Why does CH sounds like K?

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  • lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    Well, there are general rules, right?

    CH is K in Biblical words...

    Shadrach / Meshach

    and Greek words...

    autarch / psyche / chiasmus / character

    and Germanic words, when it's a terminal consonant...

    Munich / Munch (Edvard) / einfach (musical direction)

    and there are probably more general rules than these, but here's what I can think of right now.
     

    meex2

    Member
    Cantonese
    So, in general, CH will sound like K if they are in greek or germanic. Any more rules?
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Well, it sort of depends on which biblical words. It's not "k" in charity or chastity or chariot or church or cherubim or chasten, but it is in Christ and Chaldeans and Chronicles and chrysolite. :) I think that's as mixed up as any other list.

    We have:

    chorus (k) but chores (ch)
    chasm (k) but chase (ch)
    aching (k) but caching (sh)

    You might be able to learn groups of words based on the originating language but that takes more work than learning just the words themselves.

    I don't think you can use Germanic origin as a guarantee of the K sound. "Child" is of German origin. So are bench and church and match.

    I can't think of a word in English that ends in "tch" that doesn't have the "ch" sound but there may be one.

    I was going to say that "nch" is also an indicator of a "ch" sound, but then we have "conch", don't we, which has a "k" sound.

    I can't think of a word in English ending in "uch" that doesn't have the "ch" sound (other than names taken from other languages such as Baruch).
     
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    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Welcome to English spelling. :( It's the reason that spelling bees (competitions) are so popular in the U.S. It is actually a learned skill to be able to spell English words properly and it basically involves memorization of individual words rather than rules.

    I have been searching for references for you that specifically address "ch" but I haven't found a good one yet.

    I think a few generalizations that would work fairly well, with some exceptions, would be:

    1) If the word ends in "ch" and a consonant precedes it, it's most likely the "ch" sound.

    Examples: launch, lunch, mulch, branch, brunch, bunch, arch

    2) If the word has the "tch" combination anywhere in it, it's most likely the "ch" sound.

    Examples: pitch, hatchet, latch, catch, ketchup, ketch, fetch, stretch, twitch, witch

    3) If the word starts with "chr" it's most likely the "k" sound.

    Examples: Christ, chrome, chrysalis, chronic, chronometer


    There are many words that aren't covered by these generalizations and the generalizations aren't perfect but it may give you something to start with.
     
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    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I was going to say that "nch" is also an indicator of a "ch" sound, but then we have "conch", don't we, which has a "k" sound.
    The Concise Oxford also allows for a 'ch' and a 'sh' sound for that:
    conch /kɒŋk, kɒn(t)ʃ/
    noun (pl. conchs /kɒŋks/ or conches /ˈkɒntʃɪz/)
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This is the first time I have come upon the suggestion that conch be pronounced conk :)
    Mind you, it's not a word that I use, or hear, often.
     

    morzh

    Banned
    USA
    Russian
    I think mostly "ch" sounds like "k" in borrowed words (as from Italian, where "ch" is "K") and especially in last names:

    Chiary
    Moonachie
    Bach


    And, as someone here just said, whoever told you that English has rules for reading - they lied to you. :D
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    This is the first time I have come upon the suggestion that conch be pronounced conk :)
    Mind you, it's not a word that I use, or hear, often.
    My wife grew up in southern Florida. We've spent a lot of time there, including some time in Key West - which styles itself "The Conch Republic." It's always "conk." Anyone who says it any other way is a first-time visitor (who didn't pay attention to the guidebook). :)

    You can even get Conch Republic passports, thanks to an enterprising chap named Peter Anderson. They look reasonably official and cost $100 (more for a diplomatic passport). Reportedly, people have been able to cross some borders with them, though they have no official standing and are not sold as travel documents. Anderson claims that one person avoided being killed by Guatemalan revolutionaries by saying ""Americano no! Republica de la Concha" and showing his.
     

    morzh

    Banned
    USA
    Russian
    We have a town of Moonachie in the state where I live.
    Locals call it "Moo-nah-kee", and those who are not locals say "Moo-nah-chee".
    We forgive them. They just don't know better. :)
     

    JeSuisSnob

    Ombudsmod
    Mexican Spanish
    I was going to say that "nch" is also an indicator of a "ch" sound, but then we have "conch", don't we, which has a "k" sound.
    I was thinking about David Fincher (ch), the filmmaker, but then I thought about Brian Urlacher (k), the Chicago Bears' linebacker. I used to think, "why Fincher with ch and Urlacher with k?"

    If a vowel precedes the "ch" we must pronounce "k" then:)?

    EDIT:

    JamesM said:
    aching (k) but caching (sh)
    Oh, I see there are some exceptions...
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    If a vowel precedes the "ch" we must pronounce "k" then?
    The best you can get in English are general guidelines. There is rarely a "must". :)

    (Besides, my guideline was "ending in 'ch' and preceded by a consonant." I can't think of a guideline that would help when it's in the middle of the word.)
     
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    JeSuisSnob

    Ombudsmod
    Mexican Spanish
    The best you can get in English are general guidelines. There is rarely a "must". :)

    (Besides, my guideline was "ending in 'ch' and preceded by a consonant." I can't think of a guideline that would help when it's in the middle of the word.)
    Thank you, James.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    The beginnings are also confusing:

    chief (ch) but chef (sh)
    chamber (ch) but chambray (sh)
    chart (ch) but chartreuse (sh)

    You would think that recognizing a French word that started in "ch" would help, but no :) :

    champion (ch)
    change (ch)
    cheque / check (ch)
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I was going to say that "nch" is also an indicator of a "ch" sound, but then we have "conch", don't we, which has a "k" sound.
    Nudibranch is another with a mixed Latin (nudus) and Greek origin (branchia). "Branch" doesn't look very Greek. It's a type of colorful sea slug popular in salt water aquariums if you haven't heard of them.

    I can't think of a word in English ending in "uch" that doesn't have the "ch" sound (other than names taken from other languages such as Baruch).
    Eunuch = K from Latin from Greek, Pentateuch = K (from the Biblical word list and Greek)
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I think English reading and English law have one thing in common - precedent.
    It is all precedent-based.
    Interesting comment, but overstated, I think. English law has statutes (Acts of Parliament) which in principle give new content to the law on a constant basis.
    As for spelling and pronunciation, there are indeed rules, but they are subject to exceptions and in any case are not comprehensive. Two important principles are:
    (a) Spelling is largely historical. It is derived from earlier word-forms, often depends on another language from which a word comes into English and evolves over time.
    (b) In many cases, pronunciation precedes spelling, not the other way round. The spelling is an attempt to render a pre-existing sound. This principle is complicated by sound-shifting: a given spelling comes to be pronounced differently as the centuries pass.
    Of course, these general principles do not help the learner acquiring an initial vocabulary.

    Hence it seems better to say 'largely precedent-based'. The lack of any attempt to rationalise our spelling may reflect the characteristic English preference for an empirical approach: dealing with things as they come, rather than making compehensive overall plans.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Nudibranch is another with a mixed Latin (nudus) and Greek origin (branchia). "Branch" doesn't look very Greek. It's a type of colorful sea slug popular in salt water aquariums if you haven't heard of them.


    Eunuch = K from Latin from Greek, Pentateuch = K (from the Biblical word list and Greek)
    There are always exceptions, aren't there. :)
     
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