June 18, 2019

M. J. Maddox, PhD
is the American English Doctor.
 
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sh, wh, ch, th, ng, si

The “Extra Consonant Letters: sh, wh, ch, th, ng, si

Many alphabet books show the picture of a ship for the letter S.

No wonder children get confused!

“S” is for “seal.” “SH” is for “ship.”

Here are eight letter-combinations that need to be taught as “letters” in their own right.

SH
The letter-combination sh represents the consonant sound heard in ship and wish. It is the hushing sound we make when we want someone to be quiet.

WH
The /hw/ sound is a sound like blowing out a candle. Many Americans make no distinction between words that begin with wh and words that begin with w, but I’d still avoid an ABC book that shows the illustration of a whale for the letter W.

“W” is for “web.” “WH” is for “whale.”

CH
The letter combination ch is used to represent the unique sound of /tch/ as in church.

Ch also serves as an alternate spelling for /k/, as in Christmas, and /sh/, as in chef.

TH
The letter combination th is used to represent two distinct consonant sounds:

the unvoiced sound heard in thin
the voiced sound heard in this.

NG
People learning English as a second language try to pronounce the letter g in words like sing and singing, as if the digraph ng represents the sounds of /n/ and /g/. That’s not the case. The combination ng represents a different sound,  one made deep in the throat, a little higher in the throat than the sound /g/. It is not voiced. It is, in a sense, swallowed.

SI
The letter combination si represents the zh sound  heard in vision.