[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J27, 2000/1 p18]
[On this page: Real-World Spelling Dilemmas. Letters, Literature received.]

Book Notice.
Donuts aren't UGHly eny mor Simpler Speling for th' 2,000'z 1997, 131pp.
Richard P Mudgett

The author of this book has generously donated 10 copies for distribution to members of the SSS. It offers a lighthearted account of a variant on NS (Nue Speling), WES (World English Spelling) and Soundspel (American Literacy Council), and is recommended as an easy introduction to the NS tradition of spelling reform.

[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J27, 2000/1 p24]
See other journal articles by John Gledhill.

Real-World Spelling Dilemmas

John M Gledhill

Dr Gledhill is Academic Registrar of Coventry University, UK, and Membership Secretary of the SSS.

Being in a position that involves interviewing applicants for clerical and secretarial jobs, whilst at the same time supporting simplified spelling, presents interesting challenges, intellectual and moral. How do you treat spelling mistakes in the written application? On the one hand the spelling reform instincts are intrigued by the variants and their causes, yet on the other the manager has to accept that 'accurate' spelling is still expected by those to whom we write. This is a particular problem for UK universities. The rapid expansion of higher education in the UK over the past 6 years has led to many public accusations of lowering standards and 'dumbing down' degree level studies. When the central administration of a University writes to students, parents, and members of the public, deviating from currently accepted normal spelling is too risky for the institution's reputation; letters with 'bad spelling' would very likely be forwarded to the press as an example of lowering standards - "even the administration cannot spell properly".

So, despite great sympathy with those who exhibit spelling variation, I have to eliminate most of them from the short-list. This is hypocrisy, even cowardice. But the time is not yet ripe for taking the risk. Placed in this position, one has to reassure oneself that this is a conscious decision taken with regret, and not simply a knee-jerk reaction against 'bad spelling'. Not all managers suffer this anguish. There are ample instances of interviewers doing the preliminary shortlisting by simply rejecting poor spellers as 'illiterate', just as applicants who have laid out their applications badly may be rejected as 'disorganized'. One can sympathize with the manager who has received perhaps 400 applications for a junior clerical post: it is difficult to find the energy to read them all closely and all may be very similar in content, so some quick and easy preliminary criterion may be used. The content of the application form may not even be considered. As a sifting mechanism it is simple and effective, but as a defensible criterion it is challengeable.

Yet to reject an applicant simply for finding present spelling difficult is surely hypocritical? And morally indefensible? Probably. I yearn for the day when I do not need to do it. But even then, would I still have to reject those who did not follow the approved 'revised spelling' and had their own preferences? And so far I have not had to consider the dilemma of an application from someone actively using a revised spelling system of their own. The occasional letter from a spelling reformer seeking the university's support probably goes in the same direction as the letters we get about world peace, universal national anthems, levitation, eternal motion machines, and how to contact aliens.

[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J27, 2000/1 pp35,36]


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 report.

Pronouncing Cut Spelng.

Since evrybody here seems to use wattever spellin' sistem suits dhem, I will enjoy dhe freedom too and apply a few ov dhe most urgent spellin' variants to dhis very text (I start alreddy enjoin' it!).

I'm mothertong italian and durin' my youth it took me only few months to get reazonably fluent in French and German: yet, after 5 years since I began lerning English I'm not quite sure how to pronounce dhis or dhat word. Once I realized dhat dhe problem laid in dhe krazy spellin' sistem (or "unsistem"), I began thinkin' konstantly about a possible spellin' reform.

Few months ago I got dhe Internet and surfing dhe web I found dhat I wazn't dhe only one thinkin' about it and I wazn't alone having problems with dhe spellin' either (actually, I don't hav any problems spellin' words - in Italy I lernt Latin and ancient Greek - but I hav a lot of problems pronouncing dhoze words I spell very korrektly!).

Yet, ov all dhe proposals advokating a reform, none go outside the boundaries of the English language and none take in konsideration a wider European or even worldwide reform.

As you see, I approach the problem from an outsider point ov view; but English is becoming an international language, it will be the "lingua franca" ov dhe 3rd millenium and even right now many mor persons wood be fluent in English, if it had a konsistent spellin'sistem (that iz, one wich wood allow persons unable to travel, to lern it from a simple book, on dhe basis ov dher noledge ov dhe phonetic values ov dhe latin alfabet).

Dhiz "Cut-spelling" reform seems to be viewed by most as one of the most praktikal, most ingenious and most likely to take place, if any ever will.

I personally think it may make things as bad (if not worse) for foreners, and europeans in particular (dhat iz, for dhose hoo ar thinkin' ov an alfabet in terms ov foneticity and consistency).

Cut-spelling seems to me an arabik way to rite words: only konsonants!

And dhe vowels?

If you speek english and reed aloud a cut-spelng text, you will sherly know in between wich consonant letrs to pronounce a schwa. If you ar a forener you may not know it and even find it difficult to remember.

As a matter of fact, if you ask a mothertongue italian, spanish or french (and, I believe, greek, slav or indian also), to instinctively sound out (read) the word vicr or doctr, you will most likely pronounce the sequence of phonemes /vi'kr@/ and /dok'tr@/, and you would continue to do so even after hearing the correct pronounciation of those words from a mothertongue speaker (as I did in many other cases), since literate adult language learners tend to rely on the written forms and to memorize those only, having lost, probably by the age of 12, the skill of recognizing and acquiring new "phones". If you add to that that many of them may not even ever get in contact with a mothertongue english speaker, and just keep talking english between themselves, since it has become a lingua franca...

To be short, it is a good idea indeed to chop away all redundant letters (as a first step to a thoro reform). You may even introduce a rule that says: if there is a vowel missing, that's a schwa. But then you need to signal where that schwa shoud hav been, maybe using an apostrophe, otherwise dhe poor foreners will think: shood dhe word "spelng" be pronounced /spel@n@g@/ or just /spel@ng/?

What about "consnnts" ? Iz /kons@n@n@t@s/ dhe rite pronounciation? And shoud "familir" be said /familir@/? For us foreners it wood be a littel bit cleerer: as "spel'ng", "cons'n'nts" and "famili'r".

Since I hav been facing dhe problem ov dhe english spellin' I hav been thinkin' that any reform whatsoever wood be better dhan none at all: things koudn't get worse, anyway.

Cut-spelling may be for me dhe only exception.

Corrado Monpetit, Niagara Falls, Ontario

[See a journal article by Peter Whitmore.]

Testing the -ite market.

In order to test what the 'market' thinks, I asked 10 people each to spell five non-existent words: jite, dite, shrite, pite, and twite. I didn't ask them for what they thought was a simple way to spell these words, or what would be a logical way to spell these words. I just asked them how they thought the words should be spelt.

The results were as follows:
Interestingly, most of the -IGHT endings were suggested for the final word asked, twite (perhaps this was because it was reminiscent of the word twilight). If you exclude this word, the results for the remainder become -ITE 82.5%, -YTE 12.5%, and -IGHT 5%.

What this confirms is that, at least for the -ITE ending, people intuitively recognise the 'magic E' system of altering the sound of the previous vowel.

You can certainly argue that this is not the simplest way of constructing a language. It would be simpler, if one were starting from scratch, to have say spit and spiet rather than spit and spite, or even better to come up with a new character for the long I sound to give say spit and sp*t.

However, we are not starting from scratch. We are building on the patterns of an existing language. I personally think that, regardless of the impact of SSS, the -IGHT -ending is likely to be largely archaic within 100 years. We already have growing use of brite, nite and lite. Myself, I come across lite so much on beer, icecream, etc, that when I see the spelling light it looks rather quaint.

There is a difference between simplicity and logicality. The spelling -ITE is not the simplest possible, but it is completely logical, as well as conforming to a very strong pattern that underlies the language. This is why people come up with it intuitively.

Improving spelling by cutting letters has its applications, but it also has its limitations. The -ITE spelling illustrates this. I notice that Cut Spelling writes ryt for right. Rigorous application of cutting letters would not produce a satsifactory result in this case, so a new pattern is introduced.

While I believe there is some scope for new patterns where the language is seriously deficient, I also believe that the only way we will get reform accepted is if we build on the existing patterns of the language. This should produce a result that is comfortably similar to the English we are all used to, and is easily readible by anyone familiar with the language.

Peter Whitmore, Panmure, Auckland, New Zealand

Spelling vs. morphology

The article 'Wat can welsh teach english' in JSSS 26 (pp32-34) assumed that the more rational welsh spelling system was the important difference between Welsh and English. But I wonder.

The Welsh language has been less penetrated by foreign words than English, and its word form-ation is more regular. Thus the noun land corresponds to the unrelated adjective rural in English, while in Welsh gwlad has a clear derivative in gwledig. And there many more examples. The same is true of many other languages, for instance German has Land - ländlich.

English is unique not only in its spelling, but as being such a mixture of different languages.

I wonder how important a factor this is? And how you could test it?

Michael Bell, Hitchin, Herts, UK

Airline abbreviations

In our inter-office memos wich go to evry corner of the world (airline industry) for meny years now it's been common practise tu use the forms cud, shud and wud. It's been widely accepted as OK. Wun hardly sees them spelt eny uther way. Let's consider the uzij of those spellings.

I gess th main reezn orrijnly for using short forms of thees werds and meny uthers, mainly airline jargon, was the letter economy, space and timesavings in telegrafic communication. Othr examples: pls adv for please advise, msg for message, adnok for advise if not okay, U for you, n for and, clofi for close file. Interesting is the spelling of you.

Whereas the English speaking countries plus the Chinese favor U, meny uthers use yu particularly the European and American stations.

I became accustomed to thees riting conventions in 1965. The spelling usij is limited to our own airline group. Interline (between carriers) communication is more TO-formal.

Jurgen Barth, Cammeray, NSW, Australia

[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J27, 2000/1 p36]

Literature Received.

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

1. English, the Journal of the English Association, Vol.49, No.193 Spring 2000.

2. English Association Newsletter, No.163, Spring 2000.

3. English Today, No.61, January 2000; No.62, April 2000.

4. Language and Literacy, newsletter of the United Kingdom Reading Association, Spring 2000.

5. Mifsud, C et al. Literacy in Malta, National Foundation for Educational Research, Slough, UK, 2000.

6. nfer news, Spring 2000, from National Foundation for Educational Research, Slough, UK.

7. QUEST, the Journal of the Queen's English Society, No.73, November 1999; No.74, February 2000.

8. Reading, Vol.34, No.1, April 2000; from UK Reading Association.

9. Rechtschreibung, newsletter of the Bund für vereinfachte rechtschreibung (Federation for simplified spelling), Zürich, No.180, February 2000.

10. Sprachreport, from the Institut für deutsche Sprache, Mannheim, Germany, 4/1999; 1/2000.

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