< The Spelling Society

[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J19, 1995/2, p10-11.]
[Also on this page: Th parabl of Ant(h)ony.
[See Journal, Newsletter, Pamflet 13 and Personal View 1 by Bob Brown.]

Trying our Luck with IBM.

Bob Brown.

In July 1995 the SSS submitted an application to IBM for technical support for a computerized spelling project. Although the application was unsuccessful, it seemed appropriate to record the attempt in JSSS. We here present the main details of the application, along with most of our covering letter and relevant excerpts from IBM's letter of rejection.

IBM Community Connections Awards.
Basingstoke, Hampshire.
25 July 1995.

Dear IBM Community Connections Awards

I enclose an application for one of the awards.

We would draw your attention to the fact that in the mid-1980s IBM sponsored a successful remedial literacy project in New York (James Henry Martin, 'Writing to Read') which also involved a simplified spelling scheme. There are, however, important differences between that scheme and our own proposal, in that John Henry Martin was working with a fully phonetic artificial orthography targeted at remedial students (adolescents, young adults), whereas our proposal is orthographically less radical but has much broader and longer-term implications.

Yours sincerely

The Simplified Spelling Society
17 August 1995.

(Dear Simplified Spelling Society)

I am writing to let you know that, sadly, your application for the IBM Community Connections Awards has not been short-listed for an award.

The response to the scheme has been extraordinary, with some 1200 proposals being received. ... Faced with a large number of highly creative proposals the assessors have had an extremely difficult task in selecting the forty projects ... to go forward for more detailed evaluation. I am very sorry that your project did not get through ... in the face of intense competition. ...

I know that much effort ... will have gone into your proposal, and we ... thank you very much for submitting it.

Yours sincerely
IBM Community Connections Awards

IBM Community Connections Awards: Application.

1. Information about your organization.

Name of your organization.
The Simplified Spelling Society.
Legal status.
Voluntary association
What was total revenue of your organization in the last financial year?
Date your organisation was founded.
Geographical area covered.
Worldwide, but centred on UK.
Number of employees in the organization.
Number of volunteers and members.
approx. 100
What are the aims of your organization?
"to bring about a reform of the spelling of English in the interests of ease of learning and economy in writing."

2. Partnership organizations.

Name of organization.
There are potential partnership organizations for this project, such as ... ... ..., but they have not yet been approached.

3 Information about your proposed project.

Project description.
The project aims to make available online (through an interactive Internet site) a facility for simplifying English spelling. Ever since the Cut Spelling (CS) system (see attached yellow leaflet for outline) was launched in 1992, there have been repeated calls for a two-way online dictionary-based text-conversion facility, so that writers using the Traditional Orthography (TO) of English can produce text in CS, and vice versa.

Specifically, we seek resources for
(1) a suitable computer and software to act as an Internet server, with
(2) appropriate connections to the Internet for an initial period. We also need:
(3) technical assistance and possibly software to establish the server functionality. A possible widening of the scope would include
(4) a small population of suitable 'seed' PCs donated to relevant literacy organizations, particularly those involved in teaching learners with special difficulties and who may not be able to afford suitable technology from their own resources.

The Simplified Spelling Society can provide the necessary linguistic and orthographic expertise, but has for some time been looking for the necessary computer-technical expertise to implement this scheme. The Society can promote the use of the server from its own resources once it has been established.

What categories of people do you aim to help? How will they benefit?
In principle, the facility can benefit many kinds of users, but we see a particular value in making it available to assist literacy acquisition in English (by both native and non-native speakers), and amongst learners particularly for those with specific learning difficulties (eg dyslexics) who are most seriously disadvantaged by TO. It has been suggested that it might be useful for some categories of the physically disabled too. The project should also serve all categories of literacy teachers, by removing the worst obstacles to literacy acquisition in English, and by giving them a straightforward facility for simplified text-production for teaching purposes. The general aim is to improve literacy wherever an adapted orthography can offer assistance.

What will be the long-term benefit of the project?
As well as offering an immediate aid to literacy acquisition, the project will provide a public online facility for more efficient and more reliable text-production generally. In the long term it will educate literacy-workers in the damage to literacy stand-ards and written English as a whole caused by TO, so encouraging a critical re-appraisal of TO and of the possibilities for its modernization.

How do you think information technology will help you with this project?
Information technology, in particular the potential for future development of Email, the Internet, the WWW, the Information Superhighway, etc, etc, promises an unprecedented opportunity for the dissemination of educational benefits of all kinds. The interactive character of the proposed project represents an ideal exploitation of present and future technology.

What expertise do you have in the use of information technology?
Years of word-processing and desktop publishing, and recent limited use of Email and the WWW.

Have you secured additional help from other sources if needed?
Access to the computing facilities of the Department of Languages and European Studies at Aston University, including Webserver.

What are your plans for continuing the project, once IBM's involvement is complete?
It is expected that the project will continue to operate of its own accord once it is set up. However, answer No.3 to the next question reflects the Simplified Spelling Society's long-term, continuing commitment to the goal of improving the user-friendliness of the English writing system, for which Information Technology offers infinite possibilities as yet scarcely explored.

How do you propose to measure the results of the project?
The success of the project will be measured
1. by the amount of use made of the proposed facility,
2. by the feedback received primarily from literacy organizations, and
3. by the experience the Simplified Spelling Society gains in pursuing its purpose of enhancing literacy standards by overcoming the obstacles currently presented by TO.

[See links to providers of conversion software.]

[Unpublished item, found with Christopher Upward's files for J19. Chris Upward's son is called Antony!]

Th parabl of Ant(h)ony.

Christopher Upward.

This tale is ritn in Cut Spelng.

Antony was an englishman, and thruout his erly life he had dificlty with his name. His parents had givn no thot to th danjer wen they chose it, but on going to rejistr th birth, his fathr had a first inklng of th trubl ahed wen th rejistrar askd, "With h or without?" On th spur of th moment, th fathr decided 'without' - not for any carefuly considrd reasn, but just because Antony seemd simplr than Anthony.

It was som years later, wen Antony began scool and th ritn form of his name needd to apear on oficial documnts such as classlists and scoolreports, that th trubl realy startd. His parents became aware that, mor ofn than not, ther sons name was being ritn Anthony, and atemts at corection frequently proved unavailng. Th problm persistd thruout his education, with th aditionl complication that ocasionly th mispelng Anthony provoked th mispronunciation /ænθ'ni/.

Many years later, as an adlt, Antny moved to America, and found that th problm scarcely arose. For in America it is usul to pronounce th spelng Anthony with th sound of th (/θ/). Consequently, if a persn becoms nown as /ænt'ni/, americns ar much less inclined to presume th spelng Anthony.

Sevrl reflections arise from this experience. One is that th abov confusion, and consequent life-long iritations, ar typicl products of th english riting systm, wher predictbl corespondnces between speech and spelng ar not th norm. Anothr is that, as a first step towards resolvng this particulr problm, parents ho wish to giv ther sons such names, shud insist on th spelng Antony if they do not wish th name to be pronounced as with th, and conversly that, if they decide on th spelng Anthony, they shud themselvs always pronounce it with /θ/, and insist that othrs do so too. In othr words, they shud encuraj peple to observ th alfabetic principl.

Finaly, howevr, we may note that th spelng with h is historicly anomlus, since neithr th sorce, latn Antonius, nor cognate forms in othr languaj such as french Antoine, jermn /russian Anton, italian Antonio, nor th femnn equivlnt Antonia, nor th abreviation Tony, is spelt with h. It is thot th h may hav been insertd by analojy with greek ανθος (anthos), 'flowr'.

Back to the top.