On other pages: part 1, part 2, part 4.

Newsletter July 1983, part 3.


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[See Journal and Newsletter articles by Stanley Gibbs.]

from Mr Stanley Gibbs.

The Way Forward.


During the past few months I hav been reconsidering matters of the Society's policy. Most of our members ar unaware of the occasional murmurs of dissent which arise; dissent with the details of Nue Speling and dissent with the order of the 'stages' of reform which aut to be taken.

It seems to me that after 75 years of existence the SSS should hav a set scheme, and at least some idea of the method of achieving the use of it. At the same time, the Society must show respect for, and allow for the differences of opinion which arise mostly in the conflict between the fonemic considerations and the attractions of present-day usage. All thru my 16 years of membership the following matters of dissent hav repeatedly cropt up:- th v thh and dh; guud food v good fuud; meni v meny; lieon v lion. I propose now that the SSS should show magnanimity to all members by having i) preferred, ii) alternativ spellings.

I am suggesting that the 'preferred' spelling should be dh-th; guud food; meni; lieon. I believ that these spellings ar the result of the rigorous application of the principles under which Nue Speling was created.

Having attempted to solv the Nue Speling problems, I am convinced that an official recognition should be afforded to the several well-thaut-out schemes which hav been sent to us for approval. I am thinking particularly of Walter Gassner's and Axel Wijk's systems, which altho founded on different criteria, ar nevertheless scholarly and soundly constructed schemes.

I make no apology for referring yet again to the American 'Big Four'. These need to be put in order of urgency and importance. My own suggestion for this order is as follows:
1. Spell the short e sound with an e.
2. Respell all the ough and augh words.
3. Drop the final e in words where the resultant spelling becomes fonemic and unambiguous.
4. Replace ph with f where the sound is f.
Nos. 1-3 deal with misleading spellings. No. 4 is easy to operate and brings English into line with other European languages.

Of these reforms No 3 is liabl to cause us most hedaches. Gon, shon, liv, hav ar simpl to understand, but trouble, where, there, please ar rather problematic. However, with the two restrictions being enforced, "Ar the resultant spellings fonemic and unambiguous?" these and other such words could be delt with effectivly.

Provided that we can understand the ramifications of the "Big Four" and solv the problems as they ar seen, we may well prevent nit-picking by our critics.

With a well thaut-out policy and the firm resolv to implement it, we will be able to present our policy to the government when the time is ripe.

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[See Journal and Newsletter articles by Gilbert Rae.]

from Mr Gilbert Rae.

Pronunciation System using Simplified Spelling.


The Penguin English Dictionary 3rd edition, which is the current edition, continues to use a simplified spelling system for making pronunciation clear. Its Pronunciation Guide explains, "A system of phonetic spelling is used which consists of letters and groups of letters, the pronunciation of which is already familiar to the reader." It is in fact a kind of synthetic simplified spelling. Mr. W.S. Aitken M.A. devised and applied this system.

The basic method employed is the 'regularization' method of simplifying spelling extolled by Axel Wijk. It could be called 'Standardization'. Obviously it is a good idea.

It might be asked why the Aitken-Penguin system of phonetic spelling is not used as an alternative English spelling for general use. The answer is that it lacks an important attribute for this purpose. The visual connection between it and the current spelling is often non-existent, because the meanings are different, e.g. 'I' represents I, AYE and EYE; and 'kayk' does not look like CAKE. It destroys the roots by which many people can guess the meaning of words. For pronunciation only, these objections do not exist. It should be mentioned that this dictionary does not give derivations.

Another difficulty would arise if Aitken's phonetic pronunciation were used as an alternative English spelling. He does not make any distinction between words spelt differently, but sounding the same (homophones), e.g. right, wright, rite and write are all RIt. Capital R means that it must be pronounced properly. Capital I means that it must be pronounced as a long vowel. For pronunciation only, this scheme is eminently suitable.

Having given in the Pronunciation Table the various normal sounds of English letters, it is found necessary to follow 'received' pronunciation and complicate matters by adding a modified sound for the letter R, and 11 examples of different vowels when followed by the letter R. This is not simplifying either pronunciation or spelling. It is complicating them both beyond reason. Surely simplification demands pronouncing all the letters as standard in the main part of the Pronunciation table. This is not Mr Aitken's fault of course.

'Received' Pronunciation, or whatever else it may be called, is found in practice to be that given in the four best English dictionaries. It also includes some 'Received Mispronunciation'! For example, 'fuchs-ia', a name given by botanists to a South American plant and flower, is mispronounced "fewsha". Other English dictionaries are slightly more botanical by pronouncing the 'i' in 'fewshia' as they do in 'dahlia' and 'forsythia'. In this example, it must be admitted that 'fewshia' sounds much more plesant than the German original.

Letters E and I when functioning as retroactive accents are a mad idea and should be abolished. Mr Aitken does just that. MADE and MAID for example both become 'mayd'. QUITE becomes 'kwIt'. It is astonishing that there are Englishmen who are unaware that accent-letters exist. When mentioned to one man, he just laughed and laughed. Finally he said, "You can't tell me that letters can be accents". He was then told to look at the words MADE and QUITE, knock off the silent Es and observe the results. Unfortunately one can always find exceptions to every rule in the English language. That's what makes it difficult.

As 'everybody' knows, the letters E and I also act as softening accents with the two consonants C and G (sometimes).
GET (get): Hard G: GILL (gil) breathing organ of a fish.
GEM (jem): Soft G: GILL (jil) ¼ pint of liquid.
Aitken makes the G always hard, and substitutes letter J for soft G. Likewise, he abolishes soft C, replacing it by S, and S is always sibilant, e.g. PLACID becomes 'plasid'. Voiced S is replaced by Z.

These changes must be made before certain other words can be changed, e.g. AGAIN to be pronounced as 'agen' with hard G. In this case Mr Aitken gives the alternative pronunciation as 'agayn'. In short, the functions of E and I as accents must be eliminated.

Mr W.S. Aitken has produced a practical and ingenious pronunciation system, using only the letters of the English alphabet. It is very useful to English people, and fascinating to those who are interested in simplified spelling, revealing phonetic details perhaps not previously appreciated.

Gilbert Rae.

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[See Anthology and Bulletins edited by Newell Tune.]

from Dr. Newell W. Tune.

1. Subsequent steps to SR-1.

I realise that there hav bin some people who disagree about the priorities in SR-x and would prefer that SR-1 be either f for ph or dropping the unnecessary silent terminal e. But Lindgren's SR-1 is alredy fairly well established, so we should not change that. The responses to my questionnaire unanimously agreed upon f for ph as SR-2, and the majority agreed on SR-3 to be dropping the unnecessary silent terminal e when it rongly indicates the previous vowel is sounded long, as in hav, giv, etc. No agreement was possible on subsequent steps.

2. The spelling of th.

A century ago when reformers were not as well informed on fonetics as we are today, they thought that because t and d were cognate pairs, dh would be a good digraf to represent the voiced th-sound, leaving the unvoiced th-sound to be represented by th, but they did no research to see how this would affect the printed page. Dewey showed that the voiced th-sound was 4 times as frequent on the printed page, hence made too meny changes. T and V are also cognate pairs, yet no one has ever suggested that vh would be a satisfactory symbol for either th-sound. Both dh and vh would suggest a rong sound, the kind that teachers want to eradicate from local dialects. Nor is f the same as fh eny more than t is the same as th. A digraf represents a totally different sound than its component letters, viz. c plus h does not hav th sound of ch.

I can see that England has a problem with dialectics as well as we on the East coast and the deep South of U.S.A. I could live with either f or thh, whichever the SSS was able to agree upon. The important point is to come to an agreement on one system to present a united front to enquirers about spelling reform. By accepting thh, the SSS would then be in total agreement with Dewey's World English. Nue Spelling has two bad faults that Americans would not accept. Dewey pointed them out to the SSS on several occasions. That is why the American Society and the SSS parted company. Finally the guud-food symbolisation was accepted but the dh symbol was not discarded, although discredited by Dan Jones, Pitman, Dewey and myself.

References:

Dewey on "The best means of representing the th sounds, and my similar article on this subject. Tune in the Winter 1981 Issue of Spelling Progress Bulletin on SR-2 thru SR-8.

Comment from Valerie Yule:

  I think that research would demonstrate that introducing written distinctions between the two th sounds is unnecessary except for foreigners learning English without oral lessons, and would cause more difficulties for learners and users, not only Welshmen.

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On other pages: part 1, part 2, part 4.