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.