[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J32, 2003, p23]
Also on this page: Revew of Jean Meron's Orthotypographie.
Comparing Spelling Schemes.
Roy W. Blain.
Editor's Preface:Given the number of schemes for the phonemic representation of English, there needs to be a way to compare them objectively. Blain recommends five dimensions: The best notation is phonemic, consistent, compact, familiar, and email friendly. The objective of the comparisons would be to find the best all around solution. The usual challenge is to come up with a system that is consistent enough to help slow learners and familiar enough to limit the annoyance to tradspel adepts - the already literate. Easy word recognition marks the minimum level of familiarity. For a description of Blain's comparison strategies read the article in this issue on goals or visit his web. [see Links page.]
In a related article in JSSS32, John Wells recommends using IPA for the phonemic representation of English. Blain considers the IPA to be deficient in familiarity and email friendliness. Instead of ei ii ai ou ju, for the long vowels, Blain recommends ai ee ii ou yuu. IPA does fine with the other dimensions as it is consistent, phonemic, and compact. A 100% phoenemic scheme is 100% consistent. However, with enough exception rules, it is possible to have a consistent predictable representation that is only 60% phonemic. Some claim that with 200 rules, tradspel is 97% predictable. To be easily teamed, the number of exception rules should be under 25. Saispel and Spanglish have about 10.
|The great majority who need spelling to be simpler,
do not have the means to devise or select such, because they can not read or write.
Those who can read and write and have the power to effect a change, do not do so
because it would require of them hours of bothersome adaptation.
||Th grait majoriti hu need speling to b simplr, du not hav th meenz to diviiz or silekt suc, bikoz thai kan not reed or riit. Thouz hu kan reed nd nit nd hav th pawr to efekt a cainj, du not du so bikoz it wud reqiir ov them awrz ov bothrsum adaption.|
|To add to the difficulties of implementing reform, active
spelling reformers have not yet agreed upon which proposals to promote.
||To ad to th difikultiz ov implimenting riform, aktiv speling riformrz hav not yet agreed upon wic propouzlz to promout.|
|Over centuries, a fair number of good schemes have been laid
out but sooner or later have run aground due mostly to failing support or gathering
opposition. Remembering that it also needed a few hundred years for man to master
the art of flying, the cause for simpler spelling should not yet be given up.
||Ouvr sencuriz, a fer numbr ov gud skeemz hav been laid awt but suunr or laitr hav run agrawnd dyu moustli to failing suport orgathring opozishn. Rimembring that it aulsou needd a fyu hundrd yeerz f man to mastr th art ov fliiing, th kauz f simplr speling shud not yet b givn up.|
|Among the many reform schemes developed over the last 50
years, several have shown an increasing likeness to each other such that one may
assume a complete convergence is imminent. Communication through internet presents
us with an advantage our predecessors did not have. As the world's populations
intermingle, the need for a simple, expressive, common language was never so urgent.
A method of selecting, or at least leading us quickly towards the best of reform
proposals should be our immediate priority.
||Amung th meni riform skeemz divelupd ouvr th last 50 yeerz, sevrl hav shoun an inkreesing liiknus to eec uthr suc that won mai asyum a kmpleet knvurjns iz iminunt. Kmyunikaishn ttruu internet preznts uz with an advantaij awr predisesrz did not hav. Az th wurldz popyulaishnz intrmingl, th need f a simpl, xpresiv, komn langwij woz nevr so urjnt. A mettud ov silekting, or at leest leading uz qikli towordz th best ov riform propouzlz shud b awr imeediait priioriti.|
|The writer, who, for the record sympathises more with the
needs of the learners in the world, rather than those who can already read, lays out
what he believes nevertheless to be an objective numerical system of evaluation
based on the priorities of reformed spelling as seen by respected authors and
||Th riitr, hu, f th rekord simpathiizs mor with th needz ov th lurnurz in th wurld, raathr than thouz hu kan aulredi reed, laiz awt wot he bileevz nevrthles to b an objektiv nyumerikl sistm ov eevalyuaishn based on th prioritiz ov riformd speling az seen bii rispektd auttrz nd staitsmn.|
|Other spelling reform members should, through the editor,
suggest improvements to the 'Spelling Scorecard' or lay out an alternative
evaluation system, perhaps to be included in a future journal.
||Uthr speling riform memberz shud, ttruu th editor, sujest impruuvmnts to th 'Speling Skorkard' or lai awt an oltrnativ eevalyuaishn sistm, purhaps to b inkluudd in a fyucr jurnl.|
|Once a simple but revealing numerical evaluation system can be
applied, the path to selecting a popular spelling scheme through a 'convinced'
majority, could be short. Any scheme to be compared should include a complete, one
page 'sound to symbol' table, together with explanatory notes where necessary,
similar in layout to the spelling scheme (Saispel) shown on the next column.
||Wons a simpl but riveeling nyumerikl eevalyuaishn sistm kan b apliid, th patt to silekting a popyulr speling skeem ttruu a 'knvinsd' majoriti, kud b short. Eni skeem to b kmperd shud inkluud a kmpleet, won paij 'sawnd to simbl' taibl, togethr with xplanatri nouts wer nesesri, simiir in laiawt to th speling skeem (Saispel) shoun [heer].|
[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J32, 2003, p33]
[John Gledhill: see Journals, Newsletters, Media.]
Review of Jean Meron's Orthotypographie.
John M. Gledhill.
Language was made for man not man for the language.
Méron Jean (ed), 2002, Orthotypographie / Recherches Bibliographique, Convention typographique, http://www.typophage.com/fr/livres/The "Convention Typographique" is a French association founded in 1901, whose current "Statutes" state their third Article as to "defend, illustrate and promote quality in the field of graphical culture and of communication in all its forms: typography (rules of composition and representation on the page); orthography (visual, graphical and grammatical realisation)" etc. (note: this and all other quotations are the reviewer's own translations of the French original).
A closer reading of the "Manifesto" produced by the Secretary of the association, and the editor of this book, makes it clear that there is more of relevance to the Simplified Spelling Society here than might at first appear from what sounds like an association concerned with aesthetics, graphical typefaces, and printing techniques. The very first sentence of the "Manifesto" reads "French spelling only stabilised itself slowly", and it goes on to give a fascinating 2-page summary of some aspects of the development of French spelling.
The Simplified Spelling Society has often monitored what is happening in other languages as they update their spelling, but the parallels with French become starkly prominent in this "manifesto". There is, of course, an essential difference between the problems of French spelling and those of English: by and large if you know the conventions of French spelling you can read any text as there are very few ambiguities but you have problems writing down a word you haven't seen before - it is, in mathematical terms, a "many to one" mapping as one sound may have several spellings, but no spelling represents more than one sound - it is a "read-only" language; English has no fail-safe way of reading a word's pronunciation from its spelling, nor its spelling from its pronunciation.
But we find, on reading the Manifesto that many of the idiosyncratic features of English are echoed in French. For a start we read that "until the 19th century, apart from some grammarians, authors worried little about the problem, leaving to their printers the task of making uniform the spelling of their writings. Montaigne, for example, wrote the verb connaître in eight different ways: congnoistre, cognoistre, conoître, conètre etc". We can easily compare this to the manifold spellings of Shakespeare and his printers. And in current dictionaries one researcher (Nina Catach) has found no less than 3,500 words with variant spellings or inflections; even the famous "Académie Française" is not always authoritative.
One of the most amusing influences on English spelling is also present in French (and German, and Dutch, and other languages too....): "In 1608, Jérôme Hornschurch, one of our foremost publishing house correctors, wrote on this subject: 'according to [the normal copiers], in order to write in the most elegant manner it was necessary to extend each word which ended in n by doubling that letter, to write und with a double nn and also to burden the letter d here and there with a t and insert an h wherever possible. In the same way they wrote ff ... with such a large space between the two letters that one could say they presented an opening wide enough to let a camel through. And all this to earn more money. For each completely filled page could be sold for one denier."
And above all false and "popular" etymologies play their part in French, as in English; for example "poids" [weight]: the "d" is used in modern French because people assumed it came from the Latin "pondus", even though medieval French spelt it "pois", and even though it actually derives from the Latin noun "pensum". Yet this sits alongside (as in English) the etymologically more correct form "avoirdupois" as a measurement mode. The effect of national pride (and prejudice) can be seen in the French attachment to their accents, no matter how difficult they may be on modern IT equipment - alongside claims that the accents are an integral part of the "semiotics" of the word, the editor hears complaints that in dropping them "does this not yet further yield to the pre-eminence of English?".
For those interested in further parallels with French spelling experience, there is a discussion of "smileys" (or, as the more straightlaced would call them, "emoticons" - émoricônes or binetres); it is a shame that this section was written before the spread of text messaging and any developments and influence of this in French spelling.
The closing sentence, a cry from the heart that all SSS members would echo, is "As far as 1 am aware, language was made for man not man for the language".
The bulk of the book - some 266 pages of it - comprises a massively impressive bibliography of what appears to be every significant book on French language, punctuation, printing and typography since about 1400. It is a high quality bibliography with meticulous detail and has been well received in professional circles. But what would make excellent reading for those interested in English simplified spelling is the 20-page "Introduction". This includes extensive quotations and comments on a variety of works on French language and the reform of French spelling, starting with a work from 1760 which includes comments on previous attempts since 1531, and continuing a debate "on the change of ph into f", with which French (like English) is still struggling - unlike all other languages.
The "Convention Typographique" does not campaign for spelling simplification, nor for spelling reform as such, but for increase conformity and regularity. In this it diverges from the Simplified Spelling Society; but in this book is much which will be of interest to the scholarly researcher of English spelling reform. For those with a more pragmatic interest it should be reassuring that the mistakes and problems with which English spelling has overburdened itself are just as great in French; reassuring? Or depressing?
I heartily recommend this book to those with an interest in spelling reform issues in other languages.
Back to the top.