[Underlined words and letters are in italics here.]
On other pages News 2 part 1, part 2.

Newsletter 1983 part 3.


See Journal article by Richard Lung.

ALFABET ANALYSIS. Richard Lung, Scarboro.


Spelling reformers believe in liberating literacy from the authoritarian anarchy of English spelling convention. The English alfabet may not be intelligently learned because it is not intelligently organized, on an understanding of the relations between speech sounds. I follow Daniel Jones fonetik grouping of speech sounds. More or less, the vowels are the openly voiced sounds. The consonants are the more or less obstructed sounds, which may be either breathed or voiced. Starting with the consonants, in English, the nasal group are just the voiced consonants: m, n & ng. Some alfabet reforms turn ng into one letter, because it stands for one distinct sound. However, it was mainly a matter of pedants insisting on hunting, shooting and fishing instead of huntin, shootin and fishin. I should not complicate matters with a new letter for this unimportant sound, as in lung, which ng renders quite closely.

Our next group are the breathed and voiced pairs of stopped consonants: p & b, t & d, k & g. We note that c, q & x are not needed for the k sound. The voiced consonant, l, is called by Henry Sweet, a half-stopped and half-open consonant, which brings us to the open consonants, caused by sounds of air friction in the mouth: f & v, th (mainly voiced), s & z, sh (& no letter for the rare voiced version, as in measure), ch & j, r (voiced), h (breathed).

Th is a hard sound for foreigners and perhaps should not be included in an international language alfabet. The use of both breathed and voiced versions is rare in a language. Moreover, breathed th is rare in English speech and indeed is easily overlooked. Reformers who assign it a special spelling ought not to be in a simplified but a complicated spelling society. The th sound is not the sound of its two letters spoken together. And neither Greek theta, θ, nor Saxon thorn, ð, are widely known or widely available replacements. Reg Deans "Britic" and alfabet re-uses x as the Saxon thorn without its loop. Some reformers believe this would be too confusing. They ignore that English letters have often changed their sound-meaning before. The present use of x is largely confined to the prefix ex-. Also, three out of four words with th in them are the word "the", the most common English word. So this strange use of x would include the least strange word "the", and therefore the easiest possible such substitution to guess at, for people who don't listen to what theyre told. After all, ye used to pronounce the, so it is no sacrilege for x to. In handwriting, x could be written x closely resembling the Saxon thorn, which would be cursive as well as nostalgic.

Like th, the sh letter combination does not mean what it says, unlike th. Elsie Oakensen lists 29 different spellings for this one sound. 4 contain the well-known sh digraf. 13 involve the less well recognized use of c. The ci spelling is usually followed by a vowel in English words. Its pronunciation has been simplified to the sh sound, as in the -cious, -cial, -ciate word endings, including such important words as: conscious, social, official, appreciate. But note also: conscience, ocean, brochure. C has changed its meaning before: it was once only pronounced as k. Rather than waste the spare letter c, it should be spared as the proper single letter option to the sh digraf.

The voiced version of sh, which is the sound in pleasure and treasure, has no letter of its own in English. And it is so rare that it would be out of all alfabetic proportion to give it one. Zs is a possible rendering of voiced sh (as sz is of sh) but the Welsh, for instance, tend not even to recognize voiced sh at all.

The next -h digraf ch is completely unfonetik. Nor is it always the spelling used for its sound, as in the words feature and fetch. Actually, the t is right, because ch = tsh. Like sh, ch has recognition value. But if and when c superseded sh, then ch would be replaced by tc. Reg Deans "Britic" alfabet already does this.

Moving away from the consonant groups, we have the so-called "semi-vowels" w & y. Mont Follick's Ootomatik Alfabet uses u & i where w & y are normally used. He then treats w literally like double-u as Welsh does. (Lloyd-George often said that if English were as well spelt as Welsh it would become the world language overnight. See SpellBites 2.). Historically, y became another way of spelling i. And if we are consistent with the use of w as double-u, then we should use y as double-i. Convention does some justice to this. Daniel Jones says the -y or -ey endings vary in pronunciation from a short-i to a long-i. For instance, glory is rhymed with free, in the Elgar march.

The above single-letter substitutions for digrafs are nearly the same as in Mr Deans Britic, which claims a saving of one-eigth on current English spelling.

The short vowels are in: pat pet pit pot put. The long vowels of a, e and o are generally spelt in Europe by adding an r: are & there (without the final e) & or, these spellings are consistent with the short vowel spellings. Northern speech is still true to this spelling convention. Southern speech is more accurately rendered by the aa, ee, & oo of the Ootomatik Alfabet. However, such a confusing reusage with the spelling conventions, in words like been and boon, is not justified by the minimal fonetik returns of distinguishing the pronunciations of arrow, error, oracle.

Perhaps the most useful suggestion I can make is how to signify the unstressed vowel without an old or new letter. Elizabeth Betts says the Hebrew word, the shwa means a point in the text to signify an unstressed vowel. Therefore, the apostrofe could signify omission of vowel stress, since an apostrofe is already known to signify an omission of some sort. Of course, it shows an absence of all pronunciation, as in the tv program "Diff'rent Strokes", Rock In' Roll. Theres a shop called Needle 'n Thread, in my home town of name historically spelt Scarb'ro. In the film "Calamity Jane", Doris Day is familiarly called C'lam not Clam. The difference supplies the answer to the question, why not leave the apostrofe out, too, for unstressed vowels. Its no good having to guess where the unstressed vowels go in words. And they amount to 9.5% of English speech.

As it is, the novice has to guess which of 5 different vowel letters or none is used for the short unstressed vowel, as in arable, open, primitive, occasion, circumstance. Daniel Jones showed that an unstressed short vowel in a word may become stressed when that word is in a different grammatical form. But there is no such spelling clue for the long unstressed vowel, being spelt with any of the five vowel letters plus an r: learn, were, sir, work, turn. These could be simply: l'rn, w'r, s'r, w'rk, t'rn.

Printers would rightly prefer the apostrofe to the hyfen for compactness. But the hyfen is on the typewriters lower deck, tho still not on a convenient key, and could be used till manufacturers agreed to put the apostrofe on the lower deck and a convenient key.

Summary of Alfabet Analysis.

consonantsvowels
breathedvoicedshort long
 mpatpet arethere
 npotpit ory (glory with free)
 pb(shwa)'put h'rw (lwn'tik mwn)
 td
 kg dipthongs, where English spelling is otherwize:
 lirregular of limitedregular
 fvaisle regularitysoilui (= "we")
 x or th (or aye-aye) vein (or fey)(or toy)
 sz iu (= "you")
sh orcirregular fairly
ch ortcjaural regular
 r mould Britic uses ow or q for ou;
 h (or mow)-y & -w not prefered.

The above alfabet analysis and argument is almost a hybrid of the Ootomatik Alfabet and Britic, that might be called the Ort'matik Britic Alf'bet.

References:

Daniel Jones, The Pronunciation of English. Cambridge 1956.

Henry Sweet, History of Language. Dent 1901.

Reg Deans, Universal Language and Simplified Spelling.
Copies may be obtained from Mr Deans, Leeds.

Mont Follick, The case for Spelling Reform. Pitman 1965.

Newell Tunes Spelling Progress Bulletin.

The Simplified Spelling Societys Newsletter.

SSS pamflet 5. Pitman 1942.

And correspondence with spelling reformers.


RICHARD LUNG.



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Information Technology 1982.


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