[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J24, 1998-2, pp35,36]
Also on this page: Literature received.


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 report.

[See journal article about phonemes by A Brown, J29,
and Journal, Newsletter articles and Personal View 7 by Steve Bett.]

Calculating phonemicity.

There have been tables created showing the level of phonemicity of different writing systems and French and English were at the bottom. There is no indication that any particular method was used to arrive at the rankings.

I am the source of the statement that English is 40% phonemic. However, the percentage depends on how you set up the definition. Any claim that English is over 80% phonemic is based on using at least three different spelling patterns per sound.

The methodology for estimating the level of phonemicity is this. Select a representative three paragraphs of text. (this is probably a minimum sample). Choose any consistent set of spelling patterns and respell each word in the passage accordingly. Count the number of words that do not match dictionary spelling and divide by the total number of words.

All phonemic systems will respell 60% +/- 3% of the words.

Anglic, a system of new spelling developed in 1930, improved on this by allowing 42 frequently used words to be spelled the traditional way.

Non-phonemic systems such as Cut Spelling respell 30% (less if there are no substitutions) of the words.

Steve Bett, Orange, Texas

[See Journal articles and Personal View by Zé do Rock.]

Decoding unfamiliar words in CS.

One thing i dont find good about Cut Spelling is the cutting of dubl consonants. Of corse, in most cases it's not a real problem for adult nativ speakers, especialy if they can spel wel. But even for them ther is a problem: i just did a litl test with the first 2 pajes of a smal portugeze dictionry, and i found that, of the first 100 words, i didnt no the sense of 4 and just new mor or less the sense of 11. And i can consider i no portugeze pretty wel. Of corse the words i dont no ar rather uncommon, but stil it wud bug me if i didnt no the pronunciation. Portugeze has an iregular spelling, but it's a regular iregularity: if u no the many rules, u can pronounse it quite wel.

That's not the case with english. So even the nativ speaker wud hav problems somtimes, with CS, even if not nearly az much az with TO. For children starting in scool and foreners it gets mor complicated, becauz thair vocabulary is not that great. And the point is: ther is no point in making a reform for peple ho can spel english perfectly. I didnt no quite a few of the exampls in the CS Handbook, like salo, wilo, mino. I wud be temtd to pronounce them /sailo:, wailo:, maino:/.

The fact that TO shos wen a vowl is short in jermanic words, but fails to sho it in latn words shudnt be an excuse not to sho it at al anymor. Leving dubl consonants after a short stresd syllabl shos at least in 50% of cases that that vowl is stresd and short.

Zé do Rock, Munich/Germany & São Paulo/Brazil

[See Journal article by Jennifer Chew.]

A level in English spelling.

I thought readers would like to see the spelling question my A-level English Language students faced this year. They should have been well prepared!

From the London Examinations GCE Advanced Level English Language Module 6180 -Language Topics, Question 2:

"It is claimed that Caxton fixed spelling according to how people spoke in the 1480s. Since then, pronunciation has continued to change and consequently spelling often appears illogical. This has led to the call for a reformed spelling system for the 21st century.

Write the relevant part of a script for a national radio broadcast for the Open University which includes a variety of views on spelling reform. Your final remarks should contain some conclusions about spelling reform."

Jennifer Chew, Egham, Surrey, UK

[In fact Caxton spent most of his life in the Netherlands and was rather out of touch with rapidly-changing English. He is less known for spelling how people then spoke than for the introduction of Dutch spelling patterns like the H in ghost. It was rather the Chancery scribes of the generations before Caxton who were moving closer to a regularized orthography, a process which he disrupted. Caxton was no hero of English spelling reform! -Ed.]

German email-spell.

I did a small survey of how Germans adapt their alphabet to the limitations of the ASCII character set for email. I didn't get as many replies as I would have liked, but here's what they amount to.

Basically, it is the general practise to follow the umlauted vowel letters by E, which is of course historically justified. So Ä, Ö, Ü are written AE, OE, UE. Less historically justified, but of course it doesn't have to be, is that most use SS for the sharfes-S (ie, ß).

When I was doing my thesis, i put the same question to the readers of the LinguistList, and all but two gave the same answer. The other 2 reckoned that some austrians use SZ for ß and indeed sometimes one finds this in german papers on the web.

Responses included the following comments:

"If the Austrians mail us and they use an Umlaut, all we see is _. Most mail addresses in Germany/ Austria avoid Umlauts anyway, you would mail Mr Müller like this: Mueller."

"If I know for certain the receiver will be able to see the Umlaute, I just write as normal."

"I always use the AE for Ä, SS for ß, etc. I just want to be sure the receiver gets my message correct."

Gavin Ó Sé, Baile Atha Cliath, Ireland

[See Newsletter and Journal articles by Allan Campbell.]

Hesitate to respell names.

In their enthusiasm to improve English orthography, many members rush in where no angels are likely to be found.

I refer to the spelling of names: names of people, places, religious festivals and services, and the like.

At Christmas 1997 some email correspondents wrote of 'Krismus,' 'Krismas,' 'Crismas,' or 'Chrismas.' Some correspondents, no doubt believing they have formulated a scheme that is the the answer to all our spelling problems, have rewritten other correspondents' names, unsolicited.

I object to this practise. And not because I think names are somehow sacred or immutable per se.

I object because they are off-limits. They belong to someone else, or are very important or possibly sacred to someone else, who is likely to believe they have proprietorial rights on them. We are treading on toes and making ourselves unpopular if we take it on ourselves to change them. It's not our prerogative.

In our campaign to upgrade English orthography we need people out there to be open to listening to us and our ideas, and not antagonized and turned off by us deliberately mispelling their names.

When I did a Dale Carnegie course, two of the things I learned were that the 'sweetest sound to a person is their name' ('say it correctly') and the 'prettiest word is [again] their name' ('spell it correctly'). This was part of the 'Making friends and influencing people' part of the course, and was aimed at the many salespeople on it.

As an educational book salesman later in life I used this, and was sometimes amazed at how people (mainly teachers) reacted with what could be described as wonderment when, maybe months after I had met them briefly the first time, I greeted them by name. (They did not know I had written it in my book immediately after that first meeting, and regurgitated it before the second.)

Tho a rose by any other name will smell as sweet, a person's name by any other spelling (or pronunciation) may not. In fact, mispelling or respelling may stink in and up their noses. There is no accounting for people's emotions, and if U want to sell them something, like spelling reform, U'd better take notice of these emotions.

We have enuf opponents already without asking for more.

There is no harm in having a database of suggested improvements to the spelling of names, available to anyone contemplating change, but that is different from unilaterally changing the spellings without authority.

Allan Campbell, Christchurch, New Zealand

[What about names of famous dead people, eg, Shakespear(e)? -Ed.]

[See Journal and Newsletter articles by Robert Craig.]

Reviewing Lango.

Dr Chris Gledhill's review (JSSS 23, p30) of our book Lango: A fully democratic approach towards an international auxiliary language initially based on reformed English contained one or two fair criticisms, but its general tone wasn't typical of other comments we have received.

SSS members who wish to form their own assessment can find LANGO via the Internet at the World Language Program site, courtesy of Professor Bruce Beach.

We also have a few copies of the book left.

Robert Craig, Weston-super-Mare, UK & Antony Alexander, Douglas, IoM, UK

Personal View 6 amendments

Several correspondents, after reviewing my Personal View (PV6: Inglish, the nou ABC's) have suggested that Inglish should use the K rather than the C, retaining the C only in the CK digraph. It has also been suggested that we use the AI rather than the AE for the long vowel A, and the OA rather than the OE for the long vowel O. Another good suggestion was that we use the U for the second person pronoun. A fourth suggestion, that the A that precedes the R in kar, et al, is in fact the short vowel and not the AA digraph, is also well taken. I would be quite happy to accept these emendments to the Inglish spellings.

George Lahey, Palm Desert, California

Phonetic Czech.

This letter first appeared in 'The Guardian' on 18 September 1998.

The Government's plan to donate £1,000 to each school to buy books and to encourage the UK to become a nation of book readers ... assumes that lack of resources is the main barrier to children enjoying reading.

My son's experience in Prague shows it is probably the language itself. The difference between Czech and English is that Czech is (almost) phonetic. Once the sounds have been matched to the letters - which is what Czech children concentrate on in their first year at school - reading becomes a pleasure. At an early age children here are able to read and enjoy books independently, which the equivalent UK child cannot because s/he is having to concentrate so much on what exactly is written on the page.

When my eight-year-old son started school two years ago he could not read or write a word of Czech. Now he is fluent and can read books in Czech which he would have great difficulty reading in English. If the £1,000 per school were used to implement spelling reform, it would have a greater effect on book reading and literacy.

Ian Parker, Prague, Czech Republic

JSSS 24 1998/2: Literature Received.

In the past 6 months JSSS has received the following publications:

1. Educational Research: a critique by James Tooley & Doug Darby, London: Office for Standards in Education, 1998.

2. English, the Journal of the English Association, Summer 1998.

3. English Association Newsletter, No.158 Summer 1998.

4. English Today, No.55 July 1998, No.56 October 1998.

5. Language and Literacy News, Summer 1998, from UK Reading Association.

6. Queen's English Society proceedings of the Silver Jubilee Conference 18 October 1997 Controversial Issues in English, 90pp, ISBN 0 99520037 3 2, £10.

7. QUEST, the Journal of the Queen's English Society, No.69, August 1998.

8. Rechtschreibung, newsletter of the Bund für vereinfachte rechtschreibung (Federation for Simplified Spelling), Zürich, No.175, June 1998.

9. Sprachreport, from the Institut für deutsche Sprache, Mannheim, Germany, 3/98.

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