(Simplified Spelling Society Pamphlet No. 12. Part 2.)
New Spelling 90 part 2.
Back to Part 1.
Edited by L R Fennelly
- 6. Two objections [on this page.]
- 6.1 Identical spellings
- 6.2 Historical Spellings and Etymology
- 7. The Implementation of reform
- Appendix - The Star
- New Spelling 90 in Brief
6. Two Objections.
6.1. Identical spellings.As we have seen, New Spelling spells words that have different meanings but the same sound, identically. e.g dear.deer = deer, there.their = thaer, hear.here = heer, read.reed = reed. The immediate reaction of most people would be to say that these words would be a cause of confusion and misunderstanding.
In fact, there are already about 750 such pairs or groups of words in English, examples being stalk.stalk, craft.craft, rank.rank. They cause no problems in speech or writing, most people not even being conscious of them. The reason is that the language is above all a "heard or spoken thing", and it is context that determines meaning, not written forms. Writing came very late in the development of mankind. We peer at the peer on the pier is a perfectly understandable sentence when spoken, even if it is somewhat unusual. In no way do we need the ie of pier to help us understand it when reading. If we say or hear rank outsider or rank grass or in rank order, we have no problem in distinguishing one meaning from the other.
If words are too near each other in usage to be instantly distinguished by context, the language over the years drops one of them. mete is now obsolete, or at any rate purely literary, because meet as a veb, and meat as a noun are the dominant meanings. Similarly gambol has given way to gamble in ordinary use. It will be noted that spelling differences are not enough to save a word.
The trio sow.sow.sew sums up the problem. Current English has the same spelling for two words with different sounds, and two spellings for two words with the same sound. In New Spelling the pig becomes sou and the two actions both become soe. (How many people have found it difficult to remember which is which of sow and sew?)
If, despite all this we still want to try to invent separate spellings for our new pairs of words, then logically we should do the same for the ones which already exist. Which would be impossible. What alternatives could there be for craft and craft? Separate spellings for the same sounds could only be allocated in a purely arbitrary way, and hence they would present serious learning problems. It would be impossible to maintain the consistency which we have regarded as the essence of this reform. To take an example, if we use ea to help differentiate between pair.pear.pare, it is illogical to use it to differentiate between sheer and shear.
6.2. Historical Spellings and Etymology.The other common objection to spelling reform is based on the desire to preserve the history of words as enshrined in their spelling. A well known scientist some thirty years ago protested vehemently against losing the "footsteps of history". The trouble is that the footsteps of history came to a stop several years ago, and some of them even in 1066. The Latin word color-, gives the Norman French colour which in standard French went on to become couleur, but the English process stopped in 1066, instead of going on to be kuler
In reality, the defenders of historical spellings are only thinking of those words which are direct coinages from Latin and Greek, and are the less important part of the language. The basic language derives ultimately from old Germanic, which has never been a fashionable study. The second strand comes from Norman French, which over 800 years of continuous change developed from Latin. But even here the word for chief (Norman French head), from the Latin for head - cap-, would not be immediately obvious to the non specialist.. It is also a fallacy to think that a knowledge of etymology helps with the understanding of meaning. exaggerate has developed meanings well removed from its origins, and if you use words like concatenation presumably you know the meanings anyway.
The archaeology of a language, like all archaeology, can be fascinating study, but language is a living thing, not an archaeological object.
7. The Implementation of Reform.The implementation of spelling reform is a subject that reformers have tended to avoid, perhaps because it presents particular problems for English. There have been spelling reforms in the majority of European languages, but in none of them have the need changes been so wide-ranging as they would have to be in English. The experience, therefore, of these countries has only limited value for us. And of course, reforming English requires action on an international scale.
Reform can be envisaged as a once-and-for-all event, or as a reform by stages, spread over presumably many years. Let us consider the once-and-for-all reform.
Firstly we must make a difference between the ability to read New Spelling and the ability to write it. Everybody would have to learn to read it, but few at first would need to write it, at least professionally. It would be obviously unreasonable to expect older people to learn a totally new writing system, but to learn to read New Spelling would not be particularly difficult for interested adults, and short courses could easily be arranged.
In schools, the situation would be different. Clear government involvement would be essential. Young children would begin with New Spelling, with necessary reading material being provided, and then at a later stage, they would have to learn to read, but not write, current spelling. Surprisingly there is experience to show that this would not create serious problems for them. Beginning in the 1920s, New Spelling was very successfully used in some schools, and at present i.t.a. which is a derivative of New Spelling is still being used to teach reading. It has been consistently found that the children not only learn to read quicker with i.t.a., but that their learning of current spelling and their learning generally are both improved.
New Spelling would have to be officially accepted for public examinations, and this would need government intervention. Older pupils who had become fairly literate in current spelling, could reasonably be asked to learn to read New Spelling, but this would not be difficult, and then they would be left to use New Spelling or current spelling as they preferred.
But most important of all would be the reading material used by everybody - newspapers, magazines, and library books, all these have a short life, and so it would be easy to print them in a reformed spelling, but clearly this could not happen without public demand, or at least acquiescence, and there is a great work of propaganda to be done.
Alphabetical lists provide an especial problem. Many spelling changes affect initial letters, which means that these changes would have to be made simultaneously to avoid repeated alterations to telephone directories and the various alphabetical lists that govern our lives.
Appalled by these difficulties, many have suggested a reform by stages, and this needs careful consideration. The basic problem is that it is very difficult to divide up the spelling system into self contained units. Changes are interrelated and many words would be affected by more than one change.
Consider these words - night . know . wreath . wrought. Dropping the silent k and w at the beginning of words, and the gh in the middle of words would seem obvious reforms. But if gh is removed from night we have to decide what to do with the vowel - shall it be nite or niet or nyt? Is it sensible to choose nite if we are going to change it later on? know will become now, and immediately we have created another example of the sow (pig) and sow (seed) type. So we must change now to noe. wreath becomes reath, which is pronounceable, but is it sensible to leave the change from ea to ee, and have to disturb the word a second time? In the case of wrought we drop both the gh and the w, and so we are left with rout, which for obvious reasons will have to be changed to raut.
It is clear that a complete plan to cover all eventualities has to be drawn up, even if only limited changes are contemplated. This is what New Spelling sets out to do.
All the choices we can make present difficulties. If we introduce a total reform, the revised spelling looks too different, too shocking almost. If we have two or three major reforms at lengthy intervals, then we have two or three major upheavals, and if we have fairly frequent small scale changes, we risk general confusion.
We must not let ourselves be daunted by this, but it is clear that the implementation alone of spelling reform requires the most detailed study, and this will be our task in a subsequent pamphlet.
Appendix.1. The short story 'The Star' by H.G Wells, was issued in New Spelling with the author's permission in 1942. Here is a short extract, slightly altered to conform with the changes we have made in New Spelling.
The Star.It woz on the ferst dae ov the nue yeer that the anounsment woz maed, aulmoest simultaeneusli from three obzervatoris, that the moeshen ov the planet Neptune, the outermoest ov aul the planets that w(h)eel about the sun had bekum veri eratik. A retardaeshen in its velositi had been suspekted in Desember. Then a faent, remoet spek ov lyt woz diskuverd in the reejen ov the perterbd planet. At ferst this did not kauz eni veri graet eksytment. Syentifik peepl, houever, found the intelijens remarkabl enuf, eeven befor it bekaem noen that the nue bodi woz rapidli groeing larjer and bryter, and that its moeshen woz kwyt diferent from the orderli progres ov the planets ...
The Star.It woz on the first day ov the new year that the anounsment woz made, almost simultaneously from three obzervatoris, that the moshen of the planet Neptune, the outermost ov all the planets that w(h)eel about the sun had becum veri eratic. A retardashon in its velosity had been suspected in Desember. Then a faint, remote spec ov lite woz discuverd in the rejon ov the peturbd planet. At first this did not cauz eni very graet ecsitement. Sientific peopl, however, found the intelijens remarcabl enuf, even befor it became *none that the new body woz rapidly growing larjer and briter, and that its moshen woz cwite diferent from the orderly progres ov the planets ...
The Star.It wos on the ferst dae of the nue yeer that the anouncement wos maed, aulmoest simultaeneusli from three observatoris, that the moetion of the planet Neptune, the outermoest of aul the planets that wheel about the sun had becum veri eratic. A retardaetion in its velociti had been suspected in December. Then a faent, remoet speck of liet wos discuverd in the reegion of the perturbd planet. At ferst this did not cause eni veri graet ecsytment. Syentific peepl, however, found the inteligence remarkabl enuf, eeven befor it becaem noen that the nue bodi wos rapidli groeing larger and bryter, and that its moetion wos quyt diferent from the orderli progres of the planets ...
|On the therd dae ov the nue yeer the nuespaeper reeders ov too
hemisfeers wer maed awaer for the ferst tym ov the real importens ov this unuzhueal
aparishen in the hevens. "A Planetari Kolizhen" wun London paeper heded
the nues, and proklaemd that this straenj planet wood probabli kolyd with Neptune.
The leeder-ryters enlarjd upon the topik. So that in moest ov the kapitals ov the
werld, on Janueari 3rd, thaer woz an ekspektaeshen, houever vaeg, ov sum iminent
fenomenon in the sky; and az the nyt foloed the sunset round the gloeb, thouzends ov
men ternd thaer ys skywerd to see - the oeld familier stars just az thae had aulwaez
||On the third day ov the new year the newwpaper readers ov two hemisferes wer
made aware for the first time ov the real importans ov this unuzhual aparishon in
the hevens. "A Planetari Kolizhen" wun London paper heded the news, and
proclaimd that this stranje planet wood probably colide with Neptune. The
leader-riters enlarjd upon the topik. So that in most ov the capitals ov the world,
on January 3rd, there woz an ecspectashon, however vague, ov sum iminent
fenomenon in the scy; and az the nite folowd the sunset round the globe, thouzends
ov men turnd their eyes scyward to see - the old familiar stars just az they had
||On the therd dae of the nue yeer the nuespaeper reeders ov too hemisfeers wer
maed awaer for the ferst tym ov the real importance of this unuesueal aparition in
the hevens. "A Planetari Colision" wun London paeper heded the nues, and
proclaemd that this straenge planet wood probabli colyd with Neptune. The
leeder-ryters enlarged upon the topic. So that in moest of the capitals of the
world, on Janueari 3rd, thaer wos an expectaetion, houever vaeg, of sum iminent
fenomenon in the sky; and as the niet foloed the sunset round the gloeb, thousands
of men ternd thaer ys skyward to see - the oeld familiar stars just as thae had
|Until it woz daun in London and the stars oeverhed had groen
pael. The winter's daun it woz, a sikli, filtering akuemuelaeshen ov daelyt, and the
lyt ov gas and kandls shon yeloe in the windoes to shoe w(h)aer peepl wer astur. But
the yauning poleesman sau the thing, the bizi krouds in the markets stopt agaep,
werkmen goeing to thaer werk betymz, milkmen, Disipaeshen goeing hoem jaeded and
pael, hoemles wonderers, and in the kuntri laeberers trujing afeeld, poechers
slinking hoem, and oever the duski kwikening kuntri it kood be seen - and out at see
by seemen woching for the dae - a graet w(h)yt star, kum sudenli in the westwerd
||Until it woz dawn in London and the stars overhed had grown pale. The winter's
dawn it woz, a sicly, filtering acumulashon ov daylite, and the lite ov gas and
kandls shon yelow in the windows to show w(h)ere peopl wer astir. But the yawning
polisman saw the thing, the bizy crowds in the marcets stopt agape, wercmen going to
their werc betimez, milcmen, Disipashon going home jaded and pale, homeles
wonderers, and in the cuntry labourers trujing afield, poachers slincing home, and
over the duscy cwicening cuntry it cood be seen - and out at see by seamen woching
for the day - a graet w(h)yt star, cum sudenly in the westward sky!
||Until it wos daun in London and the stars oeverhed had groen pael. The winter's
daun it wos, a sickli, filtering acuemuelaetion of daeliet, and the liet of gas and
candls shon yeloe in the windoes to shoe whaer peepl wer astur. But the yauning
poleesman sau the thing, the bisi crouds in the markets stopt agaep, werkmen goeing
to thaer werk betyms, milkmen, Disipaetion goeing hoem jaeded and pael, hoemless
wonderers, and in the cuntri laebourers trudging afeeld, poechers slinking hoem,
and oever the duski quikening cuntri it cood be seen - and out at see by seemen
woching for the dae - a graet whyt star, cum sudenli in the westward sky!
|Bryter it woz than eni star in our skys; bryter than the
eevning star at its brytest. It stil gloed out w(h)yt and larj, noe meer twinkling
spot ov lyt, but a smaul, round, kleer shyning disk, an our after the dae had kum.
And w(h)aer syens haz not reecht, men staerd and feerd, teling wun anuther ov the
wors and pestilenses that ar forshadoed by theez fyri syns in the hevens.
||Briter it woz than eny star in our scies; briter than the evening star at its
britest. It stil glowd out w(h)ite and larj, no mere twincling spot ov lite, but a
small, round, clear shining disc, an our after the day had cum. And w(h)er siens haz
not reacht, men stared and feard, teling wun anuther ov the wars and pestilenses
that ar forshadowd by theze firy sines in the hevens.
||Bryter it wos than eni star in our skys; bryter than the eevning star at its
brytest. It stil gloed out whyt and large, noe meer twinkling spot of lyt, but a
small, round, cleer shyning disk, an our after the dae had cum. And whaer syence has
not reecht, men staerd and feerd, teling wun anuther ov the wors and pestilences
that ar forshadoed by thees fyri syns in the hevens.|
|And in a hundred obzervatoris thaer had been suprest eksytment,
ryzing aulmoest to shouting pich, az the too remoet bodis had rusht together, and a
huriing to and froe, to gather foetografik aparaetus and spektroskoep, and this
aplyens and that, to rekord this novl astonishing syt, the destrukshen ov a
||And in a hundred obzervatoris there had been suprest ecsitement, rizing almost
to shouting pich, az the two remote bodis had rusht together, and a huriing to and
fro, to gather fotografic aparatus and spectroscope, and this aplians and that, to
record this novel astonishing site, the destrucshon ov a world.
||And in a hundred observatoris thaer had been suprest exytment, rysing aulmoest
to shouting pitch, as the too remoet bodies had rusht together, and a huriing to and
froe, to gather foetografic aparaetus and spectroskoep, and this aplyans and
that, to record this novel astonishing syt, the destruction ov a werld.|
|1. Analysis of k, s, y, in the above passage.
32 examples of k substituted for c, and 12 examples of k unchanged.
23 inflected s endings are phonetically z, and 4 are s. (Not all of these would be easy for people to determine.) There are no examples of ss forms. (Chap. 5. Section 3 on s.)
26 examples of the long vowel y, and 21 examples of final i replacing the current ending y.
|2. Over the years many suggestions have been made for partial reform, ranging
from changes to small groups of words to quite substantial changes. But none of them
have touched the long vowels, nor faced up to the mat - mate problem.
In this version of the passage from Wells' story, we try to show the effects of a
partial reform on these lines.
a. We have carried out the complete reform of the consonants, with the one exception that we have used c instead of k.
b. We have regularised all spellings of the 'short' vowels, cat, set, kit, cot, cut, and removed unnecessary final e's.
c. We have NOT altered the long vowels, except where it was essential. e.g. nite for night, and there we have used the conventions of current spelling.
d. We have NOT altered any of the obscure vowels.
* current 'none' becomes 'nun'.
|3. In this passage we seek to demonstrate the overwhelming importance of the
vowels in spelling reform. We have made all the vowel changes except for those
involving the obscure vowel.|
Our changes to the consonants are confined to ph, gh, (both numerically unimportant, although gh effects vowels), and the reduction of double consonants to single ones.
An analysis of the commonest 1000 words (nearly half of them monosyllables), shows that the vowels in the fate, wipe, rope, and meet, in that order, involve by far the greatest number of changes. Of the short vowels, u as in cup, involves the most changes.
New Spelling 90 in Brief.
but, muther, flud
merjer, tern, (inkur)
vowel see text.
replaced by k, kat, or s, faes
job, aej, brij
shiver, naeshun, preshus
wich or which
fiks, ekspekt, eksampl
Back to the top.
Word signsthe, be,
he, she, me, we
re- (always when prefix)
-ful (always when suffix)