Monday, December 08, 2008

See if you can even follow this

Well, today I thought I had solved a mystery. When I was in elementary school, I learned that homonyms are words that sound the same but are spelled differently, to, two, and too, for example. It seems I am in the small minority as most people call these words homophones. This has always been annoying to me. Why are there two terms? Why didn't I learn the other term and why did everyone else not learn the term I learned? And furthermore, because I learned homonyms along with antonyms (opposites) and synonyms (things that are similar), it stands to reason that the -nym suffix is the correct one. And besides, the dictionary seemed to agree with me. However, the dictionary also agrees with everyone else! So what have I been teaching in grammar lately? Among other things, we have been going over antonyms and synonyms. I should have known it was only a matter of time before the homonym would come up. It did today, only I was too cheap to buy the teacher's manual, and the child's workbook doesn't call these words that sound the same but are spelled and defined differently any specific term. So I decided I had to figure this out somehow so I could teach it correctly. 

And after some internet research here is what I thought was the answer. Both words are correct for words that sound the same but are spelled differently. Homonym is actually a more general term for both homophones, words that sound the same but can be spelled differently (there and their, sea and see, tale and tail, etc.) and homographs, words that are spelled the same but can be pronounced differently (close and close, bass and bass, wind and wind, tear and tear, etc.). The examples I just gave of homographs are also heteronyms (spelled the same, pronounced differently with different meanings). There are some homographs which are not heteronyms such as bear and bear or watch and watch. These words have two completely different meanings even though they have identical spellings and pronunciations, and according to Wikipedia, that is what a homonym is (a word that is both a homophone and a homograph- when the other sources said it was either a homophone or a homograph). But that is annoying because it seems like a lot of words have more than one definition, which is all that is really being said when one says it is spelled the same and pronounced the same but means something different. But ultimately, it seems no one can really agree on is what a homonym is and therefore, the mystery has not been solved. But I did decide to go ahead and teach Amabel homophone, even though I like it better when everything ends with -nym. 

1 comment:

Wright Family said...

I've never even heard the word "homophone"...but I guess I did go to the same school as you:)

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