Friday, April 1, 2016

Phonics Investigation #3: Why C is My Favorite Letter!

The letter c can be a very tricky letter for little learners.  With many consonants in English, the name of the letter gives a good clue as to how to pronounce it.  t is called "tee" and says /t/.  b is called "bee" and is pronounced /b/.  But c is pronounced "see" and yet it often says /k/.  Except when it says /s/!  I have read that the two letters that can be completely omitted from the English alphabet are the letter c (which could be replaced by either s or k, depending on the sound needed) and q, which could be replaced by kw.

As fascinating as it is to contemplate two letters that do not make any unique sounds, I would be very sorry to lose the letter c, because it is my favorite letter in the whole alphabet.  Let me take you on a journey all about the fascinating properties of the letter c!

Sometimes we use two consonants together to make what we call a "blend", like this ...

play and

The letter c can be a part of some of these combinations, like ...

scat and

However, when we see double consonants (the same letter repeated twice), we pronounce them as one sound, like in the words ...

fill and

The same is true of the letter c in words like this ...


We might be inclined to describe this by saying that when the same letter is repeated, it counts as one sound.  But a more accurate description would be to say that when the same sound is repeated, we count it as one sound!  Check out this word ...


Both the c and the k say /k/ and so they are counted as one sound: /k/!  But hold onto your hat because this is where it gets really fun.  You may have noticed that there is a pattern to when a c will make the /s/ sound.  Generally, c says /s/ when it is followed by an e, i or y, as in the words:

city and

So, c can pair with k to make a single sound (like in "duck") but c can also pair with "s" to make a single sound, like in the words ...

science and

So c can be a double letter making a /k/ sound, or it can partner with either k or s to make a single sound.  But here, by far, is my favorite phenomena.  Sometimes, two c's can appear side-by-side ... and yet the are not working as a team to make the same sound!!  Check out this word ...


The first c makes a /k/ sound because it is not followed by an e, i or y (it is followed by another c!).  But the second c is followed by an e, so it makes an /s/ sound!  I am willing to be corrected, but I cannot think of any other English consonant which can be written as a double letter ... and the letters do not work as a team to make a single sound!!

So, here is the challenge for the week:

  1. Can you find examples of c making a team with a k and examples of c making a team with s?
  2. Can you find other examples of words with a double c in which each c is making a different sound?
  3. Can you think of any other example in English of the same consonant repeated twice in a row (a "double consonant") where each of the letters makes a different sound?  (Note: There may not be an answer to this challenge, but if there is, I would be fascinated to know!!)

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