[Simplified Spelling Society Newsletter Spring 1996. pp3,4. Later designated Journal 3]


Alun Bye, Campaigns Secretary of the Society:
[See Journal and Newsletter articles by Alun Bye.]

The bi-annual conference of the International Reading Association was held this year in London, and was combined with the United Kingdom Reading Association Annual Conference. This Eleventh World Congress on Reading represented a multinational survey of the problems, research and methodology relating to the teaching of literacy. It was encouraging to see so much world-wide interest being devoted to the difficulties of teaching and learning spelling, that children throughout the world seem to encounter the same sorts of problems in alphabetic spelling no matter what their particular language or spelling system happens to be.

This was one of the messages presented by Charlene E Gill and J Thomas Gill of the University of Virginia, USA, who reported on their research on Invented Spellings and provided developmental and international perspectives on spelling progress. They suggested that a child's spelling system is a theory of spelling which has to be modified continually with increasing understanding of the system. The use of 'letter name spelling', e.g. BT for Betty, or K for cat seems to be a universal first stage in acquiring spelling ability in both English and French children. Similarly, adult Chinese literates who have learned only the ideographic form of writing, experience the same kinds of spelling difficulties when learning to write English or French as do English or French children in their own language.

The use of morphemes as an aid to increasing mastery of spelling seems to develop quite late in a child's linguistic development, again whatever the mother tongue. It may be linearly correlated to Piaget's theories concerning the later development of formal or abstract operations in cognitive functioning.

A similar observation was made by Eva M Magnusson and Kerstin Naucler of Sweden in their consideration of linguistic level in reading and spelling performance. They pointed out that phonetic awareness was fundamental to the acquisition of reading ability, and that most poor readers typically made phonemic errors, whilst the errors made by good readers were characteristically morphemic. However, when good readers were presented with very difficult texts they tended to make phonemic errors typical of poor readers. The best spellers are those, evidently, who, like good readers, realize that English spelling is more morphemically based than phonetically based, and are able to use this information to derive for example the spelling of competition out of compete.

Heather Fehring and Valerie Thomas of Australia presented a brilliant study entitled 'Understanding Children's Spelling: Implications for Teaching Practice'. They suggested that one of the greatest obstacles to children's progress was a lack of linguistic awareness, especially of morphological structures. They demonstrated that while many children were able to spell common words like birthday or newspaper, 66% could not spell birth or news. They showed evidence of similar difficulty with children able to spell such words as soft and climb but not soften or climber. These researchers emphasised again the need for learners to study the morphemic dimensions of words if progress beyond mere phonemic competence in spelling is to be achieved.

Reflecting on these observations made at this year's World Congress of the International Reading Association leads me to wonder if the approaches to spelling reform characterised in both Nue Speling and Cut Spelling perhaps concentrate too much on the phonemic elements of spelling difficulty and too little on the linguistic and morphemic components of English orthography. Perhaps this question could be given further consideration at our own bi-annual conference to be hold in Birmingham next year.

(Membership of UKRA £13 including subscription to Reading and Newsletter, £20 including Journal of Research in Reading. - Editr)

from Peter H Young, Director of Corporate Relations, British Telecom:
... I must point out that our decision, some years ago, to use the word Freefone was not motivated by a decision to adopt a simplified spelling but by our desire to register a meaningful trade name to identify and promote the increasing number of ... services... In this instance, there is an audible and visual affinity between 'f' for 'free' and 'f' for 'fone', when the two words are linked, but to generally adopt at a stroke the 'f' rather than the 'ph' spelling in the word telephone appears to us to represent a much more radical change of policy and style, with wider implications for the country and the English speaking world as a whole.

I am not sure that we would feel at all comfortable in being the trend setter in this particular respect! In continuing to spell telephone thus, we are at least being faithful to the original Greek, even though we may be out of step with our more phonetically-mindful European contemporaries.

Your suggestion is nevertheless a fascinating one and I am making it known to our appropriate marketing people, so that they can give further thought to the implications.

From Robert Craig, Weston-super-Mare.
[See Journal and Newsletter articles by Robert Craig.]

One feature ov kut spelling which yu du not make enouf ov, is that it enables us tu keep our options open for longer.Thus,

Stage 1. CS with som diacritics
Stage 2. CS with mor diacritics
Stage 3. Merger ov Latin and Kirillik alfabets.

An example ov how keeping our options open might work at stage three: let <г> = 'hard' <g>, let <g> = 'soft' <g> (Russian <d> is written <g>), let <j> = <y>, thus get -> гet, jet - get, yet = jet. Also once <k> has been adopted for 'hard' <c>, we might wish tu use <c> for 'hard' <s> (bekause Russian <s> is written <c>) and use <s> for 'soft' <s>. The Yugoslavs hav alredy adopted som simbols from the Latin alfabet intu their form ov Kirillik.

Perhaps the SSS shoud konsider stajing an international konference tu rekommend how the three europian alfabets, Latin, Kirillik (in its various forms) and Greek, might best be kombined. (14 February 1986)

>> Altho it is getting away from the ideal of Cut Spelling, have you considered the advantages of extending the use of <k> (and restricting <c>? E.g. chest/kemist spektakl/specl, amerikn/politicn. The same applies to <Z>: his/hiz, mas/waz, mising/rizeing, Hans/panz, Berks/sokz. (5 August 1986).

Stanley Gibbs, Secretary of the Society, sends the following excerpts from his postbag:-
[See Journal and Newsletter articles by Stanley Gibbs.]

>> from the Society's President, Professor John Downing.
[See Journal and Anthology articles by John Downing.]

...my feeling for some time has been that we made a mistake in using i.t.a. in the 1960 experiment. We should have used New Spelling. When we get the revised New Spelling, I think we ought to be trying to get a new experiment started with the same kind of support that the i.t.a. experiment attracted.

>> from Chris Jolly, chairman of the Society, (Language Monthly, June 1986):
[See Journal and Newsletter articles by Chris Jolly.]

Consider for a moment the influences that have helped bring about spelling reform in various languages. While certain individuals may have influenced public opinion, it is an Academy or a government that has decreed or accepted a change.

>> from Ray Higson (Yorkshire Post, 29 November 85):
Surely a thorough reform of our obsolete system of spelling could only be beneficial to children and adults who are slow learners, whatever the reasons?

See publications by Valerie Yule.
>> from Valerie Yule (A Roman Script as an Alternative Script for Indian Languages):
It would be advisable for all languages on the Indian subcontinent to use the same system of roman alphabet sound-symbol representation.

From Tom McArthur, General Editor, English Today, Cambridge:
[See Journal article by Tom McArthur.]

... In view of the fact that you are now up-dating your New Spelling of 1948, it might be a good idea for me to hang on until it is ready, and then consider it as a centrepiece for a presentation of the whole issue of reformed spelling... Cut Spelling seems to be the same as the journalistic speedhand I learned in my early twenties.

(The quarterly English Today costs £8 in the UK, £11 overseas - Editor)

From David Moseley, Newcastle upon Tyne:
[See Journal articles by David Moseley.]

... at long last the Aurally Coded English Spelling Dictionary is now published... If the dictionary gets to be widely used it should have a marked effect on standards of spelling. The DES Assessment of Performance Unit have national samples of children's writing at different age levels. It would be nice to analyse this corpus for spelling errors and use it as a baseline in an evaluation study of the A.C.E. dictionary.

(The ACE Spelling Dictionary is available at £4-50, or as a free inspection copy, from LDA, Cambridgeshire - Editor)

From Edward Rondthaler, Typographic Council for Spelling Reform, New York:
[See Journal, Newsletter, Anthology, SPB articles and Personal View by Ed Rondthaler.]

... I have no trouble reading Cut Spelling... but it wouldn't do anything to help our illiteracy problem. Or am I wrong?

... I'm sending you an abstract of the forthcoming American Spelling dictionary. (See p.16 - Editor) It will be published shortly and then I'll get a complete copy to you.

... We are moving right ahead with reform on this side - of the Atlantic. IBM's Writing to Read, which is the first step towards reformed spelling, is presently being taught to 150,000 children... since it uses the regular 26 letters, it will be compatible with traditional spelling. The very slight differences between the orthography in Writing to Read and American are in process of being ironed out... So we think we're really making progress... thanks to IBM's support... If you are interested in IBM's Writing to Read, there is a book published by Warner Books (666 Fifth Avenue), Writing to Read by J H Martin... published in February.

From Valerie Yule, Australia:
[See Journal, Newsletter, Anthology, SPB articles and Personal View 10 by Valerie Yule.]

... my research will be published soon: The Design of Spelling', Harvard Educational Review... Currently I am doing research on The Effects of Practice in Cut Spelling with a wide variety of subjects - I have an Aberdeen University grant to pay subjects... I don't think stages will be the answer for cut spelling, except perhaps General Cut 1 (rather like mine) and General Cut 2 (including some of Chris Upward's).

Scottish spelling in 1685: even then the Scottish people were economical. The following are 'cut' spellings from a letter by Janett Linton, a prisoner in Dunottar Castle: thes, strenth, cam, wer, therfor, folow, mor, ar, bles, rejoic, wil, wors, troubl, separate hav, cros, canot, leav, non, lov, sinc, tim, grac, disiples, bewar, nativ, al. Some other interesting spellings: lyf trueth, desyr, tryalls.

Correspondence has also been received from Harvie Barnard (Washington State), Mary Cooper (Swindon), Madhukar Gogate (Bombay), Edgar Gregersen (New York), Bill Herbert (Queensland), Benno Jost-Westendorf (West Germany), Richard Lung (Scarborough), Gilbert Rae (London), Arnold Rupert (Ontario), Edward Smith (San Francisco).