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--- On Fri, 10/22/10, Philip Newton <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
 And Rosta wrote:
> > given the obtuse stuff that primary school
> > teachers normally teach about language, it wouldn't be
> surprising if the
> > orthographic definition, or some mixed-up hybrid, won
> out.
> 
> Given the definition of "vowel" as "A E I O U and sometimes
> Y" (i.e.
> an orthographic definition, and not a particularly useful
> one at that
> given the "sometimes"), I wouldn't be surprised at very
> much these
> days when it comes to linguistics in primary school
> education.
> 
Or, apparently, in olden times. This stuff seems to still be hanging around......As best I recall, in 1940 US-Midwest first grade we were taught:

short a = [] as in mat; long a = [eI] as in mate
short e = [E], long e = [i]
short i = [I], long i = [aI]
short o = [A] as in cot, long o = [oU] as in cote
short u = [U] as in put, long u = [u] (or maybe [ju], since [u] is usually spelled "oo").

No wonder students in Ling. 1 are confused when "phoneme" comes along!!

I can't recall how [O] as in law was treated-- maybe it was one of the diphthongs (that word wasn't used of course)...aw or au? Somewhere along the way we must have been clued into other combinations (=digraphs), like ea = long e or long a  etc. etc.  Those might have been called "double vowels", I don't recall.

Other diphthongs must have come into play at some later point.  In spite of all this, most of us learned to sound out words and eventually to make sense of what we read.

Consonants were a lot easier, except for hard and soft c, g etc.

I do recall around this time, encountering the brand new word "fiend" in a comic book and didn't know what it meant or how to pronounce it. A misprint of friend? not likely from the context.