SS13. On other pages: part 1, part 2, part 4 (Supplement).

simpl speling November 2000 part 3.

[Zé do Rock: see Journals, Newsletters, Personal View.]

German newspaper backtracks on change.

Zé do Rock, Germany.

In August one of the two most important daily newspapers in Germany, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), stopped using the new orthografy which was agreed in 1996.

Since that date, schools have gradually begun teaching it, and since August last year all the news agencies and papers have started using it. Now FAZ is using the old orthografy again, arguing that it was too difficult to use the new one.

The German Academy of Language and Poetry immediately issued a statement agreeing with the decision. Altho there were enuff letters to the editor disapproving of the measure, the majority were in favor. This is not too surprising for a paper known for being conservative.

Certainly it wasn't a perfect reform: even if some rules definitely simplified the spelling, some changes weren't made consistently. There was never a rule on when to write words together or separately; only usage determined it.

Now there are some rules, but the criteria are too subjective. The reformers gave a few hundred examples (many of them contradictory even for a reformer like me), but didn't work out all the possible combinations, so that every dictionary and every newspaper has its own interpretation.

The Duden, which was the official German dictionary until the introduction of the reform, appeared in August with a few hundred 'new' old spellings, like auf wiedersehen instead of auf wieder sehen ('until we see (each other) again'). This was one of the features the anti-reformers had criticized most.

Anti-reformers were certain the FAZ decision would unleash a chain reaction, but it seems it will not happen. No other newspaper has followed so far, and the subject seems to have been passed over. The government of the land Schleswig-Holstein managed, by judicial means, to resume teaching the new spellings in its schools, after 57% of its population had voted to go back to the old spelling. It seems that only ardent anti-reformers are still struggling against the decision: parents want their children to learn according to the new rules, since a return to the old spellings would mean higher costs, and their children would have spelling problems when studying in another land (eg, Hamburg, which is almost inside Schleswig-Holstein).

Before the reform was finalized, there was a good deal of criticism from the government, but after the agreement was signed, the government was very firm in its decision to carry the reform to its end.

Politically there wasn't much to lose: even with all the protests, spelling never was one of the top 10 topics for the German-speaking population, and since the decision was taken by the culture ministers of the länder and they belong to both left- and right-wing parties, there was no way to protest against it by voting for the 'other' party.

[Jean Wilkinson: see Newsletters .]

Jean Wilkinson, USA, writes:

Litl madnesses.

There is no a in eight, no r in colonel, no o in sew, no i in buy (nor in women or busy), no f in laugh, no w in one, no sh in sugar....

On the other hand, there are ls in talk and half, bs in doubt and thumb, a p in raspberry, an o in people, an n in column, a t in mortgage ... the lists go on and on.

Every English-speaking writer is expected to memorize these exceptional spellings.

And is it collectable or collectible? U know how u have struggled with this list.

And how about meter, motor, zephyr, ogre, cellar, fur, and fir? Can we predict them when they have no sound? No.

Have I mentioned it before? We memorize them. About half the words in the English language!

If half the kids in other countries were going thru this same torture, I might curl up and shut up. Maybe. But they are not! All languages have some spelling inconsistencies, some more than others. But - and let this sink in - English takes the cake! How dare we be the worst in the world!

Actually British English is even worse than American English. They have manoeuvre, and they spell draft draught! Americans may cringe, but the other nations of the world cringe at the US as well.

And yet, the US has no u in honour, colour, labour Hurrah! We can change!

Who can change? U! I! When enuff people change, the dictionaries will change. We're waiting for them, while they're waiting for us! Are u waiting for permission? There is no law to break. Only custom.

Where would u like to start? Enuff. Thru? Tho? Wensday? Febuary? Peple?

Do it for the kids.

The rite of replying.

Allan Campbell.

Not all of us are orators or great writers able to rouse the masses to our cause with a clever turn of frase. Nor are we all comfortable in front of a microfone or TV camera. While our cause is the poorer for this, there is no need for despair. Most of us can put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and conjure up some words for the masses or a specific audience to ponder.
It's not really your opponent u are trying to convert

Letters to the editor - joined now by talkback radio - are a time-honored outlet for those wanting to have a say and make a convert or two. While in isolation they wield only a spasmodic influence - here today, gone tomorrow - they can, if done often enuff, leave an impression. They are one way for the ordinary person to bring matters to the attention of the public, and that's just what we need to do with spelling. And we need to be open to opportunities.

A person connected with the media once told me that, in New Zealand, media people saw one letter-writer as representing the views of about 10,000 people.

So, what effect do letters have? Individually, possibly not that much. Cumulatively, I suspect much more. Public attitudes that change, change mainly slowly.

Advertisers spend much on repeating expensive TV ads - to have their message sink in. It's the steady drip, drip, drip that wears the stone, and if our letter can be part of a series, the better our chances.

We members are thin on the ground, but, as the recent correspondence in the Christchurch Press showed, email support from others around the globe is not far away.

Letters do get read. Frends have commented to me on some I've written. Sometimes a published letter has led to my receiving private letters in return.

Look for chances (see Masha and the foreign doctors). There are not always great events happening about spelling, and the cause can be in danger of dying for lack of publicity - any publicity.

Where to send them? Obviously any publication that reports or comments on spelling or literacy. Do not turn down the chance because it is a small, local paper. Readers are more likely to identify with u - some may even know u - than in a larger publication. The newspaper may not have the readership figures u'd like, but u have more chance of being published. Every reader counts: if u can influence a handful of them, that's progress!

Avoid the temptation to answer everything. Concentrate on the one point that annoys u most or that u feel most confident in answering, and go for it. Let others take up other aspects.

Stick religiously to the publication's instructions on maximum wordage. Space is scarce, and editors have to omit and abridge letters. Don't make it easier for them to choose yours for the wastepaper bin by making it too long. Some publications will not accept letters sent elsewhere: reassure them.

If u have some idea of the publication's 'style', follow it. Make editing easier. I have sometimes asked that because spelling's the topic, would they please follow my - very minimal - spelling changes, usually f for ph and gh, and tho, thru. They usually do.

Send by email if u can, but include all necessary details - address, fone, fax. Emailed letters don't have to be retyped. But don't cc your letter to others. If they reply to u they may unintentionally send the reply to the editor.

Make your contribution appropriate to the audience. Eg, a letter on spelling to a specialist publication such as English Today can be more detailed than one to The Times, which in turn can be 'deeper' than one to a tabloid or local paper, very few of whose readers are spelling buffs. But keep it simple. U want as many as possible to read it.

Edit your letter before sending it. But edit lightly. If there is passion in it, do not edit that passion out. Look to improve or remove loose argument, poor wording, grammar, and punctuation. Of course, make sure your spelling is what u ment it to be!

Try to introduce new evidence on the topic.

Be positive. Attack your opponent's arguments, not your opponent. It's not really your opponent u are trying to convert - it's the 'silent majority' of readers. Your opponent's arguments are a means of reaching them.

Should u identify yourself as a member of the Society? U be the judge. If u are the only member in your area, or the only member likely to be writing, why not? It may open the door for u, and entice other writers, thereby extending the correspondence. It may also encourage inquiries about the Society.

[Steve Bett: see Journals, Newsletters, Personal View, Web links.]
[Web addresses have not been linked as they are unlikely to be valid now. Search engines may find the people or topics.]

Spelling on the net with Steve Bett.

A new web ring on writing systems.

A new web ring on writing systems has been set up to complement the one on spelling reform that John Reilly established over a year ago. A ring is an automated link exchange system which maintains links between similar sites.

On the web, about 30% of the links will go dead within a year. The web ring automatically checks for this and removes dead links.

Anyone can join a web ring simply by placing a return link on their page. For more information on how to connect your site to one of these rings, contact Steve.

Valerie Yule has posted an article on writing systems found on both the ozideas site and on saundspel.

The surplus cut spelling site has been updated.

Limitations of fonics instruction.

An article attempting to introduce middle school teachers to the limitations of fonics in a writing system that matches the dictionary pronunciation guide less than 40% of the time can be found at

Order out of web chaos?

A new page, on Weblish, begins with an account of the spelling practises found on the web and suggestions for bringing some order out of the chaos of invented spellings.

Applied linguistics course.

Linguist David Kelley and members of the saundspel discussion group are attempting to build a short course on applied linguistics spelling that reformers and amateur orthografers would find informative and useful.
http://victorian.fortunecitycom/vangoghl 555/Spell/phonology-course.html

Alan Mole's site for kids.

See links page.

The alfabet restoration project.

The alfabet project aims to make it possible to pronounce words as they are spelled - next to impossible when a symbol is associated with more than two or three sounds. The goal is to reduce the number of sounds per symbol and symbols per sound to less than three. This is similar to but not the same as the near one-to-one relationship of fonemic spelling.

There is general agreement on what four sounds should be associated with each symbol and with each sound. Getting below four, however, is a challenge.

For background, visit

URL top ten spelling list.

1. Spelling sites: links to over 50 rapid:

2. Principles of spelling reform - H Sweet:

3. Writing samples in different orthografies - side by side comparison:

4. Visible speech and the Great Vowel Shift:

5. Oz ideas - Valerie Yule on writing systems:

6. The sounds of English - the foneme inventory:

7. Definitions of key linguistic terms: alfabet, foneme:

8. Romaji (nu roman for ESL)

9. Is stress fonemic? - the truespel solution:

10. Fonetic spelling that shows stress:

A fuller version of this page can be found at:


It cost education authorities in England £7000 to reprint 48,000 posters promoting literacy. The originals, distributed nationwide, had to be destroyed because of spelling mistakes: vocabluary, and though for through. Proofreaders were blamed.

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On other pages: part 1, part 2, part 4 (Supplement).