News5. (underlined words and letters are presented as headings or in italics here.)
On other pages: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 5.

News. July 1984, part 4.

[John Beech: see Journals, Bulletins.]

Part of a letter written by John Beech to the Editor on June 15th 1984.

Psychology Department,
New University of Ulster,

In 1983 I described an experiment on university students in which I gave them concentrated practice in learning "Regular Spelling". This is a spelling system I devised which, if adopted, would change an average 3 words in every ten of traditionally spelt English. A central criterion in this system is the adoption of the most frequent spelling rule for a particular word position. Of course, students were slow at reading the text to begin with. Eventually however, after reading about 6000 words of a novel, on average, they were reading at their normal rate when reading text in traditional spelling. I even found that the typist, typing up the materials, reverted to her normal typing speed when typing in Regular Spelling! By contrast, when trying to read in the World English Spelling System, which is a phonetically based spelling system, students were still reading at about half their normal rate after 6000 words. The typist was slower at typing the text in WES as well.

More recently, I have a paper coming out in the Spelling Progress Quarterly, describing how students get on learning to write in Regular Spelling. The experiment was broken into 6 trials in which students wrote out 50-word passages of normal text into Regular Speling. On the first trial, subjects were over twice as slow as their normal writing speed, but they improved to 176% of writing speed by the sixth trial. Spelling accuracy was about 80% of normal. The results indicated that writing in Regular Spelling is going to take longer to learn. I have also shown (Beech and Black, 1984) that poor spellers take longer to learn new spellings.

My conclusions were as follows:
"... there is a triumvirate of major criteria that have to be satisfied by any spelling system that takes the place of normal spelling. These are in order of importance:
(a) That it makes learning to read for children, substantially easier.
(b) That adults can adapt to read in it within a fairly short period of time.
(c) That adults can learn to write in the system.
The present paper has addressed criterion (c). It has been shown that writing in Regular Spelling will take a period of adjustment which will be at least longer than one - three - or four-hour intensive sessions. It has already been shown that as far as criterion (b) is concerned, it takes a fairly short period to adapt to reading in Regular Spelling. The major criterion (a), that is, that children find it substantially easier to read in, has yet to be tested. Intuitively, they should learn to read faster in the medium."

I end my paper by inviting any teacher who is interested to do an experiment on (a) with me, to get in contact. For instance, if someone is using the "Breakthrough" scheme, this could be adapted to Regular Spelling.

Best wishes,
John Beech.


Beech, J.R. (1980) Some proposed principles for simplifying English orthography. Spelling Progress Bulletin, 20, 7-13.

Beech, J.R. (1983) The effects of spelling change on the adult reader. Spelling Progress Bulletin, 13, 1 1 -1 B. Also in: Resource in Education, Apr. '82.

Beech, J.R. (in press) Experiments on spelling reform: the writing problem. Spelling Progress Quarterly.

Beech, J.R. and Black, C. ( 1984) Cognitive and personality factors in the spelling of adults. Spelling Progress Quarterly, 1, 3-6.

From the Editor:

I hope a teacher will accept the invitation expressed in the last paragraph.
M. C.

[Chris Upward: see Journals, Newsletters, Leaflets, Media, Pamflet, Book, Papers.]

Th Shortr th Sweetr?

by Christopher Upward, Department of Modern Languages, University of Aston in Birmingham.

This description of a spelling reform by radical omission of redundant letters also illustrates the system by using it. It should be judged not merely by its logic and consistency, but by how easy it is to read. You are therefore urged to try and read fluently, and not let yourself be distracted by unfamiliar spellings.

1. Reform by omisn.
Valerie Yules experimnts (New Sientist 9.12.82) shoing how her shortnd spelings ment fastr reading made me wondr just how radicl a shortning of English speling is posbl. For if she can rase reading-eficncy so much by a 5% cut in traditnl orthografy (t.o.), maybe a larger reductn wud rase it even mor. Furthrmor, if u use fewr letrs, u obviusly save time, space and materils wen riting. So I experimentd with maximm omisns, and hav tentativly arived at th systm u se here. Th ful words in this paragraf contain 471 letrs, wereas t.o. wud use 540, or 14.65% mor.

2. Acceptbility of reform by omisn.
Valerie Yules basic rule, wich is to omit redundnt letrs, has gret practicl advantages over many othr speling-reform scemes. It is very simpl to aply, unlike systmatic fonetic reforms (one only has to ask oneself wen riting "wich letrs ar not soundd?"); and by keeping th familir, fonetic skeletn of letrs in each word, it minimises th brek between old and new, and shud ensure that peple educated in t.o. cud use th new systm with litl instructn, wile those educated in th new systm cud stil read t.o. And abov al: it largely includes th Simplifyd Speling Societys curnt proposals.

3. An overal concept.
If reform is to be not just a foneticns hoby, but a serius atemt to improve a basic tool of daily life, then as wel as letr-by-letr analysis of words, clear overal objectivs ar needd, such as: to make th systm as esy as posbl to lern, to read and to rite; to make script as economicl as is convenint; and to base th systm on a few simpl rules to gide th lernr and asist th user. This systm of radicl omisns is based on such rules.

4. Sound and script.
One principl must concern th relatnship between sound and script. Peple ofn asume that becaus letrs represent sounds, speling must represent pronunciatn as closely as posibl. But varius reform-proposals based on this idea faild becaus they changed th speling of most words, and becaus our Roman alfabet is too crude for exact fonetic representatn. We shudnt think of script as a sound-recording systm, but as a medium for representing words so that they can be recognised ('red'). Its method is that of aproximat sound-letr corespondnce, wich is in fact qite cumbrsm, so that we ofn resort to numerls, symbls and abreviatns, '1984', '%' and 'USA' being handir than their ful alfabetic countrparts. Th snag with such devices is that, like Chinese caractrs, they hav to be lernt individuly, whereas alfabetic letrs constitute a smal, qikly lernt systm, wich sugests th sounds of words, hos spelng neednt individuly memrised. Th best alfabetic riting-systm wil be clear and economicl; t.o. is neithr, being befogd with inconsistncis and extravagnt with letrs. A thorogoing reform by omisn removes many inconsistncis and is by definitn mor economicl. In such a sceme, letrs wil as a rule represent sounds, but that dosnt mean that evry slihtst sound must be representd by a letr.

5. Exeptns to th rule?
Shud there be exeptns to th omisn of al foneticly redundnt letrs? With a few comn words there is a danger of confusn from homografs, especly wen they ar difrntly pronounced (heterofones). One miht therefor prefer to keep 'two' and 'too' (tho not necesrly 'toe' and 'tow') distinct from 'to'; 'one' distinct from 'on' (Russell Hoban in his novl "Riddley Walker" rites even non-numericl 'one' as '1', thus 'any1', 'evry1'); 'four' distinct from 'for'; and 'off' distinct from 'of' (th speling "ov" wud involv a changed letr, not omisn, and therefor dosnt com within this systm). With les comn words, especly difrnt parts of speech, th advantage of concise, fonetic speling may outwei th danger of confusn. Admitdly one can invent ambiguus sentnces ("th heroin finishd th heroin"), but in th unlikely event of them arising in real life, th context wud clarify th meaning. One miht also argu that new homografs shud be alowd, provided they ar not heterofones, since, if we dont confuse them wen we hear them, we shant do so wen we read them. But heterofones shud be speld difrntly, and indeed by omiting letrs one can distinguish.pairs like liv/live, presnt/present, bo/bow.

6. Silent letrs.
So, wat kinds of omisn ar feasbl? Th most obvius is th one that evry speling-reformr sezes on: silent letrs. This categry is centrl to Valerie Yules systm, as wel as to th Big Four proposals (th substitutn of F for PH and GH gos furthr than simpl omisn, but is desirabl becaus it also shortns speling). Th foloing exampls ilustrate patrns of omisn for silent use of 18 letrs:
A bred, ern, beuty, brethe; B det, thum; C asend, sythe, adolesnt, disern; D Wensday; E ar, hav, hart, articl, theatr, edg, definit, imaculat, twelv, bor, imagin, infinitiv; F hapeny; G flem, nome, foren, campain; H onest, rym, exaust, sheprd, Birmingm, scool, wich, gost; I seze, hefr, frend; K nife; L cud, samn; N condem; O colnel, leprd, peple; P seudo, syco-, receit, atemt, cubrd; S iland; T fech, wisl; U qite, bild; W rona, ansr.
7. No dubld consonnts.
A secnd large categry of omisns is based on an eqaly simpl principl: consonnts ar nevr dubld (exept posbly 'off'). I here giv th simplifyd form of som comn patrns of consonnts dubld in t.o. (16 consonnts):
BB eb rubr abreviate; CC/CK dok, pikl, aclaim (but 'accept'); DD od padl adict; FF snif bail aford; GG eg dagr agravate; (JJ=)DJ ajust ajectiv; LL bel folo milr aleviate; MM hamr imediat; NN in winr anul; PP hapn apl aply; (QQ=)CQ aqit aqire; RR er wory iradiate; SS fus tasl asembl; TT butr atemt; (XX=)XC exept; ZZ buz, puzl.
There ar thre main reasns for nevr dubling consonnts.
1. T.o. is so inconsistnt in its use of singl and dubl consonnts that speling mistakes inevitbly abound ('acomodatn' must be spelt rong mor ofn than riht in t.o.).

2. English fonology sugests a major ratnlisatn of speling on this point: at least 2/3 of th vowl-sounds in a typicl pece of English ar short, so simpl economy sugests th rule that al vowl-letrs be presumed to represent a short sound, unles othrwise indicated. T.o. ofn dubls consonnts to indicate a short preceding vowl ('catty', 'jetty', 'bitty', 'knotty', 'nutty'): these ar then al simplifid to conform with th existing t.o. form 'pity'. Th resulting gains in regularity and brevity gretly outwei th conseqent los of certn distinctns, such as between voiced S and unvoiced SS (tho t.o. aplis this distinctn so eraticly, as in words like 'a house', 'houses', 'to house', 'horses', 'advise', 'practise' and 'possess', that one may positivly welcom bringing S into line with TH, wich dosnt distinguish voiced and unvoiced pronunciatns - compare 'thy' and 'thigh'). But one wud hav to rite "hopeing" to distinguish it from th -ing form of "to hop".

3. Th third reasn for baning dubld consonnts is that it opens th way for an atak on one of th gretest problms of t.o., th representatn of shwa, that indeterminat vowl-sound wich is so very comn in English but laks a letr to represent it consistntly in riting.
8. Shwa.

Most English speakrs pronounce th final sylabl in th folowing grups of words with an identicl shwa vowl:
1. burglar lecturer error neighbour martyr centre lecture
2. consonant different
3. radical article novel fossil petrol useful
4. curtain hidden raisin common caution
5. madam system fathom maximum opossum spasm.
Th fact that no two words from each grup use th same vowl-letr to represent th shwa shos wy th sound is so prone to mispeling. But th last exampl, spasm, sugests a solutn: it makes no atemt to spel th shwa - yet there is no danger of mispronunciatn. If we aply this patrn to th othr words abov and omit th vowl-letr from th last sylabl, at a stroke we substitute regularity for disordr. Th asteriskd words sho wy th ban on dubld consonnts was a prereqisit for this categry of omisn.
1. burglr lectrr* err* nehbr martr centr lectr
2. consonnt* difrnt
3. radicl articl novl fosl petrl usefl
4. curtn hidn raisn comn cautn
5. madm systm fathm maximm* oposm spasm
9. Sufixs and inflectns.
In al these words, th shwa ocurs in a trailing sylabl aftr th main stres. Such trailing sylabls not merely receve least emfasis in speech, but also atract les atentn in reading than do th beginings of words. Many words end in a comn sufix, or in a standrd inflectn to a verb, noun, or ajectiv, and such endings can ofn be reduced to a formula hos primary purpos is brevity and regularity rathr than comprehensiv representatn of sound. Th sufixs -ABLE and -IBLE can be homogenised to -BL, and -ANCE and -ENCE to -NCE; verbs can form their past tenss with -D, not -ED, and their third persn singulr presnt with -S, not -ES, as can nouns their plurals; and th comparativ and superlativ inflectns of ajectivs can,be -R and -ST. Again, th non-dubling of consonnts is a prereqisit for these forms, so that 'add' is unambiguusly th past tens of 'to ad', 'hiss' th third persn presnt of 'to his', 'mass' th plural of 'mas', and 'loosst' th superlativ of 'loos'. One can argu about th fonetic status of th shwa, but th gain in regularity and brevity compensates for som los of fine fonetic detail.

10. Conclusn.
In aditn to th main, intrlinkd patrns of omisn described abov, readrs wil hav noticed othrs in th cors of this articl wich there has not been space to discus. I hav not tryd to giv an exaustiv acount of eithr th detaild operatn or th wider implicatns of th systm, but to outline its basic principls and ilustrate how it cud work. I hope readrs wil feel that, even if its apearnce was new to them, it was much les dificlt to read than a strictly fonetic aproach - and that it has othr major actul or potentl advantages too. Abov al, anyone can try it out without detaild noledg of orthografic theory or fonetics. From my own experince I can say it is wel worth th litle efrt it takes to lern for th savings made in time and space (and hence, in principle mony). So let me close with a slogan:


CU 29.5.84.


Edgar A. Gregersen, New York, U.S.A.

'Reformers who assign [the first sound in thy, as opposed to the first sound in thigh] a special spelling ought not to be in a simplified but in a complicated spelling society.'

So rites Richard Lung in a recent SSS newsletter (1983 p.11). His logic probably echoes that ov the members ov the society who decided in 1971 to abandon the established SSS distinction between th and dh, and to rite both as th.

Since θ and ð ar not used to distinguish meny words (tecnically they hav a low 'functional load'), and since traditional Inglish spelling does not regularly distinguish the two sounds, there is something to be sed for the decision.

But not much.

It is true that no special form normally ocurs for ð in the traditional spellings but it is not always spelt th. Sometimes dh actually occurs. The name ov the letter ð used in older Inglish and in modern phonetics is ritten edh. In foren words from modern Greek and Arabic, dh is regularly used to indicate ð (eg dhimotik7iacute;; dhal, Dhu'l-Hijja) and has officially bin adopted in place names by the Royal Geographical Society (Ródhos, Levádhia; Riyadh, Dhahrah, Hadhramawt). In words from Welsh, it is ritten dd, eg eisteddfod. All these forms ar admittedly few in number but they exist. (Intrestingly, dh with the value ð ocurs in the oficial orthografies ov Albanian and Swahili.) Inglish-speaking people ar in meny instances familiar with this use of dh from the pronunciation guide used by Fowler in Modern English usage and varius dictionaries published by Oxford University Press.

Whot is more important is that for ordinary English, whenever two words differ only with regard to θ/ð, they ar virtually always spelt difrently in some other way, thus thy - thigh, sheath - sheathe, wreath - wreathe and either - ether (for those who pronounce the ei- and e- alike). I know ov only 2 exceptions: mouth (noun with θ, verb ð) and south (same pattern), where the verb forms - with ð - ar rare.

Once the other peculiarities ov spelling ar given up, all these words would be ritten alike. This is certainly in violation ov all recognized goals in rational spelling. There are no reputable linguists who do not list θ and ð as separate and fundamental items in the Inglish sound system - including Chomsky and Halle in their Sound pattern of English (p.223).

Recently, Valerie Yule has sed (Newsletter July '83) that 'introducing ritten distinctions between the two th sounds is unnecessary except for foreigners learning English without oral lessons...' (p. 13).

But if the distinction is not observd in riting, the SSS can no longer claim -- as it does in the introduction to one ov its publications (A spesimen ov nue speling) - that it wil 'prezurv dhe puerity ov our spoeken langgwej' and that it wil help foreners to speak Inglish 'az it shood be spoeken and not az dhe oeld speling misleedz dhem'. In my experience, enyone who lerns a new word from the printed page is liabl to use untraditional spellings. And I'm not only referring to foreners, like the older educated Germans who could be herd saying faθer for father because th spellings were formerly always taut as θ in German schools.

No. Problems exist even for nativ speakers. At present, when nativ speakers confront a new word with ritten th, they might decide it has ð in the midl ov a word because it sounds evryday like father, northern, or that it has ð because it comes across as vaguely lerned, like author, simpathy. But there is no hard and fast rule. The word logarithm, which puristically should have θ and which the OED givs with only that pronunciation, is listed in Jone's EPD with both θ and ð, ð being the more usual. In America, a pronunciation with θ almost never occurs. Recently, I herd the word smithereens pronounced with θ by an actor on American television.

In the same issue of Newsletter, Newell Tune seems to agree that a distinction should be shown but he is against using dh. He argues that since ð occurs 4 times as frequently as θ, the spelling th should be preserved for ð. He argues that θ should be represented by either fh or thh. These symbols ar acceptabl but I can't see that they ar desirable. For exampl, thh seems to me simply too long and confusing: do we really want to rite aetthh for eighth or withhhoeld for withhold? (- for those who pronounce with as/wiθ/).

Since c, q, and x will not be used in SS (c only in ch) it would make more sense to reassign them than to use fh - as Reg Deans suggests (x), or as is done in Fijian (c). But they together with fh have several drawbacks: (1) they go against international and native conventions; (2) they interfere with the tradition of pronouncing Latin and Greek th as θ.

Tune says that dh would suggest an incorrect sound. Does fh do any better seeing that several dialects in fact pronounce θ as f? He also suggests that since 'a digraf represents a totally different sound than its component letters' using dh is not so reasonabl as its inventors thought. But if th were kept for ð, it would go against the rule that a sound represented by a digraf is voiced or voiceless according to its first letter e.g. sh, zh, kh (as in lokh) - even (historically) ch: a logical parallelism would be destroyed.

Much has been made of how disturbing the use of dh would be because of its frequency on the printed page. Anyone who thinks that any reform is not going to disturb is kidding himself. The very fact that dh occurs in common words suggests that it will probably be easiest ov all the changes to learn.

In short, not riting th and dh separately may cause confusion and will undoubtedly generate untraditional pronunciations. Hardly a simplification in eny profound sense.

If one wer to take the 1971 SSS logic further, one could say that ng and ngg should be colapsd, and also sh and zh. There ar fewer contrasts between these pairs than between th and dh. But why stop here? S and z seldom contrast (almost never initially). Therefore, rite both as s and get rid of z altogether. But why not rite evry consonant as C and evry vowel as V? Even this may not be simpl enúf.

Rite evry word as X.

Lerning to rite would become incredibly simpl. But the riting sistem would be ridiculus.

It is time to go bak to fundamental principls for a decent orthografy: an essential speech sound (foneme) should have a special simbol, and words with difrent pronunciations should be ritten difrently.

So, bring bak dh!

ANOTHER INTERESTING APPROACH to a reformed spelling system.

N C 8 3 is based on a statistical analysis of Inglish. Thus, the sound of 'sh' which occurs commonly in Inglish is represented the single letter x, but the less common sound 'ch' is represented by the digraf tx, and so on; common sounds having a single letter, less common a digraf.

I do not see N C 8 3 as the last word, but I do think it is a new approach which might stimulate fruitful debate.

I also feel that the economy of N C 8 3 would appeal to the printing industry.

Yours sincerely,
Robert Craig, Weston-Super-Mare, Avon. [See Journals, Newsletters.]


Kan ia rimember zat fytful dy, perhapc meni ijrs aghw, huen iu firct bighan tu cqcpekt zat pjpel lybeld as ekcpertc uer not nececyrili infalibel? Hu dqs not nw ov at ljct uqn kyc in his wn famili in huitx uqn doktor rekomended a certin operyxon and anqzer arghiud aghenct it, huail a third cqdxected an entairli diferent procjdiur? Hu has not red ov ze meni-caided dibytc abaut niukljar cyfti, ze ctyt ov zi ekonomi, zi efekt ov pecticaids and yricol cprys and zi influenc ov ryc on intelidxenc? Tu, thrj, faiv and jven mor vius arais in cqtx dibytc, and caientifik cqporters kan bj faund for ol ov zem. Uqn olawct fjils inklaind tu cy, "Zyr ar olawct as meni wpinions as zyr ar caientictc."

c = s
th = the (voiceless)
j = ee
s = z
sh = zh
q = u
z = th (voiced)
gh = g
w = oe
g = ng
i = i, y
u = oo, w
x = sh
o = o, aw
ai = ie
tx = ch
y = ay
au = ow
dx = j

From Raymond Elser of the U.S.A.

He follows Professor Vassylyev of Moscow's reformed spelling.
Eet, dringk, and bi merry, for tomorrow wi diet.

A 6 year oeld girl woz asked vot shi learned in school. "Not inuf. Ie got to goe back again tomorrow."

Back to the top.
On other pages: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 5.