On another page: part 1.

Newsletter January 1993, part 2.

Research. SSS initiates major research project.

For the first time in several decades, the Society is organising an extensive research project into the use of alternative orthographies in teaching.

Members will recall that Dr Gwenllian Thorstad, an expert educational psychologist, joined the Committee as Research Adviser at the last AGM. Since then she has led a Research Subcommittee in developing ideas for an extensive project.

The plan focusses on using an initial teaching orthography (ITO) for remedial teaching of literacy in secondary schools. It will involve a full-time teacher-researcher working with a large sample of children over two years, and then spending a further year analysing and documenting the findings.

A suitable school for the experiment has been identified in London and it is enthusiastic to participate. Discussions are active now on two further aspects:

- identification of a suitable researcher, expected to be a post-graduate student working for a PhD in educational psychology;

- a suitable ITO.

It is a precondition that the experiment will use the ITO for a limited period, probably one year, with each child, who will then "convert back" to traditional orthography. ITOs are therefore being examined that offer a compromise between regularity of sound-spelling correspondence and compatibility with TO.

The Society will organise and co-ordinate the project, and publish its findings. But it is not expecting to fund the effort alone. We will over the next few months be seeking the bulk of the funds from educational charities, and from individuals who want to help, of course. Our target is to start the project in January 1994.

Personal View.

Bob Brown explains.

Enclosed with this Newsletter members should receive the first three issues of a new series of Society publications called Personal View. The series has been established primarily for members to address other members - as a kind of "soap-box" from which to try out new ideas, or to publish views in a less formal way than in the Journal. There will be three or four titles a year if demand for them is sustained.

Issues of Personal View will be kept in print as standing publications,, when appropriate. Some are expected to be useful in responding to enquirers. For example, No. 1 will have such a role in dealing with my correspondents who ask about the link between spelling and literacy, or how reform could be achieved.

To summarise, the first three issues are:

1. Literacy and the way we spell English (Bob Brown).

This explains the probable link between traditional spelling and poor literacy levels in our working population. It also considers the practical aspects of introducing revised spellings.

2. Yurospel (Paul Fletcher).

Presents a digraphic spelling system based on a more international use of the letters than New Spelling.

3. System 2 (Sinclair Eustace) Belatedly presents a spelling system devised within the Society in the 70s. It is basically digraphic but involves one extra letter for schwa.

No. 4 is already in production. In it Ron Footer explains some suggestions for further development of New Spelling.

Members with ideas for Personal Views should contact me, preferably before writing an article. Further copies of Nos. 1-3 are available at 50p ($l) each, including postage.

Professor David Abercrombie died on July 4, 1992 aged 82.

David Abercrombie was Emeritus Professor of Phonetics at the University of Edinburgh, and a Vice-President of the Simplified Spelling Society. His interest in the work of the Society dates from the early 1930s, when he was a postgraduate student of phonetics under Daniel Jones and J R Firth at University College London.

The next 15 years after that found him lecturing (briefly) at the London School of Economics in English, and then with the British Council in Greece and Egypt where he spent the Second World War. He returned to the LSE after the war, before moving to Edinburgh in 1948 to found a phonetics department. Over the next 15 years the unit grew under Abercrombie's direction to a strength of ten members. He was appointed full professor in 1964.

Abercrombie's single most influential book is probably Elements of General Phonetics (1967). Other academic interests included the study of early writings on English phonetics, not just in an antiquarian sense but concerned to demonstrate the value of earlier traditions and evoke new interest in them. His paper Extending the Roman alphabet: some orthographic experiments of the past four centuries* is particularly relevant for members and is built on his strong interest in writing systems for English.

David Abercrombie leaves a wife, Mary, to whom the Society expressed its condolences immediately on hearing the sad news.

* In Asher, RE & Henderson, JA (eds.) Towards a History of Phonetics, Edinburgh Univ. Press 1980

In brief.


Members are reminded that subscriptions are now due for 1993, unless recently paid or pre-paid last year. The rate remains at £10 or $20, net of transfer charges if from overseas. Please send your remittance to the Secretary. A few recipients of this Newsletter (who will find a separate note enclosed) still have not paid their dues for 1992. This is a last warning. You will be deleted from the membership if we have not heard from you by the end of March.

Two new letter forms

Two of the new letter forms

developed for Robert Bridges' Collected Essays published in a phonetic augmented alphabet c. 1930. David Abercrombie undertook the phonetic transcription for the edition.

Harry Lindgren.

It is with sadness that we have to report another death. Doug Everingham recently notified us that Harry Lindgren - the doyen of Australian spelling reformers - and his wife both passed away last year. Messages of condolence can be sent to their daughter: Judy Lindgren.

We still have a reasonable stock of Harry's lively book if any members would like one (£1 towards postage please).

Sunday Times.

Chris Upward has been invited to write a substantial 3,000-word article on spelling for publication as part of a series on language issues being planned for the newspaper. We have no information on likely publication date yet, but watch out for it.

Arnold Rupert.

The veteran (though young-in-heart) Canadian campaigner has kindly made available copies of two booklets describing his augmented alphabet approach to spelling reform. Please write to the Secretary if you would like copies, in return for postage/donation of £1.

When time permits, I will produce a consolidated list of available publications and back-issues soon and send to all members.

Mostly for amusement.

The following exchange of correspondence was noticed in the pages of The Economist (October 7 and 21, 1989), triggered by reports of French spelling reform. It is presented mostly for amusement, but does anyone know Mr Starmer? We should invite him to join - I think!

Phonetic English.

Sir - If French needs a phonetic alphabet, English needs one even more so. According to my calculations, there are only about 1,000 words that are phonetic in that they are spelled as they are pronounced, and vice versa. The rest are a horrible concoction that have to be learned individually. How else do we know that anger does not rhyme with danger, how with show, have with shave? How else can we make sense of "A rough, dough-faced ploughman thoughtfully strode coughing and hiccoughing through the streets of Scarborough"?

Various people, notably George Bernard Shaw, have proposed phonetic alphabets. The problem with these is that they are based on symbols which are not available on a present-day typewriter or word-processor.

My solution, published in 1976 and called Starfon, is based on the existing alphabet, with the convention that the vowels a, e, i, o, and u are restricted to their short forms, as in pat, pet, pit, pot and put. G and y are pronounced only as in get and yet, respectively. A distinction is made between "the" in thin (symbol x) and "th" in then (symbol &), while "ch" is replaced by c and "sh" by $. The long vowels are represented by q and the numerals 2 to 9, so that boat becomes bqt, boot b2t, beet b3t, bought b4t, bite b5t, Bert B6t, bout b7t, bait b8t and Bart B9t. "76 trombones" are differentiated from "76 (our) trombones" by underlining the numbers.

Philip Starmer, Ohio.

Alfabet s2p.

Sir - Xank y2 f4 &e let6r ab&t fqnetik Ingli$ (Oktqb6 7x). It woz w6rx ev6r3 pen3 ov 76 subskrip$on.

B5 &e w8y, 5 dqn't xink 76 spelz 76. 5 xink it 4t t2 b3 7r. &is iz wot kumz ov fidling wi& &e Ingli$ langwid$.

Margaret Joachim, London PS - Have you tried typing this stuff?

Oxford Companion to the English Language.

This 1,200-page volume - remarkably good value at £25 for language-lovers - contains masses of fascinating information on every aspect of English: its world-wide variations, its history, its grammar, the personalities and organisations that have affected it. It also deals not least with its spelling.

It includes substantial articles on the SSS, spelling reform, Cut Spelng, and a catalogue of the ways in which each letter of the alphabet is variously used in English. The most complex letter, by the way, turns out not to be E, as most people expect, but O. It requires almost three densely-printed pages to describe.

While the book is neutral on the pro- and anti-reform arguments, it at least does the cause of reform justice, and contains much ammunition for our campaigns.

Chris Upward contributed many of the spelling-related articles.

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