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Is there a spelling rule that covers ex- vs exc-?


Laurie4b
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the sound /eks/ is often made just by ex at the beginning of the word, but sometimes (except, excellent) by exc. Does anyone know of a rule that distinguishes? or is there a list somewhere of the "exc" words? I can't find it in any of the resources that we have. I have a child who struggles mightily with spelling and "rules" can help.

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the sound /eks/ is often made just by ex at the beginning of the word, but sometimes (except, excellent) by exc. Does anyone know of a rule that distinguishes? or is there a list somewhere of the "exc" words? I can't find it in any of the resources that we have. I have a child who struggles mightily with spelling and "rules" can help.

 

 

Off the top of my head - haven't gone through an exhaustive list of words (or the dictionary :tongue_smilie:) - do you add the "c" when it's followed by the vowels "e" or "i"??

 

A random, short list of ex words I can think of off the top of my head seems to support this...

 

exciting

except

excellent

 

extinguish

exterminate

exact

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I can't tell a difference in the way they sound.

 

 

Ooo! I can - and I think I've got it! look at the syllabification:

 

ex cite'

ex cept'

ex' ce lent

 

ex' it

 

ex empt' (not ex cempt')

 

Maybe it's a regional accent thing that I can hear the difference - to me the second syllable in that last one does not have an 's' sound at the beginning, where the others do.

 

Same with ex' e cute - not ex' ce cute.

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You actually hear the soft "c" in the words:

 

 

exciting

 

except

 

excellent

Compare to:

 

 

exit

 

exempt

 

 

:iagree: There's a definite difference. It's not eks-ite, it's eks-site, and it's eks-it, not eks-sit.

 

So much of mis-spelling comes from indistinct pronunciation, I think. Reminds me of dd and a friend playing I Spy in the car, phonetically, as they were pre-reading. The sound was ch, and when dd couldn't guess, her friend eventually gave the word as tree (pronouncing it chree). My daughter was quick to correct her, and just as quick to pick chraffic (traffic) as her word that began with a ch!

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I can't tell a difference in the way they sound.

Perhaps, but according to the dictionaries I consulted there is supposed to be a difference in the pronunciation but I have since found some that do not make the distinction also.

 

I would say that the /s/ sound is slightly drawn out on words with "exc" than "ex" alone.

 

Edited by Seeker
clarification
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As to a rule...

 

I have been working on devising a curriculum based on spelling rules and word families using index cards, which is to say that I am not an expert, but I have been looking for such rules also. I have not seen one for "exc" and there most likely would not be one because they are not all in the same syllable.

 

except - ex-cept

excite - ex-cite

 

That being said, the "c" rule of it the /s/ sound of "s," also called the soft "c" sound, would apply when the "c" is followed by an "i," "e," or "y." As I posted above, the /s/ sound is slightly drawn out.

 

Another point...

 

Words with just the "ex" usually have a harsher sound (for lack of fancy words that explain this better)

 

exempt [ig-zempt]

exit [eg-zit] but this one can also be [ek-sit]

 

Compared to these words which have a softer sound:

 

except [ik-sept]

excellent [ek-suh-luhnt]

 

 

Added: I did find one reference on a British site that stated:

Words that begin 'ex', followed by a soft 's' sound are spelt 'exc'; e.g., excellent, excerpt.

I would change that rule to add "usually" because there are exceptions.

 

I hope this helps.

Edited by Seeker
See "Added" above
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I can hear a slight difference too, that is why I always seem to spell exercise wrong!

 

To me I hear excercise eks-er-cise.

 

Yes, but that pronunciation means it shouldn't have the "c" - or it would be pronounced eks-ser-size, like except (eks-sept) and excite (eks-site). The words with a "c" have an /s/ sound starting the second syllable, not just the s sound in the first syllable that is part of the "x".

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You actually hear the soft "c" in the words:

 

 

exciting

 

except

 

excellent

Compare to:

 

 

exit

 

exempt

 

 

I think what you're hearing is just the different ways that X can be pronounced. It's most often a /ks/ sound, but can also be a /gz/ sound--more often in unstressed syllables such as exempt, though I have heard exit pronounced both with a /ks/ and with a /gz/. I say excite and exercise the same way--both with a /ks/. The only difference I hear is if I divide into syllables--then I think ex-cite. (I don't stretch out the /s/ in scissors just because there's an s and a c, or two s's in the middle either).

 

For an "easy" strategy, that's how I would learn words like this--ex-cite vs. ex-er-cise. Think auditorily in syllable chunks.

 

For a bit more thorough strategy, I think it's going to go back to knowing some latin roots and common morphemes.

 

Excite--from the Latin excitare, exciere: ex = out + ciere= to call.

Exercise--from the Latin exercitium, execere: ex = out of + acere, to restrain

 

Sometimes even with minimal Latin root knowledge, you can notice the similarities between words--the "cite" in excite is the same as the word, cite--same Latin root. Connecting these two and thinking about the meanings of the morphemes can help one remember the spelling.

 

Merry :-)

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For a bit more thorough strategy, I think it's going to go back to knowing some latin roots and common morphemes.

 

Excite--from the Latin excitare, exciere: ex = out + ciere= to call.

Exercise--from the Latin exercitium, execere: ex = out of + acere, to restrain

 

Sometimes even with minimal Latin root knowledge, you can notice the similarities between words--the "cite" in excite is the same as the word, cite--same Latin root. Connecting these two and thinking about the meanings of the morphemes can help one remember the spelling.

 

Merry :-)

Wow Merry, where did this knowledge of Latin to apply to spelling come from? I am asking because we have decided not to teach Latin, and I don't want to miss out on that.
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Wow Merry, where did this knowledge of Latin to apply to spelling come from? I am asking because we have decided not to teach Latin, and I don't want to miss out on that.

 

Well, those particular examples I pulled right from the dictionary. A good dictionary should give you the etymologies (language of origin and what languages a word traveled through before it came to us. I skipped the intermediate steps to make my answer shorter & clearer). I knew "ex" off the top of my head.

 

A good Greek and Latin roots course, even if you have no plans to teach these languages, is foundational to upper level vocabulary. I took one in college but there are so many out for homeschoolers. I think it's a great follow-up to do after you finish teaching spelling to kids, or as part of your vocabulary study. Definitely helpful before SAT's too. Handwriting Without Tears has a fair amount of roots included in their 5th grade Can Do series (print or cursive). It's a good intro I think, and can be followed up with something more thorough in Jr. High or High School (or younger for interested kids!)

 

I was reasonably sure that the "cite" in excite was going to be the exact same word from the Latin as our word cite, just from my familiarity with roots, so I looked it up to check. I think roots are fascinating because they add a depth to words and to the thought that formed the words.

 

I like to use The ABC's and All Their Tricks whenever I want to look up a specific spelling pattern--but if I don't find an explanation there, I go to the dictionary and see what I can learn there. American Heritage and Webster's both put out good dictionaries with etymologies, though not all of their dictionaries include them. It's something to look for when choosing a good dictionary. (I find it so important that I think a dictionary without them is practically useless).

 

I took Latin in both highschool and college, but as far as vocabulary and spelling goes, I'd say that the 1-semester roots course I took in college had a far greater impact on my knowledge in those areas.

 

(There are, of course, other languages that also affect our language. The soft ch as in chef is French, while the hard /k/ CH as in Christ, Christmas comes from the Greek--which makes sense if you know your history! Lots of German influence in our language. Things like igh are Old English sounds that used to be pronounced but no longer are. And of course we have some Native American and Spanish words too. Another fascinating course to look at would be to look at the history of our language.

 

Certain classes of words can tend to come from certain languages. We get a lot of cooking type words from the French, political words from Latin, medical words from Greek, etc... If you think about what a culture is known for, that makes sense.)

 

Have you ever watched the National Spelling Bee? Those kids always ask for language of origin because they know it affects spelling. There was one last year where the word had gone through 5 different languages--I just laughed, I think the kid did too--there was no hope of determining the spelling from that etymology!).

 

HTH! Merry :-)

Edited by MerryAtHope
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