[Simplified Speling Sosiëty Pamflet Nr. 6.]

Dhe Proez and konz ov Rashonal Speling.

(Adapted from an Interview with Mr. William Archer,
published in the Daily Chronicle in November, 1911.)

Publisht on behaaf ov dhe Simplified Speling Sosiëty
bie Sur Iezak Pitman & Suns, Ltd. Lundon
Janueary 1942.

One day, in my capacity as a press representative, I came upon a body of conspirators plotting an explosion which is to overthrow, in the alleged interests of reason and consistency, our good old orthodox, picturesque orthography. The conspirators, who were assembled in an innocent-looking office, called themselves the Committee of the Simplified Spelling Society, and an unobservant eye might not have recognised in them any signs of the sinister fanaticism - not to say phoneticism - which inspired their proceedings. Resisting an impulse to send for the police, I ventured to enter into negotiations with them, with the result that one of their number volunteered to undergo the peine forte et dure of the interview, and made the following sensational disclosures.

Questioned as to how far the society proposed to go in its reforming zeal, the spokesman replied that they were "whole hoggers." Their system rested on the basis of the present spelling, introducing no new letters or accents; but it ruthlessly removed all anomalies that could hamper the child in learning to read or spell. What they had at heart was the saving of useless and even harmful labour to all coming generations of English-speaking children.

"But what will the language look like when all its anomalies are removed? Will it look in the least like English?"

"In order that you may judge of that," said the simplified speller, "suppose I answer in writing - and in rational spelling - the questions you put to me."

The suggestion seemed feasible, and was accordingly acted on.

"Are we to understand that your system is phonetic?"

"We avoid dhat wurd az much az posibl, on akount ov its ambigueity. Evry reform in speling must nesesarily be 'fonetik'; but dhe siëns ov fonetiks impliez a deliket analisis ov soundz which iz posibl oenly aafter long and kaerfool traening. Our sistem iz sufishently 'fonetik' for aul praktikal purposez."

"So far as this specimen goes, your Rational Spelling, though rather ugly, does not seem very startling. But I thought spelling reformers promised us a great economy of letters; whereas I see that, though you save a letter here and there, you also add many which are not required in the current spelling. For instance, aafter and oenly - what is the matter with after and only?"

"Simply dhis - dhat a and o ar moest konveenyently aproepryaeted to dhe soundz which okur in at and on; whaerfor dhe soundz in aafter and oenly must be reprezented bie whot ar teknikaly kauld diegraafs, if we ar not to hav rekors to nue simbolz."

"Fifty Yeerz Hens".

"Ah, now you are plunging deeper into the grotesque. Do you imagine that the British public will ever write nue for new?"

"Not dhe British publik ov todae, perhaps; but dhaer iz noe reezon whie dhe hoel Inglish-speeking wurld ov fifty yeerz hens shood not duu soe. It iz oenly familyarrity dhat maeks new seem preferabl to nue. I admit, houever, dhat dhe treetment ov whot mae rufly be kauld dhe oo soundz iz dhe moest difikult problem widh which we hav to deel, and our solueshon ov it mae posibly not pruuv dhe best avaelabl. In dhe kors ov a fue yeerz' trial such kwestyonz wil be desieded bie dhe servieval ov dhe fitest."

"Stop a moment, now! Consistency is your great principle, I understand - one sound, one sign. Is not that so?"

"Whie, surtenly."

"Yet I see you write trial with i, whereas you usually give to the letter i the value it has in British. Is not this a plain inconsistency?"

"Uer kwestyon iz very natueral; but dhis apaerent inkonsistensy iz meerly a mezher ov ekonomy. Our fool noetaeshon for dhe vouel in high iz ie; but when dhe sound okurz befor anudher vouel, it iz posibl to drop dhe e widhout kreaeting eny ambigueity; whaerfor we rekomend dhat it shood be dun. But it wood not be inkorekt to riet trieal; it iz simply a kwestyon ov konveenyens."

"Then, again, you keep the final y in adverbs, etc., but you also use y, as in the current spelling, for the consonant sound in yet, young, etc. I thought each symbol was to have only one function."

Kurrent Uezej.

"Dhat iz, if U liek, a week point - a konseshon to kurrent uezej. But it kreaets noe praktikal difikulty; and U ar aulwaez at liberty, if U prefur it, to riet liberti, difikulti, oenli."

"Uezej! There's a pretty word to ask a civilised man to write! It doesn't look like a European word at all. And then it obscures the derivation! Who would ever think of connecting uezej with the Latin uti?"

"Hou meny peepl huu riet usage think ov konekting it widh uti? Noe wun ever lurnt dhat konekshon from dhe meer look ov dhe wurd. It haz to be taut befor it iz noen, and it kan az eezily be taut widh uezej az widh usage. But agaen U hav poot uer fingger on a difikult point. Dhe uez - iz aul plaen saeling; but dhe - ej iz a diferent mater. Duu we realy sae uezej? Iz it not raadher uezij dhat moest ov us sae? And duu not speshaly kaerfool speekerz sae uezaej? Dhis kwestyon ov hou to treet dhe unstrest, or obskuer, vouelz iz a point on which dhaer wil be much diferens ov opinyon. I pursonaly faevor treeting dhem. in akordans widh kaerfool, or whot mae be kauld 'platform' pronunsyaeshon. But I doen't pretend to speek for mie koleegz."

"Another question - what is the matter with c? I see you write koleeg. Why not coleeg?"

" Dhe hoel kwestyon ov c and k iz a difikult wun. It mae be sed on dhe wun hand dhat k iz unmistaekabl. It mae be argued on dhe udher hand dhat it wood be aukward to spel aul dhe Latin wurdz begining in con-, contra-, ets., widh k. If c wer to be uezd in such a wurd az concur, we shood aulsoe hav to uez it befor e and i, in such wurdz az cee, cing. Sum peepl think dhis wood kauz dffikulty, but it must be rememberd dhat whot seemz difikult for us wood not be difikult to a jeneraeshon which had never asoeshyaeted dhe leter c widh dhe sound ov s. We hav tested boeth c and k egzaustivly, and our prezent vue iz dhat k iz dhe beter - dhoe admitedly dhaer iz not much to chuuz between dhem. Heer agaen dhe vox populi mae in dhe end desied which iz to be choezen. It iz aul a kwestyon ov siekolojy - or, az dhe profesorz sae, psiekolojy."

"Well, I fancy you will hear plenty of vox Populi when you launch a campaign in favour of your system, and in no very complimentary terms."

"We ar kwiet prepaerd for dhat. We noe we hav a long fiet befor us. But we taek our stand on komon sens, uetility, and dhe saeving ov at leest a yeer ov eduekaeshon-tiem to aul kuming jeneraeshonz ov Inglish-speeking children."

Tiem-saeving and Lief-saeving.

"A year, you say? But in one of your leaflets I find Max Müller declaring that three years would be saved. Are you climbing down from that position?"

"Pursonaly, I hav never kliemd up to it. I beleev three yeerz to be an egzajeraeshon. Dhe pasej we kwoet from Max Müller iz admirabl in udher respekts, and ov kors we ar not free to aulter it in eny wae. But taeking wun chield widh anudher, wun yeer seemz to be a purfektly saef averej estimet. Dhaer ar, ov kors, graet diferensez in children. Dhoez huu kum from eduekaeted hoemz, and hav been braut up amung books, hav komparrativly litl difikulty in lurning to spel, espeshaly if dhae hapen to pozes a kwik vizueal memory, which enaeblz dhem to lurn bie ie insted ov bie eer. But eeven dhae waest a good deel ov tiem on dhe hoelly uneduekaetiv and urksum wurk ov memoriezing dhe kaos ov anomaliz which we kaul 'korekt speling.' For mie oen part, I remember purfektly dhe mizeriz ov dhe detested 'diktaeshon leson.' And it iz not dhe children ov whot mae be kauld dhe literary klaasez huum we hav maenly in miend. It iz dhe children ov dhe puur - dhe milyonz ov dhe elementary skuulz - huuz mental efishensy iz seeryusly impaerd bie dhaer having to devoet to a subjekt ov puerly konvenshonal importans soe much ov dhaer skanty skuul-tiem. Remember tiem iz not oenly muny - it iz lief."

"But isn't the learning of spelling a good mental discipline? The child who has never to 'break his mind' on anything difficult will not be good for much in later life."

"Aul eduekaetorz ar agreed dhat dhe soe-kauld 'disiplin' ov lurning to spel iz not oenly wurthles, but harmfool. Dhe graet objekt ov eduekaeshon (on dhe intelektueal sied) iz to teech dhe chield to uez hiz reezon; but in lurning speling he haz to hoeld hiz reezon in abaäns, for it iz flouted at evry step. Az for 'braeking hiz miend,' az U sae, ar dhaer not plenty ov uesfool and rashonal subjekts which aford ampl oportuenity for mental jimnastiks? Haz it ever okurd to U dhat much ov dhe efishensy ov dhe Jurman sistem ov eduekaeshon mae be due to dhe fakt dhat Jurman speling iz simpl and rashonal? I hav not dhe leest dout dhat, az a naeshon, we sufer kwiet apreeshyably from dhis handikap."

Dhe "Homofoen" Arguement.

"A little way back I noticed that you spelt waste waest. Do you not anticipate difficulty from obliterating the distinctions which our spelling enables us to make between words of the same sound but different meanings?"

"Did waest giv U eny trubl? U nue at wuns from dhe kontekst whot wurd I ment. We noe bie ekspeeryens hou very raerly dhe iedentikl sound ov tuu diferent wurdz kauzez eny misunderstanding in dhe spoeken langgwej; and dhe kaesez wood be eekwaly raer in which iedentikal speling led to eny difikulty. In sum kaesez, tuu, rashonal speling enaeblz us to diferenshyaet between vrurdz which, in dhe kurrent speling, kauz konfuezhon. For instans, if I riet "When I read Walter Scott," U kanot tel whedher I intend dhe prezent or dhe paast tens. But if I riet "When I red Walter Scott," dhaer iz noe dout in dhe mater; and U wil skaersly tel me dhat dhaer iz eny posibility ov konfuezing dhat red widh red dhe kulor."

"Absurdity" and "Unkuthnes".

"Well, as you have taken up this fad, you are naturally provided with a stock of ready arguments. But it will be long before you can argue people into the acceptance of such an uncouth method of spelling. Aren't you conscious yourself of its absurdity?"

"Ov its absurdity, noe; ov its unkuuthnes, yes. An absurd thing iz a thing dhat iz ridikuelus bekauz it iz unreezonabl; and in dhat sens it iz dhe tradishonal speling dhat iz absurd. Unkuuth, on dhe udher hand, meenz simply unnoen, unfamilyar; and ov kors, whiel nienty-nien per sent ov dhe mater wun reedz iz in dhe oeld speling, a surten aer ov unfamilyarrity must kling to dhe nue speling. But I ashuur U dhat dhe mor I riet in dhis speling, dhe mor duu I feel dhe real satisfakshon ov uezing a good insted ov a bad instrooment. Az for unkuuthnes, wil U pleez imajin for a moement dhat U had aulwaez been akustomd to riet dhoe, enuf, naebor, frend, siv, peepl, filosofer, and dhat sumwun kaem along and toeld U dhat in fuetuer U must riet though, enough, neighbour, friend, sieve, people, philosopher, - U wood not think dheez formz unkuuth - U wood kwiet justly think dhem monstrus and insaen, tuu ekstravagant to be eeven laafabl."

"Perhaps, perhaps. But look here! I see you write fuetuer. That doesn't strike me as very satisfactory. The first vowel has the sound which according to your system should be written yuu. Why not write it so? And as for the second syllable, I should have thought everybody said it with the same sound as butcher. It seems to me that your system is not only uncouth - it is inconsistent."

"Uer kritisizmz ar surtenly not widhout foundaeshon. In dhe furst plaes our treetment ov dhe ue, oo gruup ov soundz iz perhaps dhe leest satisfaktory part ov our sistem. Ue iz just a konveenyent simplifikaeshon for yuu, which we feel to be raadher kumbrus. We hav tried simplifling it to yu, but dhat givz riez to surten anomaliz in wurdz liek yung. We hav aulsoe tried eu. Our prezent vue iz dhat ue iz dhe best solueshon. Az to uer sekond point, it iz kwiet truu dhat meny peepl sound dhe sekond silabl ov fuetuer liek dhat ov boocher. But dhis iz not evribody'z wae ov speeking; we hav to maek alouansez for Skotish speekerz and udherz huu aulwaez sound dhe turminaeshon -tuer az in oevertuer. Vaeryaeshon in pronunsyaeshon iz a mater to which we hav had to giv konsiderabl atenshon. In eny kaes I shood liek to emfasiez dhat we duu not poot forward dhe skeem az a thing purfekt and unasaelabl. We ar in fakt asaeld on tuu siedz: bie kritiks huu think dhat dhe endz ov simplifikaeshon miet hav been ataend bie les radikal methodz, and bie dhoez huu, in, dhe naem ov fonetik siëns, protest agaenst dhe unsiëntifik naetuer ov sum ov our noetaeshonz."

Dhe Kros-fier ov Kritisizm.

"You are, in fact, pursuing the golden mean, and thus exposing yourselves to a cross-fire from those who think you go too far and from those who are sure you don't go far, enough. What, may I ask, is your defence against these reproaches?"

"Dhe replie to dhe furst iz kwiet simpl. To dhoez huu think dhat a les radikal skeem wood hav sufiest, we sae, 'Produes it! We shal be delieted to see it! But remember: it must realy and substanshaly lieten dhe laebor ov lurning to spel.' We duu not in fakt beleev dhat eny parshal simplifikaeshon, eny skeem dhat duz not asien an invaeryabl noetaeshon to evry rekogniezd sound in dhe langgwej, kan ataen dhe wun end for which we laebor - dhe saeving ov a yeer in evry chield'z eduekaeshon-tiem. Noe simplifikaeshon wil efekt dhat saeving which iz not braud-baest on reezon and konsistensy. At dhe saem tiem, we ar oepen to konvikshon. If eniwun kan produes a skeem which, widhout - goïng outsied dhe prezent alfabet, iz simpler and mor konsistent dhan dhis wun, and at dhe saem tiem not unduely dievurjent from kurrent uezej, we ar kwiet redy to welkum and adopt it."

"For my part, if I believed in simplification at all, I am not sure but that I should cast in my lot with the extremists, and say 'If we are to have reform at all, in heaven's name let it be scientific.'"

"Mae I sujest dhat dhe tiem to taek up dhat atitued wil kum sum yeerz hens, when we hav sukseeded in awaekening dhe publik miend to dhe importans ov dhe problem, and when it bekumz evident dhat sum Guvernment akshon must prezently be taeken? Dhe eduekaeshonal miend iz aulredy awaek, and whot we ar at prezent duing iz to organiez it and suplie it widh adekwet meenz ov ekspreshon. But in order to reech dhe publik miend at larj, we felt it nesesary to furnish ourselvz widh a skeem which ataend dhe graet end ov simplisity, and yet woz not soe uterly regardles ov tradishon az to be inkomprehensibl widhout speshal and faerly ardueus study. A skeem emploiing nue leterz, or invurted leterz, or asiening to familyar leterz entierly unfamilyar valuez, wood hav bafld dhe ordinary reeder soe kompleetly dhat he wood never hav given a sekond glaans to it; and it iz manifestly imposibl to akustom dhe publik ie to a form ov speling which dhe publik woen't eeven look at. Our sistem, on dhe udher hand, fasinaets eeven whiel it shoks. It amuezez peepl to diskuver hou eezily dhae kan reed it. Dhaer iz eeven sumthing peekant in rekogniezing soe redily an oeld frend widh a nue faes. Our graet point for dhe prezent, dhen, iz simply to shaek dhe presteezh ov dhe konvenshonal speling, and akustom peepl to reezon, eeven if dhe partikuelar form ov reezon be kaepabl ov impruuvment in dhe dierekshon ov elegans or siëntifik akuerasy. When wuns dhe publik miend iz prepaerd to aksept reform in prinsipl, and dhe Guvernment iz sturd up to akshon, it iz kleer dhat dhaer wil hav to be sum ofishal enkwiery into dhe best method ov reform. Dhen our sistem wil be poot on trial; and dhen, if I mae sae soe, wil kum uer tiem to ajitaet for a mor siëntifik noetaeshon. Meenwhiel, supoez U eksperiment a litl widh dhe prezent sistem - U wil fiend it astonishingly eezy. Aafter ten minits' study ov dhe skeem az set forth on dhe bak ov dhis litl slip, U wil fiend uerself aebl to riet it widh purfekt fluënsy. Uer oenly difikulty wil ariez, probably, from uer fiending uerself not kwiet shuur whot soundz U aktuealy produes in pronounsing dhis wurd or dhat. U wil be obliejd, in short, to giv sum atenshon to dhe soundz ov dhe Inglish langgwej; and U wil be serpriezd to fiend hou interesting iz dhis neglekted braanch ov uer eduekaeshon."

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