t, -tt usually /t/ ten, bitter,
chaste, wallet
ratio, Martian
question, bastion
castle, chasten, ballet
in unstressed -sten, -stle, -ften Ø listen, rustle, soften /t/ tungsten, existent
-tch /tʃ/ batch, kitchen
th /θ/
thin, both,
the, bothers
outhouse, potherb
v, -vv /v/ vine, savvy
w /w/ sward, swerve, wale Ø
two, sword, answer, gunwale
wh- usually /w/ or /hw/ in Hiberno-Eng. and Southern Am. Eng. wheel
before o /h/ or /hw/ in Hiberno-Eng. and Southern Am. Eng. who, whole /w/ whopping, whorl
wr- /r/ or /wr/ in Scottish Eng. wrong, wrist
x initially /z/ xylophone
elsewhere /ks/ extent, excuse, axe /ɡz/
exit (in some pronunciations)
luxury (in some pronunciations)
-xc before e or i /ks/ excellent, excited
y- /j/ yes, young
z, -zz /z/ zoo, pizzazz /ts/
schizophrenic, pizza

Combinations of vowel letters and "r"

Spelling Major value
Examples of major value Minor values
Examples of minor value Exceptions
ayer, ayor /e[ɪ]ə[r]/ layer, mayor
owr, ower /aʊ[ə][r]/ dowry, tower, flowery

Combinations of other consonant and vowel letters

Spelling Major value
Examples of major value Minor values
Examples of minor value Exceptions
ah /ɑː/ blah
al /æl/ pal, talcum, algae, alp /ɔːl/ bald, falcon
alf /ɑːf/ (RP)
/æf/ (GA)
calf, half /æl/ alfalfa, malfeasance /ɔlf/ palfrey
alk /ɔːk/ walk, chalking, talkative /ælk/ alkaline, grimalkin /ɔlk/ balkanise
all /ɔːl/
call, fallout, smaller
shall, callus, fallow
wallet, swallow
allow, dialled
/ɛl/ (GA) marshmallow, pall-mall
alm /ɑːm/ (all three examples have alt. pronunc.) calm (also: /ɑːlm/), almond (also: /ælm/), palmistry (also: /ɑːlm/) /ælm/
dalmatian, salmonella
almanac (also: /ælm/), almost
/æm/ salmon
/(ə)lm/ signalman
alt /ɒlt/ (RP)
/ɔːlt/ (GA)
alter, malt, salty, basalt /ælt/
alto, shalt, saltation
altar, asphalt
/ɑlt/ gestalt (GA)
/(ə)lt/ royalty, penalty
aoh, oh /oʊ/ pharaoh, oh
unstressed ci- before a vowel /ʃ/ special, gracious /si/ species
-cqu /kw/ acquaint, acquire /k/ lacquer, racquet
word-final -ed morpheme
after /t/ or /d/*
/ɨd/ waited
word-final -ed morpheme
after a voiceless sound*
/t/ topped, surfed /ɛd/ biped, unfed
word-final -ed morpheme
after a lenis sound*
/d/ climbed, failed, ordered /ɛd/ imbed, misled, infrared
eh /eɪ/ eh
word-final -es morpheme** /ɨz/ washes, boxes
unstressed ex- before a vowel or h /ɨɡz/ exist, examine, exhaust /ɛks/ exhale
gu- before a /ɡw/ bilingual, guano, language /ɡ/ guard, guarantee
word-final -le after a consonant /əl/ little, table
-(a)isle /aɪəl/ aisle, isle, enisle, lisle
word-final -ngue /ŋ/ tongue, harangue, meringue (dessert) /ŋɡeɪ/ dengue (also /ŋɡi/), distingué, merengue (music/dance)
old /oʊld/ blindfold, older, bold /əld/ scaffold, kobold (also /ɒld/
olk /oʊk/ yolk, folk
oll /ɒl/ doll, follow, colletc., holler /oʊl/ roll, stroller, polling, tollway
olm /ɒlm/ olm, dolmen /oʊlm/ enrolment, holmium /oʊm/ holm (oak)
ong /ɒŋ/ (RP)
/ɔːŋ/ (GA)
wrong, strong, song /ɒŋ/ Congress, congregation
qu- /kw/ queen, quick /k/ liquor, mosquito
quar- before consonant /kwɔː(r)/ quarter, quart
word-final -que /k/ mosque, bisque /keɪ/ risqué /kjuː/ barbeque
word-final -re after a consonant /ər/ ogre
ro /rɒ/ rod /roʊ/ roll /ə(r)/ iron
unstressed sci- before a vowel /tʃ/ conscience (/ʃ/ in RP) /si/ omniscient (RP only)
sci- (stressed) /saɪ/ science
-scle /səl/ corpuscle, muscle
-se (noun) /s/ house, mouse
-se (verb) /z/ house, raise /s/ chase
unstressed -si before a vowel /ʃ/ expansion /ʒ/ division, illusion /zi/ physiology, busier, caesium
/si/ tarsier
unstressed -ssi before a vowel /ʃ/ mission /si/ potassium, dossier
unstressed -sure /ʒər/ leisure, treasure
unstressed -ti before a vowel /ʃ/ nation, ambitious /ʒ/ equation /ti/ patio, /taɪ/ cation
unstressed -ture /tʃər/ nature, picture
unstressed -zure /ʒər/ seizure, azure

* There is no way to tell if it is the morpheme or an integral part of the word. Compare snaked and naked.

** Same as above; compare the two pronunciations of axes.

Small text indicates rare words. Loans words: SP for Spanish, FR for French.

Sound to spelling correspondences

The following table shows for each sound, the various spelling patterns used to denote it. The symbol "…" stands for an intervening consonant. The letter sequences are in order of frequency with the most common first. Some of these patterns are very rare or unique, such as au for the [æ] sound in laugh (some accents). In some cases, the spellings shown are found in only one known English word (such as "mh" for /m/, or "yrrh" for /ɜr/).

Spelling Examples
/p/ p, pp, gh pill, happy, hiccough
/b/ b, bb bit, rabbit
/t/ t, tt, ed, pt, th, ct, cht, tte, bt ten, hitter, dressed, pterodactyl, thyme, ctenoid, yacht, cigarette, doubt
/d/ d, dd, ed, dh, t (in some dialects), tt (in some dialects) dive, ladder, abandoned, dharma, waiter, flatter
/ɡ/ g, gg, gue, gh, gu go, stagger, catalogue, ghost, guess
/k/ c, k, ck, ch, cc, qu, cqu, cu, que, kk, kh, q, x, cq cat, key, tack, chord, account, liquor, Jacqueline, biscuit, mosque, trekker, khan, Queen, excitement, acquire
/m/ m, mm, mb, mn, mh, gm, chm mine, hammer, climb, hymn, mho, diaphragm, drachm
/n/ n, nn, kn, gn, pn, nh, cn, mn nice, funny, knee, gnome, pneumonia, piranha, cnidarian, mnemonic
/ŋ/ ng, n, ngue sing, link, tongue
/r/ r, rr, wr, rh, rrh ray, parrot, wrong, rhyme, diarrh(o)ea
/f/ f, ph, ff, gh, pph, u fine, physical, off, laugh, sapphire, lieutenant  (Br)
/v/ v, vv, f, ph, w, ve vine, savvy, of, Stephen, weltanschauung, twelve
/θ/ th, chth, phth, tth, fth (in some dialects) thin, chthonic, phthisis, Matthew, twelfth
/ð/ th, the them, breathe
/s/ s, c, ss, sc, st, ps, sch (in some dialects), cc, se, ce, z (in some dialects) song, city, mess, scene, listen, psychology, schism, flaccid, horse, ounce, citizen
/z/ s, z, x, zz, ss, ze, c (in some dialects), ts, tz has, zoo, xylophone, fuzz, scissors, breeze, electricity, tsarina, tzar
/ʃ/ sh, ti, ci, ssi, si, ss, ch, s, sci, ce, sch, sc, che, c shin, nation, special, mission, expansion, tissue, machine, sugar, conscience, ocean, schmooze, crescendo, quiche, speciality
/ʒ/ si, s, g, z, j, ti, sh (in some dialects) division, leisure, genre, seizure, jeté, equation, Pershing
/tʃ/ ch, t, tch, ti, c, cc, tsch, cz, che China, nature, batch, bastion (some accents), cello, bocce, putsch, Czech, niche
/dʒ/ g, j, dg, dge, d, di, gi, ge, gg magic, jump, judgment, bridge, graduate, soldier, Belgian, dungeon, exaggerate
/h/ h, wh, j, ch, x he, who, fajita, chutzpah, Quixote
/j/ y, i, j, ll, e yes, onion, hallelujah, tortilla, eoarchean
/l/ l, ll, lh line, hallo, Lhasa
/w/ w, u, o, ou, wh (in most dialects) we, persuade, choir, Ouija board, what
/hw/ wh (in Hiberno-Eng. and Southern Am. Eng.) wheel
/wr/ wr (in Scottish Eng.) wren
/x/ ch (in Scottish Eng.) loch
/ɾ/ tt, dd, t, d(see flapping) better, daddy, united, Cody
Spelling Examples
/iː/ e, ea, ee, e…e, ae, ei, i…e, ie, eo, oe, ie...e, ay, ey, i, y, oi, ue, ey, a be, beach, bee, cede, Caesar, deceit, machine, field, people, amoeba (variant of ameba), hygiene, quay (RP only; /eɪ/ in GA), key, ski, city, chamois, Portuguese, geyser (RP only; /aɪ/ in GA), karaoke
/ɪ/ i, y, ui, e, ee, ie, o, u, a, ei, ee, ia, ea, i...e, ai, ii, oe bit, myth, build, pretty, been (some accents), sieve, women, busy, damage, counterfeit, carriage, mileage, medicine, bargain, shiitake, oedema
/uː/ oo, u, o, u…e, ou, ew, ue, o…e, ui, eu, oeu, oe, ough, wo, ioux, ieu, oup, w, u tool, luminous, who, flute, soup, jewel, true, lose, fruit, maneuver, manoeuvre (Br. variant of prec.), canoe, through (form. variant of "thru"), two, Sioux, lieutenant  (GA), coup, cwm, thru (inf.)
/ʊ/ oo, u, o, oo...e, or, ou, oul look, full, wolf, gooseberry, worsted, courier, should
/eɪ/ a, a…e, aa, ae, ai, ai...e, aig, aigh, al, ao, au, ay, e (é), e...e, ea, eg, ei, ei...e, eig, eigh, ee (ée), eh, er, es, et, ey, ez, ie, oeh, ue, uet bass, rate, quaalude, reggae, rain, cocaine, arraign, straight, Ralph  (dated Br.), gaol  (Australian var. of "jail"), gauge (var. of gage), pay, ukulele (café), crepe, steak, thegn, veil, beige, reign, eight, matinee (soirée), eh, dossier, demesne, ballet, obey, chez, lingerie  (US), boehmite (also: /oʊ/), dengue (usually: /i/), sobriquet (also: /ɛt/; var. of "soubriquet")
/ə/ a, e, o, u, ai, ou, eig, y, ah, ough, ae, oi another, anthem, awesome, atrium, mountain, callous, foreign, beryl, Messiah, borough  (Br), Michael, porpoise
/oʊ/ o, o…e, oa, ow, ou, oe, oo, eau, oh, ew, au, aoh, ough, eo so, bone, boat, know, soul, foe, brooch, beau, oh, sew, mauve, pharaoh, furlough, yeoman
/ɛ/ e, ea, a, ae, ai, ay, ea…e, ei, eo, ie, ieu, u, ue, oe met, weather, many, aesthetic, said, says, cleanse, heifer, jeopardy, friend, lieutenant  (Br), bury, guess, foetid
/æ/ a, ai, al, au, i hand, plaid, salmon, laugh (some accents), meringue
/ʌ/ u, o, o…e, oe, ou, oo, wo sun, son, come, does, touch, flood, twopence
/ɔː/ a, au, aw, ough, augh, o, oa, oo, al, uo, u, ao fall, author, jaw, bought, caught, cord, broad, door, walk, fluorine  (Br), sure  (some accents), extraordinary
/ɒ/ o, a, eau, ach, au, ou lock, watch, bureaucracy, yacht, sausage, cough
/ɑː/ a, ah, aa, i father, blah, baa, lingerie  (US)
/aɪ/ ae, ai, aie, aille, ais, ay, aye, ei, eigh, ey, eye, i, i…e, ia, ie, ic, ig, igh, is, oi, oy, ui, uy, uye, y, y...e, ye maestro, krait, shanghaied, canaille (RP), aisle, kayak, aye, heist, height, geyser (US), eye, mic, fine, diaper, tie, indict, sign, high, isle, choir, coyote, guide, buy, guyed, tryst, type, bye
/ɔɪ/ oi, oy, awy, uoy oy…e, eu foil, toy, lawyer, buoy, gargoyle, Freudian
/aʊ/ ou, ow, ough, au, ao out, now, bough, tau, Taoism
/ɑr/ aar, ar, are, arre, ear, er, our, uar, arrh bazaar, car, are, bizarre, heart, sergeant, our  (some accents), guard, catarrh
/ɛər/ aar, aer, air, aire, ar, are, ayer, ayor, ear, eir, er, ere, err, erre, ey're, e'er Aaron, aerial, hair, millionaire, ware, vary, prayer, mayor, bear, heir, stationery (some accents), where, err (variant), parterre, they're, e'er
/ɪər/ ear, eer, eir, eor, ere, ers, e're, ier, iere, ir ear, beer, weir, theory  (US), here, revers, we're, pier, premiere, menhir
/ɜr/ er, or, ur, ir, yr, our, ear, err, eur, yrrh, ar, oeu, olo fern, worst, turn, thirst, myrtle, journey, earth, err, amateur, myrrh, grammar, hors d'oeuvre, colonel
/juː/ u, u…e, eu, ue, iew, eau, ieu, ueue, ui, ewe, ew music*, use, feud, cue, view, beautiful*, adieu*, queue, nuisance*, ewe, few, * in some dialects, see yod-dropping

See also

Orthographies of English related languages

Germanic languages

Romance languages

Celtic languages

Historical languages

Artificial languages


  1. ^ A short history of English spelling
  2. ^ English language. (2010). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved November 23, 2010, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:
  3. ^ Often this is because of the historical pronunciation of each word where, over time, two separate sounds become the same but the different spellings remain: plane used to be pronounced ˈpleːn, but the sound merged with the // sound in plain, making plain and plane homonyms.
  4. ^ Rollings 2004: 16-19; Chomsky & Halle 1968; Chomsky 1970
  5. ^ Chomsky & Halle 1968:54
  6. ^ Chomsky 1970:294; Rollings 2004:17
  7. ^ Rollings 2004:17–19
  8. ^ Included in Webster's Third New International Dictionary,1981
  9. ^ Algeo, John. "The Effects of the Revolution on Language", in A Companion to the American Revolution. John Wiley & Sons, 2008. p.599
  10. ^ a b Righting the Mother Tongue: From Olde English to Email, the Twisted Story of English Spelling, by David Wolman. Collins, ISBN 978-0-06-136925-4. [1]


  • Albrow, K. H. (1972). The English writing system: Notes towards a description. Schools Council Program in Linguistics and English Teaching, papers series 2 (No. 2). London: Longmans, for the Schools Council.
  • Aronoff, Mark. (1978). An English spelling convention. Linguistic Inquiry, 9, 299–303.
  • Bell, Masha (2004), Understanding English Spelling, Cambridge, Pegasus.
  • Bell, Masha (2007), Learning to Read, Cambridge, Pegasus.
  • Bell, Masha (2009), Rules and Exceptions of English Spelling, Cambridge, Pegasus.
  • Brengelman, Fred H. (1970). Sounds and letters in American English. In The English language: An introduction for teachers (pp. 77–98). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Brengelman, Fred H. (1970). Generative phonology and the teaching of spelling. English Journal, 59, 1113–1118.
  • Brengelman, Fred H. (1971). English spelling as a marker of register and style. English Studies, 52, 201–209.
  • Brengelman, Fred H. (1980). Orthoepists, printers, and the rationalization of English spelling. Journal of English and German Philology, 79, 332–354.
  • Carney, Edward. (1994). A survey of English spelling. London: Routledge.
  • Chomsky, Carol. (1970). Reading, writing and phonology. Harvard Educational Review, 40 (2), 287–309.
  • Chomsky, Noam; & Halle, Morris. (1968). The sound pattern of English. New York: Harper and Row. (Particularly pp. 46, 48–49, 69, 80n, 131n, 148, 174n, 221).
  • Cummings, D. W. (1988). American English spelling: An informal description. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0801879566
  • Derwing, Bruce; Priestly, Tom; Rochet, Bernard. (1987). The description of spelling-to-sound relationships in English, French and Russian: Progress, problems and prospects. In P. Luelsdorff (Ed.), Orthography and phonology. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Dixon, Robert. (1977). Morphographic spelling program. Eugene, OR: Engelman-Becker Press.
  • Emerson, Ralph. (1997). English spelling and its relation to sound. American Speech, 72 (3), 260–288.
  • Hanna, Paul; Hanna, Jean; Hodges, Richard; & Rudorf, Edwin. (1966). Phoneme – grapheme correspondences as cues to spelling improvement. Washington, D.C.: US Department of Health, Education and Welfare.
  • Jespersen, Otto. (1909). A modern English grammar on historical principles: Sounds and spellings (Part 1). Heidelberg: C. Winter.
  • Luelsdorff, Philip A. (1994). Developmental morphographemics II. In W. C. Watt (Ed.), Writing systems and cognition (pp. 141–182). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  • McCawley, James D. (1994). Some graphotactic constraints. In W. C. Watt (Ed.), Writing systems and cognition (pp. 115–127). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  • Mencken, H. L. (1936). The American language: An inquiry into the development of English in the United States (4th ed.). New York: A.A. Knopf.
  • Rollings, Andrew G. (1998). Marking devices in the spelling of English. Atlantis, 20 (1), 129–143.
  • Rollings, Andrew G. (1999). Markers in English and other orthographies. In L. Iglesias Rábade & P. Nuñez Pertejo (Eds.), Estudios de lingüística contrastiva (pp. 441–449). Universidad de Santiago.
  • Rollings, Andrew G. (2003). System and chaos in English spelling: The case of the voiceless palato-alveolar fricative. English Language and Linguistics, 7 (2), 211–233.
  • Rollings, Andrew G. (2004). The spelling patterns of English. LINCOM studies in English linguistics (04). Muenchen: LINCOM EUROPA.
  • Sampson, Geoffrey. (1985). Writing systems: A linguistic introduction. London: Hutchinson.
  • Seymour, P. H. K.; Aro, M.; & Erskine, J. M. (2003). Foundation literacy acquisition in European orthographies. British Journal of Psychology, 94 (2), 143–174.
  • Simpson, J. A.; & Weiner, E. S. C. (Eds.). (1989). Oxford English dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Steinberg, Danny. (1973). Phonology, reading and Chomsky and Halle's optimal orthography. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 2 (3), 239–258.
  • Stubbs, Michael. (1980). Language and literacy: The sociolinguistics of reading and writing. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  • Venezky, Richard L. (1967). English orthography: Its graphical structure and its relation to sound. Reading Research Quarterly, 2, 75–105.
  • Venezky, Richard L. (1970). The structure of English orthography. The Hague: Mouton.
  • Venezky, Richard L. (1976). Notes on the history of English spelling. Visible Language, 10, 351–365.
  • Venezky, Richard L. (1999). The American way of spelling. New York: Guildford Press.
  • Weir, Ruth H. (1967). Some thoughts on spelling. In W. M Austin (Ed.), Papers in linguistics in honor of Leon Dostert (pp. 169–177). Janua Linguarum, Series Major (No. 25). The Hague: Mouton.

External links

  • Rules for English Spelling: Adding Suffixes, QU Rule, i before e, Silent e, 'er' vs. 'or'
  • Hou tu pranownse Inglish describes rules which predict a word's pronunciation from its spelling with 85% accuracy
  • Free spelling information and Free spelling lessons in QuickTime movie format at The Phonics Page.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.