Criteking yor oen ideas

When coming up with a skeme for spelling reform, i fined it useful to go bak on previos drafts and look for things that mite be improoved on.

Wun ov the things that came to mined was the spelling ov wurds like tradittional initially. I spelled it inittially, but then i thought, why not inittialy? Why not systematticaly? This reformed spelling does not concern itself too much with keeping the spelling ov the basic lexical units constant ennyway, as yoo can see from choices like different but diferentiate.

Anuther thing where i cood hav gon further is the use ov silent E to indicate sylabbic consonants, as in double -> duble. Why not go the extra step and spel it dubbel? It wood certanly make things mor consistent, what with wurds like subtle -> suttle and satchel. It wood also make it so silent E oenly indicates a previos long vowel or lexical /s/ or /z/. Maybe this is sumthing that cood be implemented in a second stage ov reform. To lay the groundwurk for that, perhaps we shood spel double -> dubble as wel.

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A mor moddest proposal

What if we cood put into place a spelling reform that concerned itself oenly, or mainly, with reading, aiming at a French-style transparency where the langwej wood stil be difficult to spel, but easy to read?

Inittially, the usual suspects wood come under atack: silent letters. Debt, biscuit, salmon, knife wood become det, biskit, sammon, nife, and so on. Sum restraint wood be exercised: light wood remain as is, as wood come; the first because of so menny wurds folloeing that same pattern, the seccond to avoid the uther implications of a cum spelling. Knight, acordingly, wood become night. Uther certan glaring exeptions to the regularity of the system cood also remain, like of, is, etc*. Final E wood be remooved unless it shows the previos vowel is long or it is part of an -SE ending indicating that S is a part of the wurd and not a plural morpheme; or to indicate a previos sylabbic consonant, like in double -> duble.

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Other people on English spelling reform

The following links are some further reading for anyone interested in English spelling reform.

English accents and their implications for spelling reform by John Wells
English spelling problems and Improving English spelling by Masha Bell
Casting a last spell by Anatoly Liberman (the comments below are also very recommendable)
Spelling reform and the real reason it’s impossible by Justin B Rye (satirical, but hilarious and truer than I would like)
Wyrdplay.org’s Spelling reform files
The English Spelling Society

About reading problems in English-speaking children: Children of the code

Wikipedia: English spelling reform
– About historical changes in English pronunciation:
Great vowel shift
Trisyllabic laxing
Phonological history of English vowels
Phonological history of English consonants

Finally, at this link, a clip from the BBC Radio 4 show “Fry’s English delight” with Stephen Fry and linguist David Crystal. It starts with 8 minutes of interesting historical trivia, then continues on with some more conservative arguments about (and against) spelling reform.

Proof of concept: abowt Inglish spelling

The folloeing paragraf iz taakn from the Inglish Wikipedia. It iz speld akording too mi reformd Inglish spelling propoezl.

 

Partly bekawz Inglish haz nevver had enny forml regulating awthority for spelling, such az the Spannish Real Academia Española or the French Académie française, Inglish spelling, kompaard too menny uther langwijes, iz kwiit ireguler and komplex. Oltho French, amung uther langwijes, prezents a similer degre ov difikulty when enkoding (riting), Inglish iz mor difikult when dekoding (reding), az thaar ar kleerly menny mor posibl pronunsyaashns ov a groop ov letters. For exampl, in French the /u/ sownd (az in food), kan be speld ou, ous, out, or oux (ou, nous, tout, choux), but the pronunsyaashn ov eech ov theez seekwenses iz olwaaz the saam. In Inglish, the /u/ sownd (az in GOOS) kan be speld in up too 18 difrnt ways, inklooding oo, u, ui, ue, o, oe, ou, ough, and ew (food, truth, fruit, blues, to, shoe, group, through, grew), but ol ov theez hav uther pronunsyaashns az wel (e.g. az in flood, trust, build, bluest, go, hoe, grout, rough, sew). Thus, in unfamillyer wurds and propper nowns the pronunsyaashn ov sum seekwenses, OUGH beeing the priim exampl, iz unprediktabl too eevn ejukated nativ Inglish spekers.

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Summary of reformed spelling changes: consonants

In this post I summarize the changes in consonant sound spelling in my English spelling reform proposal.

In the following table I show each sound in phonemic transcription, along with an example in traditional spelling and the new spelling that represents it (which usually coincides with the traditional spelling, but in the reformed spelling is used uniformly without exception). In the cases with two spellings for the same sound, the second spelling corresponds to the “doubled” version, which indicates that the previous vowel is “short”.

 

/p
pie
P PP
b
bit
B BB
t
tin
T TT
d
den
D DD
k
kin
K CK
g
gun
G GG

chain
CH TCH

jam
J DJ
m
man
M MM
n
nap
N NN
ŋ, ŋg
long, longer
NG
θ, ð
think, that
TH
f
find
F FF
v
vine
V VV
s
sit
S SS
z
zoo
Z ZZ
ʃ, ʒ
show, vision
SH SSH (see 3)
h
hat
H
l
lit
L LL
r
ripe
R RR
w
wick
W
j
yet
Y
hw
why
WH (see 1)
ks, gz/
fox, exit
X (see 2)

 

1- A variant spelling of WH is allowed for speakers without the wine-whine merger to represent /hw/. Speakers with the merger are allowed to spell such words with W instead, since they pronounce them with /w/ (why, which, witch -> whi/wi, which/wich, wich).

2- X is not used to spell the sequences /ks gz/ when they are the result of adding morphemes (baks, bags).

3- /ʒ/ is spelled J if morpheme initial or final (rooj, janre).

4- Silent consonants that give no clue about pronunciation are eliminated (det, si, onner).

5- Double consonants are not allowed at the end of a word (wil, poel).

6- Consonants are not doubled when following a reduced vowel or “long” vowel (konekted, poling). Continue reading

Proof of concept: the other Lebowski

THE DUDE: Walter, yoo no, its Smokey, so hiz to slipd over the liin a litl, big deel. Its just a gaam, man.
WALTER: Dude, this iz a leeg gaam, this deturmins hoo enters the next rownd robn. Am i rawng? Am i rawng?
SMOKEY: Yea, but i wuznt over. Gimme the marker Dude, iim marking it aat.
WALTER: [puls owt a gun] Smokey, mi frend, yoo ar entering a wurld ov paan.
THE DUDE: Walter…
WALTER: Yoo mark that fraam an aat, and yor entering a wurld ov paan.
SMOKEY: Iim not…
WALTER: A wurld ov paan.
SMOKEY: Dude, heez yor partner…
WALTER: [showting] Haz the hoel wurld gon krazy? Am i the oenly wun arownd heer hoo givs a shit abowt the rools? Mark it zero!
THE DUDE: Thaar kolling the kops, put the pees away.
WALTER: Mark it zero!
[poynts gun in Smokeys faas]
THE DUDE: Walter…
WALTER: [showting] Yoo think iim fucking arownd heer? Mark it zero!
SMOKEY: Ol riit, its fucking zero. Ar yoo happy, yoo krazy fuk?
WALTER: …Its a leeg gaam, Smokey.

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Spelling options, or degrees of normativity in spelling

In my spelling reform proposal for Spanish, I floated the idea of allowing for equally acceptable spelling variants in some cases, to allow for greater ease for those who have variant pronunciations of some words. I believe this shouldn’t cause many problems when reading for those who don’t have those pronunciations and don’t go for those spelling options, provided the options don’t affect too many words or cause collisions with other words. If the reader is also familiar with the variant pronunciation, there will be even less chance of a reading problem.

I believe a certain amount of this is also necessary in a reformed spelling for English. The fact is that for many English words, there is more than one acceptable pronunciation. And sometimes, these variant pronunciations don’t have to do with systematic accent differences between different varieties of English, but are equally acceptable even among people who have what appears to be the same exact accent.

Two examples: data, where the quality of the first vowel can be TRAP or FACE (I say it with FACE), and amphitheater, where some people (like me) pronounce an F sound for the PH, and others a P sound.

Similar cases are herb and vehicle, the first of which has a silent H in American English but a pronounced one in British English; and the second of which does not have a silent H in some accents of American English.

In cases like these, I think the best solution is to allow variant reformed spellings: datta/data, amfitheeater/ampitheeater, urb/hurb, veeikl/vehikl.

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