[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1987/3 pp3-5 later designated J6.]


Spelling History.

From Donald Scragg, Director of Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies and author of A history of English spelling:-
[See Journal, SPB articles, by Donald Scragg.]

We need a good deal more scrutiny of the seventeenth century (printed and private matter) before we can safely say it was the printers' "arbitrary typographical decisions". Our spellings came about by the gradual refinement of variants, but what caused one variant to disappear and another to gain favour is not easy to say. I assume that individual printers could hardly be sufficiently influential (although individual books - Bible, dictionaries - might). We should look for some influence on the printers - their teachers - and on the teacher - their textbooks. But what influenced the compilers of textbooks, and what control over their printers did the writers of textbooks have? As yet only circular answers!

From Susan Baddeley, HESO research team, CRNS, Paris:-
[See Journal and Newsletter articles by Susan Baddeley.]

If medieval scribes and Renaissance printers wanted to improve their remuneration (with long forms in spelling), how do you account for their extensive abbreviations? ... (We shall be printing a conference paper on early abbreviations in 1988 - Ed.)

Strategy, Political and Orthographical.

From R C Hope, London:-
The problem is publicity. No one is going to risk simplified spelling if it will make a bad impression; but suppose each week the papers printed a small list of words in the new spelling. Thenceforth any applicant for a job any man in business, could use them confident that the employer or customer would be cognisant of them. Schools would be supplied at the outset with the list and could decide which to teach.

- Go easy on the double consonant. It affects the vowel, like tinny: tiney, rapping: raping.
- Get money off the CBI.
- I personally am sick of <u> after <q>.
- You'll have to ignore regional accents - although if nought became naut a Yorkshireman could still call it nowt. I guess Cockneys will be worst off, since to them the words fault, fort, fought, thought all sound exactly alike.
- The friend you need is the editor of the OED. If he would agree to insert as a foreword, some rules for alternative spelling, then you are on the move.

From Peter Pryer, Aldershot:-
The vowels in English can be divided into vowels in monosyllables and vowels in polysyllables. The only way around the difficulty with polysyllables is having standardised endings and prefixes. As regards monosyllables, they must take their vowels from the oldest known form of the word.

There is another difficulty: how do we define a word? How are we entitled to write a word like also as one word, but railway station as two?

From Dr Conrad H Slater, Otley, West Yorkshire:-
Up to the present time, I have always regarded reformers of language as cranks but after your interview on the radio it is quite clear that you do not fall into that category, and that you obviously have something to offer.

I particularly liked your point about the saving of time and space. You are not just content with making spelling easier for future generations, you also have the present users very much in mind, in that your proposed variations should be instantly recognizable to all.

I can only suggest you console your German friend by saying that it probably won't come in for some time, and it won't become obligatory when it does. Indeed he will perhaps then have the status equivalent to someone who knows Chaucer's English today.

Be careful that in their enthusiasm your friends do not go over the top; be content with a minor change or two per decade, rather than pressing for a full-scale revolution overnight in which everything becomes unrecognizable.

From Naïma Khireddine, Canterbury, Kent:-
The published linguistic descriptions of spelling assume that it is consistent, i.e. there are more regularities than are apparent on the surface and that any 'so-called' inconsistencies are motivated rather than arbitrary. Unfortunately they fail to demonstrate such consistency in a way to make it useful to learners and teachers like myself.

From Judith Worley, Havant, Hampshire:-
Part of my work is teaching the London English Language Course for 'A' Level. Spelling Reform is a topic that frequently comes up. My colleagues, myself and our students would therefore appreciate whatever information you can give us about your work.

From Don Hadden, London:-
I am a free lance journalist from Canada interested in preparing an artical on Cut Spelling and your Society. Hopefully I can help by providing a little overseas publicity. Please excuse my spelling.

From John C Elmsly, University of Auckland, New Zealand:-
I have read the article published in Auckland regarding Cut Spelling. I am interested in fostering Cut Spelling since I have practised leaving out unnecessary letters for many years, dating from an interest in cryptography. Your statements about ambiguity seem relatively unimportant because context shud sho th rite wrd. CS might well help some people to express themselves without the usual fear of spelling.

Cut Spelling - Reactions from Teachers/Students.

From Steve Brain, University of London Goldsmiths' College:-
... A group of literacy students discussed Cut Spelling and experimented with the system. They were very enthusiastic and felt that the 3 basic rules would help them considerably if in normal usage. The usual questions about silent letters, doubled consonants etc have arisen. Working with Cut Spelling certainly raised linguistic/ grammar issues with them! As one of them said: "This is where most of our problems are. If this was the way we had to spell we wouldn't be coming to this class."

From Jean Hutchins, British Dyslexia Associatn., Redhill, Surrey:-
[See Journal and Newsletter articles by Jean Hutchins.]

I showed your leaflet on Cut Spelling to a dyslexic adult who has a reading age of some 10+ years. She was able to read all the CS paragraph except 3 words - ones that she would not have been able to read in t.o., orthografy, radicl, compatbl. I think she found it easier than a more able reader, because she has to work out many words and has not got the t.o. spellings fixed in her mind.

I liked such a lot of CS - the four words wil, giv, u, mor were enough to convert me. Cud, wud, shud go into the put group. Doubled letters, especially <ll>, present great problems for dyslexics.

We work on well, then have wheel, full but careful, not to mention fulfil. However would filled=fild be readable? I have never succeeded in teaching pupils there/their.

Do, dos, don, go, gos, gon:-super. Do ho, hose, hom convey who, whose, whom? I'm not sure.

I think <g>=<j> is too drastic a change for the first stage, ej is too different. Re- <tch>: I have had a pupil at the Dyslexia Clinic at Barts, whose teacher spent a whole term failing to teach him when to put that <t> in, e.g. such, much, rich, which but catch, fetch, etc.

I think every syllable should have a vowel: I think exampls, rathr, contrry, transfr, undr are hard to read. You lose a syllable in automnus, orgnization, incidently, litrat, natrly, systmatizing. You can't say aproachs, foxs, boxs, fixs, mixs, churchs.

From Peter Stocks, Halifax, West Yorkshire:-
Oh that I could start teaching CS in this school year! I would love to simplify the difficulties I see my young charges (7-9 year olds) go through. Both able and not so able could have their communication enriched by your reforms. I found your letter immediately recognisable and readable, only making one or two double takes as I read...

I feel u ar undrestimating just how regulr CS wud make th spelng to children. I find that I can teach aproximatly 75% of words thru a logicl aproach. CS wud increase this tremendusly and these logicl teaching methods wud only be enhanced. Morover nearly al th children I teach hav very litl dificulty with the majority of words; they seem instinctivly to be able to aprehend the 'regulr' words from a simpl fonic method. It is on th very words that CS simplifies and regularises that chldrn hav th greatest dificulty. If these wer chanjed I am sure ther burdn wud be virtualy taken away.

I feel that CS wud be mor than logicl enuf as a systm, provided dificultis cud be irond out and a consensus acheved. Is this posibl with th English peple? And th compatibility with t.o. cud be yr winning hand! I think that th speed and conciseness of CS is a great plus point. One or two dificultis: first, a word I cud not reconcile was yr. It remindd me of Welsh or an abreviation. Wy not yor?

(Th form yr for your is a compromise between english pronunciation yor and americn pronunciation yur; and it is a wel-nown abreviation. Your looks like a rym with our wich is far worse. -Ed.)

I was also disapointd with many because it is one of th words I hav colectd with wich childrn hav particulr problms.

Also, wy do we hav trys but cuntris? Wy can't we hav cuntrys? This again wud help one of childrns dificultis.

(Th idea is to spel th two difrnt vowl-sounds difrntly. -Ed.)

It seems that publishrs sr taking in hand som speling reform: in pluralising leaf-leafs. These chanjes ar comnly typset in childrns books nowadays.

From Veronica Tippetts, Fellow of the Association of Remedial Teachers:-
I think Cut Spelling has a lot going for it as a form of speedwriting. It would assuredly sharpen perception/production skills among the literate who had need for speed writing at appropriate times.

From Annemarie Farrugla, Malta:-
I think CS would benefit greatly Maltese schoolchildren. In Malta we start learning English at 5. Before they come to school, most children have more exposure to Maltese than to English. Although their contact with English is not negligible, it is mostly with the spoken word. When they come to school most children are liable to become confused because in Maltese the written word is a truer representation of the spoken word than in English. Some schools use i.t.a. but this gives rise to more confusion because the children have to cope with two alphabets.

Apart from children, I think even adults would benefit. English is very much in use in our country-names of shops and signs, television newspapers, books. If spelling was simpler, life would be easier, especially for those who encounter difficulties to read English.

Another point is about pronunciation. In England you do not have any set standard, but RP is used for teaching foreigners. Pronunciation is in a sorry state in Malta. Although we can communicate together in English, sometimes we find it hard to understand English people who speak RP. And the way we 'batter' some words makes them unintelligible for English people. We tend to sound each word as it is written (although not necessarily in every case). Such difficulties could be overcome by simplifying spelling.

Cut Spelling - Critical Discussion.

From R Gleaves, London:-
I think that present spelling should be rationalised rapidly - even if one is accused of aping American... I will not attempt to write CS, as a spelling dictionary needs to be prepared. Some of the spellings are not so much 'cut' as 'massacred', for you omit letters that are (or should be) pronounced. Surely the essence of your case is that one spells as one speaks, not just as one seeks a 'speedword' as per Pitman etc? A few examples: foundd needs <e>; confrence - the missing <e> is pronounced, so why not write it? Ditto sevrl, classs.

(There is a lot of uncertainty about whether these letters are pronounced, and if so, how. One cannot tell from the pronunciation what the second vowel letter should be in separate, desperate, elaborate, whereas one cannot mispronounce it in the CS forms seprat desprat, elabrat. -Ed.)

You answer my objections, but I am thrown by the jumble of consonants.

From Elizabeth Wardle, Seaford, East Sussex:-
[See SSS Journal, J8 letters.]

Ǝ frend hooe noez how intrəstid ie am in speling rəform haz just shoen mee ən artikəl in Eduekaeshən Gardiən dəskriebing uər símplified speling, kuting owt unnesəsri letrz. Liek ue, ie startid bie dooeing dhat, but kaem too dhə kənklooezhən dhət so meni owrz ar waestid on vaeriənts dhat boeth fórinərz and naetiv speekərz shood bee aebəl too divəet thoez too mor uesfool and intrəsting thingz.

Uer iliminaeshən əv sum əbskuer vowəlz wood bee les fusi dhən mie intrədukshn əv dhee <Ǝə>, but wood it kuvər al kəntinjənsiz?

NB. Correct backward 'E/e' characters shown in browsers Netscape, Mozilla, Opera and Firebird.

From Bill Herbert, Australian Simplified Spelling Association, Kenmore, Queensland, Australia:-
[See Journal article by Bill Herbert.

The immediate reaction of our members to CS was adverse - so many changes to words. Then on a second look they found they could read it quite easily.

But without exception our members were staggered at the prospect of trying to write CS. Obviously you will need a small dictionary, with your 3 basic rules at the top of each page. We appreciate your reasons for having children able to read the t.o. that their parents use, but eventually <k, s> must supplant ambiguous <c>.

We suggest field work on the ordinary citizenry to get reactions to CS.

Our own reform list is now 24 <ough & augh> words (10 pronunciations) + 10 highly unphonetic words.

From Robert Craig, Avon:-
[See Journal and Newsletter articles by Robert Craig.]

The kuestion is whether CS or Substitution should be the first stage. It is my opinion that CS is not a suitable first stage, altho cutting is a necessary stage. Claims for CS are: 1. it is simple, 2. it retains the 'gestalt' of words. My feelings are 1. it is not simple, 2. it does not retain the gestalt as well as substitution does, 3. it gives fewer clues to pronunciation than t.o., whereas substitution gives more. CS scores over substitution in being visually less disturbing because it retains familiar letters (but it upsets the gestalt or shape of words and sentences). Also, the shortening of words would be a financial advantage.

Ekzample ov Sybstituxion.
Dhi problem dhat wi hav is dhat no wyn haz jet hyrd direktli from God wot a nuro-tranzmitter iz suppozed tu du. Ij tend tu bi veri general about it, and Ij say if a nyrv sell haz a kemikal dhat it sikretez tu tolk tu anydher nyrv sell, it's tranmitting informaxion.

From Ayb Citron, Better Education thru Simplified Spelling, Michigan:-
[See Journal and Newsletter articles by Ayb Citron.]

The report of the SSS Working Party is well done. But it seems to me the first vowels of souvenir, superior are different so should be speld differently. How would Cut Spelling treat ewe, you?

(CS rites them as ew, u.-Ed.)

Here are three sentences from the report in Speed Spelg: How cd a reformd orthugrafe b intrudoost? T x o i.t.a. shoz tt scoolchildren c perfectle wel be tawt a far m radicl sistm than Cut Speling. Hvr, whyl children hav tu ubandn i.t.a. aftr a y or tuu, tha cd cntinue tu uez Cut Speling f t rest o ther lyvz bcz it z cmpatubl w t.o.

From Tom McArthur, Editor English Today:-
[See Journal article by Tom McArthur.

CS has certain virtues. It is the basis of a valuable note-taking system. If it were promoted as such, it might creep into wider use. One can engage in interesting language-awareness exercises with CS: wich letters are needed, and which not, to transmit a complete message?

As a rival to t.o. CS has enemies on both sides: among t.o. conservatives who will see it as brutalistic, and among Simplified Spelling enthusiasts for whom it would not fulfil the basic need for phonic/graphic parallelism, as it is not after all, a 'phonemic' script.

From Edward Rondthaler, co-editor of Dictionary of AMERICAN Spelling, Croton-on-Hudson, New York:-
[See Journal, Newsletter, Anthology, SPB articles, and Personal View by Edward Rondthaler.]

I have no difficulty in reading CS. I believe however that the reason is that I am already literate. I know 400 ways to spell our 42 sounds, and when I read CS my mind quickly sorts through various possible pronunciations and picks out the right one. But the illiterate person doesn't have that advantage, and it's my understanding that the whole purpose of reform is to help those who are illiterate. I'm apprehensive that from the learner's point of view there may be too many cases where certain combinations of letters will call for one interpretation in one word and a different interpretation in another.

(All CS forms reduce the variants found in t.o., so they reduce the possible interpretations. -Ed.)

I doubt if one can be certain of the feasibility of CS until its principles have been applied to tens of thousands of words, then double-checked to be sure that
1. there are no serious overlaps and
2. the rules are within the grasp of those we are trying to reach, and
3. that the end result is compatible enough with t.o.

(This work is proceeding. Interim results: there are som overlaps, learners do not need the cutting rules, and CS is compatible with t.o. because almost all its letters are those of t.o. -Ed.)

I do not think AMERICAN meets these goals nearly as well as I wish it did.

From David Stark, Cumbernauld, Scotland:-
[See Journal and Newsletter articles by David Stark.]

Cut Spelling omits so many vowels that it de-syllabises words, and in the mental processes of reading and writing this means destabilising words.

(This requires careful analysis of what is meant by a vowel and a syllable. Let us remember that chasm contains two vowels and two syllables. -Ed.)

From Mark Abraham, Manchester:-
Why not include the silent, final non-magic <e> as in words like imagin(e), engin(e) as part of Cut Spelling?

(The CS forms are 'imajn, enjn'.-Ed.)

From Susan Baddeley, Chartres:-
[See Journal and Newsletter articles by Susan Baddeley.]

I have had to teach English and sympathise with pupils who protest that "en anglais on écrit caoutchouc et on prononce plastique", but I think CS isn't adequate to represent English pronunciation. You have to be familiar with the uncut system in order to be able to understand the cut one.

(These are common reactions. Readers are invited to send lists of 'inadequate' CS forms. But no one taught CS from scratch would need to know t.o. first. -Ed.)

CS, Further Publications and Research.

From Mark O'Connor, Townsville, Queensland, Australia:-
My book Words on Paper does not propose any particular new system for spelling reform. Its aim is rather to explain the issues surrounding it in the kind of lively style to reach a large readership that has never dreamed that language could be made so interesting and so comprehensible. I aim to undo the impression that Noam Chomsky's followers created; viz. that the reform case was out of date, and the issues so frightfully complicated that no ordinary person had the right to act (indeed, scarcely to express an opinion) on spelling.

Obviously the issues are complex and to clarify them without oversimplification is a job for a skilled professional writer with a lot of time allocated to this project.

My final chapter will consider the various reforms currently proposed. It will take the line that reforms need to be practical and readily grasped by persons already literate in t.o., and must also be compatible math computer technology.

There is good reason for reformers to be tolerant of and interested in each other's proposals. I don't find it possible at present to point towards any particular reform as clearly the best. But I shall devote considerable space both to Cut Spelling and to Rondthaler's computerized American dictionary project as being among the most promising.

From Valerie Yule, Monash University, Victoria, Australia:-
[See Journal, Newsletter, Anthology, SPB articles and Personal View 10 by Valerie Yule.]

Perhaps my Harvard article would show that academic journals will now publish on spelling reform. There should also be an article in Applied Cognitive Psychology - this is the experimental study by Yule and Greentree comparing immediate adjustment to spelling change in Cut, Cut-Plus, morpho-phonemic and World-English-Spelling phonemic.

Spelling reforms are going on by Macquarie Australian Dictionary, and investigations for more changes.

I think Cut Spelling proposals shd stil be tentative pending reserch confirmation. Setting out CS for new readers, I sujest always put first th point that surplus letrs removed ar surplus to both meaning and pronunciation, and give t.o. paralels to al exampls - far-ar, her-wer.

Poor readrs hav trubl with consonant strings. I may do som detaild reserch on this question - or can anyone else?

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