[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J20, 1996/1 pp34,35]
[Chris Upward: see Journals, Newsletters, Leaflets, Media, Pamflet 15, Book, Papers.]

The Cut Spelling Handbook, 2nd Edition, Foreword

Chris Upward

The revised and expanded second edition of the Cut Spelling Handbook appeared in April 1996. The foreword, reprinted here, sets out the development of Cut Spelling from its first to its second edition.

Impact of the first edition.

The first, limited, edition of the Handbook to Cut Spelling (CS) was published in 1992, and in just over a year all its 250 copies had been distributed. The general response was sufficiently positive for the Simplified Spelling Society to decide that the Handbook could not be allowed to remain unavailable for long. There were two possibilities: either a simple reprint could be produced to meet the immediate continuing demand, or else, with an inevitably longer delay, a revised and expanded edition could be prepared which would build on the experience gained during the intervening period. In late 1995 the opportunity arose to produce such a second edition, which now appears as this volume.

The first edition of the Handbook aroused wide interest. The publicity generated by its launch was considerable and enduring. Over the airwaves CS was covered by the BBC World Service, with further specific broadcasts going to New Zealand, Nigeria and South Africa, as well as being heard from numerous national and local radio stations in the United Kingdom. Press reports were syndicated across the United States, and appeared at least in France, Germany and the Netherlands, and in numerous newspapers in the United Kingdom. On a more academic level, CS is now recorded in general reference works on the English language as an innovative proposal for the modernization of English spelling, and has been analyzed in more specialized studies. Basic information on CS is accessible (and is being accessed) on the Internet.

Publishers have proved willing to accept material in CS, with (so far) one research report in a scholarly journal and a chapter in a collection of conference papers printed in it, and other items forthcoming. Articles have appeared explaining and demonstrating CS in professional journals addressed to teachers of basic literacy skills and of English as a foreign language, as well as targeted at more general readerships. Conferences have been addressed both on the subject of CS itself, and using CS for illustrative material. CS has been regularly used in personal and professional correspondence around the world (for instance to Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the USA), both in hard copy and in electronic form. And of course readers of the Simplified Spelling Society's publications have now been familiar with CS, in its evolving forms, for a decade and more.

It may not be altogether implausible to claim that, since the first edition of the Handbook appeared in 1992, CS has become more widely known than any previous proposal for reforming English spelling.

Lessons for the second edition.

Since 1992 a rich body of experience has accumulated in the use, reception and operation of CS. Well over half a million words of continuous text on a range of subjects have been written in CS, almost certainly far more than in any previous reformed English orthography. This practical use has clarified some uncertainties, highlighted some problems, and reinforced the advantages of the system from the writer's viewpoint. Readers' reactions have been expressed through numerous comments received, ranging from the abusive to the enthusiastic. These have described readers' initial responses to CS, their process of acclimatization, and the difficulties they may have encountered in decoding individual words. Readers have included young and old, native and non-native speakers of English, and professionals such as academic linguists and remedial literacy teachers, alongside lay persons with a general interest in alternative ways of writing English.

The second edition has benefited not only from all this practical experience, but also from improved understanding in related areas. Research on literacy teaching methods, especially in the 1980s, has become better known, confirming the phonic approach (ensuring beginners appreciate how sounds are represented by letters) as fundamental to proficiency in reading and writing. Recognition of the importance of phonics, despite its limitations in English, highlights the centrality of the alphabetic principle to a good writing system, namely that the letters should predictably represent sounds, and sounds be predictably represented by letters. Cut Spelling's claim to satisfy the demands of phonics and of the alphabetic principle far better than does the traditional orthography of English (TO) - though still not perfectly - can therefore now be advanced more forcefully than before.

Fresh support for CS also comes from three other directions, historical, geographical and technological. Historical research has revealed that a broader range of CS forms was in use in the Middle English period (eg, in the 14th century, the age of Chaucer) than had been suspected when the first edition was prepared. Geographically, it has recently become apparent that one effect of CS is to remove many arbitrary disparities between English spellings and their equivalents in other, mainly western European, languages, so making foreign language learning easier both for native and, especially, non-native speakers of English. In yet another area, that of information technology, the strides made in the past few years in developing electronic written communication (known by such terms as the Information Superhighway, the Internet, the World Wide Web, etc) open up new possibilities for implementing English spelling reform. The effect of the new technologies on the literacy practices of younger generations is emerging as a further argument for simplifying the alphabetically grotesque spellings currently promulgated as correct in TO.

Changes between 1st and 2nd edition.

This second edition of the CS Handbook has thus been strengthened by the new knowledge and clearer perspectives that have emerged in all these areas. At the same time a number of specific changes have been introduced in the presentation of the CS system. The readability of the Handbook has been enhanced by more generous spacing of text and by using small capitals to indicate letters of the alphabet and spelling patterns, instead of the traditional cumbersome and unattractive angle brackets; thus what appeared as <a>, <b>, <c> in the first edition now appears as a, b, c.

Scarcely any changes have proved necessary in the proposed spelling of individual words in CS. Two minor, isolated instances may nevertheless be mentioned:

1) it is now thought better to reinforce the recommended rules for keeping SS (see Part I, Chapter 3, Rule 3, §2.4) and write CS messaj, rather than to harmonize this one word with the rare single s of its rhyme presaj.

2) it became apparent that the second E of TO elsewhere was redundant by Rule 1, E.1.1.13, and CS now recommends elswher.

In Part I, Chapters 1 & 2, it has been possible to introduce or expand discussion of various points which in the first edition had given rise to objections and/or misunderstandings. These include the concern that redundant letters are actually important in ensuring comprehension, the question of how far CS can suit speakers of all the world's accents of English, and the misconception that CS aims to regularize all the irregularities of TO.

The main changes to Part I, Chapter 3, which contains the detailed arguments for cutting particular letters from TO spellings, take the form of clarification. Thus the dilemma of the TO alternatives carcase/carcass, with first syllable stress, has now been resolved by analogy with atlas, so distinguishing CS carcas, and several parallel spellings, from the second-syllable stress pattern of uncut forms like erase/morass (Rule 1, E.1.1.13). Similarly, a new comprehensive analysis of the l, m, n, r + t sequences (Rule 2, §1.5) has shown that the advantages of the controversial long consonant strings in CS forms like exlnt, govrnmnt, contnnt, cormrnt are systemically far greater than originally appreciated.

But while those changes represent a strengthening of the case for CS, Chapter 6 (Part 2: Stopng short of CS, §2.3.8) now sets out in detail the various anomalies (loose ends, rough edges, warts) in CS that were not previously collected together at any one point in the Handbook, or have, in a few cases, only become apparent since the first edition was published. These anomalies range from lists of the unproblematic mergers of the peace/piece > pece type and the slightly more problematic plaice > place type, to a few gross heterophonic ambiguities of the type err/heir > er. Although none of these anomalies calls into question the integrity of the CS system as a whole, they are now more clearly recognized as blemishes, and ways of preventing them are discussed.

It goes without saying that the opportunity of a second edition has been taken to correct whatever misprints and other small errors had come to light in the first edition.

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