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Lettris is a curious tetris-clone game where all the bricks have the same square shape but different content. Each square carries a letter. To make squares disappear and save space for other squares you have to assemble English words (left, right, up, down) from the falling squares.
Boggle gives you 3 minutes to find as many words (3 letters or more) as you can in a grid of 16 letters. You can also try the grid of 16 letters. Letters must be adjacent and longer words score better. See if you can get into the grid Hall of Fame !
Change the target language to find translations.
Tips: browse the semantic fields (see From ideas to words) in two languages to learn more.
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2009)|
In English, the digraph ⟨th⟩ represents in most cases one of two different phonemes: the voiced dental fricative /ð/ (as in this) and the voiceless dental fricative /θ/ (thing). More rarely, it can stand for /t/ (Thailand, Thames) or, in some dialects, even the cluster /tθ/ (eighth). It can also be a sequence rather than a digraph, as in the /t.h/ of lighthouse.
In standard English, both in Britain and the United States, the phonetic realization of the dental fricative phonemes shows less variation than for many other English consonants. Both are pronounced either interdentally, with the blade of the tongue resting against the lower part of the back of the upper teeth and the tip protruding slightly (though less prominently than for the corresponding sound in Spanish) or alternatively with the tip of the tongue against the back of the upper teeth. The interdental position might also be described as "apico-" or "lamino-dental". These two positions may be free variants, but for some speakers they are complementary allophones, the position behind the teeth being used when the dental fricative stands in proximity to an alveolar fricative, as in clothes (/ðz/) or myths (/θs/). Lip configuration may vary depending on phonetic context. The vocal folds are abducted. The velopharyngeal port is closed. Air forced between tongue surface and cutting edge of the upper teeth (interdental) or inside surface of the teeth (dental) creates audible frictional turbulence.
The difference between /θ/ and /ð/ is normally described as a voiceless-voiced contrast, as this is the aspect native speakers are most aware of. However, the two phonemes are also distinguished by other phonetic markers. There is a difference of energy (see: Fortis and lenis), the fortis /θ/ being pronounced with more muscular tension than the lenis /ð/. Also, /θ/ is more strongly aspirated than /ð/, as can be demonstrated by holding a hand a few centimeters in front of the mouth and noticing the differing force of the puff of air created by the articulatory process.
As with many English consonants, a process of assimilation can result in the substitution of other speech sounds in certain phonetic environments. Most surprising to native speakers, who do this subconsciously, is the use of [n] and [l] as realisations of /ð/ in the following phrases:
/θ/ and /ð/ can also be lost through elision. In rapid speech, sixths may be pronounced like six. Them may be contracted to 'em, and in this case the contraction is often indicated in writing. (In fact, 'em is originally a separate word, a remnant of Old English hem, but as the apostrophe shows, it is perceived in modern English as a contraction.)
Children generally learn the less marked phonemes of their native language before the more marked ones. In the case of English-speaking children, /θ/ and /ð/ are often among the last phonemes to be learned, frequently not being mastered before the age of five. Prior to this age, many children substitute the sounds [f] and [v] respectively. For small children, fought and thought are therefore homophones. As British and American children begin school at five, this means that many are learning to read and write before they have sorted out these sounds, and the infantile pronunciation is frequently reflected in their spelling errors: ve fing for the thing.
Children with a lisp, however, have trouble distinguishing /θ/ and /ð/ from /s/ and /z/ respectively in speech, using a single /θ/ or /ð/ pronunciation for both, and may never master the correct sounds without speech therapy. The lisp is a common speech impediment in English.
Foreign learners may have parallel problems. In English popular culture the substitution of /z/ for /ð/ is a common way of parodying a French accent, but in fact learners from very many cultural backgrounds have difficulties with English dental fricatives, usually caused by interference with either sibilants or stops. Words with a dental fricative adjacent to an alveolar sibilant, such as clothes, truths, fifths, sixths, anesthetic, etc., are commonly very difficult for foreign learners to pronounce.
A popular advertisement for Berlitz language school plays on the difficulties Germans may have with dental fricatives .
In modern English, /θ/ and /ð/ bear a phonemic relationship to each other, as is demonstrated by the presence of a small number of minimal pairs: thigh:thy, ether:either, teeth:teethe. Thus they are distinct phonemes (units of sound, differences in which can affect meaning), as opposed to allophones (different pronunciations of a phoneme having no effect on meaning). They are distinguished from the neighbouring labiodental fricatives, sibilants and alveolar stops by such minimal pairs as thought:fought/sought/taught and then:Venn/Zen/den.
The vast majority of words in English with ⟨th⟩ have /θ/, and almost all newly created words do. However, the constant recurrence of the function words, particularly the, means that /ð/ is nevertheless more frequent in actual use.
The distribution pattern may be summed up in the following rule of thumb which is valid in most cases: in initial position we use /θ/ except in certain function words; in medial position we use /ð/ except for certain foreign loan words; and in final position we use /θ/ except in certain verbs. A more detailed explanation follows.
In pairs of related words, an alternation between /θ/ and /ð/ is possible, which may be thought of as a kind of consonant mutation. Typically [θ] appears in the singular of a noun, [ð] in the plural and in the related verb: cloth /θ/, clothes /ð/, to clothe /ð/. This is directly comparable to the /s/-/z/ or /f/-/v/ alternation in house, houses or wolf, wolves. It goes back to the allophonic variation in Old English (see below), where it was possible for ⟨þ⟩ to be in final position and thus voiceless in the basic form of a word, but in medial position and voiced in a related form. The loss of inflections then brought the voiced medial consonant to the end of the word. Often a remnant of the old inflection can be seen in the spelling in the form of a silent ⟨e⟩, which may be thought of synchronically as a marker of the voicing.
The above discussion follows Daniel Jones' English Pronouncing Dictionary, an authority on standard British English, and Webster's New World College Dictionary, an authority on American English. Usage appears much the same between the two. Regional variation within standard English includes the following:
Proto-Indo-European (PIE) had no dental fricatives, but these evolved in the earliest stages of the Germanic languages. In Proto-Germanic, /ð/ and /θ/ were separate phonemes, usually represented in Germanic studies by the symbols *đ and *þ.
In West Germanic, the Proto-Germanic *đ shifted further to *d, leaving only one dental fricative phoneme. However, a new [ð] appeared as an allophone of /θ/ in medial positions by assimilation of the voicing of the surrounding vowels. [θ] remained in initial and presumably in final positions (though this is uncertain as later terminal devoicing would in any case have eliminated the evidence of final [ð]). This West Germanic phoneme, complete with its distribution of allophones, survived into Old English. In German and Dutch, it shifted to a /d/, the allophonic distinction simply being lost. In German, West Germanic *d shifted to /t/ in what may be thought of as a chain shift, but in Dutch, *þ, *đ and *d merged into a single /d/.
The whole complex of Germanic dentals, and the place of the fricatives within it, can be summed up in this table:
|PIE||Proto-Germanic||West Germanic||Old English||German||Dutch||Notes|
|*t||*þ||*[þ]||[θ]||/d/||/d/||Original *t in initial position, or in final position after a stressed vowel|
|*[đ]||[ð]||Original *t in medial position after a stressed vowel|
|*đ||*d||/d/||/t/||Original *t after an unstressed vowel|
|*dʰ||Original *dʰ in all positions|
|*d||*t||*t||/t/||/s/ or /ts/||/t/||Original *d in all positions|
Thus English inherited a phoneme /θ/ in positions where other West Germanic languages have /d/ and most other Indo-European languages have /t/: English thou, German du, Latin tu.
In Old English, the phoneme /θ/, like all fricative phonemes in the language, had two allophones, one voiced and one voiceless, which were distributed regularly according to phonetic environment.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (July 2010)|
The most important development on the way to modern English was the investing of the existing distinction between [ð] and [θ] with phonemic value. Minimal pairs, and hence the phonological independence of the two phones, developed as a result of three main processes.
Other changes which affected these phonemes included a shift /d/ → /ð/ when followed by unstressed suffix -er. Thus Old English fæder became modern English father; likewise mother, gather, hither, together, weather. In a reverse process, Old English burthen and murther become burden and murder.
Dialectally, the alternation between /d/ and /ð/ sometimes extends to other words, as bladder, ladder, solder with /ð/. On the other hand some dialects retain original d, and extend it to other words, as brother, further, rather. The Welsh name Llewelyn appears in older English texts as Thlewelyn (Rolls of Parliament (Rotuli parliamentorum) I. 463/1, King Edward I or II), and Fluellen (Shakespeare, Henry V). Th also occurs dialectally for wh, as in thirl, thortleberry, thorl, for whirl, whortleberry, whorl. Conversely, Scots has whaing, whang, white, whittle, for thwaing, thwang, thwite, thwittle.
The old verb inflection -eth (Old English -eþ) was replaced by -s (he singeth → he sings), not a sound shift but a completely new inflection, the origin of which is still being debated. Possibilities include a "de-lisping" (since s is easier to pronounce there than th), or displacement by a nonstandard English dialect.
Though English speakers take it for granted, the digraph ⟨th⟩ is in fact not an obvious combination for a dental fricative. The origins of this have to do with developments in Greek.
Proto-Indo-European had an aspirated /dʱ/ which came into Greek as /tʰ/, spelled with the letter theta. In the Greek of Homer and Plato this was still pronounced /tʰ/, and therefore when Greek words were borrowed into Latin theta was transcribed with ⟨th⟩. Since /tʰ/ sounds like /t/ with a following puff of air, ⟨th⟩ was the logical spelling in the Latin alphabet.
By the time of New Testament Greek (koiné), however, the aspirated stop had shifted to a fricative: /tʰ/→/θ/. Thus theta came to have the sound which it still has in Modern Greek, and which it represents in the IPA. From a Latin perspective, the established digraph ⟨th⟩ now represented the voiceless fricative /θ/, and was used thus for English by French-speaking scribes after the Norman Conquest, since they were unfamiliar with the Germanic graphemes ð (eth) and þ (thorn). Likewise, the spelling ⟨th⟩ was used for /θ/ in Old High German prior to the completion of the High German consonant shift, again by analogy with the way Latin represented the Greek sound.
The history of the digraphs ⟨ph⟩ for /f/ and ⟨ch⟩ for Scots, Welsh or German /x/ is parallel.
Since neither /tʰ/ nor /θ/ was a native sound in Latin, the tendency must have emerged early, and at the latest by medieval Latin, to substitute /t/. Thus in many modern languages, including French and German, the ⟨th⟩ digraph is used in Greek loan-words to represent an original /θ/, but is now pronounced /t/: examples are French théâtre, German Theater. In some cases, this etymological ⟨th⟩, which has no remaining significance for pronunciation, has been transferred to words in which there is no etymological justification for it. For example German Tal ('valley', cognate with English dale) appears in many place-names with an archaic spelling Thal (see Neanderthal). The German family names Theuerkauf and Thürnagel are other examples. The German spelling reform of 1901 largely reversed these, but they remain in some proper nouns.
Examples of this are also to be found in English, perhaps influenced immediately by French. In some Middle English manuscripts, ⟨th⟩ appears for ⟨t⟩ or ⟨d⟩: tho 'to' or 'do', thyll till, whythe white, thede deed. In Modern English we see it in Esther, Thomas, Thames, thyme, Witham (the town in Essex, not the river in Lincolnshire which is pronounced with /ð/) and the old spelling of Satan as Sathan. In a small number of cases, this spelling later influenced the pronunciation: amaranth, amianthus and author have spelling-pronunciations with /θ/, and some English speakers use /θ/ in Neanderthal.
A few English compound words, such as lightheaded or hothouse, have the letter combination ⟨th⟩ split between the parts, though this is not a digraph. Here, the ⟨t⟩ and ⟨h⟩ are pronounced separately (light-headed) as a cluster of two consonants. Other examples are anthill, goatherd, lighthouse, outhouse, pothead, Chatham, Wytham, Yetholm; also in words formed with the suffix -hood: knighthood, and the similarly formed Afrikaans loanword apartheid. In a few place names ending in t+ham the t-h boundary has been lost and become a spelling pronunciation, for example Grantham.