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For the letter C there are 5 options for pronunciation: we can pronounce it as S, Z, or K, SH, CH. (we have also words that we don't pronounce the letter C at all).

Then my question is: Which pronunciation of the letter C is the most common among all the words (or common words) in English?

Based on their frequency, is it the correct order: K (1st place of frequency), S (2nd place), Z (3rd place), SH (forth place), CH (fifth place)?

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    You forget English words with a "silent c" like fascinate, or words where "c" sounds like "sh" as in appreciate. – Andrew Nov 14 '17 at 22:34
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    I don't know, but I'm sure "z" isn't the most frequent. Anyway, the general rule is that "c" is soft (like "s") before "e", "i" or "y", and hard like "k" otherwise, but obviously there are exceptions. Going by my rule, though, "fascinate" is regular (the "c" is silent only in the same sense that the second "s" in a double "s" is silent - and maybe it's not really as it's often an indication that the pronunciation isn't "z"). Some people pronounce it "s" in "appreciate", though "sh" is probably more common. – rjpond Nov 14 '17 at 22:39
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    @Andrew - Don't forget "ch" (as in cello). To the OP - Your question might be better received if you delve into why you want to know this? (This isn't something native speakers will know intuitively, and surely you don't want us to read through the dictionary and do a tally for you.) – J.R. Nov 14 '17 at 22:59
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    @J.R.: Or "ch" as in "chthonic" ... ^_^ – Robusto Nov 14 '17 at 23:17
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    Hmm, I think you have the order of K and S correct. The rest are all very rare and therefore are hard to order. Maybe like 60% K, 39% S, then 1% everything else. The other sounds of C are probably from borrow words. Cello is Italian/Latin, Appreciate - the sh sound here is also Latin based. – Michael Dorgan Nov 15 '17 at 5:23
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CAP  K AE1 P
APPRECIATE  AH0 P R IY1 SH IY0 EY2 T
CHRONIC  K R AA1 N IH0 K
ACCELERATE  AE0 K S EH1 L ER0 EY2 T

There is a dictionary here, with entries like those you see above. If you copy and paste it into a spreadsheet, you can separate the word from its phonemes. Then, with some cleverness to make sure that you are ascribing a "K", "SH" or "S", etc, to the proper letter you can do the analysis and let us all know. The dictionary is abut 130k words, but I assume you'll also want to look only at stems (you don't want to count multiple forms of each word). I look forward to the result!

  • Basically I'm lost in that suggestion, meaning that I don't understand how and when to start. – Judicious Allure Nov 17 '17 at 15:44
  • As @Andrew said, the answer can be found if you can relate spelling to phonemes, Do you see that the dictionary cited does that? The word "CAP" is pronounced "K AE1 P". (I don't know anything about this notation, but one can infer that K represents the K sound, etc. ) So looking at the initial letters only: of the 10, 694 words in the dictionary that begin with "C", 8,562 start with a K sound. One I hadn't thought of: "Chutzpah" which sounds like an "H", depending on how "glottaly" one pronounces it. – Tupelo Thistlehead Nov 18 '17 at 19:36

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