Real Spellers

English Makes Sense!

Hello all,

I just received this question in my email, and I thought I'd share it and my response below so that the Real Spellers community can gain from this common suffixing question. I also wanted to use this opportunity to highlight Neil Ramsden's Interactive Suffix Checker. While many use Neil's Word Searcher, Mini-Matrix-Maker, and Word Microscope I think many fail to notice the suffix checkers at the bottom of this page that has links to all of those tools. 

So to get started -- here is Cindy's question:

The word in question is: <different>.

I know that <dif-> is the prefix, I know ( at least I think I know) that <fer> if the base, and I know that <-ent> is the suffix.

<fer> is the base and it is a CVC
<-ent> is a vowel suffix
So... why isn’t the r doubled?
In the word, terror, <ter> is the base and the <r> is doubled, so why isn’t the <r> doubled in the words different, difference, inference, conference?

Before I paste in my response, I want to share how impressed I am with this question. First of all, notice how clearly she explains the research she has already done in the context of constructing her question. On reviewing the question for this post, I was reminded that she took her question about the spelling of the word <different> and placed it in the context of doubling in the context of another word family <terror> and other members of the <fer> base. 

It is clear Cindy knows a great deal about spelling and how to investigate it from the way she posses her question. I love it!

Here is my response...


Hey Cindy,

You are correct that <differ> has the structure dif + fer --> differ with a bound base <fer>.
But in testing whether or not that <r> is doubled when adding the suffix <-ent>, we can build the word sum on the stem (a base with at least one other morpheme to which another morpheme is being added) <differ>.
So the left side of the synthetic word sum you are trying to construct looks like this:
differ + ent --> 
As your question shows, you already know the result of this word sum forces a doubling of the final consonant. 
Of course the point of your question is not to understand the suffixing for <different> but the consonant doubling conventions in general. 
To support that understanding, I suggest that you start with the above word sum, and then that you follow the steps of Neil Ramsden's "Interactive Suffix Checker" at this link
Please note the guide for getting started at this link. On that page you will also find a link to download a pdf of the Real Spelling "Big Suffix Checker" that you can use as well. 
Please let me know if you are able to use these tools to understand the suffixing in this word. I'd be happy to Zoom to work though this with you. I'm at home working now, so just email if you want to.
Also, as I think many people are not making use of the Interactive Suffix Checker, would you mind if I copy your question and my response and post it on Real Spellers for others to gain from?
I hope Cindy and other Real Spellers have a go with using Neil's Interactive Suffix Checker and/or the Real Spelling Big Suffix Checker to identify the conventions that resolve this question. A key point that you will notice is that the stem <differ> is a polysyllable. Suffixing doubling conventions for polysyllables require us to consider the topic of syllable stress. For those with Real Spelling, I recommend taking advantage of Cindy's question as an excuse to dive into Kit 4A on this topic!

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