On other pages News 1 part 1, part 3, part 4.

Newsletter Winter 1982 part 2.

[See journal articles by John Downing and Edward Rondthaler.

Recent Publications of interest.

John Downing's most recent book, Psychology of Reading, written in association with Dr. C.K. Leong, and published this year by Macmillan, N.Y. is a monumental work which covers all the most significant research on this subject it would seem - and though there are always aspects one would like to add, there would admittedly be little room. There are thirty large pages of references alone.

Life with Letters is the fascinating and lively autobiography of Edward Rondthaler, the veteran spelling reformer, who also has a place in history as a pioneer of foto-lettering. He began his interests at the age of five, when he was given a bantam printing press for Christmas - and I wish his life-story were written for children as well, to 'give' them ideas. He it was who estimated that he saved the New York Times 84 dollars p.a. when he re-designed the mast-hed without a full-stop. Rondthaler has also prepared a computer dictionary in a version of World English Spelling, 'Soundspel', to show how easily modern computers could transliterate from present spelling to a reformed spelling during a transition period to eliminate publishing and printing problems.

(Hastings House, New York, 1981. ISBN 0-8038-4340-2)

Articles on spelling reform have also appeared in the Australian Journal of Remedial Education, Golden Jubilee issue, vol 14, nos. 1 and 2 combined, 1982, in two issues of the English studies periodical of the Spanish University of La Laguna, Tenerife, Revista Canaria de Estudios Ingleses, and be appearing the U.K.R.A. Journal, Reading and other magazines. Educational Computing will be carrying an article imagining how reading could be taught using modern technology and 'teach yourself to read' methods if English spelling were reformed.


[See Anthology contents and index of authors and Bulletin contents, riters and topics.]

SPELLING REFORM: A COMPREHENSIVE SURVEY of the Advantages, Benefits and Obstacles to Adoption. ed. Newell Tune. Published by Spelling Progress Bulletin, Cal. 1982. 304pp. Library of Congress No. 82 99095. 30 $U.S.

$30 Plus $2 p&p from Hollywood, California. UK £19.38 from Old Aberdeen, Scotland. Subsidised price £16.

While there is a vast literature about all the things that are wrong with people who cannot spell in English, there are few books in print about what is wrong with the spelling - especially for the general public. Tauber 1968, Pitman and St.John 1969, Harry Lindgren 1969, Dewey 1971 ...

This book is a unique and comprehensive survey, with 144 articles by 72 authors - journalists, inventors, politicians, publishers, linguists, psychologists, scientists, teachers, writers. Mark Twain, Bernard Shaw, Cyril Burt, Upton Sinclair, Godfrey Dewey, H. L. Mencken, Benjamin Franklin - here are characteristic views and exerpts. There are the inside stories of events by those actually involved or with special knowledge. Barbara Smoker tells the true and awful story of what happened to Bernard Shaw's legacy for a new alfabet, William Reed gives the history of spelling reform and the British Parliament, Sir James Pitman tells much you may never have expected about the initial teaching alfabet (i.t.a.) and those pioneers in information technology, Edward Rondthaler and Ivor Darreg, write about that technology and spelling change, with technical detail in simple terms.

Contents are comprehensive - the history of spelling as well as the history of spelling reform, with unusual sidelights on how the English language developed by chance, the arguments against spelling reform as well as the arguments for it, spelling reform in Danish, Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Turkish, Dutch, Portuguese and Norwegian, the teaching of spelling and its relation to reading, writing and speaking, historic changes in English as well as American spelling since Johnson's dictionary, accounts of specific designs for spelling reform with critiques, discussion of criteria for spelling reform, directions to follow and ways to implement reform, and the relevance of English spelling to illiteracy and international communication. Differing viewpoints are presented on controversial issues.

The book is an anthology of articles selected from 20 years of issues of the Spelling Progress Bulletin, that remarkable quarterly that Dr Newell Tune has published virtually single-handedly since 1960, and it is his own selection. A more fully edited and integrated book was originally planned, but knowing his illness and that time was not on his side, Dr Tune hastened to see it completed.

The advantage of this is that controversies appear as they were originally debated, and the development of authors' ideas can be followed. The disadvantage is that there is some repetition of opinions - although remarkably little in a packed book of 294,000 words; there is no subject index; pages are not always numbered adequately; and the reprinting of pages in their original form has meant the inclusion of some out-of-date and some out-of-place and some refutable material. The cone binding and cover are adequate but not ideal.

Tune makes his own contribution with articles, and with editor's notes that tend to appear when he disagrees with another author - as a man at the heart of 'spelling progress' for so long, he is both knowledgeable and interesting.

'Humor' is used as fillers. English spelling is so ridiculous that it calls out for lampooning. Here is a typical item, reprinted from the spelling reformers' book of limericks, Rhymes without Reason:-

It might take a bullet or tu.

When reformers have nothing to du
They might take a shot at the Gnu
To knock off the G
Would fill them with glee
And wouldn't embarrass the Nu.
This landmark book is not the last word on spelling reform. It seems to me that the age of theoretical argument and 'birdmen' is now giving way to experiment and research which is exploding fallacies on all sides of the spelling reform issue - and has been changing my own ideas from some of what stands to my name in the book. But here we have the essential background for everyone who is interested in how people spell, and the future of literacy in English. Many of the articles are compelling reading, others are fascinating to dip into, and there are few from which this reviewer has learnt nothing.

The third edition of this book may be a more seamless web, but the first two will be collectors' items.

I can't see it ever changing.

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On other pages News 1 part 1, part 3, part 4.