#156: Silent letters in high-frequency words
Which high-frequency words have a silent consonant?
Hi again, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English pronunciation podcast. My name is Mandy, and this is our 156th episode.
I've just created a new lesson on Pronuncian that lists all of the words in the top 5000 most frequent words that have a silent consonant. I didn't include silent vowels because their spelling rules are so complicated that they are very difficult to classify as being "silent" or not.
The top 5,000 most frequent words is not just an arbitrary number. That is the number of words listed in Mark Davies and Dee Gardner's Frequency Dictionary of Contemporary English. I've talked about the frequency dictionary before, but in case you don't know what it is, it's basically just a list of words that includes information about the part of speech that the word is being used as and also how frequently the word is used in English. This frequency dictionary also lists other words that are usually used alongside each word.
To get an idea of how important the 5,000 most frequent words are in English, it states in the preface of the Frequency Dictionary of Contemporary English that "the 4,000-5,000 most frequent words account for up to 95 percent of a written text and the top 1,000 most frequent words account for 85 percent of speech." So, if you can handle the top 5,000 words in English, you'll do quite well in most any situation.
I never would have guessed that the letters l, b, and g are the most common silent consonants in the top 2,000 words in English. Those are the words I'm going to talk about today. In fact, there are 13 words in the 2,000 most frequent words in English that have a silent consonant. Seven of those words have a silent l, four have a silent b, and two have a silent g.
Let's take a quick look at these 13 words.
Here are the top words with a silent l listed from the more frequent words to the less frequent words:
Yes, the word talk is included twice. First it;s included for the verb form, as in "I talked to him," then again for the noun form, as in "She gave a very long talk." The pronunciation of both forms is identical.
Now here are the four words with a silent b:
And here are the two words with a silent g:
There are 10 more words in the top 5,000 words with silent letters. I've included those words in our new Silent Letters lesson on Pronuncian. In the lesson I also include the word's frequency as well as its part of speech. I'll link to that free lesson from this episode's transcript page. As always you can find the transcript by going to www.pronuncian.com/podcast. From there, click Episode 156.
I'm going to say all of those top 13 words again, and I want you to note the silent letter. Repeat each word after me:
Again, you can find the link to the free lesson that lists all of the words with silent consonants by going to this show's transcript page.
That's all for today everyone. This has been a Seattle Learning Academy digital publication. SLA is where the world comes to learn.
Thanks for listening.
Davies, Mark, and Dee Gardner. A Frequency Dictionary of Contemporary American English. London: Routledge, 2010. Print.
About the ESL/ELL Teacher
Mandy has been teaching ESL, pronunciation and accent reduction since 2005 at Seattle Learning Academy, an English language school in Seattle, Washington, USA. She uses her experience with intermediate to advanced students to create the topics that most affect students living and working in the United States and can help them communicate better and more clearly.
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