They’re reviled by spelling reformers, and loathed by English learners.

They’re silent letters. Why does English possess these orthographic curiosities? Do other languages put up with them? Are they useless leftover baggage, or could they be the quiet achievers that make English spelling work?

UWA linguist Daniel Midgley breaks the silence on this episode of Talk the Talk.


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Show notes

Wikipedia’s page on silent letters isn’t a bad place to start:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silent_letter

The Great English Vowel Shift
http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A980624

And if you’re a Tom Lehrer fan, this’ll be right up your alley.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVC9TayQIh8