From A to Z;Primary

29th May 1998 at 01:00
Sue Palmer's weekly guide to the alphabet

U is an unusual vowel. A, e, i and o have names that echo their long vowel sound - ay, ee, igh, oa. U's name (pronounced yoo, two phonemes, y-oo) matches its sound only part of the time (unit, cute). On other occasions, u makes an oo sound (blue, rude). And all too often it doesn't even make an appearance in words with these sounds (new, shoe, zoo).

There can be problems also with short u. Southerners have two ways of pronouncing it - the shallow u of cup, sun and butter, and the deeper u of put, pull and push, which is the same as the vowel sound in look and could. Northerners have no such petty distinctions.

Working with other vowels, u is responsible for a wide assortment of sounds, au (aunty, sausage, taut, gauge), ua (dual, suave); eu (feud, Europe) ue (blue, cue, suet); iu (Julius) ui (fruit, ruin); ou (you, your, count, country, colour, rough, though, trough, could . . . oh, and goodness knows how many more) uo (duo); uu (vacuum, continuum).

It is also usually found lurking behind the letter q, and quite often behind g (guide, guard, language). It also turns up in build and buy because of their Germanic origins, and in biscuit, the Old French word for twice-cooked.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now