God the silent ‘e’ at the end of life

An Open Orthodoxy

silent e picture I’ve taught Arabic language for years. One of the things students appreciate about Arabic is that the pronunciation of any text follows exactly from the pronunciation of the letters in front of you. No wasted letters, and no surprises. Whatever is on the page gets pronounced, every letter of it. No ‘ph’ is sometimes pronounced ‘f’ as in ‘telephone’. Why not just use an ‘f’? And no silent ‘e’ at the end of words either. Everything that is present is said and always said the same way.

I was trying to explain the silent ‘e’ to an Arab friend who had just started studying English. “Why use letters you don’t say?” he asked, “It doesn’t make sense.” I totally appreciate his frustration. In the end I had to agree and suggest he just memorize the weirdness and live with it. From his perspective, though, letters are meant to be…

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