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PV13. TYPES AND MAGNITUDE OF ENGLISH SPELLING PROBLEMS AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCE FOR REFORM by Masha Bell, part 2.

OTHER GOOD CANDIDATES FOR REFORM.

Constant doubling cuts across most consonant phonemes. Apart from the doubling problem, consonants are spelt relatively consistently. Vowel patterns have more exceptions, and 5 vowel phonemes have very large numbers of exceptions. They are listed below.

The EE-sound stands out above the rest. "Consistent spelling of the EE-sound with 'ee'" would eliminate the need to memorise how this sound is spelt in one of 426 words; 125 words spell this sound unambiguously with 'ee' already, but learners get no clue as to which words use this spelling.

The sound also occurs in 57 heterographs (e.g. feet - feat, heel - heal, teem - team). This is far more than for any other sound. Heterographs epitomise English spelling unpredictability and are utterly unnecessary, as our ability to cope with over 1000 heteronyms of the 'bank', 'bar' or 'right' variety clearly show. Nobody is clamouring to have at least 5 different spelling for the 5 meanings of 'bar' (e.g. public bar, bar of soap, iron bar, called to the bar, all bar one).

301 words spell the EE-sound with one of the 5 main divergent graphemes. There are also a few utterly unpredictably ones.

The biggest group is the 136 words on the 'ea' pattern. This pattern is particularly ripe for eliminating because it commonly spells other sounds as well (e.g. head, bear, great).

appeal
beach
beacon
bead
beak
beam
bean
beast
beat
beaver
beneath
bleach
bleak
bleat
breathe
cease
cheap
cheat
clean
colleague
conceal
creak
cream
crease
creature
deal
dean
defeat
disease
dream
each
eager
eagle
ease
east
eat
eaves
feast
feat
flea
gleam
glean
grease
heal
heap
heat
heath
heathen
heave
increase
jeans
knead
lead (vb)
leaf
league
leak
lean
leap
least
leave
meagre
meal
mean
measles
meat
neat
ordeal
peace
peach
peak
peal
peanut
peat
plead
please
pleat
preach
reach
read
reap
reason
release
repeat
retreat
reveal
scream
seal
seam
season
seat
sheaf
sheath
sneak
speak
squeak
squeal
steal
steam
streak
stream
teach
teak
team
tease
treacle
treason
treat
veal
weasel
weave
wheat
wreath
yeast
zeal
pea
plea
sea
tea
guinea-pig
appear
beard
clear
dear
dreary
ear
fear
gear
hear
near
rear
sear
shear
smear
spear
tear*
weary

84 words spell the EE-sound on the 'e-consonant- vowel' pattern.

adhere
adhesive
arena
athlete
cafeteria
cedar
cereal
chameleon
Chinese
comedian
compete
complete
concrete
convene
convenient
decent
demon
equal
era
eve
even
evil
experience
exterior
extreme
female
fever
frequent
genie
genius
here
hero
hyena
imperial
Indonesian
inferior
ingredient
interference
intermediate
Japanese
legal
legion
lenient
lever
material
medium
mere
meteor
metre
millipede
mysterious
obedient
period
persevere
peter
polythene
precede
query
recent
recess
region
scene
scheme
sequence
sequin
series
serum
severe
sincere
species
sphere
stampede
strategic
superior
supreme
swede
tedious
theme
these
torpedo
trapeze
vehicle
Venus
zero

+ ??
theory

31 words use 'ie', 23 'i- cons'nt-vowel' pattern, 12 'ei' and 14 have assorted spellings.
achieve
belief
believe
brief
chief
diesel
field
fiend
fierce
grief
grieve
hygiene
medieval
niece
piece
pier
pierce
priest
relief
relieve
shield
shriek
siege
thief
thieve
tier
wield
yield
cavalier
chandelier
frontier
antique
bikini
fatigue
guillotine
kiosk
kiwi
machine
magazine
margarine
marine
mosquito
pizza
plasticine
police
prestige
ravine
regime
sardine
tangerine
trampoline
trio
unique
vaseline
ceiling
conceit
conceive
deceit
deceive
protein
receipt
receive
seize
sheikh
weir
weird
be
he
me
she
we

key
ski
quay
cathedral
secret
souvenir
people
suite
debris

Only 7 words with the EE-sound are less amenable to reform because of pronunciation differences between different countries: chlorine, geyser, iodine, microfiche, glockenspiel, either, neither.
Two other words - 'theology', 'theatre' - are perhaps best left alone too.

As can be seen in the summary, there are another 4 problems with large numbers of exceptions to learn.
The -er and -en endings, the stressed -er- sound and the long A-sound.

The 75 '-or' endings make good candidates for bringing into line with the '-er' pattern.

actor
advisor
alligator
ambassador
ancestors
anchor
assessor
author
boaconstrictor
calculator
castor
conductor
conveyor
corridor
decorator
demonstrator
director
doctor
editor
elevator
emperor
equator
error
escalator
factor
gladiator
governor
indicator
interior
inventor
investors
junior
juror
legislator
liquor
major
manor
mayor
minor
mirror
monitor
motor
navigator
operator
orator
prior
professor
proprietor
radiator
razor
rector
refrigerator
respirator
rotor
scissors
senator
senior
sensors
spectator
sponsor
successor
superior
supervisor
surveyor
survivor
tailor
tenor
terror
tractor
traitor
solicitor
tutor
victor
visitor
warrior

30 of the 33 '-ar' could also easily be '-er' instead. The last (vulgar) had better not become 'vulger'.
'Sugar' and 'vicar' both have other unpredictable elements in them, apart from their '-ar' endings.

angular
burglar
caterpillar
cellar
circular
collar
dollar
familiar
grammar
jaguar
liar
linear
lunar
muscular
nectar
nuclear
particular
peculiar
pillar
polar
poplar
popular
radar
regular
scholar
secular
similar
sitar
solar
spectacular
sugar
vicar
vulgar

The 18 UK '-our' endings are already spelt '-or' in the US, but should really also have '-er' endings.

armour
behaviour
colour
favour
flavour
glamour
harbour
honour
humour
labour
neighbour
odour
parlour
rumour
saviour
savour
splendour
tumour

7 words with '-re' endings in the UK have already been made more sensible in the US.

centre
theatre
fibre
ogre
metre
kilometre
sabre
(cf.barometer)

3 words have exceptional endings: martyr, jodhpurs, chauffeur.

While the above 134 endings (US 127) which diverge from the more common '-er' pattern could easily be made to conform to it, the 42 '-ure' and 47 '-a' endings seem less amenable to reform.

42 '-ure' endings.

adventure
agriculture
architecture
capture
caricature
conjure
creature
culture
departure
expenditure
exposure
failure
feature
figure
fissure
fracture
furniture
future
gesture
injure
lecture
legislature
leisure
literature
manufacture
measure
miniature
mixture
nature
picture
pleasure
pressure
procedure
puncture
scripture
signature
structure
temperature
torture
treasure
venture
vulture

47 words have '-a' endings.

algebra
area
armada
Asia
banana
camera
capita
china
cobra
data
dilemma
drama
era
extra
formula
gondola
gorilla
idea
India
lava
llama
militia
Mongolia
nebula
orchestra
panda
phenomena
piazza
piranha
pizza
pneumonia
propaganda
pupa
quota
replica
spectra
stigma
strata
tarantula
tiara
tundra
umbrella
utopia
veranda
via
yoga
zebra

70 words with the stressed '-er' sound of 'her', 'herb', 'herd' have 124 alternative spellings.

absurd
blur
burden
burglar
burgle
burial
burly
burn
burst
church
churn
curl
curse
curt
curve
disturb
excursion
fur
furnish
further
gurgle
hurdle
hurl
hurt
hurtle
lurch
lurk
murder
murmur
nasturtium
nurse
nursery
occur
purchase
purple
purpose
purr
purse
return
slur
spur
spurn
spurt
sturdy
surf
surface
surge
surgeon
surgery
surplus
survey* vb
Thursday
topsy-turvy
turban
turf
turkey
turmoil
turn
turnip
turtle
urban
urchin
urge
urn
yurt

birch
bird
birth
chirp
circle
circuit
circular
circumstances
circus
dirt
firm
first
flirt
girder
girdle
fir
girl
mirth
shirk
shirt
sir
skirmish
skirt
smirk
squirm
squirt
stir
swirl
third
thirst
thirty
twirl
virtually
virtue
whirl
whir

earl
early
earn
earnest
earth
heard
learn
pearl
rehearse
search
yearn
were
word
work
world
worm
worse
worship
worst
worth
attorney
courtesy
journal
journey

The 131 exceptions to the 73 words with '-en' endings (abdomen, open) are also numerous, but somehow less obviously reformable, perhaps because many of the words are not very common.

abandon
apron
baron
baton
bison
carbon
carton
cauldron
common
cordon
cotton
coupon
crayon
crimson
damson
demon
dungeon
electron
gallon
heron
horizon
iron
jettison
lemon
lesson
luncheon
mason
matron
melon
mutton
nylon
pardon
person
pigeon
piston
poison
prison
pylon
python
reason
reckon
ribbon
salmon
Saxon
season
sermon
siphon
skeleton
summon
surgeon
treason
truncheon
venison
wanton
weapon
badminton
chameleon
comparison
phenomenon
bacon
beacon
dragon
flagon
octagon
pentagon
wagon

Alsatian
amphibian
cardigan
Christian
civilian
comedian
Dalmatian
historian
hooligan
Indonesian
magician
metropolitan
musician
ocean
optician
orang-utan
organ
orphan
partisan
pedestrian
pelican
republican
Roman
rowan
ruffian
slogan
suburban
tartan
toucan
turban
urban
utopian
vegetarian
veteran
woman

aspirin
basin
bulletin
cabin
catkin
coffin
cousin
dolphin
gherkin
goblin
javelin
origin
paraffin
penguin
pumpkin
raisin
robin
satin
sequin
tarpaulin
urchin
vermin

bargain
captain
certain
fountain
mountain
porcelain
villain

The exceptional spellings for the long A-sound are slightly less numerous, but perhaps better candidates for reform. After EE, this is the long vowel with most exceptions. It is also less problematic than long I, O OO or U because the sound occurs very infrequently before consonant blends, e.g. 'kind'. Its pronunciation is also fairly uniform throughout the English speaking world.

abstain
afraid
aid
ail
aim
ain't
ascertain
assail
attain
available
await
bait
braid
brain
campaign
chain
chilblain
claim
cocktail
complain
contain
daily
daisy
detail
detain
drain
exclaim
explain
fail
gain
grain
hail
jail
laid
maid
mail
maim
main
nails
obtain
paid
pail
pain
plaice
plain
praise
prevail
proclaim
raid
rail
rain
raise
raisin
refrain
remain
retail
retain
sail
slain
snail
sprain
stain
straight
strain
straits
sustain
tail
tailor
trail
trailer
train
trainers
traitor
vain
wail
wait
waiter
mayonnaise
entertainment
acquaint
dainty
faint
faith
maintain
paint
quaint
saint
waist
deign
eight
feign
neighbour
reign
reindeer
reins
skein
veil
vein
weight
freight
break
great
steak
champagne
halfpenny
fete
dahlia

The most numerous divergent spellings are connected with the letter E, i.e. EE, -er, -en. It might therefore be an idea to have a reform package which includes making the stressed short E-sound consistent as well, although it is irregular in just 62 words.

bread
breadth
breakfast
breast
breath
cleanliness
cleanse
dead
deaf
dealt
death
dread
dreamt
endeavour
feather
head
health
heather
instead
lead*
leant
leapt
leather
meant
measure
read*
realm
spread
stealthy
sweat
thread
threat
treacherous
treadmill
treasure
wealth
weather

against
every
friend
leisure*
said
says
Wednesday
heaven
heavy
jealous
meadow
peasant
pheasant
pleasant
ready
steady
weapon
zealous
already
any
bury
heifer
jeopardy
leopard
many

16 words above (and perhaps 'heaven' and 'heavy' too) should really gain a doubled consonant as well. Introducing this with just those words, in addition to cutting surplus doubled consonants (page 5) might be a gentle way of moving towards thoroughly consistent consonant doubling.

A reform centred on the letter E could include cutting redundant final '-e' as well (give, more, deliberate - as adjective).

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