Silent Letters and French Accents

"An orthography will use whatever tools it has at its disposal to represent its language."

Earlier this week, I taught a pop-up class on [ŋ] in which I explained that [ŋ] is conditioned by a velar consonant following <n>. In words like pink, banquet, distinct, conch, longer, or finger, you can hear the velar consonant that follows the <n>, but in words like sing, long, or singer, the <g> is typically zeroed after velarizing the <n>. That's the upshot of that understanding, and it's elegant as all get-out.

Most phonics programs would have us believe that English has the following patterns: ing, ang, ong, ung, ink, ank, onk, unk. This kind of teaching results in misspellings like *<thingk> and *<Inglish>. It fails to deal with words like English, strength, length, or with the velarization of the <n> in words like incredible or sanctify or conquer.

Moreover, wealthy, self-satisfied Phombies like Louisa Moats have no problem offering <c.h.u.n.k> and <> as analyses in the same talk – on the same slide – without bothering to address the glaring disparity. That would add both <n> and <ng> as graphemes that can spell [ŋ], which is a lot less elegant than a <g> that zeroes.  

During class, one of the participants then made a brilliant observation in the chat:

The <ng> is consistent with the struggle phonics has to explain or account for "silent" letters. The concept that silence is a thing letters can do does not fit well with phonics.
From [ŋ] Pop-Up Class Chat
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