[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 22, 1997-2 p10]
[On this page: Book offer, Letters from members.]
[See Govind Deodhekar's Pamflet 14, Lojikon.]
GOVIND DEODHEKAR: a tribute.
by Chris Upward.
It is with deep sadness that we report the death in Muskat (Oman) on 12 February
1997 of Govind Narayan Deodhekar. Govind (as we knew him, though he was widely known
as Dev elsewhere) joined the Simplified Spelling Society in the early 1980s,
served on its committee from 1985 and in due course became vice-chairman, an office
he held for 5 years. His long experience as treasurer of the National Secular
Society gave his financial advice particular authority.
He brought to the SSS and its work a vital perspective which the Society must embrace if it is to pursue a truly worldwide mission: he approached English from a non-English-speaking, and specifically an Indian viewpoint. Born in W. India in 1919 and educated in Bombay (where he took a degree in science and law), he knew the special difficulties that the imperial legacy of English spelling causes Indian learners. He first made an impact on the Society at its 1985 conference in Southampton, when, at minimal notice, he replaced an absent speaker to give an illuminating account of the three-tier, phonographically regular Devanagari writing system which, in its various forms, serves many of the major languages of India. Govind himself was a Marathi speaker, and it was through his contact with the architect-engineer Madhukar Gogate in Bombay that the SSS maintained a longstanding link with Roman Lipi Parishad, the movement to apply the Roman alphabet to Indian languages (see, eg, JSSS J15 1993/2, pp12-14). In his later years Govind used to winter in Bombay, and it was on a family visit from there that he suffered a fatal heart attack earlier this year.
Govind migrated to London in 1951 and, after a time working at the Indian High Commission, taught science and maths in London schools until he retired in 1979. It was here that he discovered that English spelling had not been purposely designed to frustrate learners in India, but was no less a burden to native speakers: it was as much an instrument of class oppression in England as of colonial rule in India. His decision to work for its reform was a logical extension of his lifelong opposition to injustice and ignorance, which led to his political imprisonment in Bombay under the British in the 1930s and, after his move to London, forty years of commitment to the Humanist and Secular movement.
On joining the SSS, he soon began to formulate his ideas for reform, first outlining them in the SSS Newsletter in J1 Autumn 1985 (pp6-7). He then left these ideas to mature for nearly a decade, until, spurred on by a presentiment that his time might be short and by the urging of the Society's committee, he finally set them out in full in his pamphlet 14 Lojikon (1995). Its key proposal and purpose are made clear in the subtitle: "System of Simplified English Spelling by the LOJIKal use of KONsonants, simplifying the learning of English for the non-English-speaking world." His original orthographical insight was that the varied pronunciation around the world of the vowels of English makes their spelling far harder to regularize than the consonants. His system therefore confined itself to regularizing the consonants, except insofar as some vowels are thereby also affected (eg, the silent GH of sight cannot be cut without indicating the long value of the I). Lojikon was prepared for publication by the Simplified Spelling Society in London, but was printed and published in India, both for the sake of the lower costs and to launch its distribution there. In the following year Govind devoted himself, with financial support from a family trust, to publicizing it in India, with numerous newspaper articles and over 5,000 letters.
Govind will be remembered with affection by the SSS for his wit, intelligence, determination and humanity, but above all for broadening the Society's perspective to consider the needs of the developing non-native-English-speaking world. His proposal for concentrating on the regularization of consonants will remain an important item on the Society's menu of possibilities for simplifying English spelling.
[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 22, 1997/2 pp34]
[See cartoon list and tribute to Harry Lindgren.]
Free Book Offer for SSS Members:Thanks to distinguished longstanding Australian SSS member Dr Doug Everingham, we now have available for free distribution to members (£2 to non-members) a limited number of copies of Harry Lindgren's stimulating and original paperback Spelling Reform: A New Approach (Sydney: Alpha Books, 1969, 152pp).
Harry Lindgren (see JSSS 1993/1, p35 for an account of his life and works) was an early proponent of the important concept of reform by stages. His book sets out a strategy whereby a single phonemic regularization (short E only ever to be spelt as such) could lead on through several dozen similar mini-stages to a fully regularized orthography for English ('Phonetic A & B'), one of whose most striking features is a radical new solution to the schwa problem.
Alongside an incisively analytical style, the book is enlivened by a set of delightful cartoons depicting the absurdities of orthographic conservatism. Every serious spelling reformer needs to have digested Harry Lindgren's ideas. Apply to SSS for your copy while stocks last!
[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 22, 1997/2 pp35,26]
Edited by Chris Upward.
Letters are welcomed on any matters raised by items appearing in JSSS, or on
any observations or experiences relating to spelling that readers may wish to
[See journal and newsletter articles by Cornell Kimball.]
Defining American usage.I'm enjoying JSSS 1997/1 which I recently received. In response to a couple of pieces in that issue, I'd like to refine a few points regarding current spelling usage in American books and publications.
In the reply to A E Relton in the 'Spelling Advice Column', it's noted (p34) that "the form thru is encountered regularly in America...." I certainly wish that were the case, but unfortunately the fact is that thru is only used once in a while in print in the United States. In signs and other commercial uses thru is of course the dominant form, but in published matter through still greatly prevails, with thru in any form appearing only here and there. The hyphenated form drive-thru can be found sometimes in print, but a search I did for such words (as recounted in the December 1996 SSS Newsletter), found just a few cases of thru appearing by itself or in any compound other than drive-thru.
I say this not to get anyone discouraged regarding such matters. As there is a little usage of thru and a few other simpler forms, it is hopeful that we can increase this. (And that is where we all come in by promoting this, an especially good example being the proposal by Mr Relton.)
I have a few points regarding items in "American Spellings for British Schools?" (JSSS 21: 30-32). I note these for the record, so that we know just how far simpler spellings have come.
On page 30, one part says " the AU/OU digraphs lose their confusing U in American caldron, gage..." Caldron is a standard spelling in American usage, but cauldron is also standard and is the form used by many in published matter. Then, gage is a variant spelling that is only sometimes found in American publications. The form gauge is the one almost always used in books and periodicals of general interest.
(In scientific and engineering material, tho, gage is often the prevalent spelling.)
A few lines below that, ax and adz are given. As you note, there was controversy regarding these, and there are still a number of American writers and publishers who use axe and (when they have the occasion to) adze. Ax and axe are equal variants in American usage, as are adz and adze (altho the few times I've seen this word in print it's been adze).
On page 31, a part reads, "British kidnapped, worshipped (which are based perhaps on analogy with monosyllables such as capped, shipped) should follow the pattern of gossiped, galloped and the forms kidnaped, worshiped used in America."
The basic rule regarding the doubling of consonants or not in such cases (when adding endings to polysyllabic verbs which end single vowel + single consonant ) in American English is this: If the vowel in the final syllable is a schwa (also known as an obscure vowel), then the consonant is not doubled. But in other cases, the usual practise is to double the consonant in American English. Thus, if the vowel in the unstressed syllable is a short vowel (as opposed to a schwa), the consonant is usually doubled. Now this last part, regarding an unstressed short vowel, is not a hard and fast rule. Still, it's followed much more often than not.
The A in kidnap has the short A sound of cat (as these are pronounced in American English), and the derived form is usually written kidnapped in material published in the United States. Kidnaped is used, but it's a variant form only sometimes encountered. Another case to note are the derived forms of the American spelling program, which use double MM in programmed, etc. (This is also the case when program is used for the computing sense in other English-speaking countries.) The forms programed, etc, are rarely seen in American writing.
When the preceding vowel is an I, the single- and double-consonant forms are often equal variants in American usage. Both worshiped and worshipped are used in American books and periodicals. Many Americans too seem to think of the -SHIP in worship as being the same as ship by itself when it comes to adding -ED, -ING, or -ER, and write worshipped. Then, some Americans write benefited, some write benefitted.
I'm glad that the information I gave you earlier about American usage could add to your responses to both the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority and A E Relton.
Too, I think that the 'Spelling Advice Column' is a good idea, and should be continued as a regular feature.
Lastly, I have communicated in private with Mr Relton about what he's proposing (to use a few simpler spellings in a book his company is publishing). Let me also say publicly that I think this is a great thing to see, and I give my full encouragement to it.
Cornell Kimball, Los Angeles
(The uncertainty over doubling final consonants in 'benefit' is aggravated by the fact that the I has secondary stress. We all agree that stressed I in 'omitted' requires TT, and unstressed I in 'deposited' requires single T - but which pattern does 'benefit' belong to? Readers face a different dilemma: do 'visited', 'invited', 'benefited' rhyme, or not? The patterns of 'nonplussed/accused' create similar ambiguities in spelling and pronouncing 'focussed/focused'.
[See J20 Selling Spelling article by Matthew Thommen.]
Simplified Chinese spreads.(JSSS J13 1992/2 (pp14-16) described the 1956 simplification of Chinese characters in the People's Republic, but had no news on their adoption elsewhere. While in Hong Kong in early 1997, Matthew Thommen inquired further and here reports briefly on his findings.)
Singapore has already adopted the simplified characters used in the People's Republic of China. In Hong Kong a kit from the China State Language Commission is being distributed in schools to teach the 2,000 most commonly used simplified characters. All characters approved by Beijing will also be allowed in public examinations, according to the South China Morning Post.
Matthew Thommen, Hong Kong.
[See Journal, Newsletter, Anthology, Bulletin articles, and Personal View by Edward Rondthaler.]
Mathematics of spelling.A few words about the mathematics of spelling.
We are accustomed to think that "98% correct" is virtually perfect. Not so in spelling. Even 99.9% is not good enough - it averages out to about one spelling error on every 2-page spread.
The finding of S Krashen (1993) that essays by university students have a spelling error of only 2% means that freshmen essays have 10 spelling errors per page!
If the spelling in an average book were 99% perfect there would be one error in every 8 lines.
Another erroneous mathematical concept is that spelling reform will effect big savings in paper and printing.
In Chris Upward's Handbook of Cut Spelling he shows (p230) that typical text written in CS has 10.7% fewer letters than if written in TO. Does that promise better than a 10% saving in paper and printing costs?
Unfortunately not. We must add the spaces between words, which reduces the 10.7% saving to 8.8%. And then we must not forget that in an average book - like the Handbook - 43% of the cost of paper and printing is not for the text we read, but for the margins, running heads, indentations, title page, section breaks, new chapters, end papers, etc, not to mention illustrations. There will of course be a saving. But written English is already the shortest of major languages, and any additional saving won't be very much.
Edward Rondthaler, New York.
[See journal articles by John J Reilly.]
Computer phoneticization.Computers in particular have drawn my attention to spelling issues again. For instance, in the course of editing my own work, I often use a program called "Monologue for Windows". This program reads texts out loud, so I can correct what I see on the screen against what I hear. The vocalizations the program produces are often rather comical, because they reflect the traditional spelling as written. The program does let you correct these pronunciations by entering phoneticizations of your own. I cannot help thinking, when I do this, how much simpler it would be if the spellings made sense to begin with.
John J Reilly, New Jersey.
Reform by spellchecker.Regarding implementation of a system, it seems we now have a centralized arbiter of spelling in the spell checkers in word processing programs. If we could get Microsoft or Novell to change their dictionaries, that's all it would take. Then the software would accept nite and mark night as an error. Has anyone made such an approach?
Bill Gates is maverick enough to go for it. I was thinking about that anyway when I stumbled onto your website. Once I catch up on more of what you've done, I'll try to contact him; I have some channels for that.
Or the voice activation software companies. It seems like they would have a financial interest in simplification. Any approaches to them that you know of? (I saw an amazing program called Dragon Dictate, which works exceedingly well, and now costs about $500.00. The salesman who showed me was Australian, and it correctly wrote his G 'day as good day, but it had problems with there, their, and they're. IBM started selling a system for $99.00 a few months ago, but I haven't tried or seen it yet.) It's occurred to me that the momentum for voice activation would generate interest in spelling reform.
I don't know how it is in the UK, but here informal simplifications like nite and tuff are pretty widespread. It seems like simply legitimizing these spellings would get things rolling.
Dan Macleod, New Jersey.
SSS apprenticeship?Should it be a qualification for SSS membership to have worked out one's own scheme? Not seriously - but a useful apprenticeship.
Kate Greenland, W. Australia.
[Kate wrote Personal View PV7 (1999) - R.O.S.E. Reformed Orthography of Standard English Mark II.i, 12 pp. It has non-standard characters, which we cannot show.]
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