[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1993/1 p21 later designated J14]
[See Journal, Newsletter, Anthology, SPB articles, and book Written Dialects by Kenneth Ives.]

DIAGRAMING SPELLINGS.

Kenneth Ives.

Most presentations of spelling problems and spelling rules are in intellectual narrative and argument, or tabular form. Transcribing these into a more visual oriented form may help spelling reformers, teachers, and learners. The advent of computer programs which can diagram these situations and their logic may become a useful tool for these users.

To illustrate these possibilities, the "allCLEAR" computer program is herewith used to produce the present situation facing a writer of long "a" sound, and the decision process using rules which, if fully followed, would thoroly regularize writing of this sound.

There are now 19 spellings for the long "a" sound (Dewey 1970, Table 5), which are diagramed in the first chart. Dewey's data are based on his 1916 count of 100,000 words.

Unfortunately, Dewey's data is not organized by rules, so the second chart, showing application of three spelling rules, only shows 91% of spellings. Applying rules to other sounds, and keeping the charts to one page for clarity, may mean that some charts show closer to 80% of spelling occurrences.

Present spellings which fit the three rules account for 46% of words with this sound. These are markt "correct" in the second chart, as they work for both readers and writers.

Table 1: Correct spellings of long "a".

Spelling
"ai-, -ai-"
"-a / "
"-ay"
Totals
Count
897
1,574
1,109
3,580
Per Cent
12%
20%
14%
46%

If six anomalies ("ey, e-e, ei, ea, eigh, aigh") were converted to follow the rules, in an early spelling reform step, this would raise the reliability of the rules from 46% to 67%, for both reading and writing, with relatively few words to be relearned, mostly "thay; thair (2), whair; braik, grait; nabor, nit; strait."

The "a-e" spelling is listed in Chart 2 as a writing error, not a reading one, as this is the commonest spelling, 25%, for this sound. Unfortunately, it is a homograph, in which only 52% of this spelling is pronounced long "a". At present this spelling is confusable with short "a" sound (have), and "ah" sound (are), and a few minor ones. Dropping the final "-e" off of "are, have" would raise reliability of "a-e" spellings as representing long "a" to 76%.

This increases reading reliability of long "a" sound to 86% for four reading rules.

Table 2: "a-e" spellings.

Sound or Word
long "a" sound
"have"
"are"
short "i" sound
other sounds
Totals
Count
1,918
617
549
296
317
3,697
Per Cent
52%
17%
15%
8%
8%
100%

Note that if the proposed "regular" spelling of "ae" for long "a" sound is used as a guide to either reading or writing, it produces an error rate of 100% for traditional spellings, as there are no words now spelt that way. Thus the "ae" proposal injects a barrier to learners in their transition from regularized to traditional spellings. It also makes it difficult to design and use intermediate "medial media" partly regularized spelling systems.

Charts of some other spellings are similarly clear - "ee, ie, f & v, c & k, g & j". However, the two sounds of "oo" spellings, for "food/good", have very low predictions from rules, and complicating overlaps, requiring much further study and discussion before a wise decision on spellings can be made and readily defended.

The "allCLEAR" program works best on a computer whose processor is large and fast enuf to handle Word Perfect for Windows or similar programs. Otherwise it is very slow in loading graphics and fonts for printing. Mine took 27 minutes to load these for repeated use, 7 minutes for a single use.

riting long "a"

reading and riting long "a" sound

Sources.

Clear Software, Inc. 385 Elliot Street, Newton MA 02164 USA
Dewey, Godfrey (1970). Relative Frequency of English Spellings. New York: Teachers College Press.

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