Here's one for you...

How come we spell <write> like that but when we add the suffix <-en> not only do we drop the single silent <e> but we also double the <t>.

I'm stumped...how about you? Any insight?

The above is the text of an email I just received from a friend who is by no means a beginner in this work, but it is a questiont that comes up over and over, often with teachers new to this work - and that's how I leanred to explain this spelling. 

It seems so obvious that <written> must be built on the base <write>. The meaning and spelling are so close. But as my friend notes, the word sum doesn't work. According to this assumption we woule have to make this word sum:

write/ + en --> *writen

And this is clearly not the spelling. 

And that brings us to a very important lesson that teachers need to encoutner very soon after working with Real Spelling (That's why I'm using this new beginners forum for this question). 

If a word sum appears not to work, the safest assumption is that your word sum is in error, not the system.

When a spelling question seems to be getting stuck, see if this chart helps:

The  word <written> is the past participle of "to write," so the assumption seems right. But since the word sum does not work we must assume that there is something else going on. How can we find it?

Got to the next question, "How is it built?"

If <written> has a suffix <-en>, the follwoing is a logical hypothesis for the base:

writ(t) + en --> written

Could the base be <writ>?

Let's look at question #3 about relatives. From Etymonline.com: 

 

writ Look up writ at Dictionary.com
O.E. writ "something written, piece of writing," from the past participle stem of writan (see write). Used of legal documents or instruments since at least 1121.
And it is here that we find our answer. The words <write> and <writ> are separate bases that share a a common root origin (they are of the same etymological family) and thus are related in meaning, but the fact that a word sum cannot be constructed to link them, they CANNOT be of the same morphological family. They do not share a base, but the do share a root. 
Perhaps this seems a bit advanced for a beginners forum. But let me share why I put this here. I had this exact same question in my first year of working with Real Spelling. I did not sort it out on my own. I got help from Real Spelling. Even then, it took many more encoutners with this idea that two separate bases can grow from the same root before I understood it. But I want teachers new to Real Spelling to encoutner this type of question early on, in a context in which a logical response is found. The key message here is that word sums work. If you are trying to sort out a word sum, and it appears to be breaking down, please keep in mind that the most likely reason is not that the word sum is "at fault" but that there is something deeper going on that you need help with. 
Another common word pair that points to this same issue is <wise> and <wisdom>. At first many are tempted to assume that this is a case of an exception to suffixing patterns as consonant suffix <-dom> seems replacing a single, silent <e> and that is not supposed to happen. Once again, the failure of a word sum to work should be a signal that there is something deeper going on. Now that you've seen that one sollution to such issues is that two words that seem to be morphologically related are actually only related by etymology. If you are interested in leanring about this concept, adn the words <wise> and <wisdom> see this link
I hope this response sheds some light on this question for my friend and for all of you. 
Chees,
Pete

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet