[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J32, 2003/1, p36]
[John Wells: see Journal, 2004 AGM talk, Newsletter, Media, Web links.]
Also on this page: Tribute to retiring SSS President, Professor Donald Scragg.

A message from the new President, Professor John Wells.

I'd like to thank the Simplified Spelling Society for the honour it has shown me in electing me President - all the more so in that I have never been active as a member of the Society, although I have from time to time been able to speak out in favour of spelling reform as the occasion arose in radio broadcasts and elsewhere.

I particularly remember devoting an entire programme on the BBC World Service, in a series about research in phonetics for which I was the presenter, to an interview with the late Chris Upward, deviser of Cut Spelling.

As you know, I am the Professor of Phonetics in the University of London at University College London. The first occupant of this Chair was Professor Daniel Jones, who was President of the Simplified Spelling Society for many years during the first half of the twentieth century. His successor was Professor A.C. Gimson, who was a Vice-President of the Society. It was Gimson who suggested to me that it was almost a hereditary obligation of holders of the chair of Phonetics to support the Society, so when I in turn was promoted to the chair as his successor I was happy to accept the post of Vice President.

Noam Chomsky and Morris Halle, in their seminal 1968 book 'The Sound Pattern of English', drew attention to the importance of morphological relationships in English that may be relatively opaque in pronunciation but are overt in traditional orthography - I am thinking of the derivational relationships in pairs such as 'divine-divinity, phonetics-phonetician, sign-signature'. This led Chomsky to suggest that our traditional spelling comes close to being an ideal orthography for the language. This is an idea whose absurdity will be evident to members of the Society, although it has frequently since been repeated by other linguists when asked their opinion of spelling reform.

As I had my breakfast this morning, I was thinking about the spelling of the word 'juice'. Why does it have a letter 'I' in its spelling? There is no justification in etymology (French 'jus'). There is no justification in morphological relationships, since the only related word is 'juicy'. There is certainly no justification in pronunciation, since 'juice' rhymes with 'truce' and 'spruce'.

Let's get rid of that superfluous letter 'i' in 'juice'. I wish the Society all the best.

John Wells, 2003 04 26.


[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J32, 2003/1, p22]
[Don Scragg: see Journals, Bulletins.]

Tribute to Don Scragg on his retirement at the Society's President.

We have been very privileged to have had Professor Don Scragg as our President and mentor over the last 15 years. It is a period which covered almost all my time as Chairman.

Some 24 years ago I read a book called "A History of English Spelling" by DG Scragg, and I still have the copy here. It sparked my interest in the Simplified Spelling Society. However, as I could not find out how to contact the society I phoned Manchester University and was put through to Dr Scragg. "Why don't you go to their conference in Northampton" he said, which started my involvement with the society.

Many years later, in 1988, I was to contact Dr Scragg again, this time to invite him to be our President. He has been a steadfast support to the society, and to me as Chairman, and was always there when needed.

Don Scragg followed in a distinguished line. His immediate predecessor, also for 15 years, was John Downing, who did the definitive research on the initial teaching alphabet. Before him was Sir James Pitman, who developed the i.t.a., Daniel Jones and Gilbert Murray. As it happens Gilbert Murray was my great uncle by marriage. My great grandmother was an eccentric and somewhat aristocratic lady who went to Oxford to find two of the best scholars to, as she said "tutor my sons and I hope they will marry my daughters" (which indeed they both did!). I cannot say how much this did for my grandfather's education, but I have many Murray cousins.

Don Scragg's academic work has been in Anglo-Saxon studies at Manchester University, where he was elevated to Professor. He had research projects there which have given us some insights. His research and lecturing has also extended to the US.

After discussions with my colleagues on the society committee, I am pleased to be able to offer a Vice-Presidency of the society to Professor Scragg, which is honorary in the fullest sense, and which includes life membership.

Let me conclude by thanking Dr Scragg again for all his valued support and influence, to the society and to me personally.

Chris Jolly, formerly SSS Chairman. [See: Journals, Newsletters, Media, Bulletins.]