[Simplified Spelling Society Newsletter Summer 1996/2. pp.14-16. Later designated J3]
[Also on this page: Germany, India, Netherlands, USA.]See further articles about Australia.
[See Journal and Newsletter articles, Pamflet 15, Cut Spelling and Papers by Chris Upward.]

From around the World

Edited by Chris Upward.


We have now received copies of Spelling Action for July-October 1985 and the first issue for 1986.

The front cover of the 1985 issue is dominated by a cartoon of a signpost on the edge of a cliff, with one arm labelled SAS (Spelling Action Society) pointing away from the cliff, and 6 arms pointing towards it, labelled SSSC (Canada), SSS (us), BETSS (Abe Citron) + 'eny other spelling reformists', while suspended in mid-air over the void is a car representing SR1 overloaded with suitcases labelled 'ph->f', 'drop useless E's', 'SR:ough' etc. It leaves us in no doubt that the Spelling Action Society is committed to one scheme and one scheme only: SR1, the spelling of all occurrences of /e/ by <e>.

The issue features illiteracy in Australia and reproduces a number of items published elsewhere, especially in the press, but also includes the SAS submission to the Simplified Spelling Society's 1985 conference in Southampton which we published on p.22-23 of our Spring 1986 Newsletter. The only original study of spelling systems as such was part 2 of C. Upward Cut Spelling and its Relation to Harry Lindgren's Spelling Reform. Part 1 had appeared previously and provoked an outraged reaction from one reader, who described some Cut Spelling forms as 'obscenities'!

Spelling Action 86/1 is less than half the size (15 pages) of the previous issue, and announces the resignation of the editor Garry Jimmieson, who is to be temporarily replaced by Dr Doug Everingham, recently retired as an Australian Labour M.P. It reproduces various newspaper cuttings, contains local spelling news, and includes a reply to C. Upward's criticism of those SR1 forms like et for ate which conflict with widespread pronunciation. A critique of Cut Spelling is promised for a future number.

Spelling Action also reports that Harry Lindgren, who must surely rank as one of the world's leading orthographers at present and to whose energy much of the Australian movement owes its existence, has been seriously ill, but is now recovering.

A snippet from Geoffrey Sampson's recent book Writing Systems (p.197): SR1 'has been adopted widely by Australians. Many general interest paperbacks and the like are printed in SR1; under Gough Whitlam's Labour Government the Australian Ministry of Helth was officially so spelled (though, when Whitlam was replaced by a liberal administration, it reintroduced orthographic conservatism).'

See further articles about German spelling.


We last reported on spelling reform in Germany in the Summer 1985 Newsletter (p.7-8), also giving some of the historical background. Herr Schmitz op der Beek has now sent a cutting from the Kölnische Rundschau of 29 November 1985, quoting an assessment by Wolfgang Teubert of the Institut für deutsche Sprache, with whom the Society is also in touch, of the present state of play (or non-play) regarding spelling reform in the four German-speaking countries.

The past 25 years have seen agreement reached by linguists and educationists from Austria, the Federal Republic of Germany, the German Democratic Republic and Switzerland, on reforms that would be desirable and feasible - but their implementation is for the moment blocked by the conservative attitude of some West German politicians, who fear reform will cause cultural decline (and perhaps loss of votes?).

The chief reform which in its essentials was worked out as long ago as 1958, concerns capitalization. Instead of all nouns as now, only the following words would be written with an initial capital letter: words at the start of a sentence, proper names, some personal pronouns, and some abbreviations. However there is uncertainty as what constitutes a 'proper name' - would it for example include makes of car (Volkswagen or volkswagen)? God, it is generally agreed, should still be dignified with a capital, though there are some radical reformers who would abolish capital letters totally.

Additionally, the present complex rules governing the use of the comma, the hyphenation of words at line-ends and the joining of words together would be simplified. The great advantage of the reforms, it is said, would be to make it easier for German-speakers and foreign learners alike to write correct German - after all, not even the experts have a perfect mastery of the present 78 rules governing the use of capital letters. Opponents claim that if nouns were no longer capitalized, reading would be more difficult, but the reformers see any such problems as being confined to a transitional period.

When considered beside the problems of English spelling, we may feel this concern (which is perhaps more a matter of punctuation than of spelling) is a case of extreme perfectionism. But if we can't perhaps learn very much from the individual reforms proposed for German, we can certainly learn something from the reform-strategies that have been developed. Let us note particularly the international collaboration that was entailed, the realistic acceptance that older people will not significantly change their ingrained habits, the concentration on schools as the places where the reform will primarily take place, and the recognition of foreign words as constituting a special category.

See further articles about India.


Madhukar Gogate, Director of Roman Lipi Parishad, the movement for a common romanized script for Indian languages, keeps us posted on its progress. In December 1985 it had 40 members, predominantly in Bombay, but with individuals in New Delhi and elsewhere in India, as well as in Canada, London and the USA.

The movements December 1985 pamphlet lists the sound-symbol relations proposed, and we now give selected extracts, particularly those that may have some relevance for English spelling reform:

'1. The script should be phonetic, but absolute perfection is not feasible...

3. ... Vowel in English word at is quite frequent in English but hardly required for Indian languages.

4. Exact transliteration need not be made... Orthography may be simplified by removing duality of short-long vowels altogether.

5. Respell ... as given in brackets:- Cambridge (Kembrij), Gogate (Gogte removing silent <a>), Victory (Vhiktari), Bombay (Bawmbe, or preferably local name Mumbai), cement (siment), injection (injekshan), table (tebal) while writing them within Indian languages.

6. No new symbols or diacritical marks... better to adopt an available suffix symbol to differentiate sounds... Apostrophe clashes with quotation mark and with comma in upper line. Colon ... advisable, as it is kept on middle row of a keyboard and suits both capitals and lower case letters. This symbol may be omitted in routine writing but shown when precision is desired.

7. Following relations may be used.
<a> - first <a> in America, <aa> - last <a> in America, <ae> - <a> in at, <aw> - law, <b> - boy, <bh> - <b> aspirated, <ch> - church, <chh> - <ch> aspirated, <d> - <th> in they, <d:> - dog, <dh> - <d> aspirated, <dh:>- <d:> aspirated, <e> - egg, <g> - girl, <gh> - <g> aspirated, <h> - he, <i> - it, <j> - jam, <jh> - <j> aspirated like <s> in measure, <k> king, <kh> - <k> aspirated, <l> - lamp, <l:> - <l> retroflex, <m> - man, <n> - no, <n:> - <n> retroflex, <o> - open, <p> - pin, <ph> - <p> aspirated as in phone, <r> - run, <s> - sit, <sh> - she, <t> - dental, not in English, <t:> - toy, <th> - <t> aspirated as <th> in thin, <th:> - <t:> aspirated, <u> - put, <v> - <w> in woman, <y> - yes, <z> - zebra.

As regards <dh:, t:, th:>, symbol <:> may always be omitted. If long vowels must be shown, use <:>... English convention <ee> (long <i>), <oo> (long <u>) is inconvenient for dictionary placement (Hindee is distantly placed while Hindi, Hindi: are adjacent words. Note that <ai, au> are respectively <a> followed by <i>, <a> followed by <u>.'

An August 1986 circular illustrates the system by translating some English sentences into Romanized Marathi, of which two read: 1. Doctor gave me an injection = dawktame malaa ek injekshan dile, 2. Salt consists of sodium and chlorine = sodiyam va klorin yaapaasun raith bante.'

It would be interesting to know whether the Cut Spelling device of syllabic <l, m, n, r> could be usefully applied in Romanized Indian script giving the forms vhiktri, tebl, dawktrne, injekshn for the above examples.

In February 1986 a sheet entitled Clarifications on Roman Script was produced from which we have space to reproduce only this vivid account of the problems that the absence of a common script now gives rise to:

'We have adopted common international forms of numerals 0123456789, and that has helped national integration... Due to this uniformity, all watches, telephone dials, thermometers, footrules etc are understandable and usable everywhere. If every linguistic state starts using local script for phone books, or car number plates... we shall lose communicability and mobility. If I write a letter to Germany, I get reply in German and ... I can understand substantial meaning by referring to German-English dictionary. But when I write to Karnatak Govt (I have experienced) I get reply in Kannad script. I do not know their symbols and sequence and so I cannot refer to a Kannad-English dictionary, even if it were to exist. Similarly, non-Devnagri people find it difficult to comprehend Devnagri complex words. Why are Tamilians against Hindi? It is not just politics. There are real reasons. Is it fair to expect a Tamilian to buy three typewriters, one for Tamil, one for Devnagri Hindi and one for Roman (English)? Thus, on basis of experience of uniform numerals, let us have uniform alphabets. It will help integration. Hindi will rapidly spread if it accepts Roman script.'

See further articles about Dutch spelling.


A D H Simonsz, Counsellor for Press and Cultural Affairs at the Royal Netherlands Embassy in London has written to Chris Jolly, Chairman of the Society, as follows:

'The statutory regulations for the spelling of the Dutch language are based on the Spelling Act of 14 February 1947, Statute-book 1947, no. H52.

In 1947 a Netherlands-Belgium Commission was founded to make an official wordlist of the Dutch language, based on the Belgian Spelling decree of 1946 and the Dutch Spelling Act of 1947. This Wordlist Commission continued the work of the Netherlands-Belgium Spelling Commission of 1945. In 1952 the wordlist was ready and was accepted by both governments in 1954. By Royal Decree the preference spelling of the wordlist became official in the Netherlands on 1 September 1955 and is until now the legal spelling in the Netherlands. However, due to the fact that large concessions were made by each party in making up this wordlist the discussion continued. In 1972 a conference took place between the Netherlands and Belgium which resulted in the erection of a working-group charged with the composition of a note on spelling. Due to various circumstances this note was never accepted by the Netherlands nor the Belgian government.

If you would like some more information on this matter I suggest you contact the Dutch Language Union: Nederlandse Taalunie, R J Schinunelpennincklaan.'

Readers will find a more detailed account of the Nederlandse Taalunie in Modern Languages, March 1986, p.17-21, in an article by Christopher Bissel.

See further articles about America.


Harvie Barnard's article in the Spring Newsletter referred to AMERICAN Alternative Spelling. Edward Rondthaler, of the Typographic Council for Spelling Reform (New York) and editor of the forthcoming Dictionary of Simplified American Spelling, has now sent us the abstract of the work, of which we here give some superficial first impressions.

The system traces its descent from New Spelling through i.t.a. Its aim is thus phonemic representation, though it retains many of the New Spelling's unphonemic vowel-digraphs (but with the long-standing American <oo, uu> inversion). Thus the /i:/ in mosquito is respelt moskeeto (though been becomes bin, with been accepted as a different British form), the /ei/ in veiled becomes vaeld, and the /ai/ in aisle becomes iel. We find vowel strings like caeos, yeloeish, triead, veeement and presumably even foursomes like coeeeval and ambiguous forms like poeet. The New Spelling <i, y> confusion is not resolved, so we get alibi, bibliografical, emporium still, but biblyografy, millyon. Many internationally current forms have their vowels radically changed: ingenue becomes anzhenoo, ballet becomes balae, genre becomes zhaanra, chauffeur becomes shoefer. Certain distinctions are kept that other orthographers have thought better to abandon, such as caam but haf, and yot but baut.

The presumed pronunciation underlying the spelling is sometimes curious to British ears, thus buoy appears as booy, though often it is recognizably American, as doos for deuce and persoo for pursue. Perhaps the most difficult correspondence for British speakers to accept is stressed <ur> in lurn, stur etc., and similarly <u> for some post-accentual shwas, as penshun.

In general AMERICAN follows New Spelling on post-accentual shwa, that most troublesome feature of present spelling, although Harry Lindgren showed how it can be regularized. The potential of syllabic /l, m, n, r/ is not exploited beyond present use, and many inconsistencies are retained from New Spelling. Thus syllabic <l> is kept in litl, peepl, murtl, puzl, but not exploited in speshal, curnel, turminal; sylabic <m> is kept in rithm, sizm, but not exploited in ausum, hansum; syllabic <r> is introduced in two words, dror, qondry (though its parallel use in freer, mishnry is explicitly rejected), but it is not exploited in faather, shoefer, manoover, murmer, murderer, gurder, lurner, chatering, lieer, auger, elixser, naecher, oeger, marter, aukward, dager, soeljer, exajeraet, granjer, laker, likor, hamer, runer, controeler, sizor, strukcher, azher, plesher, braezher. Syllabic /n/ is perhaps the most inconsistently rendered, being variously <an, en, on, un> in sarjent, wimen, diamond, reejon, lisen, oeshan, conshens, penshun, mishun, naeshun, vizhun, resizhon, eqaezhun. Both Harry Lindgren and Cut Spelling suggest the far more regular plain <l, m n, r> in these cases, giving: with syllabic <l> speshl, curnl, turminl; with syllabic <m> ausm, hans?n; with syllabic <n> sarjnt, wimn, diamnd, reejn, lisn, oeshn, conshns, penshn, mishn, naeshn, vishn, resizhn, eqaezhn; and with syllabic <r> faathr, shoefr, manoovr, murmr, murdrr, gurdr, lurnr, hurdr, chatring, freer, lier, augr, elixsr, naechr, oegr, martr, aukwrd, dagr, soeljr, exajraet, granjr, lakr, likr, hamr, runr, controelr, sizr, strukchr, azhr, plezhr, braezhr. In this connection, we also note that AMERICAN leaves the <-able, -ible> dilemma unresolved (posibl, unthinkabl) - see Lindgren Spelling Reform a New Approach, p.48.

The syllabic forms have two further advantages, in addition to consistency for the writer. Firstly, the reader cannot mispronounce them (AMERICAN gives dienosor, likor the same final letters, which must suggest the same pronunciation for that syllable). Secondly, the syllabic forms are economical, which means they save time, trouble and memory, whereas it is notable that a number of the AMERICAN forms are actually longer than present spellings (chaember, faather, lieer, ievy, oever, foecus, uenit, charrity, akchooal).

Most consonants are conventional, though <w, wh> and <sh, zh> are kept apart, and we find advanced rather than conservative pronunciation reflected in granjer, strukcher, ishoo, negoeshyaet, etc. The forms cat, kit show that <c, k> are not distinguished - they are regarded as different forms of the same letter and kept for the sake of visual familiarity (although visual familiarity was clearly not a criterion for the form akchooal). Unlike New Spelling, but like Cut Spelling, AMERICAN keeps <q, x>, dropping the <u> after <q>. Doubled consonants, except sometimes <1, r>, are simplified. The present <s, d> inflections cease to be morphophonemic, and are split according to pronunciation between <s, z; d, t>, thus cat's, dogz, frinjd, friskt.

The abstract is prefaced by a catalogue of some 450 English spelling variants, which have the advantage over the nearly 3,000 listed on the cover of the Newsletter that they are helpfully tabulated, along with proposed AMERICAN alternative forms. Some 65 of the new alternative forms are those proposed for Cut Spelling too, thus plad, haf, hav, dalia (though British pronunciation would have required the spelling daelia), harang, hart, gardian, bazar, ar, starv, catar, bizar, doctrinaire hed, frend, gest, bel, siv, gild, exibit, giv, mischif, onest, ho, glo, tho, stor, flor, por, qorum, ror, rapor, loos, yung, bur, blurd, curv, jurny, exaust, taut, hous, mufin, tuf, caf, geto, bak, clik, teling, must, colum, lam, nok, nat, nemonic, rist, cor, blesing, convales, litl, det, zar, nich, mach, to which one can add laf, nolej, juj, grafic, brij, majic, larj, if Cut Spelling includes the rules <gh, ph> = /f/ = <f>, and <dg> etc. = <j>.

The rationale behind AMERICAN is that i.t.a. succeeded in giving children the rudiments of literacy, but failed in the switch to conventional orthography. AMERICAN now builds on the success of i.t.a. but seeks to avoid its failure by not using new characters and by being 'compatible' with t.o. It hopes that if its use is widespread in schools, it will continue to be used by the children into adulthood as an alternative to t.o. The nature of its 'compatibility' was however not clear from a brief perusal of the abstract - most (not all) of the new forms are readily identifiable from their t.o. equivalents - but whether the reverse will be as true for children educated in AMERICAN remains to be seen. The international compatibility of a number of the AMERICAN patterns must however be questioned. Although not notable for innovation and somewhat reliant on intuitive judgment, the Dictionary of simplified American Spellings will clearly be an important document for the SSS Working Party to study, and we hope future Newsletters will be able to give a more considered account of it.

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