[Spelling Reform Anthology §2.5 pp19-23]
[Spelling Progress Bulletin, Summer 1980, pp2-6]

Main article.

Is Spelling Reform Feasible?, by Elsie M. Oakensen,*

Appendix I.

(1) Different sounds for the same letter:
a cat baby call calf want many errand imaging about

e be bed pretty seargeant Derby over

o woman women for other no olive do labour down

u up use put but rule busy rule busy bury quite
(2) Different groups of letters for the same sound:
sh ocean ship herbaceous chef stanchion cachou fuchsia special vicious pshaw exemption sugar fascist seneschal cushion schottische conscience conscious pension sjambok issue mission satiate, tortoiseshell nation cautious luxury flexion anxious

ə about the mother captain pageant nuisance luncheon special region errand cupboard
(3) Silent letters:
a, dead, b, doubt, c, back, d, adjust, e, have, f, staff,

g, reign, h, honor, i, receive, j, hajji, k, know, l, talk,

m, mnemonic, n, condemn, o, journal, p, psychology,

q, lacquer, r, carry, s, island, t, watch, u, build, v, navvy,

w, who, x, billet-doux, y, played. z, puzzle.

Appendix II.

Comparison of alphabet symbols.

feasible2b (25K)
feasible2a (21K)


Wurld Inglish, New Spelling, Torskript, and Consistent Spelling all keep the capital letters.

i.t a. retains c to keep the similarity with traditional orthography and uses or and au as these are sounded differently in some countries.

Consistent.Spelling uses X for the ks sound and q for the neutral vowel sound.

In simpl speling, one symbol represents more than one sound, e.g. (hit, year) and a (a, hat, pass)

In Consistent Spelling and simpl speling, both oo (book) and w (wet), are represented by w.

New Spelling differs from Wurld Inglish in that W.I. adds diacritical marks to th (them) and th (thin) in place of N.S. dh and th. Also N.S. uses oo and uu as in good fuud whereas W.I. uses them as guud food.

Torskript and simpl speling use ð for the th sound in (them) and Consistent Spelling uses c for that sound.

The authors of these systems are:
New Spelling: Walter Ripman and William Archer
Wurld Inglish: Herbert S. Wilkinson
i.t.a.: Sir James Pitman
Torsikript: Victor P. Paulsen
Consistent Spelling: Dr. Walter Gassner
Readspel: Kingsley Read
simpl speling: Edward Smith

Appendix III.

The way to spelling reform - a brief history of spelling reform over seven centuries.

[#1 should be a square, #2 should be a circle with a dot in the middle.]

13th century An Augustine Canon named ORM distinguished short vowels from long by doubling the succeeding consonants, or when not feasible, by marking the short vowels with a superimposed breve.

1476 WILLIAM CAXTON deliberately adopted certain spellings in the interests of consistency and uniformity.

1568 Sir THOMAS SMITH proposed an extended set of symbols (Alphabetum Angelicum), with 34 characters.

1569 JOHN HART used diacritical marks to distinguish vowel sounds and devised new symbols for consonants.

- WILLIAM BULLOKAR used numerous marks both above and below letters to assist readers. He suggested that vowels should have marks to indicate length and quality; vowels should be doubled for long sounds e.g. oo, and that some silent letters (e, b, i, o) should disappear.

1530-1611 RICHARD MULCASTER recommended no change in the existing 24 letters (j and v were still included under i and u). Mulcaster's influence was considerable and he listed the first rules of spelling.

1621 ALEXANDER GILL thought spelling should be phonetic but made allowance for derivation, difference of meaning, accepted usage and dialect.

1634 CHARLES BUTLER was particularly keen on single characters or the ligature for the existing double or doubled symbols, but he was completely unphonetic.

1640 SIMON DAINE was interested in letter names and referred to the changing pronunciation of the time with its relationship to spelling.

1644 RICHARD HODGES highlighted homophones. He disliked unnecessary double consonants and was concerned about the different sounds of vowels in different words. He used diacritic marks and separated syllables by a hyphen.

1668 JOHN WILKINS was concerned with word confusion. He had 450 characters in his system.

1768 Dr BENJAMIN FRANKLIN dispensed with c, j, q, w, x, y and added 6 new characters, but he relied on digraphs and for a long vowel he doubled the short vowels.

- Dr. WILLIAM THORNTON aimed at one symbol for each spoken sound and included © for sh, #1 for aw, and #2 for wh.

1840 Sir ISAAC PITMAN. In his Phonography in Writing by Sound, being a New and Natural System of Shorthand, the signs and symbols were consistently phonetically and emphasised the anomalies of English spelling. In Pitman's Shorthand we have a phonetic spelling that for consistency and accuracy, has stood the test of time.

1866 Dr. EDWIN LEIGH invented Fonotypy and carried out experiments in it and with an alphabet that indicated all sounds and silent letters without respelling.

1908 PITMAN's enthusiasm and inventiveness encouraged the formation of the Simplified Spelling Society.

1912 ROBERT BRIDGES (Poet Laureate) belonged to the Society for Pure English. He removed mute letters, e.g. hav, liv, coud, etc.

1914 Miss McCALLUM successfully taught a reading system based on the 'International Phonetic Alphabet', at a school in Cowdenbeath.

1856-1950 GEORGE BERNARD SHAW was interested "in the introduction of a new English alphabet containing between 40 and 50 new letters to be used and taught concurrently with the old alphabet until one or the other proves the fitter to survive,"

In his own writings he dropped the u in our endings and apostrophes in noun possessives, and abbreviated words and phrases. After his death part of his estate was used for the alphabet scheme in which in

1962 Androcles and the Lion was published.

The 'Shaw Contest Alphabet' was of 40 letters and 8 digraphs. Shaw provided money in his will for the inauguration of a "British alphabet of at least 40 letters" to be devised by a qualified phonetician. [Shaw: see Journals, Newsletters, Anthology, Bulletins.]

1949 Dr. MONT FOLLICK, Labour M.P. for Loughborough introduced a private members' Spelling Reform Bill into the House of Commons, seconded by Sir JAMES PITMAN. The Bill was defeated in a small house by a vote of 84 to 87.

Since the formation of the Simplified Spelling Society there have been 16 attempts to simplify the teaching of English by a variety of methods, notably:
WORDS IN COLOUR (Gattegno, 1940)
Thirteen new alphabets have been formulated including:
NEW SPELLING (Simplified Spelling Society, 1948)
i.t.a. (Pitman, 1961)
The SHAW CONTEST ALPHABET (composit of 4 winners, 1962.)
TORSKRIPT (Paulsen, 1963)
SENSUBLE SPELLING (Jamieson, 1973)
WURLD INGLISH (Wilkinson, 1970)
These have all received a certain amount of publicity.
At the First International Conference of the Simplified Spelling Society (London, 1975), it was decided that trials should be organised at some future date when Phonetic Alphabets should be compared for usefulness in teaching English, and the evidence set before the Government with a suggestion of Spelling Reform.

The alphabets offered for the trials were nos. 2 through 7 listed above in Appendix II.

Back to the top.