Personal Views are the self-expression medium for Society members. The views expressed here are the author's and are not necessarily shared by the Society, or a majority of its members.
PV 5 stated the Aim and Objectives of the SSS.
Personal View 5
by Ken Goodwin.
Ken Goodwin is an accountant with British and Australian
qualifications. Ken resides in Australia, but has spent extensive periods in
Brazil and Spain.
It was during his stay in the latter that he became interested in the phonetic qualities of Spanish, which contrasted with the chaos of English, despite a common alphabet and similar form of pronunciation.
towards a common International alphabet & form of pronunciationThis paper explores the possibilities of converting English spelling into a phonemic system, consistent with the phonemic requirements of other European languages, making all of them easier to learn both for native and non-native speakers.
It makes no attempt to justify spelling reform, as this subject has been amply explored in previous publications by many writers.
Contents [on this page]:
Appendices [on other pages]:
|A. Alphabet revisited.
B. Sample proverbs and idioms.
C. Double vowels using y.
|D. "Confusion reins, rains, reigns".|
E. Sample texts.
F. Foreign language application.
The author would like to thank Chris Upward, Paul Fletcher and the late Bob Brown (for their critical comments), those who contributed to the development of Cut Spelling, and the author's wife Marie-France and friends Tanya Völler and Charlie Disaro (who helped with the French, German and Italian).
In this article, Traditional Orthography uses normal print, Cut Spelling uses italics and Yurabet uses bold print. Yurabet options not adopted use *bold *print.
Message for those who favour gradual evolution:
Ceynjng owvr tuw desiml kurunsy kud hav byn a bit ov a xok. So furst wy xud hav ceynjd qu xilings. Qen, wen qu dust had setld, wy wud hav ceynjd qu pens.
Introduction.Many schemes of simplified spelling approach the problem by evolving the language from its historical base. They often respect whole chunks of traditional custom, however illogical these may be. They are backward-looking rather than forward-looking. Others use impractical letter-symbols and written accents to try to achieve academic perfection.
In contrast to these approaches, Yurabet is a practical and modem phonemic alphabet, designed with specific purposes in mind. These purposes are closely related to current and future communications needs in Europe and between continents, given modern telecommunications systems and freer cross-border trade. This breach with the past enables the rules of Yurabet to be quite simple and dogmatically directed towards the most logical sound/ symbol relationships. The freedom of this approach is impressive, enabling objectives to be achieved with minimum effort.
In particular, Yurabet accepts the 26 letter-symbols of the standard English computer keyboard and also the most common form of pronunciation of each letter-symbol. Yurabet contains no written accents, irrespective of language. Sound and letter-symbols are matched dogmatically. However, there are 30+ (some say 40+) individual sounds in the English language and these have to be accommodated into the 26 letter-symbols. So the principle of closest fit applies and some compromises are necessary. These compromises are not that great given that some of the supposed 40+ sounds, when analysed, are actually combinations of existing sounds which already correspond to individual letter-symbols.
Yurabet does not choose an existing form of pronunciation or dialect. It does, however, impose a common (cross-region, cross-country) form of pronunciation, selecting the simplest form in each situation. A spoken text will be understood by the residents in any region or country, although the spoken accent will not necessarily be familiar.
This is an important characteristic of Yurabet, given that the form of pronunciation which emerges will be common to all European residents and in the world scenario, thus facilitating international communication. The ultimate practicality test will be when a person reasonably versed in Yurabet, after say a day's training, is able to read a text in a language, with which he/she is totally unfamiliar, and be fully understood by a native of that language.
One of the criticisms of an "absolutely" phonemic language is the difficulty in accepting radical change. Of course, the changes needed are proportionate to the level of existing chaos. Chaos can be "organised" or "disorganised", the former meaning simple conversion rules can be established to link Traditional Orthography with Yurabet. German is a good example of organised chaos. On the other hand, disorganised chaos refers to anarchy in the sound/symbol relationship. The clearest example of this is English, with French coming a distant second. Portuguese, Spanish and Italian are substantially non-chaotic in structure.
Purposes of Yurabet* To simplify learning a mother tongue
* To simplify learning a foreign language
* To provide a practical replacement for the International Phonetic Alphabet
* To provide a consistent code of conversion from languages using a non-romanic alphabet
* To help English retain its current position as the leading medium of international communication
StructureYurabet uses the existing traditional vowels a e i o u in their most common and simple English application, which also tends to be the most common and simple application in European languages.
In Yurabet, the letter y ceases to be a vowel-consonant hybrid and becomes a fully fledged vowel. Consequently, Yurabet has 6 vowels and 20 consonants. Combinations of two or more vowels can be (and in Yurabet are) structured to always include y. In any vowel combination, the traditional vowels will only appear once or not at all.
Yurabet uses the existing consonants b d f g h j k l m n p r s t v w z also in their most common and simple English and European application. This leaves the letters c q x which require special attention.
The letter c initially becomes redundant (success = skses). It is reallocated in the Italian tradition to the (English) ch tch sound. Thus chap = cap (but cap = kap); pitch = pic (but pick = pik). The letter x also becomes initially redundant (axe = aks) and is reallocated in the Portuguese tradition to the (English) sh ti ci ssi sound. Thus shop = xop; detention = dtenxn; suspicion = sspixn; possession = pzexn.
The letter q is also redundant (quiet = kwayut) and is reallocated to a sound common in English, but which corresponds to no letter-symbol, that is th. So thick = qik. In northern and central Spain, the th pronunciation is widely used for c before e or i. However, under the principle of simplest application, Barcelona would be spelt Barselona (pronounced as such in southern Spain and Latin America) not *Barqelona. Over time, one would expect the q sound to disappear altogether as it has in Ireland and Latin America.
Capital letters are used in the middle of words to eliminate written accents in all languages, where the stress is not where you would expect it to be. For instance, in English the stress is commonly on the first vowel of a word. So where it is not a capital letter is used. For instance, possibility = posibIlity, but possible = posibl.
See Appendix A, "Alphabet revisited", for the complete Yurabet alphabet, and Appendix B, "Sample proverbs and idioms", in which familiar expressions, written in Yurabet, can hopefully be recognised.
Extensive examples of the structure are shown in Appendix D, "Confusion reins, rains, reigns", and Appendix E, "Sample texts".
Doubling up on similar sounds.As mentioned previously, to fit the excessive number of individual sounds into the 26 letter alphabet, some compromise is required. This means certain letter-symbols are used for two similar or adjacent sounds, usually a voiced and unvoiced version of the same sound. In doing this, it is important that the resulting distortion in pronunciation does not create misunderstanding (although it will sound a little strange). It is also important that we resist the temptation to add letter-symbols to the 26 letter alphabet.
The letter q is our first example of use of a single letter-symbol to represent two similar sounds, under the principle of closest fit. Thus, that becomes qat even though the th sound in that is slightly different to the th sound in thick. The former is voiced and the latter is basically the same sound but unvoiced.
The other consonants which double up in English Yurabet are g h j. These consonants are also characterised by the voiced/ unvoiced relationship of similar sounds. The letter g is used in Yurabet for all hard g sounds and continues to be used at the end of the present participle. Thus, get (voiced g) stays the same (get) and standing (unvoiced g) = standng.
The letter h is voiced or throaty as in loch (loh), in the Spanish gente (hente) and in the German acht (aht). It is also common in arab names, such as Ahmed, Mohamed. It is unvoiced as in hat (hat).
The letter j is voiced as in gem (jem) and unvoiced as in pleasure (plejr). The voiced version also appears in Argentinian Spanish: yo is pronounced jo for example. The unvoiced version appears regularly in French and Portuguese (Georges/ Jorj and Jacinta/ Jasinta). This produces occasional anomalies in English, such as in ledger and leisure (lejr and lejr), which are of no great significance in the overall context.
An alternative which has been rejected as too complicated is the use of *dj for the English voiced use (just = *djust), with j applied as in the French/ Portuguese current use. Another rejected alternative would be to use *jh for the French/ Portuguese sound, but this also is too complicated. Another alternative would be to use voiced sh (x) for the French/ Portuguese sound (in English, pleasure = *plexr). However, this would also create problems in French and Portuguese. In the final analysis, natural language development might produce a merger of these two adjacent sounds.
In the voiced/ unvoiced arena are also the consonants n r s. The letter n is commonly voiced in most European languages. However, it can have a nasal or unvoiced sound in French and Portuguese. In both cases, n has a similar (voiced) sound to that used in English; but it is also used nasally. In French, the nasal sound is written into the word, eg non. In Portuguese, it is recognised by the use of the tilde, eg não. With international communications predominating in the future, one would expect both the nasal n in French and the tilde in Portuguese to lose importance and eventually disappear from the written word.
The letter r has various acceptable forms of pronunciation. In Scotland, USA, Italy, Portugal and Spain it is voiced. In the latter two cases double rr and r at the start of a word are rolled. However, in Brazilian Portuguese they are swallowed. The German r is throaty, the French r is unvoiced and in England r is widely ignored at the middle or end of a word. Yurabet in all cases uses the single r and accepts that the mainstream Yurabet form of pronunciation, as is common in Scotland, USA, Italy, Portugal and Spain, will be different to these other forms.
The letter s is bitten off in Chile at the end of words. Yurabet accepts this variation on normal Spanish pronunciation as a regional difference from mainstream Yurabet.
This brings us back to the versatile y. Yurabet uses y in its existing context as well as in replacing ce ea e+consonant+e. Therefore: yet = yet, but meet = myt, meat = myt and complete = kmplyt. It is considered that y in this expanded role does not have to be considered as a vowel-consonant hybrid; it simply becomes the sixth vowel.
Double vowels using y.Earlier reference was made to the restrictions on vowel combinations, with the traditional vowels a e i o u not being allowed to combine with each other. Similarly, for simplicity, these same vowels are not doubled, although technically they could be. Examples follow of Yurabet, as applied with a little compromise, compared to alternative Yurabet spellings, using combinations of traditional vowels, which have not been adopted:
In the interests of having simple rules, Yurabet accepts the yy combination:
In Yurabet, ay is used to portray long i, as in excite = eksAyt. Long a, as in break, is portrayed by ey (breyk). Other frequent vowel combinations are yu (potassium = ptasyum) and oy (toy = toy), but any other usual situations which would tempt us to use a combination of the traditional vowels can be accommodated by a vowel+consonant or consonant+vowel. For example, argue = argiw not *argiu and acquire = akwAyr not *akuAyr. Further examples are shown in appendix C, "Double vowels using y".
Double consonants.Yurabet follows the Cut Spelling example of only allowing double adjacent consonants where the corresponding sound is made twice. However, Yurabet does not distinguish between doubling caused by two consonants being pronounced separately and two consonants with redundant schwa between them. Examples of both types follow:
The same principle applies to past participles, comparatives and superlatives.
Therefore: padded = padd; nearer = nyrr; loosest = luwsst.
Use of Cut Spelling principles.Cut Spelling is a form of simplified spelling which eliminates redundant letters and also makes other simplifications, such as replacing ph with f and soft g with j. The book "Cut Spelling" was prepared by Chris Upward and published by SSS. It is an extensive, almost encyclopaedic, work which provides a superb catalyst for further debate.
Yurabet uses Cut Spelling principles extensively with consequent significant reduction in word length. However, Yurabet does not accept that a word need not contain a vowel (the = th = qu not *q).
On the other hand, Yurabet extends the cutting process. It removes redundant schwa in the middle of words in instances where Cut Spelling does not. Yurabet also uses the Cut Spelling principle of eliminating some apostrophes, but Yurabet gets rid of all apostrophes.
Appendix F, "Foreign language application", illustrates how Yurabet with assistance from Cut Spelling reduces word length.
Use of capital letters.Yurabet uses capital letters for names and start of sentences, but follows the lead of Cut Spelling in eliminating other existing uses in English which have no continental equivalent. In addition, in order to allow the written word only one possible location of the stressed vowel, the capital letter now has a new use.
In English Yurabet where the stress is not on the first vowel of a word, the stressed vowel takes a capital letter. However, the elimination via Yurabet of unpronounced schwa in the middle of words (on top of what Cut Spelling does) reduces dramatically the potential incidence of unstressed first vowels. This minimises the use of mid-word capital letters (phonetic =fonetic = fnetik not *funEtik).
In Appendix D, only 6% of English Yurabet words take a mid-word capital. This characteristic of Yurabet, together with its virtually 100% phonemic quality, should facilitate considerably the programming of multi-lingual talk-back computer systems. This in turn should result in a dramatic improvement in language teaching methods, whereby (as in Spanish) each word does not have to be learnt twice. The spoken word will be easily converted to the written word via a set of simple rules, and vice versa.
Whilst the usual stress in English is on the first vowel, in the Latin-based languages it is often on the last or penultimate vowel. For practical reasons, the stressed vowel should not take a capital letter if located in the usual position for that language. If the English position were taken as the norm, words in other languages would be littered with mid-word capitals. To resolve this, in each language the normal position of the stressed vowel will be set and, in words where the stress is on a different vowel, the capital letter form will be used to locate the stressed vowel.
Talk-back computers would then have to recognise the language in which they are working at a particular point in time, to determine the correct stressed vowel. The good news is that this method eliminates the need for written accents and provides the basis for a single computer-based phonemic code.
Plurals, third person present tense, possessive.In these word forms the ending s is often pronounced in English as a z. Yurabet, for simplicity and consistency with European languages, retains the s ending. In doing so Yurabet does no more than apply the voiced/ unvoiced double up principle to these word forms. The imperfect pronunciation of a word ending in s with the z-type normal pronunciation should not impede good communication. It will simply be a characteristic of the common Yurabet form of pronunciation.
Examples are: quizzes = kwizs not *kwizz; does = dus not *duz; Jim's = Jims not *Jimz). No doubt in other languages similar compromises are required. The flexibility to make such compromises comes from the principle of allowing slight pronunciation differences, compared to all existing spoken accents and dialects, as long as understanding is not impaired.
Past Participles.Some words ending in d have a t-type pronunciation in English. Along the lines of the argument in the previous paragraph, the Yurabet spelling of these words retains the ending d. Examples: packed = pakd not *pakt (however, pact = pakt); lapped = lapd not *lapt; crashed = kraxd not *kraxt.
Imports.There are probably three main categories of imported words: proper nouns (places and names of people); words imported a long time ago with a history of distorted pronunciation; newly imported words or those with little distortion from the original.
In the first category, Yurabet favours retention of the genuine original, because these proper names tend to be universally accepted in their original format, even though specific importation may have distorted it. Examples: Paris = Pari in French and ParI in English (not *Paris); Lisboa = Lxboa in Portuguese and also in English (not *Lizbn). The distinction between French and English results from different rules on stressed vowels taking a capital letter. In the Lisbon example, the stress is on the same vowel in both Portuguese and English.
In the second category, it may be wise to treat the word as if the origin was from the same language, ie "phonemicise" the word based on existing pronunciation. Thus, mason in English = meysn, not as in the French *masOn. In the third category, the thing to do would be to respect the original and spell accordingly: macho = maco in the original Spanish and all other languages; spaghetti = spageti in Italian and spagEti in English.
Implementation.Yurabet is a convenient modern replacement for the existing International Phonetic Alphabet, which uses a myriad of impractical symbols and written accents. Further work clearly needs to be done on non-English romanic languages to support an application for sponsorship from the United Nations or European Union, with the objective of rewriting the International Phonetic Alphabet on a coordinated, interlingual basis, with eyes on the future of international communications. Yurabet will then have achieved its first objective of complementing existing forms of pronunciation.
This would be followed by application at the level of uni-language and multi-language dictionaries. Concurrently, it would be taught at schools and adult colleges, alongside the usual language classes. It would eventually gain acceptance in newspapers and books, progressively becoming familiar to all, but without eliminating traditional forms unless these disappear through normal attrition.
Back to the top.
A. Alphabet revisited.
B. Sample proverbs and idioms.
C. Double vowels using y.
D. "Confusion reins, rains, reigns".
E. Sample texts.
F. Foreign language application.