[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J31, 2002/2, p27]
[Also on this page: Further transcriptions of the Six Axioms.]
[Steve Bett: see Journals, Newsletters, Personal View, Web link.]

The Ambiguous E.

Steve Bett.

Spelling Reformers and Alphabet Reformers have different ideas on how to deal with it.

The e for /e/ respelling is sometimes referred to as SR-1 or the initial Spelling Reform. Harry Lindgren [1969] suggested that all other respelling be postponed until people started using "the clear short vowel sound in bet" every time this sound is used in a word.] Ch. 3, Spelling Reform: A New Approach, Alpha Books, 1969].

Most Spelling reformers want to move toward phonemic spelling in small steps (see Satires). In Lindgren's view, the next step [SR-2] would be another easily grasped rule such as f for /f/. Each rule could be supplemented with a list of the words affected. SR-1 changes the spelling of about 800 common words.

Alphabet reformers, however, can live with most of the traditional spellings listed below because they can be pronounced according to the restored alphabet and generally understood in context. What disturbs alphabet reformers are code over-laps or using the same symbol for two sounds: e.g., break, breakfast and beak [breik, brekfast, biek]. The difference between /breik/ and /bi:k/ is phonemic. The difference between ME breakfast and brekfast isn't. If break and beak were respelled, breakfast would not have to be respelled since [ea] could be pronounced as in 15th Century. Middle English [eə] and be understood. In 1400, the words, break and beak, were also pronounced as spelled and except for duration almost rhymed with break and beck. An alphabet reformer would be content to respell one word in "This triet is a break from breakfast." A spelling reformer might insist that treat, break, breakfast be respelled. The criteria of complete consistency is different from the criteria of close enough to be understood.

Sometimes the 2 criteria arrive at the same recommendation: In the list below: friend [frend], cleanse [clenz], and jeopardy [jepperdy] would be respelled because pronouncing these words as spelled might be confusing.

A restored Saxon alphabet such as the one below is different from some reform alphabets in one respect: the component letters in digraphs are pronounced. Contrast this with New Spelling where silent letters are used as markers. Ae=/ei/, ie=/ ai/.

Saxon Spanglish Alfabet
A
AGO
AA
CAAR
AE
CAET
AI
AIS AIL
B
BIBB
C KS
CANCEL
Ch
CHERCH
D
DIDD
UR ER
SURRFER
E, EA
BREAD
EI EY
VEIN THEY
F
FAIV
G
GIGGL
H
HORS
I.
IZ TIPPY
IE Y
FIELD
J
JUDJ
K Q
KICK
L 'L
LITTL
M 'M
MOUND
N 'N
NUNN
NG
SINGL
O.
OTTER
O AO
AWE DOG
OA
OAT
OI OY
OIL BOY
OU AU
OUT CAU
P
PICK
R 'R
ROAR
S
SISTER
Sh
SHIPP
T
TOT TOTT
Th Thh
THY THAI
U. v
UPPER
U .W
HUK HWK
UU u
GURU
V V
VALV
W Wh
WINNER
X KS
TAX TAKS
Y
YES YU
Z
ZIPPERS
Zh
MEZHER

In New Spelling, [ae] is treated as one symbol and cannot be analyzed. The i in ie is not the same as the i in it. The combination [ie] is unrelated to the sounds of the component letters. The digraphs are "sight symbols". This makes them as hard to teach as a new letter and not quite as easy to figure out as IPA's alphabetical digraphs: [ei, aa, ii, oo, ou, iu/ju].

Consistent marking is all that is needed for a phonemic alphabet. However, different approaches to phonemic spelling result in different decisions with respect to the adequacy or inadequacy of some traditional spellings.

The Ambiguous E with Saxon Spanglish Respellings of /e/ and /a/.

We write short e":We pronounce short e": We write short e": We pronounce short "e":
the
*mother
bell
men
many
burial
*said
*says
*money
**
**r
e
e
a
u
ai
ay
ey
tha thi / *the
muthar [GA] *m^th*r
bel / bell
men / mean
meny / menny y unstrest
berrial / berial
sed / sedd
sez / sezz
muny / munny / many
head
*friend
*heifer
aesthetic
*jeopardy
guest
quest
*cleanse
*belle
ea
ie
ei
ae
eo
ue
ue
ea-e
e-e
hed / hedd
frend / frennd
heffer
esthettic
jepperdy
gest / guest
quest / kwest
clenz / clenna
bel / belly

*exception rules:e substituted for schwa-a after th and before r tha → the muthar → muthar

*ea is pronounceable as an extended /e/ ae is pronounceable as əe. Neither of these spellings are difficult if the ea in break and beak are respelled [breik] and [biek] [or repronounced brek and bek.

Saxon-Spanglish is basically Middle English spelling without silent letters. It is designed more to assist understanding of traditional spelling than to replace it. It can be used to identify the 10-15% of English spellings that need to be respelled in order to be understood when pronounced as spelled: friend, jeopardy, cleanse, and belle in the above list.

S.Bett, Ed.



[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J31, 2002/2, inside front cover.]

Six Axioms on English Spelling in 3 transcriptions

The Six Axioms are transcribed here in

a. ALC SoundSpel b. ENgliS [SoundSpel forum]; and c. Iqliz 2a

A variety of other schemes could have been used [e.g. RITE, New Spelling, Spanglish, Truespel, Spelriyt, etc.].

a. SoundSpel is a digraphic 80% phonemic notation with 20 or so sight words.
b. EngliS is a unigraphic 98% phonemic notation. As written, it lacks a true consonant form of w and y. [W,j]

Da six qxiamz kqn bi fownd qt SSS web.


1a. The leters of the alfabet wer deziend to reprezent speech sounds. That is the alfabetic prinsipl. [transcription by Ed Rondthaler. Notation: ALC SoundSpel, previously known as American Spelling] See Links page for ALC web.

1b. •Da letarz ov Di qlfabet wR dizYnd to reprizent spEC sowndz; thqt iz Di qlfabetik prinsipal.

1c. The leters ov the alfabet wer desined to represent speech sounds; that is the alfabbetic prinsipal. [transcription and notation by Gus Hasselquist, see Links page for his web for the exception rules]



2a. The alfabet prinsipl maeks literasy eezy, alowing the reeder to pronouns werds frum thair speling, and the rieter to spel them from thair sounds.

2b. •Di qlfabetik prinsipal mAks litarasy Ezy, alowiN Da rEdar tu pranowns wurdz frum ther speliN, qnd Da rYtar tw spel Dem frum Der sowndz.

2c. The alfabbetic prinsipal makes liturasy eesy, alowing the reeder to pronouns werds from thair speling, and the riter to spel them from thair sounds.



3a. As pronunsiaeshun chaenjes thru the aejus, the alfabetic prinsipl tends to be corupted; the speling of werds needs to be adapted to sho the nue sounds.

3b. •qz pranunsEAsSan CAnjaz Trw Dc Ajaz, Da qlfabetik prinsipal tendz to bE koruptad; Da speliN Ov wRdz Den nEdz to bE adqptad tw shO Da nw sowndz.

3c. As pronunsiation chainjes thru the ages, the alfabbetic prinsipal tends to be curupted; the speling ov werds then needs to be adapted to sho the nu sounds.



4a. Unliek uther langgwejes, English haz not sistematicaly moderniezd its speling oever the past 1000 yeers, and todae it oenly haphazardly obzervs the alfabetic prinsipl and its uther prinsipls to reprezent the English langgwej.

4b. •unlYk uDar IgNwijaz, •EngliS hqz nct sistamlatikaly modarnYzd its speliN Ovar Da past 1,000 yirz, qnd twdA it Only hqphazardly obsRvz Da qlfabetik prinsipal.

4c. Unlike other langwejes, English has not sistematicaly modernised its speling over the past 1,000 yirs, and tuday it oanly haphasurdly observs the alfabbetic prinsipal.



5a. Neglect of the alfabetic prinsipl and uezers' needs now maeks literasy unnesesairily dificult in English thruout the werdd, and lerning, edjucaeshun and comuenicaeshun all sufer.

5b. •Neglect ov Da alfabetik prinsipal qnd Uzarz nEdz now mAks litarasy unneseserily difiKult

5c. Neglect ov the alfabbetic prinsipal and users needs now makes liturasy unnesesarily dificult in English thruout the werdd, and lerning, edewcation and comewnication ol sufur.



6a. Proseejers ar needed to reeserch and manej improovments in English speling as a werld comuenicaeshun sistem.

6b. •prasEjarz cr nEdad tw rEsarC qnd mqnaj imprwVments in ENgliS speliN qz a world kamUnikASan sistam.

6c. Proseedyers ar needed to research and manij improvements to English speling as a werld comewnication sistem.


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See three more transcriptions of the Six Axioms in J30.