Monday, December 27, 2010

'I' before 'E' except for when 'E' is before 'I'.

QI suggested the rule was stupid and wrong. I told my sister and she thought it was absurd that the rule was wrong and that I just believed it blindly. Such things I suppose can be verified. How often do we find CIE vs. CEI?


Using OSPD (Scrabble dictionary) and running a search on words:

CEI is the way it should be after a C, because after a C the I before E rule does not apply.

CEILINGS CEINTURE CONCEITS CONCEIVE CROCEINE CROCEINS DECEIVED DECEIVER DECEIVES ENCEINTE GLACEING NARCEINE NARCEINS PERCEIVE RECEIPTS RECEIVED RECEIVER RECEIVES CADUCEI CEILERS CEILING CONCEIT CROCEIN DECEITS DECEIVE NARCEIN ORCEINS RECEIPT RECEIVE CEIBAS CEILED CEILER DECEIT ORCEIN CEIBA CEILS CEIL

37 words found

So how many exceptions are there to this rule? How often it it 'I' before 'E' regardless of 'C'?

ABBACIES ACIERATE AGENCIES ANCIENTS BOUNCIER CHANCIER CURACIES DIOECIES FACIENDS FANCIERS FANCIEST FLEECIER GLACIERS HACIENDA IDIOCIES JOUNCIER JUICIEST LANCIERS LEGACIES LUNACIES MINCIEST NESCIENT PAPACIES PIRACIES POLICIES PRECIEUX PRICIEST SAUCIEST SCIENCES SOCIETAL SPACIEST SPICIEST SPRUCIER ANCIENT BOCCIES DICIEST FACIEND FANCIED FANCIER FANCIES FARCIES GLACIER JUICIER LACIEST MERCIES MINCIER NANCIES PRICIER RACIEST SAUCIER SCIENCE SOCIETY SPACIER SPECIES SPICIER BOCCIE DICIER FACIES FARCIE ICIEST LACIER RACIER SPECIE ICIER

64 words found

There are 64 exceptions to a rule that applies to 37 words.


Scrabble.com has words with CEI (the rule sanctioned version).

CADUCEUS [13 pts] , (CADUCEI)

a heraldic wand or staff -- CADUCEAN

...
...
...

RECEIVER [13 pts] , (RECEIVERS)

one that receives

24 words found.


And for CIE (the exceptions):

ABBACY [15 pts] , (ABBACIES)

the office of an abbot

...
...
....
VIBRANCY [18 pts] , (VIBRANCIES)

the quality or state of being vibrant
167 words found. 


THE DAMNED RULE APPLIES TO 24 WORDS AND HAS 167 EXCEPTIONS!

The rule should say I before E, 92%  (400 EI vs 5000 IE) of the time, and I before E even after a C around 85% of the time.

It gets even dumber. Consider things like I before E except after S. There's 38 examples of SEI and only 237 exceptions (SIE) which is a solid 16% correct. Which is a bit better than the rule with the C in it, which is only right 14% of the time applying to 24 words and having 167 exceptions. With 'H' you can get 39 applications with 228 exceptions for 17% application. The real clincher is 'E'. I before E except after E applies 39 times and is wrong 0 times. There are 39 'EEI' words and 0 'EIE' words.

There you go. I before E except after E.

5 comments:

Mike the Reticent said...

I thought perhaps the CEI words, although having a fewer amount compared to the CIE words, might occur more often in language, thus making the rule more accurate on a number of times encountered basis rather than per unique word. But after reading the two lists, the CEI words don't look like they're more commonly used either.

Sparrowhawk said...

Pretty much all the words in that second list are not exceptions to the "cei" thing. They're morphologically modified words, nearly all of them.

JUICIEST is JUICY + EST which becomes JUICIEST thanks to some English morphology.

LUNACIES is LUNACY + [plural] which becomes LUNACIES.

A lot of the words that maintain their "cei" contain the "cei" part in the original root word. Like "ceiling". The "i" and the "e" in ceiling are not a result of spelling rules like they are in "lunacies".

I think it probably has to do with the fact that a lot of words like "receive" and "conceive" were incorporated into English a long time ago and the original meaning of "ceive" has been lost, so it's just spelled that way...

I think your frustration comes from the fact that the "i before e" thing isn't really a "rule" of English word formation at all, but rather a mnemonic device that Junior High English teachers teach their students to make it easier to remember words like "receive". In other words...it's a way to take a stab at a word if you can't remember if it's "cie" or "cei".

I minored in Linguistics and took a Morphology class...and believe me, if our professor hadn't stopped some of the more pedantic kids in the class, we probably could have talked about the stupid "i before e" thing for hours! Truly fascinating stuff...Linguistics is a fun science.

Wait....science...sCIEnce?!

No...not going there.

Tatarize said...

ANCIENT
BOCCIE
FACIEND
FACIES
FARCIE
GLACIER
HACIENDA
LANCIERS
NESCIENT
PRECIEUX
SCIENCE
SOCIETY
SPECIE
SPECIES

vs.

CEIBA
CEILING
CEILI
CEINTURE
CONCEIT
CONCEIVE
CROCEIN
DECEIT
DECEIVE
DECEIVER
ENCEINTE
NARCEIN
ORCEIN
PERCEIVE
RECEIPT
RECEIVE

If we remove the obvious modifications (excluding those which are used frequent enough to be words themselves), we end up with it being about even. Also there are a few words with thei as a root part and thus are 'i' after 'e'. It really is generally a terrible rule. Usually I goes before E, but sometimes the words have roots like 'ceiv' or 'the' and thus don't modify the spelling. The rules still crap even if we ignore the fact that it has far more exceptions than applications.

Sparrowhawk said...

Right, and my point was exactly that...that it is not in fact a "rule".

Shawna said...

After years of German in high school, I still see "IE" as an "EE" sound and "EI" as an "I" sound. So this is really weird. (whoah, there's another one!)