Divisive roots: videre

Word Sum Wednesday: divisive


di+vise+ive-> divisive
This is a word that in invading our homes through the news and social media. I, myself, have even said it several times in the last 48 hours. When I make posts about language, I fear the response will be that I am told I am being divisive when I am challenging the status quo. It is not my intension, but sometimes that is the result. My intension is to create critical thinking, for someone to really evaluate what they know or teach, as sometimes science makes us rethink what we have always thought to be the way things are. 
So, divisive. It is related to <division>, so one might suspect that the Latin root “videre” means to separate. The base is <vise> which has a twin <vide>. (Please note that I said they are bases.) Twin bases happen in Latin all the time. This is why we divide a division problem. <Divide> and <division> relate to separating. The Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root is *weidh “separate.” Etymological relatives include <with> and <widow>.
As I was studying this word, I really wanted to put other words in this matrix (word family) that has the same surface spelling, like <vision> and <evident>. The bases of <vision> is <vise> and the base of <evident> is <vide>, which again are twin base elements. Yet, the denotation of the <vise/vide> base have to do with “see.” Looking deeper, the Latin root is vidēre. While this root may look like the same surface spelling, the diacritical above the <e> is an important Latin distinction.  Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root of vidēre is *weid “to see”.  Since the two PIE roots are different, that means that these bases (the one to separate and the one to see) are not cognate. This is a perfect example that words that are included in a matrix need to pass both the morphological and etymological tests. Etymological relatives include <voila> and <au revoir>.
I cannot leave this discussion with discussing <indivisible> which is in our pledge of allegiance in America. This is the hardest word for students to recite when learning the pledge of allegiance. Many recite it as <invisible> which has the <vise> base of “see,” with a similar surface base spelling but a completely different meaning. It can create some laughs, but imagine if kids were taught the pledge with a little word study? They would understand the word and be able to pronounce proudly as well. With everything political going on, we have become rather divisive as a nation. Although that changes when we encounter misfortune. We come together in crises, which was seen in the Hurricanes, the Las Vegas shootings and the CA wildfires. In those times we are humans with no other classification. We are indivisible.

Homophone Friday Series: ferry, fairy

I am starting a new series to sighing the homophone principle. English has a unique characteristic to its language

ferry vs fairy

called the homophone principle. Essentially if there is a word that is pronounced the same as another word with a different meaning it will take a different spelling if it is possible.

Homophones are words that are pronounced the same but spelled differently. English has many, many homophones. The most common are: two/to/too, eye/I, won/one, four/for/fore, here/hear, wear/where. Many people get confused with homophones, which are a characteristic of our English writing system and not a defect.

The grapheme choice for homophones are mostly etymologically driven. This means that studying where the word comes from and what its story is tells us a lot about how it will be spelled. When this is taken into account rather than thinking that spelling is only about phonology, then homophones make more sense.

I have recently started a series called, “Homophone Friday” looking at homophones which may be common or uncommon. The series will feature the IPA symbol representation of a homophone, as IPA is the way “sound” can be written. It will feature at least two words that are pronounced the same. Sometimes, there may be 3 or 4 words that are pronounced the same.

If you have a homophone that you are intrigued about, please email me at lisa@lisaklipfelmft.com. I am keeping a live Google slideshow of the homophones that I study to share with you. Click here for link.

Almost Nonsense Word of the Week: Sord

A flock of mallard ducks

Sord is a flock of mallard ducks. Yet, a group of (generic) ducks on the water is called a raft, bunch, or paddling. Mallards live mostly in North America. The tend to fly in the typical “V” shape. They are omnivores and like fresh water. The male is called a “drake” and has the colorful green head that distinguishes them from other ducks.

I know that some might think that is a misspelling of “sword”, or might be considered a nonsense word, but it is actually a dictionary abiding word. In late Middle English it was used to mean “to rise up”. It is thought to be related to the Latin word sugere which means to rise. Sugere gives us the base for words such as surge, resurge, insurgent, and upsurge.

Yet, the word <surgery> comes from Old French sugerie. The Late Latin etymology of was chirurgia coming from Greek χειρουργία kheiro (hand) and ergon (work). Surgeries were the work of the hands. It was a specific and delicate work.

The most commonly thought of word <sword> for /sɔʴd/ comes from Old English sweord, where it probably initially was pronounce with a /w/ phoneme. While it seems to come from Old High German sweran “to hurt”. The Proto-Indo-European root was *swer “to cut”. This root also gives us <swear> and <answer> from the same root *swer which meant “to speak, talk or say”. An answer is to not swear. The <w> in <answer> is an etymological marker connecting it to swear.

So <sord> relates to mallard ducks, while <sword> relates to a cutting device. The question of whether word is a nonsense word can now be answered.

Written by Lisa Klipfel

A Group of Animals is Called by Oxford dictionary. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/explore/what-do-you-call-a-group-of
Cornell Lab of Orthinology, Mallards. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mallard/id
Etymonline, sord. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=sord
National Geographics Kids, Mallard ducks. http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mallard-duck/#mallard-male-swimming.jpg

Almost Nonsense Word of the Week: Cloy

The concept of nonsense words in reading instruction is to see if a student is properly decoding words via syllables. The flawed concept is that many of the so-called nonsense words are actually words. Today’s almost nonsense word is “cloy”. The grapheme <oy> spells the phoneme /ɔɪ/. An educator may “make up” the word <cloy> thinking that it is a nonsense word to “test” a child in their decoding ability, when in reality <cloy> is a word in the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary “to surfeit with an excess usually of something originally pleasing”. The word <cloying> is an adjective. Yes, the suffix <-ing> can be adjectival. The crying baby was sad. The <crying> describes the baby, where as <was> is the verb. An example: The woman’s cloying perfume hung in the air like a cloud. Upon research of this word, I found there is a perfume called “Cloy”.

The etymology of <cloy> is Middle English cloyen, which meant to hinder movement. So someone who  over eats and can barely move from the gluttony may be described as cloying. Looking farther back into it’s history, this word goes back to Old French relating to “fasten with a nail”, such as to shoe a horse. Going even further back it is connected to Latin’s clavus “a nail”. Latin’s clavus is the root for slot, clove, and glaive. A clove grows in the shape of a nail. A glaive is a spear-like weapon on a long pole. It often had a small hook on the reverse side (similar to a nail). Slot is related to this root as a slot was used to fasten (bolt or bar) a door shut.

So, the next time nonsense words come up, it would be an interesting study to see if they are actually in the dictionary as “real” words. I will leave you with the ability to consider the futility of nonsense words. In general the idea of reading is to understand the meaning behind what is written. Nonsense words don’t do that, because they are “nonsense” and not intended to make any sense. Enjoy your almost nonsense word of the day!



Etymonline cloying entry

Merriam-Websters Word of the Day: Cloying

The Phonotactics of Dry and Truck

There is a couple patterns I see with dyslexic spellings of initial blends. One of them is the use of <chr> when a word begins as <tr> and the other common one is using <jr> for words with an initial <dr>. Some experts might state that the child has not mastered phonemic awareness and I used to believe this. I would spend endless hours with them to separate the sound before the <r>. I now know that I was missing something valuable related to these English spellings and pronunciations. I realize that these children actually have excellent hearing and excellent discrimination of phones.

In the case of an initial word that begins with the blend <tr>,  we blend it so quickly in connected speech that we often say <truck> as /tʃɹʌk/, although most people “think” that they say /tɹʌk/. Only when we say the word in isolation and really focus on the enunciation the <t> separate from the <r> does it actually sound like /tɹʌk/. The only way to understand the difference is to say a sentence with <truck> in it: The red truck is big. One may not fully agree with me, but when a student writes <truck> as <chruck>, they are able to distinguish the phone [tʃ] before the [ɹ]. Therefore they are translating the phoneme [tʃ] into <ch> as that is what most children are taught to do- translate phonemes into graphemes.

Upon studying word patters of <tr> and <chr>, I will share with you a secret. It’s actually no secret, because anyone can study what I have. All the words that I was able to find that had an initial <chr>, the <ch> grapheme was represented with a /k/ phoneme. Some common examples were <chrome>, <Christmas>, and <chronic>. I was unable to find any English words that started as <chr> that was pronounced [tʃɹ]. Therefore, whether or not it is argued that a child has or has not mastered phonemic awareness, a student can be informed that if they have an initial blend with the phones [tʃɹ] that it will never be spelled <chr>, as <chr> is reserved for /kɹ/.

When I encountered a substitution of <jr> for when the initial spelling was <dr>, I started to wonder if there was a similar constraint. This is another common “misspelling” that I see in dyslexic students. I researched words with an initial <jr> and there just isn’t any English words with an initial <jr>. Zero. One may ask, what about <jr.>? This is an abbreviation and it is still pronounced /ʤuːnjər/ in full. Again this child is reproducing the phones that we actually say in connected speech. Saying a word alone, one may separate the [d] and the [ɹ] when one says <dry>, but in connected speech it will be pronounced more like [ʤɹaɪ ]. Say, “The river is dry.” Most likely it was said [ʤɹaɪ]. Again, whether or not one agrees with the pronunciation, a student can be taught that the spelling will never be <jr> because English just doesn’t use that spelling sequence initially.

The next question is why. Why do we not have words that start are <jr> or [tʃɹ]? The answer relates to a linguistic term phonotactics. Let me break down this word: phon(e) + o + tactic+s. The base <phon(e)> relates to sound produced by something with a mouth and lungs. The base <tactic> relates to arranging. So, <phonotactics> is about how we arrange our mouth/toungue to make phonemes. Why is this important? English (and all languages actually) has phonotactic constraints. There are certain consonant phones that we just don’t put together. When the movie, “Frozen” came out, I remember a long discussion with a student about the character Sven. She swore the character’s name was “Spen”. The reason is that we don’t typically have <sv> letter sequence in English. There is the loan word <svelte> but that’s about it. So this child’s brain interpreted the /sv/ phones into what makes “sense”  and phonotactically possible in English, “thinking” it was “Spen”. It was a processing issue, not a hearing issue for an monolingual English speaker. If English allowed words to be spelled <jr> along with <tr> then we could more easily distinguish these phones. The phones [ʤɹ] is not phonologically distinctive from [tɹ] as there is only one way to spell both of these pronunciations, <tr>. Likewise the phones [tʃɹ] can only be realized in spelling with the graphemes<tr>. Phonotactics explains a lot about not only how we pronounce words, but can also help us to eliminate spelling patterns English doesn’t use. Thus it makes spelling a bit more easy to understand. I hope this explanation can help a student to understand the spelling patterns of <dr> and <tr> a little more easily.

Periaktoi – those spinny set pieces

Word of the day: periaktoi



Periaktoi (“perry-act-toy”) are theatrical prism shaped set pieces that turn to define separate scenes. The face of a periaktos (singular) is painted to represent a scene. The periaktos will traditionally have have 3 faces, but can have more. It is thought that have 3 faces gives the quickest scene changes. When periaktoi are used on stage, there are typically more than one matching periaktos that are moved in synchrony and highly coordinated.

The word itself is Greek, as it comes from Greek theatre. The initial base is <per> which denotes round, or revolving. It is seen in words such as <perimeter> the measure around something. <Periodontal> means to go around the tooth. The second base is <aktos> which denotes “carry”.  The word sum for <periaktos> is peri+i+aktos. It is something that is rotated and carried. Before set pieces were on wheels, they would have to be picked up and carried to be moved or rotated.

Now you can enjoy your theatre a little more when you see periaktoi moving around the stage.


6 different scenes using a 3 sided periaktoi video

3 different cityscapes video

Photo credit to Lexi Marton –  http://alienaritist7812.deviantart.com/art/Periaktoi-4-332124938

Homophone help



Homophones are words that sound the same. means same. means sound. Common homophones we use in daily life: two, to, too. I often get the question, “why is it spelled that way?” when it relates to a homophone. Sometimes I hear, “why don’t they just spell all those words the same way?”

I have to start this conversation with the fact that our writing system is a way to record meaning, not necessarily sounds. Our oral English language has been used for a lot longer than our written language. Spoken language shift over time. Think of the word, “selfie”. That is a word that did not exist 20 years ago, but became popular in our language with the advent of smart phone and front facing cameras. Eventually Webster’s dictionary decides that it needs to formalize it’s spelling and add it into the written language. You can see how spoke words typically develop long before a written representation exists.

So what’s the deal with homophones? Why do we have to spell them differently if they are said the same? Most homophones start in our speech, but as we talk the context we use allows us to know whether we are talking about items or meaning also. We might as a society revolt against the word and insist everybody uses because it is distinguished from and , but society will continue to use words that are familiar.

So it leaves scribes attempting to figure out how to spell homophones differently because they represent two different items or meanings. Therefore, scribes must look into the history of related words to choose the spelling of words that create meaning on its spelling. One might ask, why it is that there is a unvoiced in . Great question! That marks a connection to the words such as and which both have a in them. It may seem odd to insert an unvoiced letter into any word, but English scribes worked to create morphological connections between words. They wanted to connect the meaning (2, 12, 20) together in the spelling or orthographic representation.

So when you come across a set of homophones, try to consider what their history is. Try to consider what meaning a vowel team or unvoiced letter might have in the spelling. It wasn’t put there to be “weird” or “crazy”. It has a meaning.

Lastly, I will leave you with a resource for finding homophone. It is the homophone dictionary. There are many homophones that we come into contact with daily, but some are more obscure, yet equally valid.

Dyslexia Warning Signs App

APP TESTER NEEDED: Dyslexia Warning Signs

Dyslexia Warning Signs app is a simple app designed for professionals that have no experience or knowledge with dyslexia, but who are professionals that parents come to for help. This app is currently in its testing phase and that is where I need your help. I am looking for parents who would be willing to download this free app on their iPad, take the questionnaire, and give me their feedback on the experience. Feedback should be emailed to apps@levelupdyslexia.com. I need feedback on look/feel, usability, information provided, and additional features that would be helpful. Thank you again for your help and support.

Download app on your iPad here. It’s free.

Declaration of Independence From All Ineffective Literacy Methods for Students With Dyslexia

In CALIFORNIA, July 4, 2015

The unanimous Declaration of Independence

from all

ineffective literacy methods for students with Dyslexia 

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve an ineffective educational method connected by Dyslexia, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the Laws of IDEA entitle them, the decent respectful opinions of mankind requires a declaration cause which impel them to revolt.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all students are not created equal, but that all students are endowed with certain unalienable rights, that among these are free, appropriate public education.

To secure these rights, the Educational system, deriving their powers from the laws governed by our state and country, that whenever an Educational method becomes destructive, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Educational methods, laying its foundation on such principles for students to seek Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that certain Educational methods for Dyslexia long established should not be changed for light and transient causes: and accordingly all experience hath shown, that students are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations occur within the educational systems, it is their right, it is the duty, to throw off such Educational practices, and provide new interventions to guard for their future.

The student who is suffering with Dyslexia; now it is necessary to alter Educational practices. The history of the California Educational system has a history of repeated injuries and usurpations for such students, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over their School Districts. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to to candid world.

Districts have refused to follow the IDEA related to Dyslexia, indicating that it does not exist; it needs to for the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

Certain educations organizations have forbidden his Legislators to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance in literacy

Districts have called together their administrative bodies in such a way that its effect, and seeming purpose of fatiguing families into signing IEPs in which they do not agree that meets their child’s needs

Districts have endeavored to prevent the families from feeling they have the right to evaluation and testing, or interventions for that matter

Districts who have evaluated students have obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing to qualify students for a myriad of unfounded reasons.

Districts have combined with others to subject us to:

Following unacknowledged rules, regulations and policies; such guidelines which do not exist and cannot be found in writing among their district writings

Blocking access to evidence-base multi sensory direct explicit structured and systematic intervention; Only allowing the use of ineffective curriculum that only frustrate our child, leaving them grades behind

Depriving our children of the opportunity to read

Depriving our children of the opportunity to write and spell that is on par with their intellect

Ridiculing our children’s efforts, by way of telling them to “try harder”

Stabbing and stealing their self esteem, a secondary effect of they Educational system’s inability to effectively remediate our children’s reading and spelling

Absconding with their desire to learn; dashing their hope they can learn beyond.

Imposing a financial burden upon our families because the California Education system has failed to teach our children the basic inalienable right to read and to write, leaving families who want their capable children with Dyslexia to be literate to employ tutors trained in evidence-base multi sensory direct explicit structured and systematic which should be and could easily be available at every educational institution in California

For segregating those children, who are fortunate enough to have the Educational system agree to help them, by placing them with peers who do not have such similar educational goals

For the stronghold that takes place when a family should speak out about such Educational rights, and declaring these families should be fought in the area of due process

We do not want the attentions that has been bestowed upon us. We have warned them from time to time of the attempts of unwarrantable erroneous literacy interventions. We have reminded them of the circumstance of our right to a free and appropriate public education. We have appealed to their humanity and have requested the disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our children’s education. They too have been deaf to the voices of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounced the efficacy of these Educational methods to teach our children with Dyslexia in literacy, and hold them as unknowing, unlearned in the ways, yet those we must over come for the sake of our Children’s livelihood.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the children with Dyslexia of California, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Legislators of California for the rectitude of our intentions, do solemnly publish and declare, That these children and students have at their disposal the evidence based and effective interventions at their disposal at each and every educational institute erected in the the state of California. Being absolved from all previous ill mannered and ineffective literacy programs for our children of Dyslexia shall be dissolved and abolished from their curriculum. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of IDEA, we mutually pledge to each other our Loves, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Written by Lisa Klipfel

Adapted from the Declaration Of Independence of the United States of America


United We Stand Against All Ineffective Literacy Methods for Students With Dyslexia

United We Stand Against All Ineffective Literacy Methods for Students With Dyslexia

Independence in Checking Your Writing for a Dyslexic Student

How you check your writing

How you check your writing

When a student with dyslexia writes, they use a lot of brain power to get their thoughts onto the page. Most dyslexic students are unable to process their thought, capitals, punctuation and spelling all in one moment as they put pen to paper. Most students have to review each process separately. I like to use the acronym: CHOPS.

C- capitals. Go back to see where capitals need to be? Where are there capitals that don’t belong?

H- handwriting. Is it neat? Are your o’s closed? Are your t’s crossed? Can you make out each letter?

O- out loud. Read your writing out loud to make sure it sounds right.

P- punctuation. Do your sentences have a punctation at the end? Any commas, or quotation marks needed?

S- spelling/sight words. Do all of your words look right? Do you need to look any of them up?

This simple acronym can help your writing become easier to read by others, especially teachers and writing critics.