[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1987/2 p16 later designated J5.]
Also on this page: Britic.
[See Journal and Newsletter articles by Robert Craig.]
English Spelt by West African Standard Pronunciation.
This spelling, based on the sounds of West African standard English, shows diafones expanded to cover a wide range of fonemes. All standard languages are hypothetical, being based on theories of which forms of language will best reach a targetted population. Today the targetted population for English is the world. In reforming written English it is desirable to select a form which can encompass a wide range of dialects. W.A.S.E. fits the bill since:
1) Its sounds are closer to Latin than are most forms of English, so it can make better use of the Latin alphabet; it has only 10 vowels, incl. 3 diphthongs (which could be cut to two).
2) Most languages have /v/ or /w/, not both. Indians and Europeans tend to have /v/, most Africans and Asians have /w/, whose width printers dislike.
3) W.A.S.E. has no non-prevocalic /r/, which is useful.
4) I have eliminated the troublesome <h>, except in digrafs.
5) Voiceless <th> is retained as it may be pronounced /t, θ, f, s/ and because of international words based on Greek via Latin. Voiced <th> is spelt <d>.
VAI NU SPELIN SHUD YUZ VEST AFRIKIN STANDAD PROONONSIEESHIN.Risintli it az bikom klia dat di rivaizaz ob Nu Spelin most luk fo e aipoothetikul standad proononsieeshin on vich tu bees dea rifomz.
Di rifomd spelin most ab e nomba ob spesifik fichaz. Fo igzampul, it shud (az fa az iz posibul) iksklud ol dooz fichaz vich ol fomz ob di langvij du not ab. Dis iz bikoz pipul u du not ab sotin saundz in dea oon spich vil not noo, from dea oon spich, au tu rait dem. Dat iz, dee vil not noo vich letaz tu yuz ven dee kom tu rait di langvij daun.
Non pri-vookalik /r/ iz e ficha vich most bi ikskludid. Onles von az non pri-vookalik /r/ in von'z oon spich von kanot bi sotin abaut vea tu rait <r>. Di seem gooz fo /ð/. Pipul u proonauns /d/ fo /ð/ kanot noo veda tu rait <d> o <th>. Iksept in daigrafz, <h> shud not bi ritin aida.
Nau, vich fom ob Inglish komz nirist tu mitin diz kraitiria? Ai sojest dat it iz di Vest Afrikin standad proononsieeshin ob Inglish.
E meeja rizin fo yuzin Vest Afrikin Inglish az di beesis fo rifomd spelin iz dat it iz e fom ob Inglish vid neetif spikaz, yet it az e moch rijusd foonimik sistim. It kan deafo, inkompos meni proononsieeshinz. Olsoo it kan yuz di Roomin alfabit tu e ikstent vich di majoriti ob proononsieeshinz kanot aprooch. It az oonli ten vauul saundz, ob vich thri a difthongz. Dis minz dat vi oonli nid tu yuz daigrafz fo tu ob di pyua vauulz. Diz a kloos <e> and kloos <o>, vich kan bi shoon bai doblin. Az vi si, soch e spelin iz kvait izi tu rid and it yuziz di intanashinul saundz fo di vauulz. It olsoo solfz di problim ob au tu reprizent di nutrul o shvo vauul. Befo e neezul it iz spelt <i>, befo <l> it iz spelt <u>, bifo <s> it iz spelt <o>, and inishuli o fainuli it iz spelt <a>.
In di fogooin it vil bi sin dat <v> doz duti fo booth <v> and <w>. Dis iz bikoz meni spikaz ob Inglish a oneebul tu difarenshieet bitvin di tu saundz. Dis iz di sot ob fakta vich vil ab tu bi teekin intu konsidareeshin as Inglish kontinyuz tu divelop az di Vold'z praimeri okzilieri langvij. Di rivizhin ob Nu Spelin az mo ramifikeeshinz dan moost ob os ad priviosli rializd. It iz not soch e simpul task az it vud at fost apia.
[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1987/2 pp25-27 later designated Journal 5.]
[See Newsletter article by Richard Lung, Anthology, Bulletin article by Reginald Deans.]
Reginald Deans, Inventor of 'Britic'.
Richard Lung reported on the death of Reg Deans in the 1987/1 issue of this Journal (p4), and now pays tribute at greater length.
BIOGRAPHICAL.Reginald Deans, one of the most active spelling reformers for over 50 years, died from a fall on 7th April 1986. On hearing the sad news, his former housekeeper, Annie Hinchcliffe, informed me late last year. She accompanied Reg on his second visit, summer 1982.
Reg Deans was born 10 September 1892. He had come for his holidays to Scarboro from Leeds since he was a small child. Before the 1914 war he taught English to Chinese students from Shanghai. Some of them wrote to him afterwards. He met and corresponded with many people for many years.
As he put it, "In priiwor dyz ai woz in ediwkycn and korld Dr". He taught French airmen at Dijon during the 'phoney war', then made his way north by train, escaping from Dieppe before the fall of France. He was at Farnborough for the rest of the war and retired from engineering afterwards. With his wife he caravanned across Europe and preached spelling-reform to the locals on the way! His son also became a university teacher.
CAUSES.Dr Deans was a humane rationalist in the Voltaire tradition that profoundly influenced Shaw and Wells. "If you really want to make the world a better place, you will help every good cause" is the challenge of Reg's shortest leaflet. It is the note struck by Tom Paine and the idealism of new-found hope from the English radical working class of the 19th century. It included the Painite Thomas Spence's phonetic alphabet, in which he published an account of his trial in 1801. The Chartist William Lovett proposed a national reform association to bring together good causes in one strong movement. The same idea was behind Dr Deans' attempt to launch a monthly called Bettur Wurld to give free publicity to any cause, whether or not he agreed with it. It was printed in Deans' 'Britic' alphabet and also championed lost causes which were to become commonplace, say, 25 years later, such as: the need for drink tests against drunken driving; the need for safety gear against accidents; precautions against injuries at home and at work. The League of Cruel Sports was given its say on the humane sport of foiling fox hunters. The Vegetarian Society was featured. However he was dismissive of much unorthodox medicine.
Possible coalitions of pressure groups should be looked to by spelling reformers, provided it is done democratically. That also implies the need for a world federation of spelling reformers, to negotiate joint publicity campaigns with other kinds of reformers. Or, for instance, to become a member of the United Nations Organization. The Electoral Reform Society successfully sought affiliation. Mr Deans believed, like the E.R.S., in transferable voting, as another of his lifelong interests. But G K Chesterton's distinction that Bernard Shaw was an excellent republican but not a democrat, applied also to Reg. He didn't think that most people were well enough educated to judge the issues. The standard of literacy, which he fought so hard to raise, he thought too low even in the great majority. I believe that the difference between Reg and Britain's leaders on this is that he said what he thought. But that is another debate. Nevertheless, Deans was a powerful questioner of convention. His 'perpetual calendar' scheme would allow the same calendar to be reused without adjustment for over 1,000 years. It was based on a 52-week year of 364 days and a leap year every 5 years of 53 weeks except once in every 50 years). Months would be left out. But, no doubt like myself, everyone is a sentimental lunatik, in this respect. If humanity ever survives itself, and aught else awaits, to colonize other planets, very few are likely to have a hulking great moon tumbling round them. Last laugh to Reg, I think.
BRITIC.If all of us were required to justify our existence (before each other, the inventor of 'Britic' (characteristically ignoring his distinguished career). The key to his approach to reform is in his book's title Universal Language and Simplified Spelling - in that order. Isaac Asimov's support for spelling reform also seems to relate to the need for a universal language - by 'universal' he means universal in his S.F. Dr Deans had already adopted at any rate a global approach to spelling reform, before Prof. Jesús Mosterín's excellent advice on those lines. But the nearest to an international alfabet the world has to work with is not some basic I.P.A. It is simply the roman alfabet. And Deans' 'Britic' shows it is just about adequate for consistent spelling of the English language. That is, if you use the 26 (mostly) roman letters rationally with one sound, and one sound only, each. No system does that perfectly, spell rationally, not even the International Phonetic Alfabet. But for practical purposes, Britic is near enough.
If that is true, it is very important, because it means spelling reform does not have, to wait on some technological millenium before a whole new alfabet or just one new letter can be magically added to the world's printing machines.
CONSONANTS.The consonants <m, p, b, f, v, t, d, s, z, r, l, n, k, g, h> offer no real problem to rational spelling. This is also true of <j> for English spelling. But there is a European perspective. Europe may once again have a common roman alfabet, which may well form the large core of a world alfabet. It would be reasonable to anticipate that English <j> (or /ʤ/ in I.P.A.) harmonize with French, Portuguese, Romanian and Turkish <j> (or /ʒ/ in I.P.A.). Of course that would depend on all those countries in Europe changing from their <j>=English <y> usage, so as to make available a roman letter for the /ʒ/ in a standard European and probably world usage. Until then, little use for <j>= /ʒ/ in English tho.
The sound of /k/ is repeated in <c, q, x>. Since <k> is common to the Greek, Roman and Cyrillic alfabets, we would be daft not to confirm it in its present purpose. Deans' 'Britic' gives the 3 spare letters to English fonemes without distinct letters of their own. Hence British is spelt Britic, as in hundreds of existing words like social, officious, ocean. In European languages <c> is associated with the /s/ or /ʃ/ sounds, often with the difone /ts/. In Italian <c>=/tʃ/, and French <ch>=/ʃ/. So if you want to give this European foneme its own European, as well as.' English, letter, the choice of <c> is the only good option.
Of English consonants, this leaves only <th> without its own letter. Britic gives it <x>, reminiscent of the Anglo-Saxon letter <ð>, called eth. It is rare for any language to use both breathed and voiced <th>, as English speakers to some extent do. But even in English the two versions of <th> are not given a separate identity, and rightly so. From the European point of view, <x> might have been better reserved for its sound-value in the Greek and Cyrillic alfabets, the <ch> sound in loch or Bach. But the similar sounding <h> might serve. In the main Latin languages <h> is a silent letter, except Romanian, where <h>=<ch>. <h> used to be silent in English too, whereas Greek and Russian, for instance, only have <x>=<ch> and not <h> in their alfabets. So, even if they wanted to adopt the roman alfabet in its present form, <x>=<th> and <h>=<ch> would perhaps do. Users of non-roman alfabets might do better to wait on the general adoption of a simplified roman alfabet, tho, as I shall discuss below.
VOWELS.Britic spells the five English vowels as in: pat, pet, pit, pot, put. Controversy arises from the divergent pronunciation of put from traditional northern close-back tongue position for <u> to a relaxed or unstressed central or near central tongue-position pronunciation, as in the word about or above, spelt in Britic ubawt, ubuv. In effect, Britic uses <u> for this neutral vowel or near-neutral vowel (that is, for /ə/ or /ʌ/ in the I.P.A.) as well as for residual use of the close-back <u> in English speech, such as in the word good spelt gud in Britic. In a letter to Reg Deans, the well-known Canadian reformer Arnold Rupert doubted whether North American speech could do without the traditional <u> usage. I too always disagreed with Reg on this. And I'm not inclined to think now that, for the purposes of English as a world language, two such divergent sounds as /u/ and /ə/ or their close variants, require distinct signs. I have favoured Harry Lindgren's suggestion that the neutral vowel be shown by an apostrofe. When one has learned where it occurs in a word, so that its pronunciation offers no problem, then one might want to leave out the apostrofe. Britic assumes this in words like nation, spelt nycn. An apostrofe in nyc'n shows the word is spoken with an unstressed vowel in it.
The Britic use of <y> for /ei/ is, in my opinion, a minor flaw in the system. Since Britic uses <w> as the Welsh do, literally as a double <u>, so rude is spelt rwd, it would be consistent to spell <y> as in glory, so as to rhyme with free (as it does in the words to the Elgar march). Failing consistency, it would at least have been more conventional to keep <y> as in my, why, by etc.; the second-best rather than the 3rd best option! As it is, Britic spells free as frii; <ai> as in aisle; <oi> as in boil. The <-i> difthongs are consistent combinations. Bat when it comes to the <-u> difthongs, Britic use of <u> as the unstressed vowel means that he must use <w>. This does not matter much tho, because, English spelling does too, e.g. due and new, spelt niw in Britic, and now spelt naw. Old, mould, bowl Britic would either spell <-ow> or replace with the letter <q>, which looks like <o>, so old is qld.
Britic retains the European convention of spelling the centring difthongs with an <r> after the vowel and applies it consistently. It stems from our traditional pronunciation and is still near enough to the truth. so, air is spelt er, as in ther; are is ar; or is or; her, purr etc. become hur, pur. Poor becomes puur. An apostrofe in poor, spelt pu' or pu'r, would avoid the inconsistency of the two <u> sounds in puur. But this not only applies to Britic, but to the SSS Nue Speling and a lot of other proposed systems. Britic spells ear as iur, rather than i' or i'r, depending on the general adoption of Lindgren's apostrofe.
Since the apostrofe is on the typewriter's upper deck, using a full stop for the shwa would be quicker. The end of a sentence could be marked by two spacings instead of a full stop and one spacing. But this would have to be a generally agreed and taught reassignment - for those who could not work it out for themselves.
To sum up, after this extensive criticism: it may come as a surprise that in my opinion Britic is the best spelling reform of the roman alfabet that I've come across. It might or might not be helpful to add Lindgren's apostrofe (alternatively the full stop as shwa dot). And <y> for <ii> instead of <ei> in vein or <ey> in grey consistently so spelled would be a less important improvement.
I've said nothing about what I see as the special virtue of Britic to justify its pre-eminence in my regard. Britic virtually chucks out all the dead digrafs, all those meaningless combinations of letters. Notably the pseudo-symmetry of <-h> digrafs (<sh, th, dh, ph, wh, ch> for consonants and <-e> digrafs for vowels (<ae, ie, oe, ue, ee>. Britic does away with this unnecessary dilemma of whether consistent falsehoods are better than chaos in spelling. Britic is alive with the intelligence of its inventor, that may awaken others to more intelligent spelling habits.
REFERENCES.Reginald Deans Universal Language and Simplified Spelling.
- also many leaflets on Britic. A limited number of these are available from myself (and possibly others who corresponded with Dr Deans). One such leaflet is from Sir David Eccles' fine speech to the Commonwealth and American Clubs of Rome, in support of Britic, when he was Minister of Education. After the House of Lords debate on 'The Simplification of the English Language' on 28 January 1981 Reg was pleased with replies from Lord Eccles, Lord Boyle, Lord Simon and Lord Tweeddale, who wrote a long letter "in perfekt Britic". In debate, judging from quotes Reg sent me, the latter two spoke with magnificent forthrightness. Baroness Young made the point that spelling reformers are not in reasonable agreement that can be acted on. Dr Everingham of Brisbane wrote about Britic in The Australian Medical Journal, 17 December 1960; he is known to the world's spelling reformers for making 30 September 'spelling day', when he became Australian Minister of Health.
S S Eustace (former chairman of the Simplified Spelling Society) sistəm 2, an authoritative guide to the main European fonemes. There is a short account in Spelling Progress Bulletin, Fall 1980, and all SSS members received a copy of the study.
Lyall's Languages of Europe, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1950.
Prof. J Mosterín 'Spelling Reform in International Perspective', in Spelling Progress Bulletin Fall 1982.
J C Wells & Greta Colson Practical Phonetics, Pitman 1971.