Ever hear a question asked and think, “That is an unusual question. I would never have thought of asking that!” But then can’t get the question out of your Mind? Well that happened to me recently when my niece, on her Face book site said she: “wonders about the usefulness of silent letters....”
As mentioned above, that was not something I had ever wondered about myself before, but once heard, had to find out. So out on to the Net for their answer. Found a few replies. The main gist being:
1.The English Language in particular is full of silent letters. This is because English is a developing language, that has always stolen words from other languages. Local pronunciation then often changes the way a word is said. This has been the case ever since England was settled almost simultaneously by the Angles, the Juts, the Saxons, the Danes and the Vikings. These people then had to communicate with the original peoples of Britain, such as the Britons, the Picts and the Celts. Tied into this was the remains of Latin (brought by the Romans, and kept alive by the Church). Then, in 1066, Norman French was introduced into the equation. If you had to try and speak all those languages, odds are you'd mispronounce words as well.
2. There are two uses for silent letters in English. One is to indicate the pronunciation of other letters. For example, in the word "tinny," the second n is silent; its purpose is to show that the i is not pronounced like the i in "tiny." Likewise, a silent e makes "hate" sound different from "hat."
The other use is something of an historical accident. As relics of past pronunciation, silent letters often contain clues to the history of the words they are in. Thus we can tell, just by looking at it, that the word "knight, with three silent letters, is probably connected to the German word Knecht, (which has no silent letters).
3. Attempts to "reform" English spelling are always dismal failures. For one thing, let's say we wanted to spell all our words the way they are pronounced. Well, pronounced where? In Boston we would write cod for what they spell card in Pittsburgh, and cawd for what they spell cod.”
And what goes for America, goes for Australia too, even if not as obvious. So now I know why we have silent letters. Now I have to ask, what sort of Letter are you? A useful one? A loud one? Or a silent one, who is only relevant on the odd occasion and useful only to those who know your code? Again just something for you to think on for now.