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Autumn, Spelling, and Structured Word Inquiry

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Autumn, Spelling, and Structured Word Inquiry

Learn more about Structured Word Inquiry (SWI) by studying the spellings of some vocabulary words related to the autumn season: autumn, September, October, November, scarecrow, equinox, harvest, chestnut, deciduous, and chilly.

Structured Word Inquiry

English spelling is rule-based. There are no exceptions, just more rules to uncover. I have yet to find a word whose spelling cannot be explained. Structured Word Inquiry (SWI) is a means by which to study spelling. One can use SWI to investigate spelling by asking four questions:

1.) What does a word mean?
2.) How is the word built?
3.) What are morphological and etymological relatives of the word?
4.) What are the sounds that matter? What are the letters doing?

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The questions are to be investigated in order.

Autumn Vocabulary

Autumn

1.) Noun: the season that comes after summer and before winter when crops and fruits are gathered and leaves fall

2.) free base (simple word)

Autumn

late 1300s, autumpne, from Old French autumpneautomne, from Latin autumnus

3.)

Autumn + s -> autumns
Autumn + al -> autumnal
Autumn + al + ly -> autumnally

4.) The <n> spells the zero phone in autumn and the phone [n] in some related words.

Autumn

September

1.) Noun: the ninth month of the Gregorian calendar, the first month of the autumn season

2.) complex word (a word that contains prefixes and/or suffixes)

Sept + em + ber -> September

late Old English, from Latin September, from septem “seven,” the seventh month of the old Roman calendar, which began the year in March. The -ber in four Latin month names is probably from -bris, an adjectival suffix

Sept: seven

-em: Latin inflection

-ber: Latin suffix from -bris

3.)

Sept + em + ber + s -> Septembers
Sept + en + b(e)r + al -> Septembral
Sept + Angle -> septangle

Oct + o + ber -> October
Nove + em + ber -> November
Dece + em + ber -> December

4.)

September

October

1.) Noun: the tenth month of the Gregorian calendar

2.) complex word (a word that contains prefixes and/or suffixes)

Oct + o + ber -> October

late Old English, from Latin October (mensis), from octo “eight,” the eighth month of the old Roman calendar, which began the year in March. The -ber in four Latin month names is probably from -bris, an adjectival suffix

Oct: eight

-o-: connecting vowel

-ber: Latin suffix from -bris

3.)

Oct + o + ber + s -> Octobers

Oct + o + Pus -> octopus
Oct + o + Pod -> octopod
Oct + ant -> octant
Oct + uple -> octuple

Octa + gon -> octagon

Sept + em + ber -> September
Nove + em + ber -> November
Dece + em + ber -> December

4.)

October

November

1.) Noun: the eleventh month of the Gregorian calendar

2.) complex word (a word that contains prefixes and/or suffixes)

Nove + em + ber -> November

1200, from Old French novembre and directly from Latin November (also Novembris (mensis)), from novem “nine,” the ninth month of the old Roman calendar, which began the year in March. The -ber in four Latin month names is probably from -bris, an adjectival suffix

Nove: nine

-em: Latin inflection

-ber: Latin suffix from -bris

3.)

Nove + em + ber + s -> Novembers
Nove + em + ber + ish -> Novemberish

Nove + Enn + i + al -> novennial (done or recurring every ninth year)

Sept + em + ber -> September
Oct + o + ber -> October
Dece + em + ber -> December

4.)

November

Scarecrow

1.) Noun: an object made to resemble a human figure, set up to scare birds away from a field where crops are growing

2.) compound word (a word made of more than one word)

Scare + Crow -> scarecrow

1550s, earliest reference is to a person employed to scare birds

3.)

Scare + Crow + s -> scarecrows

Scare -> scare
Scare + s -> scares
Scare + ed -> scared
Scare + ing -> scaring
Scare + y -> scary

Crow -> crow
Crow + s -> crows

4.) The replaceable <e> marks the phonology of the <a>. The <ow> is a digraph.

Scarecrow

Equinox

1.) Adjective: the time or date (twice each year) at which the sun crosses the celestial equator, when day and night are of approximately equal length (about September 22 and March 20)

2.) complex word (a word that contains prefixes and/or suffixes)

Equ + i + Nox -> equinox

1400, “point at which the sun crosses the earth’s equator, making day and night of equal length everywhere,” from Old French equinoce or directly from Medieval Latin equinoxium “equality of night (and day),” from Latin aequinoctium, usually in plural, dies aequinoctii “the equinoxes,” from aequus “equal” + nox (genitive noctis) “night”

Equ: same, equal

-i-: connecting vowel

Nox: night

3.)

Equ + i + Nox + es -> equinoxes
Equ + i + Nox + al -> equinoxal

Equ + i + Noct + es -> equinoctes
Equ + i + Noct + al -> equinoctial

Equ + al -> equal
Noct + urn + al -> nocturnal

4.)

Equinox

Harvest

1.) Verb: the process or period of gathering in crops

2.) free base (simple word)

Harvest

Old English hærfest “autumn,” as one of the four seasons, “period between August and November.” The borrowing of autumn and the use of fall in a seasonal sense gradually focused the meaning of harvest to “the time of gathering crops,” also to the action itself and the product of the action, which became its main senses after the 130os.

3.)

Harvest + s -> harvests
Harvest + ed -> harvested
Harvest + ing -> harvesting
Harvest + er -> harvester
Harvest + able -> harvestable
Harvest + Man -> harvestman
Harvest + Men -> harvestmen
Harvest + Time -> harvesttime
Over + Harvest -> overharvest
post + Harvest -> postharvest

4.)

Harvest

Chestnut

1.) Noun: (1) a glossy brown nut that may be roasted and eaten, (2) the large European tree that produces the edible chestnut, (3) a reddish-brownish color

Adjective: a reddish-brownish color

2.) compound word (a word made of more than one word)

Chest + Nut -> chestnut

1560s, from chesten nut (1510s), with superfluous nut + Middle English chasteine, from Old French chastain (12c., Modern French châtaigne), from Latin castanea “chestnut, chestnut tree,” from Greek kastaneia, which the Greeks explained as either “nut from Castanea” in Pontus, or “nut from Castana” in Thessaly, but probably both places are named for the trees, not the other way around, and the word is borrowed from a language of Asia Minor (compare Armenian kask “chestnut,” kaskeni “chestnut tree”).

Chest: nut

Nut: a fruit consisting of a hard or tough shell around an edible kernel

3.)

Chest + Nut + s -> chestnuts

4.)

Chestnut

Deciduous

1.) Noun: a bush or shrub that sheds its leaves annually

2.) complex word (a word that contains prefixes and/or suffixes)

de + Cide + u + ous -> deciduous

1680s, with reference to leaves, petals, teeth, etc., “falling off at a certain stage of existence,” from Latin deciduus “that which falls down,” from decidere “to fall off, fall down,” from de “down” + combining form of cadere “to fall”

de-: down

Cide: fall

-u-: connecting vowel

-ous: forms an adjective

3.)

de + Cide + u + ous + ly -> deciduously
de + Cide + u + ous + ness -> deciduousness
in + de + Cide + u + ous -> indeciduous
non + de + Cide + u + ous -> nondeciduous
sem + i + de + Cide + u + ous -> semideciduous
de + Cide + u + ose + it + y -> deciduosity
re + Cide + ive + ist -> recidivist
co + in + Cide + ence -> coincidence

Cade + uce + ous -> caducous “having a tendency to fall”
de + Cade + ence -> decadence

decay

4.)

Deciduous

Chilly

1.) Adjective: uncomfortably cool or cold

2.) complex word (a word that contains prefixes and/or suffixes)

Chill + y -> chilly

1560s, “causing a sensation of cold.” Meaning “feeling coldish” is attested from 1610s; figurative sense of “distant, formal, not hearty or affectionate” is by 1841. Related: Chilliness. Earlier as an adjective was simply chill “tending to cause shivering” (1510s).

Old English ciele, cele “cold, coolness, chill, frost, sensation of suffering from cold, sensation of cold experienced in illness”

Chill: cold, coolness

-y: forms an adjective

3.)

Chill + y + er -> chillier
Chill + y + est -> chilliest
Chill + y + ness -> chilliness

Chill -> chill
Chill + s -> chills
Chill + ed -> chilled
Chill + ing -> chilling
Chill + ing + ly -> chillingly
re + Chill -> rechill

chillax (blend of chill and relax)

4.) The <ch> and double <ll> are digraphs.

Chilly

Image Credits

Autumn, Spelling, and Structured Word Inquiry: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Colorful_leaves_in_autumn.jpg and https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vitoria_-_Tractor_01.jpg

Autumn, Spelling, and Structured Word Inquiry

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Written by Heather Johnson

Heather is a writer, librarian, linguist, wife, and mother who loves her husband, children, dogs, and cats. She has a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in creative writing and master's degrees in library and information science and English studies with a concentration in linguistics.

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