I am reading a book which contains phonogram rules for English spelling. For the multiple letter phonogram sound of -ti, it says

-tall /sh/ used only at the beginning of any syllable after the first one as in the word 'partial'" So the first syllable here is "par" and the second is "ti".

So to say, the -ti is pronounced as /sh/ here. But what about the words which fits this rule pronounced differently, such as; optimal, optical and etc.?

  • But your definition is for "tall" ... so par-"tial" fits that pattern. "Optimal" doesn't fit that... there's a consonant (the m) in the way.
    – Catija
    Sep 2, 2015 at 14:14
  • @Catija By 'tall' what does it mean here? I didn't get it in the beginning Sep 2, 2015 at 14:16
  • Where did you get this definition, first of all? Is that the full definition?
    – Catija
    Sep 2, 2015 at 14:21
  • From the book called 'Uncovering The Logic of English' by Denise Eide, Page 67. Yes that is the full definition I found here 'Tall /sh/ used only at the beginning of any syllable after the first one.' Another question, why 'bestial' is pronounced as it is written then without the /sh/ ? Thanks Sep 2, 2015 at 14:25
  • 1
    I'm not an expert on these things... really, so I'm not going to answer necessarily... but usually I see it as "ti=/sh/"... not "tall=/sh/"... I think this may be a web version of your book. In general, you should remember that English is a language that has come from several very different languages, so there are exceptions all over the place.
    – Catija
    Sep 2, 2015 at 14:30

2 Answers 2


Okay, I guess I've got it. It says

at the beginning of syllable

so, "-ti" has to be a part of syllable but not a syllable on its own. When it is syllable on its own as in;




then it is pronounced as it is written (ti).

But in the words such as;




"ti" represents the beginning of the syllable 'tion'. So it fits the rule and therefore it is pronounced as /sh/.

I hope it will be helpful for others. I see that I just missed the point here.

  • I am confused. You say 'if <ti> is in the beginning of another syllable, it's pronounced sh', what about 'op.**tic', 'hec.**tic', 'sep.**ti**c'? The <ti> is in the beginning of a syllable, yet it's pronounced TI and not SH. This is highly misleading.
    – Void
    Jan 21, 2021 at 17:25

I don't entirely agree with the rule you mentioned. There must be a vowel after the ⟨ti⟩ in order to produce /ʃ/. The reason the ⟨ti⟩+V (V being a vowel) becomes /ʃ/ is palatalisation.

In simple words, when ⟨ti⟩ is followed by a vowel, the vowel becomes a palatal glide /j/ which pulls the place of articulation of the /t/ towards the hard palate (or post-alveolar region) and makes it /ʃ/.1

This change has happened historically in many words, for instance, inertia, nation, partial etc.

/sh/ used only at the beginning of any syllable after the first one as in the word 'partial'" So the first syllable here is "par" and the second is "ti".

This is incorrect and misleading. Suppose there's a word op.tim; the ⟨ti⟩ is at the beginning of a syllable after the first one, but it can never be pronounced /ʃ/ because there is no vowel sound after it.

And that's the reason why ghoti cannot be pronounced fish.

1. The ⟨ti⟩ used to represent [ts] in Latin which was simplified to [s] before those words entered English and as we know, [s] and [j] coalesce to [ʃ], that's why ⟨ti⟩+V represents /ʃ/.

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