News 7. [underlined words and letters in the original are here presented as headings or in italics .]
On other pages: part 1, part 2, part 4.

NEWSLETTER. FEBRUARY 1985, part 3.

Section Four.


See Journal and Newsletter articles by Gilbert Rae.

The following articl was ritten in 1981 by Committee Member Gilbert Rae (London) He has revised his idea on I and Y in 1985. It will be interesting to compare this with the Working Party's conclusions in 1985. There is so much agreement among reformers and the same difficult decisions to make about words like "ought".

M. Cross

PHONETIC SIMPLIFICATION OF ENGLISH SPELLING
by Gilbert Rae.


When Dr Johnson's dictionary was published in 1755, he must have given up all hope of English spelling ever again being so near to phonetic simplicity as it once had been. There were too many immigrant words from other countries. It is obvious however, that he was revealing his subconscious belief in the advantage of a phonetic language, when he said "The best spoken English, as a general rule, is that which deviates least from the written word".

For the benefit of newcomers to this subject, it should be explained that a phonetic language has one letter to one sound. Learn the sounds of the letters and, hey presto, one can read! What could be simpler? English however cannot be converted to fully phonetic at a stroke, but it can be improved a certain amount, with the material we already have.

People who see English written phonetically for the first time, imagine it is something very difficult. The contrary is the truth. With a little practice, one finds that one forgets the old illogical spelling which one has been using for many years, and can only remember the new phonetic spelling!

There is one large obstacle to changing the spelling. It is not possible to change all books overnight. Nor is it possible for all the people to change overnight, and some may not want to change at all. There will be millions of books in the old spelling which will not be replaced or discarded for a long time to come. The old and new spelling must therefore exist together for years, and spelling of many words will be "permissive". It will be necessary to keep a certain similarity between old and new. This has been done in the present scheme. The key word is RECOGNITION. Apart from that, the scheme is confined to putting our house in order. For example, surely there should have been one letter "t" dropped from putting, without anyone needing permission to do so. "Putting" should belong to golf only.

The first stage of this scheme is really to make some preliminary moves to facilitate the change.

1..All schools to teach English Phonetics for reading, so far as is possible.

2..A system of accents to be used initially in teaching reading and pronunciation.
This removes the need for guessing sounds, and without having to unlearn anything later.
3..Convert all PH pronounced as F, into F.
Apart from words throughout the dictionary being affected, there are more than 600 words with initial Ph to be transplanted to F. This is a trial run for this kind of conversion.
4..Convert all words embodying 'ough' and 'augh' into something more rational phonetically.
These words have been screaming for rationalisation for years. This is a trial run for an isolated group conversion.

(doh)
dough etc.
though etc

through etc.

bough
nought
drought

ought
bought
brought
fought
sought
wrought

cough
trough

rough
tough
NEW
(doh)
doah
tho

thru

bowh
nowt
drowt

oht
boht
broht
foht
soht
wroht

kof
trof

ruf
tuf

draught
laugh
laughter

slaughter
aught
caught
fraught
naught
daughter
taught
(taut)
NEW
draft
laaf (2nd 'a' can be)
laafter (dropped later)

slauhter
auht
kauht
frauht
nauht
dauhter
tauht
(taut)

Silent letters are retained for recognition purposes and modification of vowels.

All suggestions would be discussed and tested by the Simplified Spelling Society before being adopted. Even if the experiment stopped at this point, Britain would benefit. A greater ease in reading and Pronunciation should result. An adhesive label for one's notepaper could be issued, and in the following stages, a leaflet would be issued in conjunction with the publishers of dictionaries.

So far there is not likely to be opposition to this kind of simplification. In fact the dropping of silent letters could be encouraged. However, it is proposed to tidy our phonetic house further, and for recognition of visual relationship, either silent letters should have been dropped in the old spelling or we must wait till the new is established before doing so. Of course, like everything else in English there are exceptions to the rule. The word 'program' was creeping into Britain in 1920 thanks to the American movies, but since the talkies arrived it has been going out again. On its own merits, 'program' is better than 'programme'. The visual relationship is clear. It is unlikely to be changed in any way, and can not be pronounced wrongly, so 'program' could be adopted immediately.

Further stages of simplification could meet with opposition, but with the passage of time, the government, the Education Authorities, School Examiners, Private Employers, and Public Employers, could see the advantages of the stage which had been reached. They might even enjoy Permissive English as much as Franglais! Cooperation with the publishers of dictionaries will be essential. Since they would get increased trade, it is probable that they would look on simplified spelling favourably.



An outline of the 2nd stage can now be given. It consists in ending the use of hard C, and Q.

1..Hard C should be replaced by K. e.g. kleen kollar akt.

2..Q should be replaced by K.
..QU, when U is sounded, should be replaced by KW. e.g. KWIK KWEEN
The rule, with the usual exceptions, is that W is not in general, stressed. This seems to be the only reason for continuing to use letter W.
..Silent 'tails' as in antique, must be dropped when Q is replaced by K. Thus: ANTIK

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Greek K. It could be an improvement if all Greek words which have been latinised in spelling, were converted again to the original Greek. This would be a matter for the Simplified Spelling Society of course. Example: Encephalitis should be enkefalitis.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Soft C to become S or SS?
In many cases this would be satisfactory, but what about CELL, MICE, & SCIENCE? SELL, MYSE and SYENSSE do not seem useful. In special cases use SC - SCELL, MYSCE and SCYENSCE?
A solution to this is still being sought.
CH as in loch is easily solved. Change it to LOKH.
CH as in MUCH - remains as it is now.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

This stage is labelled Stage 3, but in working it out practically, the stages are likely to have their numbers altered, if not their content.
Soft G to be replaced by J
George would become Jeorje or Jorj.
Gem would become jem, and gist would become jist.
Against the old rules, G in GET and GIRL is hard,
but in the new phonetic ruleg is always hard.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

This is stage 4 and is kept separate as it is the only alteration made to English vowel usage.
I and Y - New Rules.
To have one vowel with three pronunciations is ridiculous.
To have a second vowel with almost the same three pronunciations is mad! The two vowels are I and Y.
The 2 short vowels are given in.. Whisky
The 2 long vowels are given in ... Fine Sky

For the most part .... the French I = EE English. e.g. Machine, Prestige, Antique.
It is nearly always foreign words which use ... Y French = EE Engl.

The new rules demand that
English I be always short: Whĭskĭ
English Y be always long: Fyne Sky.
The French sounds can remain as now, or if desired they can be changed to the English EE,or a Single E with the long accent.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Y as a consonant is the only other sound attached to Y.
It remains unchanged. The consonant is easily recognised by always being followed by one or more vowels, e.g. YE YEAR and YIELD. It is pronounced as a French Y (=Eng.EE) but muted. This mute makes it a genuine consonant. The vowel following is always stressed.

It may be observed that new uses of old symbols can cause confusion, unless diacritic marking is used. With the new rules then short i may have to carry two dots or some other mark. There is no long i. Long Y can have the traditional long vowel mark. There is no short Y in the new rules. The French I and Y do not need an accent but, for clarity, can carry any suitable symbol as accent e.g. the equal sign machīne marīne.

This particular spelling reform seems easy to perform in some respects. People have been using it with nouns and without accents since 1914, and probably before that. Possibly the I & Y reform could have been a first stage reform!

The simplified spellings considered here are enough to employ one's interest for a long time. In a future second section there are many more - most of the vowels, sounds which have become attached to the wrong letters e.g. A and O, other irregularities, and all the odds and ends of spelling and pronunciation to rectify.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

For the final stage, the remaining letters which have become attached to wrong basic sounds are A and O. These must be regularized. Then there are S and Z, whose duties overlap now and again, and X = KS or GZ in a similar position. W and U also overlap. Finally there is E which sticks to its own sounds but likes other vowels to accompany it.

1..A pronounced as O.
It is possible to write "all" as AULL (already there is the word "awl"). Preferably AU should have been as in German HAUS sounded as in "house". It would also be practical to write "all" as OAL or simply as OLL. Another suggestion is for the public to pronounce A as A (short).

It is necessary here to give the three sounds of U.
Short U sound is explosive as in FUN, BUN, GUN.
Long U sound as in PULL, FULL.
Diphthong U as in MULE, PURE. As if written MIULE, PIURE. Most dictionaries give this diphthong as long U.

2..Short O is correct as O in OR.
Long O is correct as in ORE
Short O can be explosive, sounding same as short U in SUN, SON. Should pronunciation not revert to natural short O, it could be marked with a stress-mark •sŭn.
There are many irregular, odd, unique illogical sounds:-

do
to
too
*Two
tow
(toe)
NEW
du
tu
tuu
tuo
towe
(toe)

flood
floor
food


tomb
comb
women
woman
done

One
once

* Only Scots pronounce 'two' correctly.

The above could be simplified or regularized at any suitable time.

3..S and Z do not need to be changed for the time being. For the most part, pronunciation is automatic. With an aspirate or unvoiced letter on either side of S, the S is sibilant. With voiced letter on either side it is sounded as Z. There are exceptions.

4..X = KS or GZ for the most part follows a rule similar to that for S and Z. As an initial letter X is usually pronounced as Z.

5..U and W overlap. Few should be pronounced FEEU. FEU is correct. Language should be langwage Quick - qwick. Etc.

This is really the end of this scheme. It is intended only as an effort to produce a start in simplifying spelling. To stop at any stage however would not mean wasted effort, but it would be regretted if the scheme was not completed. There is much to be simplified after that too. So far, only large scale accepted irregularities of single letter pronunciation have been dealt with here. Two ways of spelling one sound, means one spelling is regarded as irregular.

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