Rules of English Spelling and the Choice to Use t or s in Shun-Words: A Wink at Anglophone Cameroonian Students

Blasius Achiri-Taboh


Although English spelling has been of significant interest to scholars since the 1950s, it has remained a major problem even to native speakers. One peculiar problem with it is the spelling variation of the noun formation suffix often represented in discourse as “shun,” mainly between -tion and -sion. Current textbooks of English grammar have generally not discussed rules of its spelling with either form, even though they do many others. However, following online resources, conflicting on how to spell it are in current debate, with two main schools of thought that each fall in line with one of two approaches that can be called the “word-based model” and the “base-word model.” In Achiri-Taboh (2018), I have shown that, in writing down words that end with “shun,” the base-word model is to be preferred, presenting argument for a synchronic rule following the base-word model with seven conditions to warrant the use of -sion as opposed to -tion, albeit with exceptions. Following current debates and a test of Anglophone Cameroonian students for their spelling preferences, the present study establishes the problem as global and compelling enough, especially for Non-Native users and learners of English, to warrant an address in grammar textbooks by means of available recourses like the recent base-word-based rule. The study also demonstrates that the prevalence of the problem actually stems from the lack of readily available spelling rules in grammar textbooks, and that there is a need for further research on spelling rules in English.

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English Linguistics Research
ISSN 1927-6028 (Print)   ISSN 1927-6036 (Online)


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