Why is the k silent in: known /nəʊn/; knife /nʌɪf/, and knight /nʌɪt/?
What does this specify?And what is k doing there if there is no need to pronounce it?
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That silent k, at one point in the history of English, didn't used to be silent. Anglo-Saxon (Old English) did in fact pronounce the k. A trait that still exists in most other modern Germanic languages, i.e. Dutch, Frisian, Danish, German etc. However, somewhere down the road in the evolution of English, the k sound had for some reason dropped but the spelling had petrified. Long story short, it's significance is historical rather than practical.