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Thanksgiving, Spelling, and Structured Word Inquiry

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Thanksgiving, Spelling, and Structured Word Inquiry

Learn more about Structured Word Inquiry (SWI) by studying the spellings of some vocabulary words related to the Thanksgiving holiday: Thanksgiving, gratitude, turkey, cranberry, Thursday, squash, cornucopia, delicious, acorn, and potato.

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.

Thanksgiving Vocabulary

Thanksgiving

1.) Noun: (1) an American holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November; a Canadian holiday celebrated on the second Monday of October, (2) the expression of gratitude

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

Thank + s + Give + ing

1530s, “the giving of thanks,” from thanks + present participle of give. In the specific sense of “public celebration acknowledging divine favors” thanksgiving dates from 1630s

from Old English þancþonc

Old English giefan

thank: grateful thought, gratitude

-s: plural suffix

give: bestow, deliver to another

-ing: present particple suffix

3.)

Thanks + s + Give + ing + s -> thanksgivings

Thank + s -> thanks
Thank + ed -> thanked
Thank + ing -> thanking
Thank + ful -> thankful
un + Thank + ful -> unthankful
Thank + less -> thankless
Thank + ful + ness -> thankfulness
Give + s -> gives
Give + en -> given
Give + ing -> giving
Give + er -> giver
mis + Give + ing -> misgiving

4.) The <th> is a digraph, or two letters that spell one sound. The <k> and final <g> mark the phonology of the <n> as spelling [ŋ].

Thanksgiving

A complete English word cannot be spelled with a final <v>. If a complete native English word ends with the grapheme [v], then the word is spelled with a replaceable <e> after the <v>. The replaceable <e> on the end of give keeps the word from ending in <v>.

Gratitude

1.) Noun: the state of being grateful, thankfulness

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

Grate + ite + ude

mid-1400s, “good will,” from Middle French gratitude or directly from Medieval Latin gratitudinem (nominative gratitudo) “thankfulness,” from Latin gratus “thankful, pleasing”

Grate: favor, thank, please

-ite: Latin suffix

-ude: word-forming element, making abstract nouns from adjectives and participles

3.)

Grate + ful -> grateful
Grate + i + Fy -> gratify
Grate + i + Fy + es -> gratifies
Grate + i + Fy + ed -> gratified
Grate + i + Fy + ing -> gratifying
con + Grate + ule + ate -> congratulate
con + Grate + ule + ate + ion -> congratulation
con + Grate + ule + ate + ion + s -> congratulations
Grate + u + ite + ous -> gratuitous
Grate + u + ite + y -> gratuity
Grate + ule + ate + ion -> gratulation (happiness, joy)
in + Grate -> ingrate
in + Grate + i + ate -> ingratiate

4.) The replaceable <e> marks the phonology of the <u>.

Gratitude

Notice that the <a> in gratitude spells a different phone than the <a> in grateful.

Turkey

1.) Noun: a bird similar to a chicken

2.) Simple word (one morpheme)

1540s, originally “guinea fowl,” a bird imported from Madagascar via Turkey, and called guinea fowl when brought by Portuguese traders from West Africa. The larger North American bird (Meleagris gallopavo) was domesticated by the Aztecs, introduced to Spain by conquistadors (1523) and thence to wider Europe. The word turkey first was applied to it in English 1550s because it was identified with or treated as a species of the guinea fowl, and/or because it got to the rest of Europe from Spain by way of North Africa, then under Ottoman (Turkish) rule.

The Turkish name for it is hindi, literally “Indian,” probably influenced by Middle French dinde (c. 1600, contracted from poulet d’inde, literally “chicken from India,” Modern French dindon), based on the then-common misconception that the New World was eastern Asia.

After the two birds were distinguished and the names differentiated, turkey was erroneously retained for the American bird, instead of the African. From the same imperfect knowledge and confusion Melagris, the ancient name of the African fowl, was unfortunately adopted by Linnæus as the generic name of the American bird.

3.)

Turkey
Turkey + s -> turkeys
Turkey + ling -> turkeyling
Turkey + ling + s -> turkeylings

4.) The <ey> is a digraph, or two letters that spell one sound.

Turkey

Cranberry

1.) Noun: a small red edible berry of a swamp-growing shrub

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

Cran + Berry -> cranberry

cranberry morpheme (a type of bound morpheme that cannot be assigned an independent meaning or grammatical function but that nonetheless serves to distinguish one word from another)

1640s, apparently an American English adaptation of Low German kraanbere, from kraan “crane” + Middle Low German bere “berry”. The reason for the name is not known; perhaps they were so called from fancied resemblance between the plants’ stamens and the beaks of cranes.

3.)

Cran + Berry + es -> cranberries

Bay + Berry -> bayberry
Black + Berry -> blackberry
Blue + Berry -> blueberry
Dew + Berry -> dewberry
Dingle + Berry -> dingleberry
Dog + Berry -> dogberry
Goose + Berry -> gooseberry
Straw + Berry -> strawberry
Tea + Berry -> teaberry

4.) The double <rr> functions as a digraph, or a grapheme that consists of two letters.

Cranberry

Thursday

1.) Noun: the day that follows Wednesday and comes before Friday

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

Thurs + Day -> Thursday

Thursday “Thor’s day,” from Old English þurresdæg, a contraction of þunresdæg, literally “Thor’s day,” from Þunre, genitive of Þunor “Thor”

thunder: Old English þunor “thunder, thunderclap; the god Thor”

3.)

Thurs + Day + s -> Thursdays

Thor: from Old Norse Þorr, literally “thunder,” related to Old English þunor “thunder”

4.) The <th> and <ay> are digraphs, or a grapheme that consists of two letters.

Thursday

Squash

1.) Noun: the edible or decorative fruit of the genus Cucurbita

Not to be confused with the homograph squash meaning “to compress or press” or “a racket game played with a soft rubber ball”

2.) free base

Squash

1640s, shortened borrowing from Narraganset (Algonquian) askutasquash, literally “the things that may be eaten raw,” from askut “green, raw, uncooked” + asquash “eaten,” in which the -ash is a plural affix (compare succotash, from Narragansett misckquatash “boiled whole kernels of corn”)

3.)

Squash + es -> squashes
Squash + y -> squashy

4.) The <qu> and <sh> are digraphs, or a grapheme that consists of two letters.

Squash

Cornucopia

1.) Noun: (1) horn of plenty, a symbol of abundance and nourishment, (2) an abundant supply of good things of a specific kind

2.)

Corn + u + Cope + i + a -> cornucopia

1590s, from Late Latin cornucopia, in classical Latin cornu copiae “horn of plenty,” originally the horn of the goat Amalthea, who nurtured the infant Zeus

from Latin cornu

from Latin copiosus “plentiful,” from copia “an abundance, ample supply, profusion, plenty; riches, prosperity; ability, power, might,” also the name of the Roman goddess of abundance,” from assimilated form of com + ops (genitive opis) “power, wealth, resources”

Corn: horn (unicorn, cornea)

-u-: connecting vowel

Cope: plenty, abundance

-i-: connecting vowel

-a: word-forming element in names (insignia)

3.)

Corn + u + Cope + i + a + s -> cornucopias
Corn + u + Cope + i + an -> cornucopian
Corn + u + Cope + i + ate -> cornucopiate

uni + Corn -> unicorn
Corn + e + a -> cornea
Cope + i + ous -> copious
Cope + i + ous + ly -> copiously

4.)

Cornucopia

Delicious

1.) Adjective: tasty, pleasing

2.)

de + Lice + i + ous -> delicious

1300, from Old French delicious, from Late Latin deliciosus “delicious, delicate,” from Latin delicia (plural deliciae) “a delight, allurement, charm,” from delicere “to allure, entice,” from de- “away” + lacere “to lure, entice”

de-: away

Lice: lure, entice

-i-: connecting vowel

-ous: characterized by, of the nature of

3.)

de + Lice + i + ous + ly -> deliciously
de + Lice + i + ous + ness -> deliciousness

de + Lice + ate -> delicate
e + Lice + it -> elicit

Booty + Lice + i + ous -> bootylicious

4.) The <ou> is a digraph, or a grapheme that consists of two letters. The second <i> also marks the phonology of the <c>.

Delicious

Acorn

1.) Noun: the fruit (nut) of an oak tree

2.) Simple word (one morpheme)

Old English æcern “nut, mast of trees, acorn,” a common Germanic word, originally the mast of any forest tree. Most sources claim a relation to the source of Old English æcer “open land” (via notion of “fruit of the open or unenclosed land”).

3.)

Acorn + s -> acorn
Acorn + ed -> acorned

Acre -> acre
Acre + e + age -> acreage

egghorn: a word or phrase that results from a mishearing or misinterpretation of another, an element of the original being substituted for one that sounds very similar or identical

4.)

Acorn

Potato

1.) Noun: a starchy plant tuber which is one of the most important food crops, cooked and eaten as a vegetable

2.)

Simple word (one morpheme)

1560s, from Spanish patata, from a Carib language of Haiti batata “sweet potato”

In the 1590s, the word was extended to the common white potato

3.)

Potato + es -> potatoes

Why -es­ and not ­-s?

Words that end with a penultimate consonant and final <o> often take the –es suffix.

tater
patootie

tomato (spelling influenced by potato)

4.)

Potato

Image Credits

Thanksgiving, Spelling, and Structured Word Inquiry: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Male_wild_turkey_(Meleagris_gallopavo)_strutting.jpg and https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cornucopia_of_fruit_and_vegetables_wedding_banquet.jpg

Thanksgiving, 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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