The 'aw' sound

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Post by elsy » Thu May 01, 2008 3:48 pm

Rod, that's the slough I had in mind.

Elizabeth, a good reason indeed.

Rod Everson
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Re: the 'ou' sounds

Post by Rod Everson » Thu May 01, 2008 4:23 pm

Bob Boden wrote:

ought, bought, thought, wrought, fought, cough -- touch, rough,
slough -- though, soul, shoulder, boulder -- should, would, could -- soup, loupe, through, slough -- bough, bout, house, slouch, couch, shout, out, slough, bounce, -- bourg -- house

The 'ou's have six different sounds.

Bob Boden
Hi Bob,

Here's how I work it out from an instructional point of view:

1. Both of the graphemes "ou" and "ough" have four sounds and three are the same: /ow/oe/oo/. The last alternative is /u/ for "ou" and /aw/ for "ough" (in our dialect here.)

Thus, we have out, soul, soup, touch versus drought, though, through, thought.

2. I treat would, should and could as having a grapheme "oul" representing the same sound as the vowel sound in "cook." This removes the /oul/ sound from the alternatives for the "ou" grapheme, which is useful because there is no advantage to a child learning to try /oul/ for "ou" after he knows would, should and could. He will not encounter any unfamiliar words after that where he should try the /oul/ sound. Note: I use /oul/ to denote the vowel sound in "cook".

3. I treat laugh, cough, rough, tough and enough as all ending with a grapheme "ugh" representing the /f/ sound. This has several advantages, not the least being that "gh" then becomes a grapheme representing only the sound /g/ in words like "ghost." Doing it this way requires that the letter "o" in four of the words all be "perfectly pronounced" with the /o/ sound in "hot" (which works in my dialect, though this one is admittedly messy, as we definitely tend toward an /u/ sound in the last three words, rough, tough and enough and an /aw/ sound in cough.)

I view one purpose of any decoding instruction to be providing the child with knowledge as to which options to try when encountering an unfamiliar word, and the above approach limits their options to essentially four choices for both "ou" and "ough", with three of those options the same for each grapheme, /ow/, /oe/ and /oo/. This gets the memory load down to the point where it's practical to teach the various options to a young child.

Another purpose of decoding instruction is to rationally explain coding of the words they already know, so that they realize that there actually is a consistent code, and that is accomplished also by treating the words above in the manner I describe.

As Elizabeth indicated, everyone who can read will know what the words are, though they might pronounce them differently. It's the difference in pronunciation that makes designing a curriculum so challenging, and probably requires some regional adjustment in some cases, especially words containing what I call /ar/ and /or/ sounds.

Rod Everson

Bob Boden
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more ou words

Post by Bob Boden » Thu May 01, 2008 11:23 pm

Looking over my list of ou sounds I realized I had left out:

ghoul, wound (long u), wound (sound of ou in out), doubt, dough -- and probably a lot others

In regards to slough:

slough (sound of ou in out) -- A place, as a hollow, full of soft, deep mud

slough (long u sound) -- a swamp, bog, or marsh esp. one that is part of an inlet or backwater

slough (sluf) -- to shed or throw off

Bob Boden

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Post by maizie » Thu May 01, 2008 11:32 pm


I can't help but admire your industry! I understand that there are about a quarter of a million words in a 'standard' English dictionary and possibly about one million words in the English language. Are you working through all of them?

Bob Boden
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words with ou

Post by Bob Boden » Fri May 02, 2008 12:21 am

Hi Maizie and Rod,

I'm afraid I don't know the whole dictionary but I have made lists of quite a few words which use the typical digraphs.

With regards to the words containing 'ou'. I converted the list and found that the only vowel letters which need marking in order to indicate correct (NBC English) sound are: letter o with a mark which indicates the aw sound, letter o with a mark to indicate the long o sound, letter u with a mark to indicate the long u sound, letter u with a mark to indicate the sound of the 'u' in 'put', e with a mark to indicate the e sound in prosper.

With respect to consonant sounds:

gh with a mark to indicate the f sound
th with a mark to indicate the voiced sound
s with a mark to indicate the z sound

And of course there must be a way to indicate a letter which should be ignored.

The big difference with the marked letter approach is that the markings always indicate the same sound. Once learned they are applicable in any marked text.

Bob Boden

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