[Spelling Progress Bulletin, Winter 1983, p9]
[Newell Tune: see Newsletter, Anthology, Bulletins.]
[The appendices mentioned were not in the SPB issue.]

Will the Step-by-Step Reform Plan Produce a Satisfactory Simplified Spelling System?

by Newell W. Tune.

In our Winter, 1981 issue, this author wrote about the step-by-strip plan, SR-1 to SR-8. This article is an expansion of that article, but a lot more thoro and complete. I hope it does justice to its new title.

About 9 years ago, in Australia, Harry Lindgren started his step-by-step plan of spelling reform. It was adopted by the Australian Teachers Union at their convention and the idea was off to a good start. However, in the ensuing 9 years little progress has been made - and little will be until the government takes some action.

Lindgren sed that a journey of 1000 miles begins with taking the first step. But Tune has added a corollary: you don't start a trip until you know where you are going. Harry Lindgren has consistently refused to discuss future steps, SR-2 and further, on the grounds that unless the public is willing to accept and utilize SR-1, there is no point in discussing the subsequent steps. This author disagrees and thinks that more public acceptance may be forthcoming if they knew the subsequent steps and how easily they can, be put into use without disrupting our adult's reading habits. For the number of words affected in each step, see the Appendix.

Lindgren claims that his

SR-1

 is the least controversial change and the least objectionable by the public. This statement is open to question, but it is already started and we are stuck with it as the first step. Prof. Thomas R. Hofmann has suggested (in our Fall 1983 issue) that there is a serious flaw in SR-1. When the silent a in 'ready' is omitted, it becomes 'redy', which can be sounded either a short or long vowel sound. He suggests SR-1a, which would double the consonant to show that the previous vowel is short, as is usually done in conventional spelling. Unfortunately, this is not always done. Some consonants are always doubled, others are sometimes doubled, and certain others are never doubled. And besides, all the consonants should be so treated, not just a few which are madeconfusible by SR-1. Since only one kind of a change should be made in a step, the idea of doubled consonants will be deferred until later. Other steps are less controversial and less objectionable.

One such step that has the unanimous agreement among the alfabeteers in a survey made 3 years ago was decided should become

SR-2

 . That is to use 'f' for 'ph' when it has the sound of f /f/, as has been the custom for centuries in Spanish and Italian. The number of words affected is probably about 100, as shown in Appendix 2.

The next step that a majority of alfabeteers agreed upon was to be

SR-3

 ,dropping the unnecessary silent terminal e when that letter rongly indicates that the previous vowel is sounded long, as in giv, hav (but not in behave, and in live - with long i) etc. See Appendix 3.

Next for

SR-4

 we should consider making the double consonants consistent and regular, by always doubling a consonant when needed to indicate the previous vowel is sounded short. But Citron thinks we should change to follow the meny one-syllable words which do not have doubled consonants, like bat, bet, bit, but, etc. There are dozens of such words, but there are also some flaws and meny exceptions to this idea. We could make some rules that would fit the existing situation, such as: "One syllable words with a single vowel letter before a consonant shall have the short vowel sound; in one syllable words with a long vowel, the long vowel is indicated by a digraph before the consonant; in multisyllable words, the consonant is usually doubled." But there are numerous exceptions to these rules, i.e. bind, find, hind, mind, yet dint, lint, mint, and wind can have either a long or short vowel. How about blister, yet bliss, mister, yet miss? There are 297 such homographic word pairs, which are all confusible. And there are meny words which do double the consonants, such as: ass, bass, class, crass, glass, lass, mass, pass, lass, bess, gess, less, mess, tess, bliss, hiss, miss, tiss, boss, cross, loss, moss, ross, toss, buss, cuss, fuss, muss, puss, tussle, etc. And this is only for one double consonant, "ss". Think of the meny more there will be with the other double consonants, viz, bb, dd, ff, ll, mm, rr, tt. It should be clear by now that there would be less disruption if the exception for one syllable words is eliminated, and bedd, hedd, redd, etc., used consistently with the majority of our present spellings.

At this point, in the controversy, I realized that increasing the use of doubled consonants was a step backward from fonetic spelling which eventually would have to be repealed, and probably would not placate literate adults enyway. It would indeed be simpler if all double consonants were eliminated, by the following two rules:
"1. a single vowel letter before a consonant shall have the short vowel sound;
2. a digraf before a consonant shall have a long vowel sound."
The only flaw in this idea is that there is no uniformity of use of eny particular digraf to indicate the long vowel sound in each case. Frequency of use is no help because it is inconsistent. There are meny digrafs used for each sound. Sometimes there are more than 20 different ways to indicate the long vowel sound (ref. Dewey). To take the most frequently used digraf may make agreement with T.O. in only 25% of the cases. Therefore frequency of use is an unworkable idea. But at this stage (SR-4), it is too soon to introduce a radical system like World English. Would it be workable to leave it merely as "eny digraf" for the temporary time being? After SR-11 we could go to W.E. without much opposition.

For

SR-5

 , the next least objectionable change would be to eliminate the unnecessary silent letters in some 888 words as listed in SPB, Spring, 1970, A Gradual Means of Making a Minimal Change in our Spelling, p16. See Appendix 5 for the list of these words.

Now we are in a position to regularize and make fonetic several consonants that now have exceptions to the general rules.

SR-6

 could be, use 'c' fonetically for the 'k' sound, as in sivic, siens, etc. and all the others where 'c' before 'e' or 'i' has the sound of 's.' For the number of words affected, see Appendix 6.

While dealing with 'c', we should also make 'ch' fonetic, using it only for the sounds in church. 'School' would become 'scool,' etc. The number of words affected - probably only a few dozen.

For

SR-7

 , the next step would be to make soft 'g' fonetic, replacing it with 'g' when it is sounded as 'j'. (The unnecessary 'u' in guard was already omitted under SR-5). The list of words affected will be found in Appendix 7.

For

SR-8

 , the use of 'i' and 'y' should be regularized. Use 'i' only as short 'i' and 'y' only as a consonant, as in piti, siti, priti, yes, yon, yoor, etc. The number of words affected is hard to estimate but it will be meny. See Appendix 8.

For

SR-9

 , the step should be to make 's' regular. There is a chance that it will be objectionable to some literate adults, but it is necessary in order to make the simplified spelling more fonetic. 's' should be replaced by 'z' when sounded as /z/. The rule for this is: After voiced consonants use 's', after 'z' use 'ez', after 's' or 'z' use 'ez.' This rule should be easy to remember. The number of words affected (with plurals) will probably be several thousands, but it is a necessary step in the foneticizing of English spelling. Even literate adults should welcome this change as it is a reliable rule.

The next step,

SR-10

 should be to use 'shun' for 'tion, sion, cion.' The number of words affected would be meny, but one spelling would replace three now in use.

For

SR-11

 we could replace 'qu' with 'kw' which is a fonetic rendering of this sound. It is also in use by some industralists for naming their product in a manner that it cannot be mispronounced, such as 'kween-size.' For the number of words affected, see Appendix 11,

At this point in the Step-by-Step plan it becomes less clear (and more controversial) as to what changes could (or should) be made, or whether the big jump to a completely fonetic spelling system should be undertaken. This is because there are still so meny irregularities remaining about a dozen - such as th, gh, ch (when pronounced as sh), oa, ou, eu, ei, ie, ar, er, ir, or, ur, and there may be others. These are not only unreliable but do not fit in with eny regular fonetic scheme or easily learned rules. A truly fonetic system would eliminate all the confusion associated with these confusible digrafs. But several thousands of such words remain to be regularized. Do we want to continue the step plan for another year (with one change a month) and see if it then will result in a satisfactory simplified spelling system? As with all piecemeal plans, we probably still have overlooked some remaining inconsistencies, such as: all, awl, fault, few, true, main, mane, boat, bowl, bone, dew, do, duel, etc. We have as yet not settled on a uniform set of digrafs to represent the long vowel sounds.

So the answer to our first question: "Would a Step-by-Step plan produce a satisfactory simplified spelling system? must be answered in the negative unless you want to continue making piecemeal changes on thru SR-26 or SR-30. Even then we cannot be sure that the result then will be a completely fonetic system like World English unless we make the final step a change to World English.

Would the step from SR-11 to World English be too drastic for our literate adults? I don't think so. After they have seen the chaos left by SR-11, they should be gladder to welcome a one-sound-one-symbol system like World Eng.

A demonstration-comparison of Conventional Spelling, SR-11, and World English should show how much change has been achieved by SR-11 and how meny words still remain as irregularities yet to be changed to more regular spellings. It also should show that SR-11 is easy for literate adults to read without much training. And, I think, will show the superiority of World English both as a learning medium (because it is completely fonetic) and as a permanent reform - because it is simple, reliable, sand easy to learn, something you cannot say about the step-by-step plan. Is it as easy to learn 26 different rules and to apply them to every word or to learn two rules; with a reliable system that can be applied fonetically to all words?

World English Spelling can be easily remembered if one applies the following mnenomics,
1. for the short vowels, "That pen iz not much guud," and
2. for the long vowels, "Mae see thie toe tuesdae noon," and
3. for the difthongs, "haul our oil awae."
The consonants are pronounced as in: bob, cock, dad, fluf, gag, ha, juj, kick, lul, mom, nun, pop, roer, sing, sis, tot, verv, wow, yes, zoozs, this, thhin, vizhon. When all these rules-examples are learned, all new words can be tackled confidently.

Demonstration-Comparison

of Conventional spelling, SR-11, and World English.

CS: School calls are necessary to get children through one grade after another. SR: Scool caulz ar nesessari to get children through one grade after another. WE: Scool caulz ar nesseseri to get children throo wun graed after another.
Tension mounts as the child enters the school for the first time, hopefully at eight o'clock. Tenshun mounts az the childe enterz the scool for the furst time, hopefuli at eight o'clock. Tenshun mounts az the chield enterz the scool for the furst tiem hoepfuli at aet o'clock.
Either that or at nine o'clock when the sun gets up too late. Either that or nine o'clock when the sun gets up too late. Eether that or nien o'clock when the sun gets up too laet.
You will (I hope) notice that it is easy to read because there is really only a little change from conventional spelling. Yoo wil (I hope) notis that it iz eezi too reed becauz ther iz reeli onli a litl chanj from convenshunal speling. Yoo wil (I hoep) notis that it iz eezi too reed bicauz ther iz reeli onli a litl chaenj from convenshunal speling.
But admittedly, these words were chosen that were not subject to many of the SR-11 changes, in order to show the reader what still remains to be done. But admitedli, three wordz wer choezen that wer not subject to meny of the SR-11 chanjez, in order to show the reader what stil rimaenz ti bee dun. But admitedli, theez wurdz wer choezen that wer not subject too meni ov the SR-11 chaenjez, in order too shoe the reader what stil rimaenz too bee dun.

(This example shows the only word in W.E. that is confusible with C.S. spelling: 'shoe.'

The Farmer's Dilemma.

CS: The weather was great; the sun was breaking through the clouds, and a slight breeze wafted the smell of newly mown hay and alfalfa to the nose of the farmer's wife who was starting to prepare the noonday luncheon. SR: The wether waz great; the sun waz breaking through the cloudz, and a slight breez wafted the smel of newly mown hay and alfalfa to the noze of the farmer's wife who waz starting to prepare the noonday lunchon. WE: The wether wuz graet, the sun wuz braeking throo the cloudz, and a sliet breez wafted the smel ov nooli moen hae and alfalfa too the noez ov the farmer's wief hoo wuz starting too prepaer the noonday lunchon.
Aul wuz pees and kwiet when sudenli a sonic boom startld the farmer and hiz wief. All was peace and quiet when suddenly a sonic boom startled the farmer and his wife. All waz peas and quiet when sudenli a sonic boom startled the farmer and his wife.
A military plane flew overhead and quickly disappeared from sight. A militari plane flew overhed and quickli disapeard from sight. A militeri plaen floo overhed and kwickli disapeerd frum siet.
The farmer said, "Those damned planes scare our hens and then they don't lay eggs. The farmer sed, "Thoze damed planes scare our henz and then they don't lay egz. The farmer sed, "Thoez damd plaenz scaer our henz and then thae don't lae egz.
I wish they'd take their manoeuvers elsewhere." I wish they'd take their manuverz elswher." I wish thae'd taek ther manooverz elswher."
But of course, they didn't hear and could not appreciate his wish. But of cours, they didn't hear and coud not apresiate hiz wish. But ov cours; thae didn't heer and cuud not apresiaet hiz wish.
The mountains and nearby hills are resplendent in their beuty, with the heather in bloom and the scent of sage in the breeze. The mountinz and nearby hilz ar resplendent in ther beuti, with the hether in bloom and the sent of sage in the breez. The mountinz and neerbie hilz ar resplendent in ther beueti, with the hether in bloom and the sent ov saeg in the breez.


Back to the top.