Deeper Dive: i

Word Story Text


I is a word in English, as well as a letter. The word is pronounced “eye”, which is also the name of the letter. Students will know the word I from speech, as well as the letter and the letter name. I is also capitalized, which separates it from lower case i, which has several pronunciations in words. I should be easy to read aloud and comprehend.

I is a homophone of the word EYE e-y-e. The two I words are good to use if you are teaching homophones. E-y-e has an unusual spelling and pronunciation: why is e-y-e pronounced “eye”??

Teaching the two eyes together might help learners remember the pronunciation of e-y-e.

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I (i)

1. I, the ninth letter of the English alphabet, takes its form from the Phœnician, through the Latin and the Greek. The Phœnician letter was probably of Egyptian origin. Its original value was nearly the same as that of the Italian I, or long e as in mete. Etymologically I is most closely related to e, y, j, g; as in dint, dent, beverage, L. bibere; E. kin, AS. cynn; E. thin, AS. þynne; E. dominion, donjon, dungeon. In English I has two principal vowel sounds: the long sound, as in pīne, īce; and the short sound, as in pĭn. It has also three other sounds: (a) That of e in term, as in thirst. (b) That of e in mete (in words of foreign origin), as in machine, pique, regime. (c) That of consonant y (in many words in which it precedes another vowel), as in bunion, million, filial, Christian, etc. It enters into several digraphs, as in fail, field, seize, feign. friend; and with o often forms a proper diphtong, as in oil, join, coin. See Guide to Pronunciation , §§ 98-106.The dot which we place over the small or lower case i dates only from the 14th century. The sounds of I and J were originally represented by the same character, and even after the introduction of the form J into English dictionaries, words containing these letters were, till a comparatively recent time, classed together.
2. In our old authors, I was often used for ay (or aye), yes, which is pronounced nearly like it. { Y-, or I- }. [OE. y-, i-, AS. ge-, akin to D. & G. ge-, OHG. gi-, ga-, Goth. ga-, and perhaps to Latin con-; originally meaning, together. Cf. Com-, Aware, Enough, Handiwork, Ywis.] A prefix of obscure meaning, originally used with verbs, adverbs, adjectives, nouns, and pronouns. In the Middle English period, it was little employed except with verbs, being chiefly used with past participles, though occasionally with the infinitive. Ycleped, or yclept, is perhaps the only word not entirely obsolete which shows this use.
That no wight mighte it see neither yheere. Chaucer.

Neither to ben yburied nor ybrent. Chaucer.
☞ Some examples of Chaucer’s use of this prefix are; ibe, ibeen, icaught, ycome, ydo, idoon, ygo, iproved, ywrought. It inough, enough, it is combined with an adjective. Other examples are in the Vocabulary. Spenser and later writers frequently employed this prefix when affecting an archaic style, and sometimes used it incorrectly.

-- Webster's unabridged 1913

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