Consonants /k/ versus //, 48 pairs     [cowthou.html]

The /k/ sound is spelled with <c> or <k> initially, and usually <ck> or <ke> medially or finally. The exceptional spelling <ch> occurs in the loan word Reich, though many English speakers will use a fricative in this word. The // sound is normally spelled with <th> or <the>.

The contrast is between a voiceless velar stop and a voiced dental fricative. It causes no problems.

The // sound is one of the rarest sounds in the dictionary, occurring in only 593 words. (Only /ʒ/ with 334 words is rarer.) However, it is very common in transcribed running text, since some of the words using it are the commonest in the language, the, that, these, thus, etc. Apart from these function words, it never occurs initially.

The mean density value is 0.5%. The list makes 31 semantic distinctions, a loading of 65%.

bake bathe
  baking bathing
  bakes bathes
baker bather
  bakers bathers
blacker blather
can than
care their
  cares theirs
cat that
  cats that's
cattle that'll
cave they've
cloak clothe
  cloaking clothing
  cloaks clothes
Co tho'
cow thou
cuss thus
dicker dither
  dickered dithered
  dickering dithering
  dickers dithers
hike Hythe 
K they
kail they'll
Ken then
key thee
keys these
kine thine
lake lathe
  lakes lathes
like lithe
Reich writhe
seek seethe
  seeking seething
  seeks seethes
slicker slither
  slickers slithers
teak teethe
tike tithe
  tikes tithes
wick with
wicker whither 
working Worthing 
wreak wreathe
  wreaking wreathing
  wreaks wreathes

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, April 2010.