Consider the many monosyllabic words in the American English language. Such a word is short, consisting of a beginning, usually a hard consonant, and ending with a suffix. Thus the list of words beginnings starts alphabetically with b, bl, br, … k, kn, … and ends with wh, wr, y, and z. A more or less complete list might have 54 such letters and letter combinations. This list includes the absence of any hard consonant since some suffixes are words standing alone. Examples are: ale, oil, owl, use, among many others. The list of suffixes that make words with the consonants is very long. One might design a spread sheet to list the possibilities. One attempt yields over 350 suffixes that can be made into at least two words. The resulting matrix has about 18,500 cells of which about 3300 have legitimate words. Thus about 18% of the possible combinations are legitimate English words. About one third of the suffixes are valid words without any consonant. The words counted in the matrix do not include words that may be regarded as legal for tile letter/word games when they are rarely in use or lack a definition.
The list of suffixes might start with ab, able, ache, and goes on to y and ye after about 350 entries. This list, as the list of consonants, is subject to some argument but some interesting conclusions may be reached about the way we invent and use words. The first look is for the word beginnings most often used. They are b (158), p (141), h, l, m, r (about 130 each), and d, s, t (118). The numbers in parentheses reflect the number of times the words come up within the list of 354. Multiple letters starting words are less common than these nine word starters. It is quite astounding that the letter b is used for almost half of the possibilities. b’s harder cousin p is also a favorite. Least common are word starts shr, squ, spl, spr, tw, wr with which fewer than 20 words are made using the 354 suffixes. For the complete list of words starts, the average number of words is 61, consistent with the 18% cited earlier.
A look at the suffixes is also interesting. The number of letters in the suffix varies from one to as many as five as in aunch, eight and ought. Suffixes with common pronunciation are separated by their spelling so that suffixes such as ail and ale are unique. A suffix is used in the list if the number of words that can be found is at least 2, the average number is just under 10. The most common suffixes are: ack, ad, ag, ain, ake, am, ank, ank, ap, ash, at, ay, ear, ew, ick, ill, in, ip, it, ock, ot, and ow. These suffixes join more than 20 of the 54 consonant possibilities into real English words. The clear winner in its heaviest use is ay at 31 times. Thus it would appear that the most probable monosyllabic word to be guessed by someone who knows no English might be bay! What is not so clear because the suffixes are laid out alphabetically (rather than phonetically) is that we have so many ways to make the same sound. The linguistic might differentiate between the sounds for oal, ole, and oul. Your whoal gole is to enjoy a nice filet of soul, perhaps? A little more apparent is that we pronounce words in so many ways: consider shall and gall, or squash and cash, or bread and bead or is it bred and bed? Lastly, we note that the words banned from the public airways and polite society do show up as they must by their short nature.
Over the time this matrix was developed, additions always came up as newspapers and books were read. Within reason, this table seems pretty much complete and any conclusions reached are likely valid. So, what use was this exercise? Just that it may be interesting for someone who loves language. Someone should try this in French, Spanish, or German to see if any parallels are worth noting. My hunch is that English wins any comparison of its monosyllabic words.