A Little Phonics, Lesson Two

First the comic illustration:

I like Adam @ Home partly because hes a writer who works from a home office, like me, some of the time. This strip is part of an arc that got me wondering about some of our non-phonetic words in English, in this case, “of.” Why do we voice that f as if it were a v?

It turns out we sometimes don’t! The unvoiced pronunciation, when it happens, is usually right before an unvoiced consonant. Say “of course.” We don’t think about it, but that “f” can come out unvoiced. When we say the word “of” to name it (called the citation form) we always voice the f. We say / əv /. So all we ever think about is the voiced pronunciation. (See the previous post for an explanation of that upside-down e.)

What’s going on than? We say the v because it’s less work to say the voiced v in front of a voiced letter! For example, say “of every.” Now say “of course.” Not quite the same, are they? Hmm.