[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1988/2, p24-28 later designated J8]
[See other article by Patrick Hanks.
[Chris Upward: see Journals, Newsletters, Leaflets, Media, Pamflet 15, Book, Papers.]
Feasibility of Spelling Reform.
Patrick Hanks & Chris Upward.
In introducing his paper at the Society's 1987 conference, Patrick Hanks explained his doubts about the feasibility of spelling reform. They are here set out in the form of a dialogue with Chris Upward, who tries to suggest ways in which such doubts could be overcome and whose remarks are here printed in Cut Spelling (mainly omission of redundant letters).Hanks.
I have to start by confessing a deep scepticism about spelling reform. It is not that I hold any brief for the absurd and anomalous conventions of English spelling. My scepticism is purely pragmatic: it is the one that is based on expectations of difficulties that would arise during implementation of any system of spelling reform. Spelling reform, if it happens at all, will happen either gradually or at a single stroke. I find it hard to visualize either of these possibilities as a realistic scenario. Look first at what a gradualist reform might be like. Gradualism necessarily implies the continued coexistence over a period of time of a number of competing conventions. What is more, by definition a gradualist approach implies that at least one set of these competing conventions would be in a state of flux: continually changing in the direction of an ideal as the notion of improving the conventions won increasingly widespread social approval. Members of the Simplified Spelling Society will, I am sure, have considered more deeply than I have been able to the pragmatic implications of such a situation. I should be very happy to be reassured, but I think the chaos during any transitional period would most probably confuse many of the very people who spelling reform is most intended to help: those who have difficulties in coming to terms with an arbitrary and irrational set of conventions.
These fears of confusion caused by shifting speling norms are ofn herd and must be taken seriusly. But for sevrl reasns I think confusion is not inevitbl, and one can be reassured if one envisajs reform in practice and relativistic terms. We hav to considr such things as th experience of othr languajs, th competing speling forms we alredy have in traditionl orthografy (TO), th kind of reform to be introduced, and th way it wud probbly hav to be implementd and used.
Speling reform is th rule rathr than th exception in th developmnt of riting systms. English is th only major languaj using th roman alfabet that has not reformd or made som jestur towards reforming its speling this century. Th experience of othr languajs shos that reform is perfectly feasbl, altho natrly at first ther ar competing conventions - at th very least, for som decades most oldr peple spel som words difrntly from yungr peple ho hav been taut th new forms. But th experience of othr languajs also shos that reform can be fairly smooth, as with spanish, or it can be fraut with passionat controversy and confusion, as with norwejan. Speling reform can be carid out eithr wisely or unwisely, and speling reformrs must sho that they hav a wise procedur to ofr for english.
Th next point is th amount of variation within TO. At a world levl, we note diverjnces in th conventions folod in Britn and th USA, with Canada and Australia likely to fal somwher in between; and even in th USA 'british' spelings ar somtimes encountrd, as ar 'americn' forms in Britn. On th levl of publishing, we find that publishrs usuly hav ther own styl sheets, hose conventions ar ofn not folod by authrs in ther riting, wich then has to be laboriusly 'corectd'. On th levl of singl words, it is surprising how many of th less comn words in english hav even today stil not aquired an agreed speling (perhaps th Cobuild corpus cud provide data on this); two exampls ar th variant forms gibe, gybe, jibe and lichi, litchi, lichee, lychee, al listd in Collins English Dictionry. Finaly, and by far th most serius manifestation of th inadequacy of TO, is th infinit variety found in th speling of ordnry peple, especialy but not exclusivly those hose education has stopd short of th most sofisticated levls of litracy.
Yes, it is certainly true, for example, that competing conventions for the spelling of several words - for instance judg(e)ment, acknowledg(e)ment, and all the -ise/-ize words are found regularly in print, while professional users of the written word - journalists - can be observed equally regularly using three or four different spellings of, say, gove(r)(n)ment, before the post-editors get to work!
That's ryt, and these competing conventions ar a sorce of endless trubl, both for th most authoritativ of publishrs, and for th educationly disadvantajd strugling for th rudimnts of litracy. Th most modest kind of speling reform wud simply recomend acceptnce, from amongst th competing forms found in TO, of those that wer fonograficly most regulr. Thus gaol cud be banishd in favor of jail, and most americn forms cud be adoptd worldwide. Far from giving rise to competing conventions, such a reform wud remove existing variants. Publishrs wud save themselvs time and expense if they agreed on a comn styl on these lines. Howevr, a Stage I reform cud aford to go furthr, and even if it wer not imediatly or universly acceptd, th competing conventions it produced need be no mor confusing, and wud probbly be less confusing, than those we se today in TO.
A word about gradulism: just as TO alredy contains competing conventions, so th term gradulism alredy describes how english speling evolvs at presnt. Th problm with this gradulism, as we no it, is that only a few isolated words ar simplifyd or regulrised (e.g. in th past century or so shew has becom show, phantasy has becom fantasy, and mediaeval has becom medieval. Wile these sporadic chanjes ar al clear improvemnts, they ar not systmatic, and ther impact on th riting systm as a hole is minute. Systmatic speling reform (howevr limitd) on the othr hand wud proceed, I imajn, not so much graduly in that way as by jerks, as new genrations of children (evry 10 or 15 years?) wer successivly taut mor and mor regulrised spelings. I wud think th intrvl between reforms shudn't be laid down beforhand: a secnd reform wud only be launchd wen it was jujd that society had suficiently digestd th first. Furthrmor, ther wud undoutdly be lesns from th first reform that wud need to be bilt into th planning of th secnd.
Well, I think you have a very optimistic view of the flexibilty of primary school teachers, if you believe that every ten or fifteen years they will be willing to overhaul voluntarily the spelling systems that they teach. I believe that if it is left to voluntary action a situation could arise where some teachers are teaching reformed spelling of one sort or another, while others are insisting on the 'correctness of TO. This of course would have potentially damaging effects on some children, for example chose who had to change schools. Is it not the case that competition between TO and the Initial Teaching Alphabet had precisely this sort of adverse side effect? Are we agreed that i.t.a. must now be judged a heroic failure? If so, perhaps one of the lessons for its failure was that some children got caught in the cross-fire. You of course will say that i.t.a. was the wrong sort of reform; I will say that this is a probable consequence of any attempt at spelling reform.
The i.t.a. was not a speling reform, but a special alfabet desynd as a medium for teaching basic litracy skils. It can only be cald a failur in th sense that in recent years it has been less and less used. In fact th Simplified Spelling Society's late Presidnt, John Downing, carid out th definitiv reserch on th efects of i.t.a., and he showd that th tales of adverse results ar unfoundd: not merely do children reard on i.t.a. aquire litracy skils fastr, mor soundly, and with far hyr motivation (as i.t.a. teachrs confirm), but ther superir skils ar transferd to TO wen they chanje over. Th i.t.a. experience also demnstrated how speling reform cud be orgnised (as wel as shoing som pitfals). Obviusly speling reform cant be left just to th initiativ of each teachr, ther wud hav to be ful coordination on th improved forms that wer to be taut, and ther wud hav to be reading material that used th new forms. Howevr, th i.t.a. experience tels us abov al that teachrs ar positivly keen to use systms that make ther teaching mor successful and mor rewarding. Not to hav to force children to memrise difrnt speling patrns as in are:bar:bare, much:hutch:touch, when:went, have:shave releves teachrs of a considrbl but unecesry burdn.
Of course, if the government introduced regulations for spelling reform, the chances of success would improve immeasurably. But it would have to be a national decision: the 'confusion' argument still applies if regional authorizes are free to choose their own spelling system. I just can't see that spelling reform is going to come very high on the agenda of any political party in the foreseeable future.
I hav to admit I find these things equaly hard to imajn in presnt circumstnces. But I wud also say that I beleve one reasn wy they ar so hard to imajn is that no realistic sceme for a first-staje reform has yet been aird in public debate or by th authoritis concernd. Such a sceme is of corse a prerequisit for reform even to be seriusly considrd. The aim of th Simplified Spelling Society is firstly to devise such a sceme, and secndly to get it discussd - and not just nationly, but intrnationly. A sceme that wud not be equaly advantajeus world-wide wud, I sujest, be positivly danjerus, in that it cud thretn th world-wide standrd of ritn English.
Let's consider now the issue of prescriptivism. As a lexicographer, I have been steeped all my working life in a tradition that sees the lexicographer's role as firmly descriptive. Lexicographers in the mainstream British and American tradition have always vigorously rejected the occasional attempts by journalists and others to thrust a prescriptivist role on them. We see our role as being to describe the facts, not to create them. If spelling reform necessarily involved some person or group in prescribing what the new conventional spellings are to be, that to me as a lexicographer is anathema. This doesn't mean we don't want to help make English easy to learn; rather the reverse.
These attitudes ar of corse an importnt part of th prevailing orthografic ethos, and perhaps this is th only stance that lexicografrs can adopt in th face of th protean monstr than is TO. But altho lexicografrs may dislike prescriptivism, teachrs and publishrs ar of necesity hyly prescriptivist, and tho lexicografrs' self-imaj may be anti-prescriptivist, they ar objectivly reinforcing th prescriptivism that othrwise domnates our litracy-cultur: dictnris ar th sorce of orthografic law - ask any Scrabble freak. Th problm is, to prescribe obscure ilojicalitis is an unedifying task to perform.
As a matter of fact, one of the main aims of the COBUILD Dictionary, of which I am managing editor, is to help learners to write English naturally, idiomatically, and inconspicuously (not merely to read and understand). I am therefore naturally strongly interested in any device that will help learners, whether they are foreign learners, second-language learners, or first-language students who are acquiring literacy skills.
So the Cobuild approach has been to devote great attention to finding out just what the conventions of English are, and then reporting these as reliably and clearly as possible to the user. Our principles are totally descriptive. The introduction of spelling reform, of course, implies a strong element of prescriptivism. Would this help a learner, and if so, how could it be achieved in practice? Only if the new conventions were clearly prescribed and adherence to them enforced, it seems.
If specific reforms to TO wer agreed, we must asume they wud be chanjes in th direction of fonografic regularity and ecomny. Thus debt wud be ritn det in keeping with th fonografic forms bet, get, let, set etc. (rathr than alyning the latr with debt as bebt, gebt, lebt, sebt); and apple, chapel would merj as apl, chapl rathr than ambiguusly as apel (contrast compel, or cumbrsmly as chapple; and abbreviation wud be ritn as abreviation, in keeping with its cognate abridge and with french abreviation and spanish abreviación (one wud not alyn abridge with abbreviaton as abbridge). Ther is no question that reducing th numbr of variations in th speling of a givn foneme or a sylabl like this makes th task of lerning esir for students and teachrs alike. Evry teachr nos that it is th iregularitis wich cause th gretst dificltis by far, and teachrs ho hav used i.t.a. (as wel as teachrs of such languajs as spanish, hungarian, finish) wil confirm that these dificltis hardly arise wen children ar taut a larjly fonografic orthografy.
But as u point out, such chanjes imply a prescriptivist aproach to english speling, for wich ther is at presnt no authority. How cud one envisaj such a reform being introduced? In th pluralist societis that domnate th english-speaking world, th idea of speling-reform by diktat wud be unacceptbl, hence impracticl, indeed virtuly inconcevebl. But it is not inconcevebl that educationists (i.e. teachrs, academics, administrators and politicians) and publishrs from th main english-speaking cuntris cud confer, as hapnd at th 1986 Australian Styl Council, and agree to recomend certn conventions for use aftr a givn date with futur intakes to scools, and for use by publishrs. For educationists, th quality of regularity wud be a prime desidratum, wile for publishrs econmy wud be an esential incentive. If th reform wer fairly modest it wud not matr unduly if not al cuntris or publishrs acceptd th reform, but if th benefits wer substantial and self-evidnt, th incentiv to its adoption wud probbly ensure that th new styl spred rapidly. Such a senario is of corse necesrly stil very vage, but if it apears sycolojicly and economicly convincing, then it may sujest a practicl stratejy wich reformrs cud pursu. Inevitbly, tho, chanjes in th stratejy wud ocur and compromises wud be needd, as each step in th process took concrete shape.
The gains of learning a writing system in which there is some fairly straightforward relationship between sound and symbol in at least one of the standard accents of the language are, I suspect, short-term. It is very clear that simplified spelling helps some students to achieve speedy fluency. My Japanese friends tell me that the aim for a Japanese child is to be able to read and write around 2,000 Japanese words in kanji by the early teens. The aim for an English-speaking child, of course, along with those who use more logically alphabetic systems, is to be able in principle to write the whole language by that age - at any rate to be able to write as much of it as he or she knows. The value of simplified spelling in terms of gaining immediate fluency is undeniable. Equally undeniable is that not all students need such help: some are more willing than others to accept deep-rooted arbitrariness. The problems (if problems they be) for learners of simplified spelling in a gradualistic world arise when they come to a second learning stage, in which the student who has reached a degree of fluency in reading and writing one set of conventions has to go back to the drawing board in order to learn a whole new set of conventions. It would be even more complicated if one set of conventions was shifting.
The difficulties of a student faced with a number of different written and printed representations of the same phonological form would actually be increased by their multiplicity. Uncertainty as to what word is actually meant by a written form could arise from the existence of competing conventions; the student would need to take the extra steps of working out which set of conventions was being used in any given text. There would also come a stage when the student would have to learn to write in more than one set of conventions, and to know a set of procedures for choosing between them.
I therefore think that gradualism is out as a means of achieving widespread spelling reform.
I wud only se th gains of speling reform as short-term in a very restrictd context: th able child wud lern a simplr orthografy fastr, but having lernt it, wud then use it in much th same way as TO. But in evry othr respect, th gains of reform wud be permnnt and long-term. Th enormus problm of ilitracy cud be gretly reduced, to th long-term benefit of th individuls concernd and of society as a hole. Al riting, wethr day-to-day jotings by privat persns such as shoping lists, or th inumerabl pajes of script produced by professionl riters (academics, authrs, jurnlists, secretris) wud be jenrated significntly fastr and with fewr errs. Children in scool wud need less time for al tasks involving riting, wich wud eithr enable them to rite mor in th same time, or else fre them to devote mor time to othr educationl activitis. In a world wher english has becom th prime medium of comunication, al steps to enable non-nativ speakrs to mastr it mor esily wil be of benefit to mankind as a hole, diseminating nolej mor efectivly and improving undrstanding between nations. In a world wher th ecologicl concern for resorces is becoming evr more urjnt, a significnt reduction in th demand for paper is also a long-term gain not to be despised.
In terms of student sycolojy, it is tru that th most able students can mostly mastr TO to a reasnbl degree, despite its deep-rootd arbitrriness. But I dont think th problm is one of wilingness to mastr TO, but of th ability to do so: wile most peple can mastr a regulr, simpl systm, mastry of TO requires a hyly developd visul-aural memry wich most peple just do not hav. Furthrmor ther is even som reserch evidnce (quoted in Downings Evaluating the Initial Teaching Alphabet) sujesting that being forced to mastr a non-lojicl systm like TO may damaj th capacity of th developing mind to disern and exploit lojicl patrns wher they do exist. We also hav to considr prioritis: can an advanced industrial (or post-industrl) society aford to accept a systm wich prevents th majority of its population acheving ther ful potential in litracy? But even that élite wich dos functionly mastr TO sufrs from th experience, in terms of time wasted, as wel as in residul uncertnty as wel th speling of uncomn words. I can vouch for this from my persnl experience.
Th fear that peple wud hav to go bak to th drawing bord and relern to read if th speling wer reformd is in fact sycolojicly unfoundd. Lerning to read is a seprat skil from lerning th speling systm of a givn languaj. Thus adults soon becom acustmd to reading even such a radicly difrnt riting systm as i.t.a. Similrly a jenration that had been reard on a Staje I reform wud hav no dificlty in reading a mor radicly reformd Staje 2. Staje 2 wud not introduce a "whole new set of conventions", it wud be just one mor step in th direction that Staje 1 had alredy taken. Thus if a child lernt to rite acomodation, it wud hav no dificlty reading TO accommodation or th "competing convention" so frequently found today accomodation; nor wud any adult ho had been taut accommodation be puzld by acomodation; and if then in a Staje 2 th word wer spelt acomodashon, that 'child' (by now adult) wud hav no dificlty reading it eithr, tho it myt not choose to rite th new form. Th ke to the way in wich stajes cud folo successivly on from one anothr is compatblity: new forms must be compatbl with th old forms, in th sense of being imediatly decodebl by peple ho hav previusly only evr encountrd th preexisting conventions.
Nor do I think students wud hav dificlty choosing between conventions: if students ar taut det, api, chapl, acomodation insted of ther mor cumbrsrn, unpredictbl TO equivlnts, they wud scarcely hesitate as to wich to use, any mor than we hesitate today between music and musick: as wel as being conventionl, th shortr form is selfevidntly mor convenient. Th discardd TO forms wud rapidly aquire an oldfashnd aura, and people wud no mor think of riting debt for det than today they think of riting shew for show.
Nevrthless it is clearly importnt, tacticly, to demnstrate to th public that a useful speling reform cud be introduced in english that wud intrfere minimly with ther establishd reading habits, and this is a major reasn for proposing reform by stajes: it is then posbl to ensure that no staje entails serius visul disturbnce to th readr. Th rationale behind Cut Speling is based on th same considration: omiting redundnt letrs has a far less disruptiv efect on th apearance of words than dos actuly substituting letrs.
One must also distinguish between reading and riting. Since re-educating th mass of english-reading adults thruout th world is obviusly impracticl, a Staje I reform must be desynd so that al adults can read th new forms without instruction and with th minimm of dificlty and practice. On th othr hand few adults wud need to chanje a lifetimes riting habits. Only those professionl text-producers ho had to produce text in th reformd orthografy wud evr need to lern it. And for them th new speling rules wud hav to be simpl, such as dont dubl consnnts unless they ar pronounced twice (hence acomodation but accept, maximm).
The notion of reform 'at a single stroke' is, in my view, much more attractive in theory. I think that adopting a set of conventions for language use is not like going shopping, an activity in which an individual is free to choose this or that item as fancy or need may prompt. It is more like adopting a set of conventions for road use. Everyone has to agree to use the same set of conventions at the same time. An analogy may be drawn with the experience of Sweden in deciding to drive on the right, like the rest of Europe, instead of on the left like the British, Australians, Hong Kong Chinese, and a few others. The whole of Sweden came to an abrupt standstill for a weekend, and a strict speedlimit was enforced while people got used to the new conventions. It would of course have been unthinkable to introduce this change gradually.
I think th way forwrd for english speling has to lie somwher between these two analojis of th fredom of choice wen going shoping and th compulsion of driving on one side of th road. At presnt we hav somthing of th shoping situation, in that because most peple ar frequently at a loss for th convention speling, they spel words unconventionly, as they think fit on th spur of th moment (impulse bying, as it wer); and as we hav alredy observd, ther ar also uncertntis and altemativs among th conventions themselvs. This is an undesirebl situation, because it means ordnry peple lak confidnce in riting, since they no that wat they rite wil be al too esly stigmatised, and because profession text-producers incur extra trubl and expense. Idealy a reformd orthografy shud be esy for ordnry peple to use, and not confront professionl users with quandris. If english speling wer reformd on th modl of det, apl/chapl, acomodation, we wud be much nearr to that ideal situation. But as is shown by th experience of othr languajs, ther is no need for draconian chanjeover regulations as ther was with drivers in Sweden. With speling reform we do not hav to insist that al oldr peple lern th new spelings - we shud expect most of them to continu riting as they hav always don. Wat publishrs do wud probbly mainly depend on ther own compny decisions and policis, but if they wer ofrd th oportunity on a plate of making considrbl econmis, and som of ther competitrs wer enjoying those gains, comercial pressur wud be wel and truly on them to folo suit.
The question is, who would instigate such a change? We are all aware that the English language is no longer the property of any one nation; it is a widespread medium of international communication in every kind of social and technical field of activity. The minimum requirements, as I see them, for effective spelling reform are:
1. universal agreement among users of English as to what set of conventions are to be used, and
2. effective simultaneous introduction of the reforms on a worldwide basis.
For this to become a reality, I think it would require a scenario in which there is considerable weakening of sectional national interests (which might be no bad thing) and a Secretary General of the United Nations (or some similar body) combining the powers and personality of the Pope and Kemal Ataturk. Even then, we would probably be faced with a conservative rump rather like the die-hard users of the Latin rite in the Roman Catholic Church after the vernacular was officially adopted. I find it hard to imagine that such a scenario would ever become a reality, but I commend to the Society the notions of global agreement and worldwide simultaneous introduction of spelling reform, as a contrast to gradualism.
Undoutdly a senario of global agreemnt and worldwide simltaneus introduction has a powrful lojic to it. Howevr, as u also sujest ("combining the powers of Kemal Ataturk and the Pope"), one has to admit that th very idea of "universal agreement" and "simultaneous introduction worldwide" dos hav a certn utopian flavor to it. Here I think th necesry quality of compatbility between TO and th Staje 1 reform coms into play: if th old and new systms ar mutuly compatbl, then it wud be no mor necesry (tho it wud of corse be desirebl) for al cuntris to agree simltaneusly, any mor than it was necesry for th rest of th world to agree to introduce Websters reforms simltaneusly with th USA. But mytnt ther then be a danjer of ritn english disintegrating and radicly difrnt forms being introduced in varius parts of th world? One factr that shud prevent this is that it wud very obviusly not be in th intrests of any one cuntry to cut itself off from english as a medium of world comunication. Howevr such selfintrest need not only play a negative profylactic role like that: it cud com into its own as a crucial motivating force in favor of reform. Th invisbl hand of th market place cud oprate: if th reform ofrs selfevidnt, imediat, inherent advantajs to users, then precisely th same selfintrest cud overcom th intransijnce of th conservativly mindd worldwide.
Yes. You will have noticed that I have not advanced the argument, which is sometimes heard, that spelling reform threatens to cut us off from our heritage. Some people say that we should keep the two <m>s in immediate to remind us that, etymologically, the first element is an assimilated negative prefix. They think we should prefer the spelling logic to lojic because of the etymological connection with Greek logos, and so on. I do not accept this argument. Anyone who has tried to learn Irish will know how thoroughly distracting and irrelevant spellings based on etymological considerations can be. The point is highlighted by the contrast with Welsh, a related language with similar features of phonological variation at the start of words, such that moel may be realized as voel, and so on. Welsh is spelled more or less phonetically, unlike Irish, and for that reason alone seems much more approachable to the foreign learner.
If only Ben Franklin and Noah Webster had carried the day in America a couple of centuries ago! Franklin's remark, quoted on the back of Dr Rondthaler's intriguing and fascinating new Dictionary of Simplified American Spelling, is relevant: "Whatever the difficulties and inconvenience [of reformed spelling] now are, they will be more easily surmounted now than hereafter..."
I'm sure Franklin was right, and I fear that that missed opportunity in America at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries will turn out to be an opportunity missed for ever.
One may indeed wish that Franklin and Webster had carid th day two hundred years ago, tho it is intrsting to speculate wethr conservativ Britn, then at th begining of its period of imperial powr, wud hav lept to adopt such newfangld ideas from th upstart americns. If th yung USA alone had optd holehartdly for Websters mor daring proposals, th result myt hav been a far mor radicl division of english into a british and americn orthografic styl than we hav today.
Nevrthless, most of those few websterian spelings wich hav survived and ar now conventionl in th USA ofr a synpost for those othr parts of th world wich remain transfixd by british spelings. Most of th distinctiv americn forms ar mor fonografic, mor economicl and mor rationl than ther british equivlnts, and those that are clearly superir by these criteria cud be adoptd worldwide as a miniml reform. Such ar: adz, ax, carcass, catalog, defense, esthetic, harbor, jewelry, mold, molt, mustache, plow, practise, program, orthopedic, skeptic, smolder, sulfur, traveled, traveling, wagon, woolen, worshiped, and al th othr words that conform to these patrns. Ther ar howevr also a few americn forms wich ar not unequivocly superir, and in these cases th americn modl shud not autmaticly be adoptd: centre, grey, tyre for instnce may perhaps be felt to represent betr speling modls for a futur reform than th arnericn center, gray, tire (cf th CS forms centr, tyr); and a few americn forms ar mor cumbrsm than th british equivlnts, and here th USA cud wel be invited adopt th mor economicl non-websterian forms. Such ar: benefited, biased, centred, skilful, fulfil, as oposed to americn benefitted, biassed, centered, skillful, fulfill.
I think this discussion demonstrates that Spelling Reform has some very powerful arguments in its favour. The main arguments in favour of continuing TO are the difficulties of introducing change in such a well-established convention, and the danger of depriving the global community of a world-wide asset on whose conventions, with few variations, everyone is agreed. Arbitrariness and eccentricity seem a small price to pay for such widespread and deep- rooted agreement
There are also some more sinister aspects: for example, those who happen to find it easy to master the quirks of TO are able to use their facility as a means of discriminating against fellow-citizens whose audio-visual associative powers do not happen to be biased in this way. Perhaps in years to come, we shall be able to set spellingism against racism, sexism and ageism as an unacceptable social sin.
The main enemy of reform is probably simple inertia, not logical argumentation. It seems to me that reform, if it comes, is more likely to originate in Australia than in Britain or America, which are now both deeply conservative and conventional societies. The Australians have both the nerve and the energy to do something about it, and the economic and cultural power for their innovations to have an impact beyond their own shores. Let's see what comes of the 1986 Australian Style Council initiative.
Patrick Hanks, thank you for this discussion.
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