Personal Views are the self-expression medium for Society members. The views expressed here are not necessarily shared by the Society, or a majority of its members.
[PV 8 stated an earlier version of SSS Aim and Objectives.]
[See Journal, Newsletter, Anthology, and Bulletin articles, by Edward Rondthaler.]

Personal View 8

by Edward Rondthaler.

This brochure has been prepared by Edward Rondthaler in behalf of the American Literacy Council. He is president of ALC, a vice president of the Simplified Spelling Society and was, during their active years, a member of the Phonemic Spelling Council and the American Literacy Academy. He has been engaged in the spelling reform movement since 1961 and is a strong advocate of the Ripman-Dewey principles of simplification. His writings on spelling reform have been published widely. For his contribution to the reform movement and related areas of typography and letter design he has been awarded an honorary doctorate.

SoundSpel [TM]

Background of the Notation

This is by no means a new notation. The underlying principles on which SoundSpel is based have a history dating back to 1910, and were published in lexicon format by Walter Ripman and William Archer as "New Spelling" in 1941. [See NS 1948 and NS 1956.] A few changes have been made over the years, but the fundamental principles have stood the test of time.

In 1955 Godfrey Dewey in conference with Ripman and others agreed to certain improvements which were then published by Dewey as "World English Spelling" in 1969. In the 1960s Sir James Pitman used these same fundamental principles as a basis for his 'initial teaching alphabet' system which, in view of its strong financial support, might have ushered in spelling reform had he not thwarted that possibility with sixteen grotesque new letters -- copyrighted. In the '70s World English Spelling was adopted by the (U.S.) Phonemic Spelling Council (successor to the spelling reform organization begun by the American Philological Association in 1876 and known, after 1906, as the Spelling Reform Board). Small revisions of the notation, leaning toward better compatibility with T.O., resulted from exchanges between Godfrey Dewey and Edward Rondthaler after 1971 and, in 1986, were published as "American Spelling" by Rondthaler and Edward Lias under the auspices of the American Literacy Academy, successor to the Phonemic Spelling Council. A few minor revisions have been made by Rondthaler and Joseph Little since that time, and what is now "SoundSpel" is the notation used in all programs and software of the American Literacy Council (successor to ALA, PSC, and their predecessors dating back to 1876).

The sheer endurance of the major spelling reform principles developed by scholars almost a century ago pays worthy tribute to the genius of these devoted supporters of simplification.

Background of the Notation
Answers to Specific Questions
The SoundSpel Notation System
Phoneme Words List
Sample Texts Transliterated into SoundSpel
Mark Twain
SoundSpel Software Programs

Answers to Specific Questions.

In bold type are the questions asked by the Review Subcommittee

1. Is the scheme a new original idea or is it adapted from one developed by the writer or someone else?

The origin of SoundSpel is fully described in 'Background to the notation'.

2. Is it an initial scheme for learning literacy after which learners would transfer to TO, or is it for permanent use by children? by adults?

While SoundSpel may be used as an initial teaching alphabet it is intended as a permanent notation for all. Steps have been taken to make it sufficiently compatible with T.O. to be read at will.

3. The account of the scheme should include a transcription for all the discrete English phonemes in the attached list.

All phonemes accounted for. See Phoneme Words List.

4. On which accent of English is the scheme based? Would you cater for other accents of English? If so, how?

SoundSpel is based on "General American" as put forward by a combination of the pronunciations shown in the 1980 "Oxford American" and the 1969 "Random House" dictionaries. [Webster was not used because its notation is often indecisive.] Oxford American pronunciation supports Columbia University's famed philologist, Mario Pei, who has pointed out in his "History of the English Language" that, particularly in the matter of schwas, Americans tend, more than do the British, to pronounce words as they are spelled. As regional pronunciations in the U.S. diminish, and as Received Pronunciation in England does the same, "General American" tends to becomes the preferred pronunciation internationally. in carefully spoken General American, then, one may hear, sometimes faintly, sometimes more distinctly, not the pure schwa sound but a trace of the short vowel found in a word's spelling -- a sound somewhere between novul and novel, lemun and lemon, anumul.and animal. The American Literacy Council would, of course, welcome breves above these unstressed vowels to identify them clearly, but in view of that unlikely possibility we, as did Ripman and Dewey, retain the T.O. spelling of unstressed vowels unless they clearly conflict with distinct, careful pronunciation, knowing that, in a reformed spelling, they will promote distinct pronunciation, and that they often become the stressed vowel in derivatives such as general/generality, professor/professorial, etc.

5, 6 & 7. Is the scheme based on an assumed knowledge of To or is it independent? Could people who had learned the spelling rules pronounce a text correctly even though they had no knowledge of English? Explain any supplementary spelling rules. Does the scheme indicate stressed syllables?

Nothing is more important than arriving at a notation that stands a chance of acceptance. With that in mind certain compromises have been made, but only after years of diligent consideration.

No change in proper nouns and proper names -- with the possible exception of months and days of the week.

Since we accept the flattery of capital I for 'me', let us extend the courtesy of capital U for 'you'.

No change in was, as, of, the, he, she, me, we, be, do, to, thru, off, -ful, and their compounds such as being, together, thruout, offer, helpful.

No change in plural-s (jobs ), possessive-s (man's), and in 3d person present tense singular (he runs), even tho the s is pronounced z.

No change in the letter pair 'th'-- which occurs more frequently than any consonant digraph. To attempt to distinguish between the voiced and unvoiced 'th' with different spellings (dh, thh, or tth) is so unsettling to present readers that 'th' is retained for both phonemes and is clearly distinguished by sound in the SpellWell+Voice program. Similarly the letter 'x' is retained for both voiced (gz) and unvoiced (ks). The unvoiced occurrences outnumber the voiced 5 to 1, and words normally calling for voiced-x are understood even if pronounced with an unvoiced x.

No change in the spelling of short (schwa) vowels in the unstressed syllables of words like organ, novel, pensil, lemon -- unless the spelling clearly misleads in a deliberate overpronunciation of the word, as in "mountain".

Depending on its position in the word or root, the unstressed "½-ee" continues to be spelled e i or y as heard in the unstressed syllables of between, detect, reform, champion, editorial, hapyest, fifty.

rr, as in traditional orthography, indicates that the preceding vowel is short -- carry, merry, sorry.

ll indicates that the preceding 'a' is pronounced 'aw' fall, tall, call.

The long-0 or long-I sound at the end of a word may be written with a single letter -- banjo, go, so, alibi, hi, fli, mi (--but banjoes, alibieing, flies, etc.)

A hyphen following a vowel indicates that that vowel is long: re-enter, co-operaet.

If two vowels -- such as ea -- do not match a digraph on the SoundSpel chart, then the syllable ends with the first vowel: react (ea is not a digraph), jeenius, memorial, creaetiv, etc. In cases of more than 2 vowels the syllable ends with the first digraph: flooid (oo, being the first digraph, ends the syllable -- not flooid), hieest, freeing, inueendo, power, continueing, paeabl, evalueaet. This simple rule eliminates the need for an awkward and unenglish dieresis (flooïd, hieëst, evalueäet) as required in the Ripman and Dewey notations.

Written SoundSpel has no indication of stress. When, however, it is spoken with equal stress on all syllables, it is understandable altho graceless. Full guidance in stress is provided by the voice computer program -- SoundSpel+Voice.

8. Please include transcription of the four standard sample texts attached.

See Sample Texts.

9. How does running text in the scheme compare in length with TO?

Based on a million words of running text, SoundSpel is 4.3% shorter than T.O.

10. How big is the change from TO? To what extent does the scheme defer to the appearance of TO?

The overriding problem in getting a simplified spelling accepted is arriving at a compromise that is not too abhorrent to present readers. SoundSpel endeavors to retain as much of the regularity of Ripman's New Spelling as is possible without excessively offending present T.O. readers. Any change, if ultimately accepted, will be accepted grudgingly. Opinions of reformers as to what is acceptable will differ widely. Reformers are the poorest of judges. All reformers can read any proposed spelling with little or no difficulty, and are no judge of what might "fly". Countless informal tests confirm that after an explanation of the long vowel notation, present T.O. readers read the first two or three lines of SoundSpel with some hesitancy and general amusement, but after that find virtually no difficulty. Writing a reformed spelling is quite another matter, but until one learns the simplified spelling the American Literacy Council's Spell-Well program will automatically convert one's written T.O. -- or a mixture of T.O. and SS -- into full SoundSpel.

11. Outline how you envisage the scheme being used. How would it be introduced and existing publications dealt with?

Inasmuch as SoundSpel has been designed to be reasonably compatible with T.O., we visualize it

(1) As an initial teaching alphabet which, unlike Pitman's ita, could be continued at will.

(2) Since the final computer printout may be printed out by our software in either T.O. or SoundSpel, we visualize that international communications, the preference of foreigners using English, and various economic and social factors -- including common sense -- will gradually increase the number of times when, in calling for the printout of a personal letter, a report, an entire book or publication, the SS-key will be pressed rather than the T.O.-key. The technological problem of changing to a simplified spelling has been solved; the sociological problem remains.

12. Do you regard homophones as a problem and does your system indicate them In any way?

We do not have homophones in speech, we do not need them in writing. Context takes care of everything. Dictionaries show several different meanings for most words -- with only one spelling. The word "set" has 174 different meanings but just one spelling: After I set the clock I was all set to set the table with a set of dishes I'd set my heart on. Even so, the Spell-Well program provides automatic popups on the screen for here/hear, there/their, etc. until it becomes clear that different spellings are unnecessary.

13. Could your system be used easily on most computers and word processors?

SoundSpel is fully adaptable to computers and word processors without change of any kind and without involving additional use of shift keys, etc. The use of all keys is somewhat more evenly spread than at present; the occurrence of 'e', for example, is reduced 9% and that of j and z are tripled.

14. Is the system used in everyday life by yourself or anyone else?

Dr. Helen Bisgard is a consistent user of SoundSpel. Others use it from time to time.

The SoundSpel[TM] Notation System

SHORT VOWELS ... the most frequently heard vowel sound
a as heard in act, at, am, bag, can, tap, carry ... weak unstressed a as in organ
e as heard in ebb, end, set, bed, mend, merry ... weak unstressed e as in novel
i as heard in it, in, if, tip, pin, gives, banish ... weak unstressed i as inpencit
o as heard in ox, odd, hot, boxes, sobs, sorry ... weak unstressed o as in lemon
u as heard in up, us, but, fun, mud, gum, love

Silent 'e' gives a preceding vowel it's 'long' sound - its 'name' sound
ae as heard in A, ate, aim, aid, same, cape, day, they, ways
ee as heard in E, eel, eat, feet, field team, scene, ski, key
ie as heard in I, ice, tie, eye, ride, guide, fight, buy
oe as heard in O, old, toe, only, home, boat, sew, know
ue as heard in U, unit, hue, cute, used, utilize, few

VOWEL PAIRS ... each pair of letters represents a unit of sound
oo as heard in ooze, moon, zoo, cruise, true, flu
uu as heard in should, bush, put, foot, book, good
oi as heard in oil, boil, noise, loyal, boy
ou/ow as heard in out mouth, sound / how, cows, power
ati/aw as heard in auto, fraud, cause / saw, sawing, lawyer
ar as heard in are, card, far, dollar. ... arr as heard in carry
er as heard in her, early, mercy, baker. err as heard in berry
or as heard in order, for, donor, color. orr as heard in sorry
ur as heard in jury, rural, allure, tour, azure
aa as heard in alms, ma, pa, calm, father
air as heard in air, hair, care, swear, where, their

For usage notes see items 5, 6, 7

CONSONANTS... and consonant pairs
b as heard in beg, habit, bib, mob
c/k as heard in cat, cup, became, kit, back
ch as heard in chin, teacher, church
d as beard in dog, ladder, did, bad
f as heard in fan, effort, fife, chief
g as heard in get, wagon, gag, big
h as heard in hat, heel, home, harm
j as heard in jam, judge, ajar, edge
l as heard in let, lull, table, girl
m as heard in me, common, mom, him
n as heard in no, manner, nun, tan
ng as heard in song, hang, ringing,
nk as heard in ink, thank, blanket
p as heard in pin, paper, pep, cap
q as heard in queen, quake, liquid
r as heard in red, roar, trip, cheer
s as heard in sit, lesson, sets, base
sh as heard in shin, issue, motion, rush
t as heard in tap, butter, tot, hit
th as heard in thin, method, path
th as heard in this, mother, smooth
v as heard in van, river, revive, gave
w as heard in will, awoke, weather
wh as heard in wheat, why, worthwhile
x as heard in extra, fox, box, exam
y as heard in yes, beyond, lawyer
z as heard in zebra, lazy, tease, jazz
zh as heard in azure, pleasure, garage

Spelling Scheme Review Subcommittee Phoneme Word-list.

pen, copy, happen
back, bubble, job
ten, tight, button
city, better
day, ladder, odd
key, cock, school
get, giggle, ghost
church, match, nature
judge, age, soldier
fat, coffee, rough, physics
view, heavy, move
thing, author, path
this, other, smooth
soon, cease, sister
zero, zone, roses, buzz
ship, sure, station
pleasure, vision
hot, whole, behind
more, hammer, some
nice, know, funny, sum
ring, long, thanks, sung
light, valley, feel
right, sorry, arrange
yet, use, beauty
wet, one, when queen
kit, bid, hymn
dress, bed
trap, bad
lot, odd, wash
strut, bud, love
foot, good, put
fleece, sea, machine
face, day, steak
price, high, try
choice, boy
goose, two, blue
goat, show, no, cold
mouth, now
near, here, serious
square, fair, various
start, father
thought, law
north, war
force, four
cure, poor, jury
nurse, stir
happy, radiation, glorious
about, comma, common
influence, situation, annual
intend, basic
stimulus, educate
pen, copy, hapen
bak, bubl, job
ten, tiet, buton
sity, beter
dae, lader, od
kee, cok, scool
get, gigl, goest
cherch, mach, naecher
juj, aej, soeljer
fat, coffy, ruf, fizics
vue, hevy, moov
thing, author, path
this, uther, smooth
soon, sees, sister
zeero, zoen, roezes, buz
ship, shur, staeshun
plezher, vizhun
hot, hoel, behiend
mor, hamer, sum
nies, noe, funy, sum
ring, long, thanks, sung
liet, valy, feel
riet, sorry, araenj
yet, use/uez, buety
wet, wun, when qeen
kit, bid, him
dres, bed
trap, bad
lot, od, wash
strut, bud, luv
fuut, guud, puut
flees, see, masheen
faes, dae, staek
pries, hie, tri
chois, boi
goos, too, bloo
goet, sho, no, coeld
mouth, now
neer, heer, seerius
squair, fair, vairius
start, faather
thaut, law
north, wor
fors, foer
cuer, poor, jury
ners, ster
hapy, raediaeshun, glorius
about, coma, comon
inflooens, sichuaeshun, anueal
intend, baesic
stimuelus, ejucaet

Sampl texts transliteraeted into SoundSpel.

1. The Star (HG Wells)

It was on the ferst dae of the nue yeer the anounsment was maed, allmoest siemultaeniusly frum three obzervatorys, that the moeshun of the planet Neptune, the outermoest of all planets that wheel about the Sun, had becum verry erratic. A retardaeshun in its velosity had bin suspected in Desember. Then a faent, remoet spek of liet was discuverd in the reejon of the perterbd planet. At ferst this did not cauz eny verry graet exsietment. Sieentific peepl, however, found the intelijens remarkabl enuf, eeven befor it becaem noen that the nue body was rapidly groeing larjer and brieter, and that its moeshun was qiet diferent frum the orderly progres of the planets.

2. Britten when yung (Frank Kermode).

We mae nowadaes be chairy about uezing the werd "jeenius", but we stil hav a guud iedeea whut is ment bi it. For exampl, thair ar graet numbers of verry gifted muezishans hoo ar admierd but not calld jeeniuses. But thair ar uthers, manifestly prodijus, performing offen at extraordinerrily erly aejes, a varieety of feets so complex that the muezical laeman cuud hardly imajin, eeven with the moest desperet laebor, acomplishing eny of them, whiel eeven muezishans ar astonisht and we then reech for the guud, handy, vaeg Enlietenment werd and call them jeeniuses. The list incloods Mozart and Mendelssohn; and, despiet all the limiting jujments, it incloods Benjamin Britten.

3. Oed to a Nietingael (John Keats).

Mi hart aeks, and a drouzy numnes paens
Mi sens, as tho of hemlok I had drunk,
Or emptyd sum dul oepiaet to the draens
Wun minit past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not thru envy of thi hapy lot,
But beeing too hapy in thien hapynes,
That thow, liet-wingèd Dryad of the trees,
In sum meloedius plot
Of beechen green, and shadoes numberles
Singest of sumer in fuul-throeted eez.

4. Fuzy-oepaek Orthografical Vizhuns (C Upward)

Thair was a poor boi cuudn't spel
Haf the werds in our langgwej too wel.
His teechers thaut: "Braen-sik!"
Mum and Dad hoept: "Dislexic?"
Yet the chield rashly jeerd
"Whut the hel !"


In SoundSpel the sounds pronounced A E I O U are indicated by a silent 'e' following the vowel - ae ee ie oe ue.

The ferst tiem I was in Egypt a simplified speling epidemic had broeken out and the atmosfeer was electric with feeling enjenderd bi the subject. This was about fiev thouzand yeers ago. The simplifiers had rizen in revolt agenst the hieroglifics. An uncl of Cadmus hoo was out of a job had cum to Egypt and was trieing to introdoos the Phonecian alfabet and get it adopted insted of the hieroglifics. The Simplifiers wer fue, the Opozishun wer multituedinus. Amung the Simplifiers wer meny men of lerning and distinkshun, maenly litererry men and members of colej facultys, but all ranks and condishuns of men and all graeds of intelect, scolarship, and ignorans wer reprezented bi the Opozishun. Uncl Cadmus began an object leson, with chauk, on a cupl of blakbords. On wun of them he roet in hieroglifics: "At this tiem the King pozest of cavalry 214,580 men and 222,631 horses, of infantry 84,946 men, 37,264 transportaeshun carts, 321 elefants, and 28,954 camels." It fild the bord and reqierd twenty-six minits of tiem. Then he repeeted it on anuther blakbord in Italian script and Arabic noomerals and did it in wun minit and a qorter. Then he sed, "Mi arguement is befor U. Wun of the objecshuns of the hieroglifics is that it taeks the brietest puepil nien yeers to get the forms and thair meenings bi hart; it taeks the rest of the naeshun all thair daes to acomplish it -- it is a lief sentens. If you wil renouns the hieroglifics and adopt riten werds insted, a tremendus advantej wil be gaend. Bi U? No, not bi U. U hav spent yur lievz in mastering the hieroglifics, and to U thae ar simpl, and the efect plezant to the ie, and eeven buetiful. But I apeel to U in behaf of jeneraeshuns yet to cum. Let yur suns and dauters adopt the riten werds and the alfabet, and thus saev milyons of yeers of uesles tiem and laebor." The Opozishun roez and combated his reezoning in the uezhual wae. Thoez peepl sed thae had long bin acustomd to hieroglifics and had deer and saecred memorys about them, that thae luvd to sit on a barrel under an umbrela in the brilyant sun of Egypt and spel out the rabits and eegls and aligaetors and sawteeth, and taek an our and a haf to the Lord's Prair, and weep with roemantic emoeshun at the thaut that thae had, at moest, but aet or ten yeers between themselvs and the graev for the enjoyment of this extasy.


The focus of the American Literacy Council combines computer and audio technology with sound/ sight research built up through decades of study committed to phonic principles. Out of this are emerging user-friendly teaching tools of great promise. They are geared to the deliberate pace of immature or slower learners. The tools cover the entire range from home aids for pre-school children to largely self-teaching aids for pupils of school age, adults needing remedial help, and the growing army of immigrants struggling for literacy in English. Flagship of these is the SoundSpel/ SpellWell program for IBM or compatible PCs. It corrects spellings 'on the fly' whether typed in conventional or simplified spelling. Printout is in either T.O. or simplified spelling. An even more advanced version of this program with voice will be available in mid 1998. Another PC-based program, the Fonetic Translator, transliterates common word processing documents from traditional to simplified spelling automatically. An audio tape "Before Teaching the ABC's" gives help to parents of pre-school children in preparing them for writing and reading.

The Council is not a commercial enterprise. It has non-profit, 50lc3 tax-deductible status, relies on highly committed volunteers for leadership and technical development, and depends entirely on memberships, contributions, and foundation grants for its humanitarian operation. We welcome your support.


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