SS9. 8pp. On other pages: part 1, part 2, part 4 (Supplement), part 5.

simpl speling July 1999 part 3.

Net chat.

Excerpts from a few of the posts in the SSS internet discussion groups.
A pun on the word 'net'.

Returning to traditional structure.

Cut Spelling often simply reproduces Middle English forms. Even when respellings are novel, the schemes that produce them are generally just reasserting principles that were part of English orthography from its inception, but became obscured in early modern times.

I put it to the group, then, that we are engaged neither in simplifying English spelling, nor in reforming it, but returning it to its traditional structure. While this does not mean simply reproducing spellings today that existed in former times, it does mean that we are in a very real sense restoring the written language to its true form.

John J Reilly, USA. [See Journals, Web link.]

Neither fish nor fowl.

Chinese writing (and reading) has to be painstakingly learned, since every word is unique. Learning it occupies a significant amount of time. English is somewhat like this, since the parts of a word, ofttimes spelt inconsistently, bear some similarity to the strokes that make up a Chinese character.

U would think illiteracy would be high in China, but apparently it is not (I have no figures). Why? Perhaps because it is not at all a fonetic system. Thus, for centuries the learning process has been well-established, and vital for cultural growth. English is caught in the middle, not using brush strokes, but using what appear to be fonetic characters of a limited alphabet, but combined in a hopeless jumble of permutations that defy the fonetic value of each character. It is neither fish nor fowl, and thus it can't swim or fly well. It flounders.

Raymond Weisling, Jakarta. [See letter SS8].

Learning by heart.

'Whole word' reading is learning each word by rote, by heart, without considering its constituent parts, and without relation to other similar words. 'This word is said. Remember, it.' It was thought that because competent readers look at a word and say it without apparently working out the sounds, children should learn that way. Automaticity is the aim, but able readers taught that way elicit the sounds of letters and apply them to other words. They do not learn thousands of words one by one. Less able readers need to be taught the sounds of letters for wordbuilding for reading and analysis for spelling.

Jean Hutchins, UK. [See Journals, Newsletters.]

Deciding by taste.

We have differences: we are not clones. But we shouldn't forget we play in the same team, and our adversary is called Traditional Orthography. Except for the left wing, which has usually only one criterion for simplification (consistency), most of us have three: consistency, economy, and TO-similarity. If we put an order on it, say the consistency always having priority, we have something like Truespel. If we choose economy, there won't be much left after all. Even CS began fast but had to brake. If we choose TO-similarity, we just keep TO, the system that looks most like TO. There is no mathematic way to decide a priori. We put the three criteria on the scales but as they have different measuring systems, we finish up making the decision by taste.

Zé do Rock, Germany. [See Journals, Newsletters, Personal View.]

[Jean Wilkinson: see Newsletters .]

Jean Wilkinson, USA writes:

...and as for PH...

'U know, it took me two, maybe even three years to learn how to spell phone. It was really hard for me.' My teen frend added, 'Because I'm stupid.'

Oh, is he now? Or is it the ph that's stupid?

Phone. From the Greek φ ο γ η, a sound. Notice: In Greek, ph is one letter, not two. Then why, why, why are we spelling it with two?

A library reference person read to me over the fone that classical Latin and Greek (c AD 200 - 600) differentiated between 'unaspirated p' and aspirated p'. Apple versus Pow! The aspirated became ph. In later Latin and Greek, ph became pronounced as f, but the ph spelling stuck.

'The spelling stuck.' Three words - I see them written in blood - the blood of the children who must wrestle with stuck spellings, for as long as three years at school. Fenbutol, but phenobarbital. Fenmur and fascia, but phlegm and phthiriasis. Do I hear someone with horns and a red suit laughing?

I'm jubilant that there is no law against misspelling words. They may not even be misspelled - they may be Future Spelling! I can't wait forever for the dictionary. lt's fone and telefone for me. The dictionary will catch up, provided the people lead.

Remember your young frends.

1. Questions of English, ed. Jeremy Marshall, Oxford University Press, 1994, p 140.

2. Only a little over 49% of the words in the English language can be spelled by sound. Phoneme-Grapheme Correspondences as Cues to Spelling Improvement, US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1966, p 122.

[Madhukar Gogate: see Journals, Newsletters, Web link.]

Another view from India.

David Crystal, in his Encyclopedia of the English Language, estimates almost 34 million people in India use English, and ranks the nation fourth in its number of English-speakers, after the US, Great Britain, and Nigeria. In LOJIKON (LOJIkal use of KONsonants) the late Govind N Deodhekar, an SSS member, said: 'it appears unlikely the English will reform their spelling in the near future. But the rest of the world cannot wait, and it is time to rebel: Madhukar N Gogate gives an alternative view.

A link language on a parallel route.

My viewpoint on spelling reform is different from those whose mother tongue is English. I can understand their concern to make spelling reforms in English. I sympathize with them if the odd spellings hurt literacy programs.

For me, English is a second language. We in India, for obvious reasons, have no patriotic songs or prayers in English. Sentimentally, we are nearer to our mother tongues, which connect us to our societies. We have illiteracy problems, not because of odd English spellings. Our scripts are somewhat fonetic, but the population explosion beats every development.

Since English is not my mother tongue, I (and other Indians) use it usually in written form. When spelling reformers tell me that of is pronounced with f as v in victory, it beats me. Why is f not pronounced like f in fee? But we can't criticize each other.

Pronunciations change with distance and time. India is multilingual, and accepts English as a tool for development (technology, world contacts). I and many people in India (whom I contacted) do want current English spellings to continue. We have to acquire welth and helth. We have to communicate. My engineering business will be hurt if I use the terms siment, brik, bilding, brij instead of cement, brick, building, bridge.

I advocated an optional Roman script for 15 Indian languages written in 12 different scripts. I did not suggest canceling current scripts. Why destroy existing lines of communication? Why hurt sentiments? While English has spelling absurdities, Indian languages have gender absurdities. No language is perfect. The Roman option was proposed to harness all English-printing machines for Indian languages, and to case reading unfamiliar languages. Computers now have solved many problems. With the flick of a button, one can change scripts! I failed to convince people. The Roman option (with proper syrnbol-sound relationships) did not click. A lesson is to be learnt. People don't discard their current writing systems.

Billions are spent on making books, signboards to conform with the current systems. So, let British and American spelling differences continue. A proper approach is to respect people and their spellings, and start a new language, a new script at an informal level. I call that Globish.

What is Globish? It is English, with reformed spellings, easy enuf for common people, using small symbols a, b, c, d, e, f, etc, no capitals, three dots at the end of a sentence, no diacritics, with grammar and vocabulary as in English. Capitals are used to start names, brand names, etc, which cannot be respelled. One can easily navigate from English to Globish. hi iz e jauli gud felo... = He is a jolly good fellow. It is easy to teach Globish. Danger, denjar - - No entry, no entri...

Treat Globish as different from English just as we consider Russian and German different. Russian P equals R in English. German J equals English Y. Similarly, decide on certain symbol-sound relationships for Globish and follow them. English u has different sounds: unit, push, up, busy. Take one of the relation-ships in Globish. Others are bound to look funny, like Russian P = English R.

Why do this exercise? Globish would be easier to popularize in the world. Those who want to do serious work must learn English too. Laymen will be told that siment, brik in Globish are written in English as cement, brick A poet may say that he would write a few poems in Globish. Some editor may encourage crossword puzzles in Globish. Globish would grow, as a route parallel to English.

We must take steps to promote an easy link language to foster world brotherhood. Globish is suggested.

I would like to keep away from reforms within English. That discussion becomes endless and fruitless. Millions of people will not accept changes. No airport will change arrival to arival simply because the redundant r is not acceptable to reformers.

English is a world language, which is its strength and paradoxically its weakness. The world is not interested in obliging England and America to reform spellings. However, a parallel Globish route may interest the whole of mankind. It would even show the English-speakers are willing to shed some ego, and accept a new world language.

[Steve Bett: see Journals, Newsletters, Personal View, Web links.]
[Web addresses have been omitted as they are unlikely to be valid now. Search engines may find the people or topics.]

Spelling on the net with Steve Bett, USA.


URLs for spelling-related websites. A page with 50 spelling related links maintained by Steve Bett.

The Sounds of English - A foneme inventory with graphemes from IPA and several fonemic alphabets including Shavian. This web page includes key words and click-and-listen audio files for every vowel sound.

A full text version on George Bernard Shaw's 1941 26-page article on spelling reform.

Mark Twain's short article on simplified spelling and fonetic spelling.

Latin 1 symbols, special characters, and diacritics. Cut and paste from this page into your HTML documents and HTML frendly email.

An introduction to the history of the English language.

Free Shavian font and A M Callaway's Phonetic Translator (beta version) is available.

A web board (mailing list) for those interested in the Shaw alphabet.

The lettermatrix project - side by side foneme-grapherne correspondences for 10 reform orthographies. Includes key-word and click-and-listen to the foneme features for those unfamiliar with IPA.

A spelling corrector that guesses correct spelling 97% of the time.

Accessing special characters in MS Word.

Altho most modern orthographies attempt to make do with the limited ASCII character set, creative orthographers might make use of an augmented symbol set if they could access it.

Fortunately, if U are using Word, WordPerfect or some other high-end word processor, U have access to a hidden extended keyboard. In the past, this was available only to Mac users, but is now also available to PC users.

[The guidelines given in this item are not relevant to all versions of Word, so are not reproduced here.]

Automated spelling converters.

How can we convert electronic text to augmented alphabets?

Alan Mole's BTRSPEL is a converter that can be downloaded to run on your computer, taking about 20min the first time. The Perlscript converter runs on a remote server and requires no set-up. U simply cut and paste what U want converted into a window on the screen and click on the convert button. Check it out.

To convert to non-Roman notations, U need to convert to the ASCII version of the notation and then change to a special font. [See Links page for current URL.]


A man is suing a tattoo artist for $US25,000. He wanted Villain inscribed on his biceps, but neither he nor the proprietor knew how to spell it. They decided it was probably Villian.

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On other pages: part 1, part 2, part 4 (Supplement), part 5.