The 42 sounds of English are represented on paper by using 26 letters.
However, the letters that represent sounds are only loosely associated with each sound. There are more than 400 different ways that letters are associated with English sounds.
If you want to make an EE sound as in SEEN, would you ever use the letter "P" ? The word RECEIPT contains the letter P as part of the EE sound for no reason.
Or to make the EE sound, would you ever use the letter "S"? The word DEBRIS uses "S" to signify the EE sound.
The OO sound in SOON is represented 24 different ways in English.
The EE sound in SEEN is represented 22 different ways in English.
At Stanford University, a team of linguists attempted to spell English words by writing a program that would follow rules to do it. They set up 308 rules and then applied it to our 17,000 most common words. The computer was successful on only 49% of the words. More rules were needed but they became too complex. Only one rule is entirely consistent - NO ENGLISH WORD ENDS WITH THE LETTER "V"
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