[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J23, 1998-1, p1]
[See Journal and Newsletter articles, Pamflet 15, Cut Spelling and Papers by Chris Upward.]


Chris Upward.

Progress on the dictionary route.

Perhaps least explored of all the possible routes to spelling reform described in the SSS's Principles and Practicalities leaflet is the dictionary route. Initially, that means persuading dictionaries to recommend the systemically better or best spelling forms among the thousands of alternatives that currently bedevil written English. Thus yogurt would be unequivocally recommended in preference to yoghurt or yoghourt.

Lately, however, some progress on that route is evident. First, American member Cornell Kimball (see pp14-18) has gained lexicographical acknowledgment that thru is sometimes used in printed, edited matter. Second, Pam Peters of Maquarie University, Australia, together with Cambridge University Press and English Today, has launched the Langscape survey of English usage, starting with variant spellings involving E (eg, ageing or aging?); all SSS members have been invited to support the SSS response to this. Third, the American Literacy Council reports (p19) that it has received from Random House a list of 4,000 alternative spellings in one of their dictionaries. It should be a challenge to the SSS to analyze that list as it has done with the 61 Langscape alternatives.

Running the SSS.

The recent spurt in SSS membership and activity is demanding more of the mainly London-based committee than it can now easily perform. Hence some promising proposals from members for new activities have not been embraced with the alacrity they deserved. In response to this situation, the Committee is now seeking a part-time paid assistant. But the Internet offers other ways of transcending present limitations, showing how distance need be no obstacle to participation in SSS affairs: Allan Campbell edits the SSS newsletter and serves on the Committee from New Zealand, and other members with email may like to consider whether they could contribute from afar. On the other hand, the Society's work inescapably has a local dimension too. Most institutions (eg, the media, publishers, public authorities) that we may try to target are firmly rooted in one country or another (UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, etc), and co-ordination of members in our several countries through national, regional or local subcommittees is a prerequisite to approaching them.

New CS leaflet

Distributed with JSSS 23 is a thoroly updated and larjly reritn new edition of th Cut Spelng introductry leaflet. It takes acount of 6 years of furthr experience and developmnt of CS since the previus leaflet apeard.

Features of this issue

Kingsley Read is remembered for his design of the Shaw Alphabet, as displayed in the dual alphabet edition of Androcles and the Lion, which was distributed until recently as part of the SSS 'New Member's Pack'. Yet he has not figured prominently as a personality in the annals of spelling reform, and there is a demand for more information. Thus the SSS from time to time receives inquiries, for instance asking how to contact him, tho in fact he died a quarter of a century ago. In JSSS 23 we are privileged to revive his work in the form of a paper he wrote in 1972, which we are able to reprint thanks to Professor Michael Twyman and the Shaw Alphabet archive at Reading (pronounced Redding) University. The Shaw Alphabet may never have been part of the mainstream of thinking about a practical spelling reform for English, but it remains a daring monument of notable typographical and systemic elegance to the potential for a genuinely 'optimal' (pace Noam Chomsky) writing system for English.

The articles by Valerie Yule (pp8-13) and Cornell Kimball (pp14-18) examine two rather different pragmatic approaches to spelling reform. Valerie applies her insights as a psychologist to explore the potential for spontaneous simplification of spelling by countless individuals on the Internet, where spelling standards are already observed to be more relaxed than in traditional writing on paper; and then relates this to the need for systematization and standardization. Cornell draws lessons from the successes and failures of previous 20th century attempts to implement simpler spellings and suggests how we might best proceed now in the light of those experiences.

As an object lesson in handling the controversies inevitably generated by spelling reform, on pp20-23 we summarize in some detail (with full translation of the concluding section) Gerhard Augst's pamphlet refuting some eleventh-hour objections to the current German spelling reform. This historic event repays careful study of both its practical and theoretical aspects. It deserves the plaudits of spelling reformers everywhere for many reasons: its systematic approach, its willingness to compromise combined with the determination to overcome a long series of difficulties and obstacles, and, perhaps most impressive of all, the efficiency with which, despite all public controversy, it is being jointly implemented in the German-speaking countries (tho a last-minute hurdle in the Federal Constitutional Court still has to be surmounted). It is a model from which English has everything to learn, however different the circumstances.

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