N9. 12pp. On other pages: part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5.
[Bob Brown: see
Journals, Newsletters, Personal View, Pamflet 13.]

Newsletter. August 1995.

Published by the Secretary. Bob Brown.

Officers 1995/6.

President: Dr Donald G Scragg.
Vice-Presidents: Dr W R Lee OBE, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, Professor John Wells, Dr Valerie Yule.
Chairman: Chris Jolly.
Vice-Chairman & Public Relations Officer: Leo Chapman.
Secretary: Bob Brown.
Treasurer: Alun Bye.
Editor-in-Chief: Chris Upward.
Research Director: Dr Gwenllian Thorstad.
Committee Members: Nick Atkinson, Govind Deodhekar, Paul Fletcher, Ron Footer, Jean Hutchins, Rev Nick Kerr, Stanley Weatherall.
Trustees: Stanley Gibbs, Elsie Oakensen, Dr Donald Scragg.

AGM closes "one of the Society's quieter years"

The Annual General Meeting of the Simplified Spelling Society was held on 29 April 1995. It was preceded by a fascinating presentation on computers and spelling by Dr Roger Mitton of Birkbeck College, University of London [see separate report].

In his usual round-up of the year, Chairman Chris Jolly noted that the Society had been quieter than usual of late, though we had continued to produce a Journal regularly with the much-valued assistance of Kenneth Ives in Chicago.

The Chairman also praised Chris Upward as by far the most active member of the Committee, keeping our public persona ticking along in myriad ways. Looking forward, Chris Jolly said that he expected the Society to produce more material in 1995, and perhaps the time is right to consider again the idea of organising a conference.

One possibility, that has been discussed on a number of occasions in Committee, is to bring together dictionary-makers internationally to debate their defacto (if mostly unsought and often unrecognised) role as arbiters on spelling. As usual, the Society is willing and able to sponsor this kind of event - all that is required is someone with the skills and energy to organise it.


Earlier the meeting had received apologies from Bob Brown, who regarded himself as one cause of our "quiet year." He had been living and working abroad for most of the year, leaving little spare-time to devote to the Society. He has now returned to London.

Bob reported that membership stood at about 115. There were rather too many overdue subscriptions, but he would now get around to chasing them.


Alun Bye apologised in writing to the meeting for his health being rather too fragile to permit him to attend in person this year. Bob Brown read Alun's comprehensive treasurer's report, which was then formally accepted.

The meeting discussed various aspects of our finances, but without in the end expressing any wish to change present investment arrangements. The subscription was left at £10 for 1996.

Editorial issues.

Chris Upward delivered a lengthy Editor-in-Chief s report, beginning by noting that Ken Ives still continued to edit the Journal from Chicago, long after his initial offer to take on a couple of issues. Chris' continuing gratitude for Ken's generosity was echoed by the meeting as a whole.

However, Ken Ives has now expressed a wish to stand down as editor from the end of the 1995 volume, and editorship will then return to the UK. An important task for the Committee during this year will be to find a successor to guide our "flagship" publication.

Chris Upward noted that, in addition to traditional journals, the Society was also beginning to publish in the most modern way - the text of our information leaflets is now available on the Internet and has already been accessed by enquirers in several countries. We hope to do more in this area as the "information superhighway" develops and becomes more widely accessible.

[Various other detailed points noted by Chris appear as short news items elsewhere in this newsletter.]


The rest of the meeting was given over to the necessary formalities of electing a committee and officers for the next year and setting dates for meetings. Details of both appear below.

The AGM is as much an opportunity for involved members to get together for discussion as it is a formal occasion - and there was plenty of talking, before during and after the lengthy meeting and its lunch-break!

Meeting dates 1995/6.

15 July 1995, 21 October 1995, 20 January 1995, 11 May 1996 (AGM).

[Roger Mitton, see Journals.]

AGM Address: English Spelling and the Computer.

Dr Roger Mitton, Birkbeck College, University of London.

This year the AGM was preceded with a fascinating address by Roger Mitton, a long-standing member of the Society and an expert on computerized spellchecking and associated language processing tasks.

Most of us know little more than the simple spellcheck facilities of our word-processors, which often suggest alternatives for words they do not recognise - sometimes spectacularly offbeat or surreal alternatives! We also know that the computer cannot usually identify "real word errors" of the kind where we write in when we meant if. Typically these represent 30 percent or so of errors.

Those who sneered at spell-checkers were in for a shock when the full complexity of the process was unfolded. Roger Mitton began by explaining a little of the history of how spell-checkers - with or without dictionaries - were developed and improved, but concentrated mostly on the latest methods and the most promising work being undertaken to improve orthographic processing. At one point he had the assembled audience working as a team on a directed graph-traversing problem. I am still not quite sure why, but it was fun to "look under the bonnet of the word-processor for a while.

Roger Mitton's book on the subject, with the same title as above, is in progress at present. Expect to see it announced here when available.

Reviewing spelling schemes.

Many members of the Simplified Spelling Society passionately want to carry the concept of spelling reform through to a conclusion. Others harbour a lifelong interest in language and writing systems that leads them to seek more efficient tools than the rather blunt ones we have. Most developers of spelling or writing schemes want to talk to others about them, and want to receive some comment or feedback, preferably from an impartial expert.

The Committee of the Society recently decided to establish a formal subcommittee for the review of reform proposals and schemes, led by Paul Fletcher. This group reviews submissions carefully and responds, usually at length, to the author with a wide range of comments, questions, criticisms, and suggestions. It has been decided to publish brief descriptions of the schemes reviewed in the Newsletter, and the first four appear below.

If you have a scheme for review, please send it to the Secretary, and he will pass on to the Review Subcommittee. That panel will then respond directly to the scheme's author. If any reader wishes to contact the author of a scheme for more information, please do so through the Secretary in the first instance.

Paul Fletcher writes:
The Reform Proposal Review Subcommittee of the SSS has been examining a number of spelling schemes produced by members, summaries of which appear below. Most members have come to the need for reform after long years of teaching children to read, which experience is reflected in their proposals. If your scheme is not mentioned here, please be patient - we have something of a backlog of work.

MACSPEL by Max Gibb.

This is a regular, largely phonetic system. To cater for as many English accents as possible, it reduces the 40 basic sounds of English to 30, to represent the minimum number of generally comprehensible sounds used by literate English speakers worldwide. It banishes Q and X from the alphabet. Long vowels are differentiated from their short version by an acute accent or a line under the letter. Double consonants are therefore not needed to denote a short vowel (hopping/hoping).

REAL SPELLING by Stanley Weatherall.

In introducing this system, Stanley makes some telling points: he sees our spelling as the greatest restraint of all time on educational progress and draws comparison between the regularity we take for granted in mathematical and musical notations, and the chaos of English spelling, which he compares to a garden choked with weeds. His system adds some Greek letters plus ! for the long English i, to the 26 letter alphabet, but avoids accents and diacritics. It therefore caters for every sound with a single letter. Again, there are no double consonants.

The Alexander System by Antony Alexander.

The Alexander System uses all the letters of the alphabet, assigning fresh roles to some consonants so that there is one letter for each consonant sound. Thus c is used for current sh, and x for voiced th. The vowels largely follow "Continental" practice. Diphthongs ae derived form component vowels (veil, ail, craun) except for ou (book, bull) and u (bud). U is also used for schwa. Long versions of short vowels are conveyed by adding an e: raeth, foe, wield. R is omitted where it is not sounded in RP.

An interesting suggestion is that reformed spelling should be based on the pronunciation of the most internationally acceptable speaker of English, as identified in a worldwide poll, or series of polls.

IMPS by Jessie Wilson

This system is aimed primarily at children, both for reading and writing. It aims to improve spelling by reducing the number of irregularities rather than reforming it radically, as a stepping stone to TO, and to enable people who are literate in TO to be able to learn it easily. It is therefore not entirely regular.

A quick work-out for spelling reform proposals

This limerick by Chris Upward uses each English phoneme at least once, so forms a suitable test-piece for any aspiring reformed spelling scheme.
Fuzzy-opaque Orthographical Visions
There was a poor boy couldn't spell
Half the words in our language too well.
His teachers thought: "Brain-sick!"
Mum and Dad hoped: "Dyslexic?"
Yet the child rashly jeered
"What the hell!"


Roman Lipi Parishad.

RLP has campaigned tirelessly from Bombay for many years for the use of the Roman alphabet to represent a number of Indian languages that currently use diverse scripts. Its main activist, Mr Gogate, has now decided to retire, and RLP has been wound down. He has presented the Society with an information pack on the work of RLP for our archives.

Ron Hofmann.

Professor Th. R. Hofmann has been a distinguished member of the Society for many years, corresponding from various Japanese universities, and contributing a number of Journal articles. It is with surprise and regret that we have heard indirectly that he is thought to have died. It has not been possible to corroborate this yet. An obituary will appear once the facts are clear.

Angus Dalgleish.

The Society is also sad to hear that Mr Dalgleish passed away early in December 1994. He had been a trustee for many years, before standing down from that role a couple of years ago. It seems that he was a passive supporter of our cause, but if anyone knew him, please tell the Secretary so that we can carry a suitable obituary.

Standard spelling?

The British Standards Institution, on behalf of the International Standards Organisation (ISO), has expressed interest in principle in the concept of a standardizing international spelling for English, hopefully leaning towards rationalization. The issue is being actively pursued, to see what influence the Society may be able to have.

Dictionnaire historique de l'orthographe française.

Our long-standing member Susan Baddeley, living in Chartres, has been a major contributor to this seminal work on the history of French spelling, now published at last.

Journal index.

Nick Atkinson has agreed to take on the task of compiling a cumulative index to the Journal since 1979. This will be circulated to members in due course. [This was developed into journal authors, journal topics, newsletter contributors, newsletter topics.]

House of Lords.

The Society was pleased to note that Lord Simon continues to campaign on our behalf in Parliament, recently raising spelling issues in the Lords.

Cut Spelling can be Queen's English too.

We were pleased that the Queen's English Society has carried a two-part article by Chris Upward in their journal - in Cut Spelling.

Application for IBM award.

The Society has made an application for resources under the Community Connections Award scheme organised by the computer company IBM. About ten organizations with projects judged beneficial to society will receive awards of computers, software and assistance in using them.

The project we have proposed involves establishing an Internet server for the Society which would offer a free service to net users in transliterating traditionally - spelt text to simpler alternative spellings. This could also be used as a research tool by the Society. Let's keep our fingers crossed!

Dickens, Pickwick Papers.

"Do you spell it with a V or a W?" enquired the judge. "That depends on the taste and fancy of the speller" replied Sam.

Wanted! Artists!

Bob Brown would like to hear from members who are interested in producing cartoons on spelling or literacy-teaching themes for future Newsletters - to fill spaces such as this.

Keep it coming.

Members are invited to send material for possible inclusion in future Newsletters to the Secretary.

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On other pages: part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5.