Easy Teaching Guides

CH is Not a “Blend”

Numerous websites offering tips on reading instruction refer to the digraph ch as a “blend.”

One site that describes a phonics game intended to teach blends has this comment about the “blend” ch:

The sound of ch, for example, sounds so unlike either c or h that lots of justice-minded kids will complain that it’s just not fair!
The children are right to complain if, after being told that br is a blend, they are also asked to think of ch as a “blend.”
A blend is a letter combination that represents two distinct sounds run together. Here are some true “blends”:
bl, br, cl, cr, dr, fl, fr, gl, gr pl, pr, sl, sm, st

Each of these letter combinations contains two distinct sounds.

Here are some words in which they occur:
black, bring, clam, creep, drag, flow, French, glance, grade, plan, prince, slide, small, and stand.

The digraph ch, however, is not a blend. The symbol does not combine the sounds of c and h. Ch is a single symbol used to represent a single sound in a word.

The most common sound represented by the diagraph ch is the /tch/ heard in church, chance, and inch.
A second sound represented by ch is /k/ as heard in words of Greek origin such as Christmas, chronicle, and archaeology.
The third sound represented by ch is /sh/ as heard in French borrowings like chef, chauffeur, and chamois.

Instead of confusing beginning readers by telling them that ch is a “blend,” tell them that ch is an “extra letter.” And teach them the three sounds it stands for.

8 comments to CH is Not a “Blend”

  • Meinard,
    I’ll try one more time to explain why the digraph ch is not a blend.
    A blend combines two separate sounds, both of which are heard in the blend.

    For example, in the blend tr (as in treat), the tongue taps against the roof of the mouth to produce the /t/ sound and is succeeded by the separate sound of /r/. Likewise, for the blend st (as in steam), the speech organs shift to pronounce the separate sounds of /s/ and /t/.

    As you acknowledge, sh is not a blend. It is one sound, made by pushing air over the tongue, which is positioned more or less mid-mouth.

    Likewise, ch is not a blend because, although the sound begins with the tongue in the position for /t/, it does not tap and then shift to the /sh/ sound. For the ch of church, the tongue remains in place at the roof of the mouth and the air is pushed past it. The tongue does not move. The sound produced is all one sound.

    If this explanation fails to convince you that ch is not a blend but a single sound, there’s nothing more I can offer. Further comment is futile.

  • Meinard Strydom

    The phoneme heard at the beginning of “chip” is a distinct and very different sound than the sound heard at the beginning of “ship.”
    Correct. Because the sharp phoneme you hear is a “t” in front of the “sh”, because “ch” is a blend of “t” and “sh”.

  • Meinard Strydom,
    I do disagree with you. The sound /ch/ is not a blend of /t/ + /sh/ any more than the sound /sh/ is a blend of /s/ and /h/. The phoneme heard at the beginning of “chip” is a distinct and very different sound than the sound heard at the beginning of “ship.”

  • Meinard Strydom

    Yeah, I see it didn’t render my IPA symbols. And you didn’t disagree with me, you actually most the IPA symbol that proves me right: You see the funny “S” symbol after the “t” in the IPA for “ch”? That funny “s” symbol is the symbol for the “sh” sound. Which means “ch” is a blend of “t” and “Sh”.

  • Meinard Strydom,
    I’ll just post one of your comments as they are very similar.

    I find it very difficult to follow your examples. I suppose that any IPA symbols you used became garbled in WP. I don’t know how to fix them. I’m uploading the IPA symbol for the first sound of the digraph “ch” as a graphic:
    IPA symbol for the first sound of the spelling . I must disagree with your assertion.

  • Meinard Strydom

    WRONG. “Ch” IS a blend! “Ch” is a blend of “t” and “sh” which is why it is written in IPA as /t?/. Which also why it is sometimes written as a “tch”.

    Compare:
    watch /w??t?/
    beach /bi?t?/

    Likewise, if you make “t” voiced in “ch” you get a “d” and if you make the “sh” voiced in “ch” you get a “zh”, thus “ch” becomes the “-ge”/”j” /d?/ sound.

    “-ge” IS a blend. “-ge” is a blend of “d” and “zh” which is why it is written in IPA as /d?/. Which also why it is sometimes written as a “-dge”.

    Compare:
    judge /d?ud?/
    orange /???r?nd?/

  • Pond care,
    Yes, I’m certain that ch is not a blend. It is a consonant digraph, two letters that stand for one sound.

  • CH is Not a “Blend” r u sure that is accurate?

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