N2 (Efemeral membership matters have been omitted.)
On another page: part 2.
[Chris Upward: see Journals, Newsletters, Leaflets, Media, Pamflet, Book, Papers.]

Newsletter September 1991, part 1.

from Chris Upward (Editor).

Founded in 1908.
Past Presidents: Walter Skeet, Gilbert Murray, Daniel Jones, Sir James Pitman, John Downing
President: Dr. Donald G Scragg. Vice-Presidents: Professor D. Abercrombie. Lord Simon of Glaisdale.

[Bob Brown: see Journals, Newsletters, Personal View, Pamflet 13.]

Comments received on New Spelling 90.

Introduction by Bob Brown.

The publication in April this year of the new, and slightly revised, summary edition of New Spelling, under the title New Spelling 90, represented a watershed in the Society's publishing history. It demonstrated that our long era of silence in print (apart from Journals and Newsletters) has definitely ended in 1991.

In earlier times the Society was a prolific publisher but New Spelling 90 is the first work of substance on spelling reform to be issued in very many years - probably since 1948 - though it is intended to be only one of three works due this year. The others are Spelling Reform in Context, primarily the scene-setter for those new to the subject, and the long-awaited Handbook and Guide/Dictionary for Cut Spelling.

New Spelling 90 is the latest incarnation of the system of reform spelling first proposed in 1910 and, to stress continuity of that tradition, it was published as No.12 in the Society's general series of pamphlets. [1] It was also latterly the work of one dedicated person, Laurie Fennelly, from whom I took over the role of Secretary earlier this year. Laurie self-effacingly declined to include his name in the booklet, but that is amended, along with some errors of the type that usually creep into producing a book such as this, by an Errata Slip.

The issue of the booklet gave rise to a torrent of correspondence from members now slowed to a trickle but still coming in regularly. Comment and criticism is inevitable in publishing the work such as this, especially in a society which harbours a wide range of opinion on spelling reform and how it could be brought about. The aim of the Society is to encourage debate, so the Committee felt it desirable to publish a cross-section of the comments to the membership at large.

You are welcome to write to the Editor with further comments for a later issue. I hope it will not in the letter-writers complaining that I have misrepresented their original comments here! Some editing has been essential to avoid repetition, and to keep this Newsletter to a sensible size, so I apologise now if I have not done justice to every submission.

If you wish to write to a member whose views are published here, please do so through me. It is not our policy to give members' addresses without permission but I will be pleased to pass on letters.

[1] To confirm the point about our long silence, it is twenty years exactly since Number 11 - a brief history of the Society by Maurice Harrison - was issued.

From Ron Footer, Kent.

  [See Newsletters.]

Many thanks for New Spelling 90. I think it is an excellent publication and it is the way forward. I note that - modestly - Laurie has not included his name in the book.

I believe it would be helpful to include a glossary of NS90 words shown in the book and I have made such a list, copy enclosed...

[Ron then goes on to make many useful suggestions for improving the layout of any subsequent edition.]

From Andrew Brookes, South Yorks.

... The publication was excellently written. With much of the population never having even contemplated the possibility of spelling reform (and thus making the general unaware public the most important target audience) it is vital that the Society's publications be as clear and accessible as possible, and I think NS90 has achieved that aim. NS90 was also important in making sure New Spelling does not slip slowly into oblivion, which would have been a shame...

From Ronald Threadgall, General Secretary, UK ita Federation.

  [See Journals.]

... The system proposed is a great improvement on the original New Spelling. I would like to make some comments in the hope of being helpful, [as someone) involved in teaching literacy through the medium of ita since 1965, particularly with older children and adults ...
1. There is no need to distinguish between the vowel sounds in good and food or between the initial sounds in the and thin.
2. Although it is logical to replace qu and x, it makes reading much more difficult as it alters the shape, of the words...

From Prof. J C Wells, University College, London.

  [See Journals, Media, Web Link.]

... Something has gone slightly wrong on p19 "In words like advise..." The Americans do not spell advise with a z, You ought to use an example like advertise/ize or organise/ize... On p17 I am not enthusiastic about the expression "standard southern English" line 6), still less "Southern English" (line 12). In fact, loss of historical /r/ in nonprevocalic position is more widespread in the north of England than in the south: think of the local accents of Bristol, Exeter or Southampton (all with /r/), as against those of Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle (all without it). What is meant here is Received Pronunciation. If you want to avoid this term, why not "standard English of England".

On p20 "s + consonantal y", the statement needs qualification. Although some say suit with the y-sound (NS "suet") and others without (NS "soot"), nobody pronounces it like shoot, as here implied...

From Stanley Gibbs, Leicester.

  [See Journals, Newsletters, Leaflet.]

Thank you for your patience in listening to my groans about NS90 over the telefone. This letter will be ritten in the medium of the House Style (Stage 1) passed as a Resolution at the AGM of April 1984. Further to this the Gibbs Stage 2 medium will be used... You will redily note that these two Stages together solv completely the short vowel problem except for /u/. All of the ough and augh words are delt with ruthlessly.

I'm afraid that this letter will be less than pleasurabl to study - in fact rather tedious! Will you please note that in eny correspondence concerning the SSS, no matter to hoom I rite, the Society's official Stage 1 is used always. Since I am a practising, convinced spelling reformer I never use TO, which is a national disgrace.

[Stanley then identifies many apparent errors and inconsistencies in the use of the new medium in NS90. A second, much longer letter, identified dozens more.]

From H Cookson, Portugal.

  [See Journal, Newsletters.]

... I have received copies of NS90. Laurie's to be congratulated on having tried to get New Spelling out of the South East English trap but he has not been very successful. Also, more than half the words in The Star are altered in spelling. There is no hope of acceptance, in any of the three forms shown, by the public. Previously we had Upward's "Ban the Bum" campaign; now we have Laurie's nun-starter'!

The first paragraph of The Star needs only a 10% alteration to make it perfectly regular for reading. A total reform for writing - that is, assigning a grapheme to each phoneme - is not possible. There are 39 to 50 phonemes, based on choice of pronunciation. Half of the vowels and dipthongs cannot be changed or only partly because of varying pronunciations. To many millions, cot and caught are homophones, but the same speakers may or may not have the same vowel in gone. Father and gather differ only in the first letter to many millions, and so on...

From Louise Aitken, British Dyslexia Association.

  [See Web link to BDA.]

... We are, most interested in your proposals and wish you every success in your attempts to rationalise the absurd inheritance of the English spelling system. The booklet will go into our resource library.

From Jesse Wilson, Devon.

... I was surprised to find how similar my own system was to yours, although the SSS system was more complete and technical than mine.

The long vowels ending in e cause problems when grouped together, producing words such as paeer, poeet, toeer,fueel. The double ee dominates the words causing other vowels to become obscure. A literate adult would have no problem but for a child who is learning they will be just as perplexing as some of the words we are trying to simplify. The reaction of the general public to these words would be to ridicule them...

I think your booklet explains your system quite clearly. I agree with most of its contents but I think q and x should be retained, perhaps as q without the u - qikis easier than quick. The two sounds of x cannot both be represented with ks .... We do not need rr in error. I enclose a copy of my spelling system.

From Ed Rondthaler, President, American Literacy Council, New York.

  [See Journals, Newsletters, Personal View 8, Anthology, Bulletins, Web link to ALC.]

I want to thank you for New Spelling 90. It's a first rate job and by far the best thing that has come from England since 1955. We're encouraged to find that more than pipe dreams are taking place there. NS90 is filled with evidence of good sound thinking.

[A long section compares and contrasts NS90 treatment of particular phonemes with the ALC approach.]

It may be pure coincidence but on the day I received your pamphlet I was struggling with terminal s for -ce in words like sees, and particularly sins [since] which begins so many sentences. I was encouraged and at the same time sorry to see that the best you have been able to come up with is ss. Bad as that is, we've just about arrived at the same conclusion...

And now we come to the real toughie - the one that I'm sure your committee has its heart set on because it's seen as their one Great Creative Idea: removing y from its traditional role. That would affect 95,020 words in a million - more than one in every line - and the only virtue that we can see is that it shortens many words and helps a few important ones like by and my. We go at it differently. We get major shortening by using the wordsign th for the and terminal long vowel -i and -o (mi, go). Assigning a new job to y is we fear too oddball...

From Pwe-Linn Ling, Ganzhou, China.

... Up to now, sorry to say, the Society hasn't got aware that, apart from some other troubles, both the New and the Cut Spelling wouldn't be received for their lack of spelling rules which is just why the conventional spelling should be reformed.

It's meaningless for anyone to continue with publishing to recommend any spelling system destined to failure. So it's high time for the Society to take such trouble as to send an accessible scholar or two to China to get personal understanding of the CFR spelling system as briefly introduced in the Open Message enclosed [held for possible later publication.


] That system would be apt to be approved after several smooth personal consultations and brought back to England for a naturally receivable reform of the Society... Some delicate knowledge implied in that new spelling system has been discovered at its discoverer's heavy cost and, once lost, wouldn't be able to be captured again.

From Ayb Citron, President, Better Education thru Simplified Spelling, Michigan.

[See Journals, Newsletters, Anthology, Bulletins.]

... [NS90] marks important progress for spelling reform. In general it is a good effort but from my point of view I note an omission and five errors.

The omission is no mention of the names of the people who worked on this pamphlet, or an address where folks can write who hav comments or questions or who want more copies...

The errors (from my point of view) are:
1. I used to use y as long i, but I now use upr cAs letrz as long vowelz. Since y is normally intended as a consonant, we should not confuse the kids by using it as a vowel...
2. I do not see how U can spel pity as piti. The final sound is long e so this cannot he exprest by an i of any kind. It should be pitee.
3. I oppose the use of er to express the final sound in such words as better, collar...
4. I feel the best spelling for was is wz, and wawnt or waunt for want. Wont does not giv the sound of the word as pronounced here.
5. I believe U should adopt the rule - all final vowels are long. Then U could spel lo, blo, tru, su, etc. This is a handy rule.
6. I believe we r betr off if we hold on to hard c.... This means two letrs with the same sound but it givz learners no trubl if it is constant. Also I believe we should hold onto q.
7. We should not junk x.

I have other differences with NS90 but these are the main ones.

From Valerie Yule, Victoria, Australia.

[See Journals, Newsletters, Media, Personal View Anthology, Bulletins, Web links.]

I am glad to have New Spelling 90. I would like to give my comments on reading through quickly because that is how most people will read it first.

1. It is a well set-out, attractive looking booklet. I personally find sans-serif hard to read for material that needs clear thinking, particularly when the line spacing is relatively close, but I know others find it easy.

2. It is essential to have the gist set out clearly, and the back page does that, except for the reference to the obscure vowel and even after reading the relevant pages I am not quite clear about it.

3. Reading quickly, it is not clear which of the three versions of The Star is being recommended. I presume it is the first version.

4. I think my general comments on WES [World English Spelling - US scheme produced after harmonisation with NS in the 1950s and now subsumed into Ed Rondthaler's American Spelling.


] and Nue Speling have been made before. They do not consider the problems of learners sufficiently - that phonemic analysis is actually quite difficult in long words, so that expectation and unusual are easier for them to read and write than ekspektaeshen and unuezhueal.

From Susan Baddeley, Paris.

 [See Journals.]

I received the latest New Spelling booklet and I must say I was rather disappointed - it seems very superficial, and the spirit of it obviously has not progressed since Daniel Jones, etc. Cut Spelling seems to me a much more serious candidate.

From Traugott Rohner, President, Basic English Speling, Illinois.

 [See Journal.]

... BASIC is an educational, not-for-profit organization. I enclose a copy of our booklet, a revised edition of which we are getting ready for publication. I would like to hear from you [with a view to producing] a single system which we could promote everywhere.

Our biggest problem is to create a system that will have the least resistance from the English-speaking world. Thus, it must make the minimum number of changes but those changes must have maximum benefit. As you know, the best system will get nowhere if people won't accept it.

I would like to list a few areas where there might be some sort of compromise:

1. Retain the use of x and qu for the present time. ...
2. Add aa to the alphabet so that the sound can be definitely written...
3. Can we reach a compromise on of which you spell ov but Basic spells uv?
4. I agree, that adding e to spell the long vowel is simple, but there are hundreds of words that spell the long a with ai that perhaps should be retained.
5. We also like y for the long i but prefer to retain it as an ending...
6. You spell was as woz. Is not the a pronounced more like a u?...
7. One of the pillars of Basic is the final e rule, which avoids having to respell thousands of words.

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