8.4: Replacing the single, final, non-syllabic <e>
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Replacing the single, final, non-syllabic <e> Convention
Since it was decided that English words should not end with a <v> or <u>, in instances when a word could end with either of those letters, a letter <e> was inserted– such as in the words give, active, unique, and clue. In each of those words the inserted <e> is single and final and it is non-syllabic. A non-syllabic <e> does not represent a phoneme like the single, final <e> in the words me or be. The <e> in the words me and be are syllabic - they represent the long e sound. The <e> at the end of the base word give and at the end of the -ive suffix in the word active are single, final, and non-syllabic. Therefore when a vowel suffix is added the <e> will be replaced. -e.g. giver → give/+er or activate → act+ive/+ate. When consonant suffixes or another base word is added, the single, final, non-syllabic <e> is retained - e.g. uniqueness and clueless.
Using word sums shows when replacing the single, final, non-syllabic convention occurs.
please/+ed → pleased
an + note/ + ate/ + ion → annotation
be +have/+i+or→ behavior
The following list of words demonstrate another reason for a single, final, non-syllabic <e>.
Notice what happens when the <e> is deleted.
Deleting the <e> not only changes the meaning of the word, but it also signals a change in the sound of the preceding vowel from a long or tense vowel to a short or lax vowel.
In addition, a single, final, non-syllabic <e> has been added to allow for easier reading so that readers do not mistake singular words ending in <s> for plural words. For instance, see the following words and notice how the words might be mistaken if the final <e> was not present.
moose - moos
tease - teas
please - pleas
dense - dense
Whenever you notice that the final <e> is being replaced with a vowel suffix, you can conclude that the <e> is single, final, and non-syllabic. For more practice identifying syllabic and non-syllabic <e> words, see the Single, Final, Non-Syllabic <e> Activity.