[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society. J31 2002/2, pp11,12]
[Madhukar Gogate: see Journals, Newsletters, Web links.]

Simplified Global English.
A Parallel Language for the World.

M.N. Gogate.

Over half of the English speakers in the world today were not born in an English speaking country. When less than 50% of native born speakers can spell English words with confidence, it should not be surprising that those trying to learn English as a 2nd language have difficulties writing it. Gogate dreams of a parallel simplified written and spoken dialect that will be easier to learn and use. This Global English would be closer to standard English than a pidgin but would not have the irregularities found in its traditional written form.

Madhukar Gogate is an Indian Engineer who has worked on more than one writing reform. The following is mostly an edited transcript of one of his radio broadcasts. Its original title was The Peculiarities of English.


Mankind uses hundreds of languages. Every language has some peculiarities. Grammar of some languages is quite complex. Some languages do not have sufficient number of words. Some languages have no script. Some languages are spoken by millions of persons. Some are spoken by just few hundred. I will describe some of the peculiarities of the English language.

Although England is the birthplace of English language, it has spread to many parts of the world. It is now used as a link language for International business and diplomacy. It is rich in all kinds of literature, including technical books and journals. It is studied as a second language by millions of people in many non-English countries. Today, over half of the speakers of English were not born in an English speaking country.

English is said to be a Germanic language because the high frequency function words are of German and Norse origin. On this backbone of several hundred Anglo Saxon words, English has absorbed thousands of words from other languages such as French, and Latin, and Greek. One can find Sanskrit words such as guru and pundit.

After the Norman French conquest in 1066, English acquired a duplicate vocabulary consisting of hundreds of French words. Although the Norman French scribes tampered with the spelling it remained highly phonemic. Words continued to be spelled as they were pronounced.

In the 15th Century there was a dramatic shift in the pronunciation of the long vowels in over half of the words in the language. Pronunciation shifts are not unusual and all languages experience them to some degree. The cumulative effect of the shift and the failure to respell the affected words was, as Webster noted, the destruction of the alphabet. These words were not respelled.

Because many of these words arrived in the 16th Century just after the alphabet had been effectively destroyed by the Great Vowel Shift, most of them were not respelled as they typically are in other languages where words are spelled as they are pronounced.

English is a mixture of several languages. It contains several hundred frequently used Anglo-Saxon words from the language spoken in ancient England. It has absorbed thousands of words from other languages such as French, Latin, German, Norse, and Greek. One can even find Sanskrit words. For example, Sanskrit words guru and pundit are used frequently in English. When words are borrowed, sometimes the original spelling is preserved but not the original pronunciation or exact meaning.

English grammar is fairly simple. Nouns in many other languages have grammatical gender and accordingly some verbs and adjectives undergo changes. The complexity is absent in English. Thus, the adjective "big" is common to all nouns such as man, woman, child, book, stone, clog, cat, river, idea, plan and so on. Moreover, this adjective applies to both singular and plural nouns. English nouns and position words are written separately, without any change in nouns. For example, note these words: in India, from India, to India. All words are separate and remain unchanged. Obviously, this is a great advantage for searching words in dictionaries. In many languages, the noun takes an oblique form to which is attached the positional word after the noun. The composite word becomes long and difficult for dictionary purposes.

Counting of large numbers is cyclic and simple in English. For example, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, etc forms a series. Next series is thirty-one, thirty-two, thirty-three etc. In many other languages all numbers, from one to hundred are unrelated and have to be memorized.

Another feature of English is its sense of equality. Pronouns you, he, she, are applicable to all persons irrespective of their age and status. In many other languages, these pronouns take different forms, sometimes causing great inconvenience. While English may have terms like Your Majesty, Your Excellency, and His Lordship, it is basically a. democratic language. The American President is addressed as Mr. President.

We have reviewed many the good points of the English language. Its rich vocabulary, its simple grammar, its simple counting system. English has one major drawback which makes it difficult to learn and use - its irregular spelling.

English claims to be alphabetic. Historically both Old English and Middle English were alphabetic or highly phonemic but today a letter can be pronounced in a variety of different ways. The symbol [a], for example has a different pronunciation in alone, act, art, all, and age. Almost every letter in the English alphabet is silent in some word. The [b] in debt, for instance, is not pronounced nor is the [p] in receipt. The same sound is spelled [ie] in believe and then reversed in the word receive. Two different sounds in have and behave are spelled the same. The letter sequence [ough] is used with a variety of different pronunciations in such words as through, enough, and although. The list of absurdities goes on.

Why aren't the irregularities removed'? Why aren't words respelled to reflect current pronunciation? Highly phonemic languages often have widespread support for periodic reforms affecting about 400 words. English is so inconsistently spelled that over 50% of the words in the dictionary would have to be respelled to restore the alphabet. A reform of this magnitude seems unlikely to have much popular support among the already literate.

About 200 years ago, the first popular American dictionary was able to suggest a few hundred American spellings. Webster justified the changes on patriotic grounds and his reformed spellings were eventually accepted by the government.

By contrast, the list of reform spellings that were proposed about 100 years ago never got beyond being listed as variant spellings. Congress rescinded President Teddy Roosevelt's executive order to use 300 simplified spellings in government publications. By 1906, there was overwhelming bipartisan support for not tampering with the traditional writing system. Today, publishers in the UK and US as well as readers are locked into the overly complicated traditional spellings.

About the only people that seem dissatisfied with archaic or historical spelling are ESL students. Unlike English speaking school children, ESL students know better and resent having to deal with an illogical writing system.

Why not provide these second language learners with a simplified version of Global English that can be mastered in about one sixth the time. [1]

Global English or "Globish" would be close enough to standard English to be understood in both its written and spoken form.

This new parallel language would initially include about 2000 essential words with simplified spellings. Pronunciation will also be simplified by removing some sounds that are peculiar to English.

Globish words will always be written in small letters. Sentence breaks will be marked with triple dots. Capital letters would be reserved for proper names and to flag words that are not respelled.

Full details cannot be given in this radio talk. By way of example, the word, busy, willbe written in Globish as [bizi]. Business would be [biznes].

This option deserves support of people in all countries. Let us give the legacy of an easy and logical [parallel] language to posterity.

Note.

[1] Recent studies have shown that children can learn to read and write a highly phonemic orthography at a level achieved after six years of school in English speaking countries in one year. Since globish has a simplified pronunciation and a highly phonemic orthography, it can be mastered in about one sixth the time as the traditional English writing system.

Globish would be an understandable artificial dialect of English. Its written form would also be readable by those familiar with English. Globish combines some long and short vowels and reduces the number of pure vowels from 14 to 8. This sounds radical but Nebrija did the same in 1490 when he developed a written form of Castilian. Nebrija started with the dialect spoken by the Spanish court. He says he just "wrote it the way he spoke it" but this understates the effort he made to simplify its representation.

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