[On other pages, comments in SSS literature, Bulletins 1972-1961.]

Dr Johnson: Comments

in Spelling Progress Bulletins 1983-1975.


Bulletin Spring 1983.

 The Costly Extravagance of an Educational System Based upon Confusing, Irrational Spelling, by Harvie Barnard.
Samuel Johnson's venerable Dictionary of the English Language, publisht in 1755, is still the standard for most users of the English language, altho in the United States there hav been several rational "variants" or "Americanizations."

Bulletin Winter 1981.

 A proposal for the implementation of a rationalized form of English spelling, by Harvie Barnard.
If we consult the original basic authority for English spelling, Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language (1755), and still regarded as 'standard' by meny authorities, we will find 'honour', 'valour', 'colour', 'litre', 'theatre' and even 'shoppe.'

There must be an alternative or some sort of compromize between Samuel Johnson's honourable tradition and the use of letters, (graphemes), which seem to correspond with or phonemically to represent the English language as it is customarily - if not 'properly' spoken.

Bulletin Winter 1981.

 A Transition to Improved Spelling for Learners and Literate Adults, by Valerie Yule.
Dr. Johnson himself commented on the fact that the English language is such a mixture that no principle for its spelling could avoid exceptions. But one page of them is better than the need to memorise or use a whole dictionary of them.

Bulletin Spring 1981.

 Spelling Reform: A Comparative Study of Chief Executive Officers' and Personel Directors' Spelling Preferences by Pauline Papailiou and Laraine Jason.
It should come as some surprise, then, that the next significant plateau was not reached until 1755, some five centuries later, with the publication of Samuel Johnson's authorative A Dictionary of the

English Language. It is important to understand that Johnson's work is generally considered to be a drawback rather than an advancement for spelling reform. The importance of the work was its influence both on the direction and the manner in which spelling practices developed in the 18th century.

Bulletin Spring 1981.

 Spelling Reform: A Comparative Study of Chief Executive Officers' and Personel Directors' Spelling Preferences by Pauline Papailiou* and Laraine Jason. Article II. Spelling Reform: Related Research.
In 1755, Samuel Johnson's: A dictionary of the English language was published. This work, important for its influence on English spelling, was accorded a kind of religious respect and practically gained the position of a court of final appeal (Lounsbury, 1909) as far as spelling was concerned. Johnson applied himself against the then current simplification processes "and laid down the dictum that true orthography must always be regarded as dependent upon derivation (Lounsbury, 1909)." When in doubt, he proceeded with "a scholar's reverence for antiquity and gave his imprimatur to many spellings based on false etymologies and pointless analogies (Mencken, 1937)." Contradictions to his directives were easily found and were evidenced by the following examples from his dictionary: deceit and receipt, moveable and immovable, exterior and interiour. Further evidence of contradictory behavior is the fact that Johnson did not conform to his own theory. Yet, his assertions were readily accepted because they represented the first attempt at universality in English spelling.

Webster, like Johnson before him, fell victim to the opinions of politicians as well as protests of his friends:

Until the late 18th century, when Johnson's authoritative dictionary appeared, each printing office was largely a law unto itself. A desire for uniformity in print became evident. Consequently, a haphazard orthography, composed of then prevailing variations of spelling was formulated, dictated only by "the merest accident or the blindest caprice that dictated the choice of the form to be permanently adopted. This uniformity was believed to have been the work of printers, not scholars (Lounsbury, 1909)."

Bulletin Winter 1980.

 Assimilation vs. Etymology, by Robert Seysmith.
On wun side the traditionalists hold the principle of 'etymology,' on which Samuel Johnson defended the status quo with the argument that pronunciation was variable and constantly changing and therefore only the original spelling of words would guarantee stability.

Bulletin Winter 1980.

 Sir James Pitman's comments on the Barnitz article.
The credit given to Johnson for influencing the development of spelling, I and others have long ago suggested is ill-founded. Johnson's influence was negligible and his 'choice' of spellings restricted by that made by the printers who preceded him.

Bulletin Winter 1980.

 Linguistic and Cultural Perspectives on Spelling Irregularity by John G. Barnitz.
Two factors had strong impact upon the stabilization of various spelling practices: the invention of the printing press (c. 1450) and Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language (1755). Johnson's dictionary attempted to stop divided usage: "every language has likewise its improprieties and absurdities, which it is the duty of the lexicographer to correct and proscribe" (Preface). Johnson used two criteria for deciding the "correct" spelling of a word: its etymology and its usage by the majority of educated writers. Thus, he chose ch in enchant, enchantment which English borrowed directly from French; but the c in incantation which came from Latin. Similarly, he chose entire over intire, as he recognized that the word came from French entier, not directly from Latin integer. When appealing to the usage of educated writers, Johnson chose the various spellings convey/inveigh, deceit/receipt, fancy/phantom. And sometimes Johnson entered a word twice if he couldn't decide on a correct form: choak/choke; soap/sope, fewel/fuel. According to Webster (1828, Preface), Johnson introduced instructer in place of instructor in opposition to the common usage of -or by Milton, Locke, Addison, and Johnson himself. Ironically, Johnson didn't change collector, cultivator, objector and projector.

Because these spelling variations were prescribed as correct, many inconsistencies became frozen into the spelling tradition. There were many attacks upon Johnson's dictionary by other authorities, but the printers used the dictionary as their spelling "Bible." So despite an attempt to make the spelling system consistent, Johnson didn't always promote a one-to-one correspondence between spelling and speech.

Like Johnson, Webster didn't level the irregularities completely.

Reference: Johnson, Samuel. A Dictionary of the English Language. London, Eng.: W. Strahem, publisher, 1755.

Bulletin Fall 1980.

 Es Es Es /FONIK/, by S. S. Eustace.
If Dr. Johnson's pronunciation of Contemplate had survived, we should now be saying /K3N'TEMPLEIT/ not /'KONT3MPLEIT/.

Bulletin Summer 1980.

 Is Spelling Reform Feasible?, by Elsie M. Oakensen.
Vallins (1973), "Swift and Johnson saw what Spelling Reformers have never been able to see, that phonetic spelling means swiftly changing spelling, with variations according to local types of pronunciation.

Bulletin Spring 1980.

 Research on Spelling Reform, by John Downing.
By 1700 stabilization was complete, and it only remained for Dr. Johnson's dictionary to record what the printers and publishers had already accomplished.

Bulletin Summer 1979.

 A New Approach to Education via the Organic Computer, by Harvie Barnard.
What makes the problem more serious is that our undependabl and weird symbol combinations - our spelling according to the Johnsonian dictionary of 1755, (the standard of all English orthografy) - is that it impedes the lerning of reading, discourages writing, and retards thought.

We can conclude from the above evidence that most of the pupils in every school in the United States are presently losing a year or more of schooling time because of the needless and endless repetitive teaching/lerning process, (traditional spelling based on Samuel Johnson's dictionary of 1755), now in use.

Bulletin Spring 1979.

 The Problem of a Common Language, by George Bernard Shaw.
Since Ellis we have had Pitman and Sweet, Volapuk and Esperanto, and no end of phonetic alphabets and shorthand systems; but we are still entangled in Johnson's absurd etymological bad spelling, wasting years of our lives in writing the single sounds of our language with two, three, four, five letters or more, and turning our children out of our elementary schools after nine years daily instruction unable to speak or write English well enough to qualify them for clerical or professional appointments. All our phonetic propaganda is sterilised by the dread that the cost of the change would be colossal.

As a matter of fact, it is the cost of Johnsonese spelling that is colossal; so colossal that it is beyond the comprehension of our authorities.

It is Johnsonese that we cannot afford, not a forty-letter alphabet.

In commercial Johnsonese we write, "I regret to have to inform you that it is not possible for me to entertain the proposal of your esteemed letter." In Pidgin this is, "Sorry, no can do."

Bulletin Spring 1979.

 Cultural Lag and Prematurity: The Case of English Spelling, by Kenneth H. Ives.
Samuel Johnson rejected phonetic reform when he wrote his dictionary in 1755, partly because too many changes would be required, but also because he believed etymological spellings were important.

Reference: Spittal, John Ker (1923). Contemporary Criticisms of Dr. Samuel Johnson. London: John Murray.

Bulletin Fall 1978.

 Spelling Reform: Not only Why, but Which, When, How, Where, and by Whom, by Newell Tune.
"What can I do about it?, when hundreds of reformers before me have failed to make a dent in Dr. Samuel Johnson's erratic spelling!"

Education, if it ever expects to make any real progress, must throw off the shackles of this Johnsonian handicap, and be modernized like everything around us.

Bulletin Fall 1978.

 The Essential Requirements for a Reformed Spelling, by Walter Gassner.
Spelling is often incorrect in indicating the true origin of words, as these who were involved, along with Dr. Samuel Johnson, in finalizing the spelling were often badly informed of the origin of some words.

Bulletin Winter 1977.

 Visualization, the Base of Learning-Human Programming, by Harvie Barnard.
Yet with a reasonable degree of logic and consistency it may be possible - with certain modifications of the Samuel Johnson dictionary of 1755 - to make our present alfabet render a fairly acceptable job. It's not so much a matter of poorly formed symbols or graphemes, but the fact that we assemble them so strangely into homographs, homophones, and homophonographs that the Chinese ideographs and the Egyptian hieroglyphs are more logical by comparison.

Bulletin Fall 1977.

 *L I F E*, a Practical Course in Communications for International Use, by Harvie Barnard. *Lojical International Fonetic English.
2) With L I F E as a beginning, a gradual departure from the archaic Johnsonian dictionary of 1755, (as the bible for all English spelling), can be achieved thruout all English speaking nations;

Bulletin Summer 1977.

 Those Dropping Test Scores, by Harvie Barnard.
Unfortunately for the student, the "phonics" we now use is bogged down and hog-tied too much of the time with the non-fonetic, gude olde Englishe spelling of Wycliffe (14th century), Shakespeare (16th), and Samuel Johnson (18th). As a consequence, about 75% of our present symbol combinations (words) are not spelled as they are sounded and confusing to meny pupils.

Bulletin Winter 1976.

 English Orthography as Conspicuous Consumption, by Abraham F. Citron. References.
2. Mont Follick. The Case for Spelling Reform. Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, London, 1965, p.22.
A further note on erroneous etymology: One of the chief culprits in foisting false etymology on innocent generations was Dr. Samuel Johnson who, knowing nothing of the Germanic tongues and nothing of the process of language development, was dependent on contemporary "sources." when forced to choose among differing versions of a word for his Dictionary (published in 1755), he flew by the seat of his pants. The result was blunder after blunder in attributing source. Our spelling today, straight facedly follows most of Johnson's bungling shots in the dark.

Bulletin Spring 1976.

 Viewpoints IV: On Spelling Reform, by Emmett Albert Betts.
"Even our rigid but woefully illogical and inconsistent system of English orthography is largely the work of one man, Dr. Samuel Johnson; and recent efforts at a simplification of spelling have, in spite of much ridicule, made noteworthy progress."

E. H. Sturtevant. Linguistic Change, G. E. Stechert & Co, 1942, p. 176.

If they could only come to it open-mindedly, these apostles of 'simplification' might do well to read Samuel Johnson's section on spelling in the preface to his Dictionary, published in 1755.

Louis Foley. "Shall the world learn new letters?", The Journal of Education, Dec. 1945, p.307.

This is the section referred to by Louis Foley:
"There have been many schemes offered for the emendation and settlement of our orthography, which, like that of other nations, being formed by chance, or according to the fancy of the earliest writers in rude ages, was at first very various and uncertain, and is yet sufficiently irregular. Of these reformers some have endeavoured to accomodate orthography better to the pronunciation, without considering that this is to measure by a shadow, to take that for a model or standard which is changing while we apply it. Others, less absurdly indeed, but with equal unliklihood of success have endeavoured to proportion the number of letters to that of sounds, that every sound might have its own character, and every character a single sound. Such would be the orthography of a new language to be formed by a synod of grammarians upon principles of science. But who can hope to prevail on nations to change their practice, and make all their old books useless? or what advantage would a new orthography procure equivalent to the confusion and perplexity of such an alteration?"

Samuel Johnson. A Dictionary of the English Language, (2v) Preface, 1755, pg.7.

Bulletin Spring 1976.

 Spelling and Spelling Reform: Arguments Pro and Con, by Valerie Yule.
By analogy, Samuel Johnson was also presaging the end of civilisation when he permitted two spellings of meny words in his dictionary - a practice which lexicographers continue - and when the Education Department permitted American as well as English spellings in Australia.

Bulletin Winter 1975.

  Spelling and Parliament. William Reed.
This spelling, with its disadvantages and imperfections, was accorded the imprimatur of the formidable Samuel Johnson when he published his Dictionary in 1755 and when he wrote in his preface: "I have attempted few alterations, and among those few, perhaps the greatest part is from modern to ancient practice." He recommended that people "should not disturb upon narrow views or for minute propriety the orthography of their fathers." By this he probably meant that they should not attempt to change 17th century spelling to match the great changes that had taken place in the language. So 17th century spelling was fastened even more securely on our language.

Bulletin Summer 1975.

 Chapter II. Review of Previous Writings and Related Research.
In 1755 Samuel Johnson published his dictionary. The spelling was much as it had been, but, for the first time there was a guide to that spelling of universal acceptance. Johnson helped to keep many of the old spellings, for when he was in doubt, he "proceeded with a 'scholar's reverence for antiquity'." With the publishing of this dictionary, the spelling of the language was no longer a fluid thing with a possibility of change. There was now an Authority. Johnson attempted some reforms such as reducing the final ll to l, which failed to take hold. Actually his decisions usually endorsed the customary usage far oftener than they tried to change it. His influence, both in England and America, was tremendous.

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[On other pages, comments in SSS literature, Bulletins 1972-1961.]