News8. (underlined words and letters are presented as headings or in italics here.)
On other pages: part 1, part 3, part 4, part 5.
Newsletter Summer 1985. part 2.
Professor A C Gimson.
Vice-President of the Society.As many members will know, the Society has lost one of its eminent Vice-Presidents. His colleague, Dr John Wells, Reader in Phonetics at University College London, wrote to the Society telling of the death in his sleep of Professor A C Gimson on 22 April this year. As a successor, both at University College London and in the Society, to the now almost legendary figure of Daniel Jones, Professor Gimson leaves a great gap in both spheres. Members may wish to write of their recollections of him for a future newsletter. An obituary appeared in the Times on 27 April, emphasising his academic distinction particularly in the study of English pronunciation, but alas did not mention his interest in spelling reform. However, his authoritative work, 'An Introduction to the Pronunciation of English', will live on, and through it his knowledge and expertise will continue to benefit the Society: the Society's present Working Party which is revising 'New Spelling' finds itself repeatedly referring to Professor Gimson's work for guidance, and is much indebted to its profound and comprehensive analysis of the spoken language, with all the implications that has for the written form.
Spelling Reform round the World.
'Spelling Action' (Australia).'Spelling Action' (Australia). whose January-March edition is the last to be edited by Harry Lindgren (Garry Jimmieson has now succeeded him), states its aims as follows: 'The acceptance of SR1 and present spellings as alternatives, and no other spelling reform until SR1 is widely accepted. The SR1 rule: The clear short vowel-sound as in bet is written E.' The cover, has a splendid cartoon showing a small schoolgirl stumping her t.o. teacher with the question: 'Well, if S-E-D doesn't spell "said", what does it spell?'
The editorial discusses the 'Great Spelling Debate' triggered off in the Australian 'Sunday Mail' by Bill Herbert (see his letter in the correspondence section of this Newsletter), and shows how two dimensions to the spelling-reform question in Australia have emerged: the first is the argument between supporters and opponents of any kind of spelling reform, and the second is the argument between the SR1 camp represented by 'Spelling Action' and the Herbert camp, which advocates an attack on the GH problem as the first stage.
A substantial article by Professor T R Hofmann from Japan comments sagely on this kind of disagreement: 'We need unity rather than scrappy infighting... If we need a battle-cry, let it be 'Any reform is better than none!'.' He then goes on to make a point about SR1 such as has also been made in England: the regular cutting of A in the large majority of SR1 words which contain the pattern EA=/e/ (e.g. head = hed) constitutes an incontestable and totally rational improvement on t.o.; but the ragbag of other changes included in the SR1 list, such as any=eny, are by no means so easy to accept. (Indeed at the Southampton conference this July Professor Gregersen of New York pointed out that one of them, ate=et, is quite simply wrong for Americans who always pronounce 'ate' as 8.)
Harry Lindgren responds to such objections with his usual rumbustious vigour, which is gratifying to read if one agrees with him, but one does wonder what success this style has in persuading the unconverted...
The Simplified Spelling Society ov Canada.(President Ted Culp, Toronto, Ont., Canada) advocates the following 15 reforms as a Fase 1 measure:
1. The ending -our has been changed to -or: color, labor, rigor.
2. The silent E which comes after a short-vowel sound in the only or last syllable, has been dropped: hav, som, gon, lov, hous, etc.
3. The ending -gue has been changed to -g: catalog, demagog, leeg, etc.
4. The PH (for the F sound) has been changed to F: fantom, falanx, atmosfeer, alfabet, paragraf, fosfor, etc.
5. The last letter of a double consonant (except in: all and -all) has been dropped: gras, glas, staf, wel, wil, til, etc.
6. The A of the digraf EA, when EA sounds like E as in 'let', has been dropped: hed, ded, brest, heven, etc.
7. Th EA digraf which sounds like the long E as in 'feed' has been changed tu EE: each, teech, leed, eest, feest, etc.
8. The A of the digraf -ear-, when -ear- sounds like -er- as in 'term', has been dropped: ern, erth, lern, perl, etc.
9. The word 'ov' replaces 'of', which has been pronounced 'ov' for a long time.
10. The ending -re has been changed to -er: center, theater, liter, meter, specter, etc.
11. The ending -le has been changed to -el: middel, littel, appel, simpel, struggel, etc.
12. The long and final U sound is written as final U in thru, tu, yu, du.
13. The I of the digraf -ir-, when -ir- sounds like -ur- as in 'turn', has been changed to 'u' in the following: gurl, gurdel, burd, furst, burch.
14. The O of the digraf -or-, when -or- sounds like -ur- as in 'turn' has been changed to U: wurd, wurid, wurk, wurship, wurm, etc.
15. The silent B has been dropped in: dum, thum, lam, dout, det, etc.
In 'Speling Magazin' (Sept-Dec 1984),edited by Ken Tillema, Orthografi, Chatham, Ontario, Canada, there is correspondence about simplification of the spelling of numerous medical terms, whose meaning is made all the more elusive for the lay person by their frequently grossly distended and irrational speling. A news item in the Magazin begins:
'De le Inuit et Europen lanques dans Canada, le orthografi de Anglish est trop difficile. Of all Nativ and foren langwajes in Kanada, th speling of Inglish is most difikolt. Le espelant de mots sur papier est non resemblant le entendais son dele mots.And it ends:
Si y (ils) praises U, demand l'gouvernement à institut reform de letrresant pour Français parleurs. If it pleezes yu, ask th Parlement tua institut impruvments for letering out meenings for Canadion speekersThe bulk of 'Speling Magazin' is written in a roughly phonographic system, which does however have the feature of spelling post-accentual shwa + L as OL: edukasionol, prinsipol, unspelabol.
Germany.In Germany the spelling-reform issue has been much more alive in recent years than in the English-speaking world, although paradoxically the spelling of German has a much higher degree of phonographic regularity than English. The problem with German spelling has in fact been quite different from the root problem in English, which is the uncertainty about which letter to use for which sound in which word.
In German, the difficulties arise over certain conventions. When must one write words with capital letters? When they are nouns - but such is the power of German to turn verbs and adjectives into nouns that it is often unclear which words actually are nouns. When must one write a comma? Usually, to separate finite clauses - but again, recognising the appropriate finite clause defeats most people at times. Where must one hyphenate words that have to be split between lines of text? The strict rules differ according to whether a word is of German or foreign origin. And when must one join verbs to associated words to form a compound, and when not? If one joins a noun to a verb, does it cease to be a noun?
A standard orthography came later to German than to English - not until 1862 did the Prussian Ministry of Education insist that schoolchildren should all be taught the same spelling, and Duden produced his first spelling dictionary in 1880. In 1901 a conference at which the Austrians and Swiss were also represented cut the redundant H in words like Thor, Thier, but did not show the Kaiser the disrespect of cutting it in Thron. Since then there have been scarcely any changes - except that 'scales-maker' acquired an extra A (Waagenbauer) to avoid confusion with its homophone 'vehicle-maker' (Wagenbauer).
In the last 20 years the question of the above-mentioned writing conventions has been (off and on) under discussion. Back in 1973 the West German education authorities (in consultation with the other Germanspeaking countries) agreed that capital letters should be reserved for proper nouns and the beginnings of sentences - but neglected to take any steps to ensure their decision was implemented! The prospects now are less bright, as a more conservative (and Conservative) mood has swept West Germany, and the political opposition to change is greater than it was. Internationally, there are gradations of enthusiasm: the GDR in the East is firmly on the side of this reform, Austria is more or less for it, Switzerland is cautiously waiting to see which way the cookie crumbles, while West Germany, on whom it all depends, is at present an obstacle. The great names of the past were always divided on the question too, most notably those fraternal Dr Johnsons of German, the brothers Grimm - Jacob was for the reform, Wilhelm against.
It is estimated that 80% of mistakes in written German come under one of the headings listed above. In June 1984, the Minister of Education for Rhineland Palatinate was interviewed by 'Der Spiegel' news magazine on the subject, and made to write a dictation. Here is how he performed (corrections for his 6 errors are italicized in brackets):
Wir sollten das bislang Erreichte nicht geringschätzen, aber in bezug (Bezug) auf unsere Auslandsaktivitäten wäre es das beste (Beste), die Kooperation mit den Skandinaviern so bald wie möglich wiederaufzunehmen (wieder aufzunehmer). Mit den Schwierigkeiten - sie haben in der letzten Zeit überhandgenommen - wollen wir rasch fertig werden, nicht zuletzt aus Imagegründen.The Minister favours reform.
Vor Verhandlungsbeginn müssen wir uns aber noch darüber klarwerden (klar werden), welche Wünsche und Forderungen von seiten (Seiten) der Gesprächspartner an uns herangetragen werden könnten und inwieweit sie überhaupt Rechtens (rechtens) sind. Von vornherein muß sichergestellt sein, daß sich ein möglicher Kompromiß nicht zuungunsten unseres Unternehmens auswirkt.
Back to the top.
On other pages: part 1, part 3, part 4, part 5.