[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J22, 1997-2 p2]
[See Journal and Newsletter articles, Pamflet 15, Cut Spelling and Papers by Chris Upward.]


Chris Upward

SSS Pamphlet 15.

Ever since the present style of journal first appeared in 1996, readers have complained of the minute print used for the spelling catalogue as background on the outside cover. At Valerie Yule's prompting, we now publish the catalogue as a pamphlet, the 15th which the SSS has produced at intervals since before World War I. One member who had a preview of the pamphlet described its contents as an "eye-opener". Perhaps it will help open the public's eyes, and add yet more substance to our argument that the present spelling of English is, to put it mildly, unsatisfactory. Subscribers to JSSS are being sent the pamphlet together with this issue of the journal.

The Internet takes off.

Can it really be only a year or two ago that the SSS flickered into life once every few months when the committee met or publications appeared? These days, members and non-members around the world are continuously interacting, debating new ideas, thrashing out disagreements, refining concepts, exchanging experiences, and generally relating in countless different ways. Individuals contribute as often or as rarely as the spirit takes them. The power of the Internet is seen in the fact that the London-based committee now has in Allan Campbell an active member (and newsletter editor) in New Zealand. [See Spell4Literacy.]

Yet we are still at an early stage of learning how best to exploit this new medium of instant world communication. Just a few months ago members were emailing each other collectively by individual address, but now, thanks to Nicholas Kerr, we have an automatic list to which we 'subscribe' (gratis), or 'unsubscribe', as we wish, thereby addressing all subscribers everywhere rather than just a few members whose email addresses we happened to know. Yet the traffic can be so heavy that our thoughts are already turning to the possibility of a managed list, a kind of edited email newsletter. Worldwide campaigning co-ordinated via the Internet can surely not be far away.

And that is just email. A further dimension is the WorldWideWeb, with the Society's main site operated at Aston University but with other sites run independently by members elsewhere. SSS Membership Secretary reports that nowadays new members mostly discover the SSS from the website, from which they download an application form. But it is not just information about the Society that can be disseminated on the WWW: there we can also post statements of SSS policy and, potentially, campaigning documentation.

The most productive use of the Internet by the SSS so far must be credited to Alan Mole in Boulder, Colorado. He has created the BTRSPL automatic spelling converter, which at lightning speed (eg, a whole novel in three minutes) changes TO into any reformed spelling system that is equipped with a suitably format(t?)ed dictionary. BTRSPL can be copied from his website along with large dictionaries for the American Literacy Council's orthography and for Cut Spelling, and small dictionaries for other schemes. Alan's initiative gives the SSS a major resource, which may open up a new route to spelling reform that was undreamt of before the advent of the Internet. [See link to BTRSPL.]

Features of this issue.

JSSS 22 opens with the second half of Gwen Thorstad's study of children's reactions to different kinds of simplified spelling. Particularly revealing is what we might call children's own critical analysis of TO and how English spelling might be improved. "Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings" come insights to which most adults have long been blind. Gwen's study is nicely complemented by the account by our new Vice-President Edward Rondthaler of the American Literacy Council's program that combines regularized spelling with TO as an aid to literacy acquisition.

Patrick Groff traces the wilful aggravation of the above-mentioned blindness (and accompanying deafness) in recent decades by the 'Whole Language' ideology in America (more familiar in Britain as 'Real Books'). The present decline of that ideology and concomitant return to phonics in both America and Britain must be welcomed not only for its promise of higher literacy standards, but for the increased awareness it brings of the true nature of TO. 'Whole Language' effectively said, "Spelling doesn't matter"; phonics shows how much it does matter.

Our reports on other languages begin with the travails of Irish: the language may be quite unlike English, but some of the constraints on reform are not dissimilar; Irish, however, has made real progress. The German reform is facing protests, but they will probably prove no more than rearguard actions. The case of Hebrew offers some lessons on the drawbacks of vowel-omission, though the often-claimed parallel with syllabic consonants in English is not exact.

Both the UCLES analysis and the correspondence with Michael Barber relate specifically to spelling in England, but the former also makes observations about what constitutes user-friendly spelling generally.

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