Could someone tell me where I could find rules concerning mute consonants. For example, why is the "b" mute in "lamb"? Thx for any help.
Sometimes a silent 'b' ( such as the one in 'lamb') has an etymological explanation, sometimes it doesn't (like the one in 'debt'). In Middle English there was a word like the French dette, with no 'b'. Some academic came along and felt that the English spelling should reflect the Latin debitum.
The same is true of many other silent letters - especially ones that show a 'regular' irregularity. In Middle English there was an irregular past of the now almost obsolete word 'ken', 'coude', which meant 'knew'. Like French savoir it could be used to refer to an ability: je sais nager = 'I can swim'. So 'coude' tended to be used as a modal, reflecting ability and/or possibility. Now, there were two other modals - 'wolde' and 'sholde' - which gave the present-day would and should (in which the l is now silent, though it wasn't at the time). Some academic decided that as many modals as possible 'should' share the same irregularity; so he introduced the silent l in what has become 'could'.
There are lots of silent letters and lots of stories to go with them, but no rules. You just have to learn them.
*I've never heard them called 'mute'. Perhaps, as you come from Montreal, there is a francophone influence (on the analogy of 'e muet')...?
Last edited by BobK; 03-Oct-2008 at 14:51. Reason: Added footnote
I am not a teacher, I am student.At 66yrs I am taking advantage of the Intenet and
studying Latin. There is a .pdf version of "Beginner's Latin Book" by William Collar
and M. Grant Daniell published 1891. Found it with Google.
At Chpt 1 page 1 there is a introduction to Latin consonants where the"mutes" are listed
P-mutes p, b, f
T-mutes t, d
K-mutes k, c, g, q,(u)
The liquids are l, m, u, r
The sibilant is s
The double consonants are x=cs, z=ds
Observation: The mutes are not a function of francophone influence, rather a much older influence.
Further, I do no completely understand the K-mute. There is no k in latin except as an import from Greek;
c and g are always "hard" and q is always paired with u.
I surfed the'Net for nearly 5 hours one day loking for an explaination of "liquid" consonants. As I
now understand them, they are sounded but do not impart a sounded change to their accompaning vowel.
Does anyone have a better explaination of a "liquid" consonant?
The k in Kn used to be pronounced in Middle English.