News6. (underlined words and letters are presented as headings or in italics here.)
On other pages: part 1, part 2, part 4.

News Letter. October 1984 part 3.

[Chris Upward: see Journals, Newsletters, Leaflets, Media, Pamflet, Book, Papers.]

PY IN THE SKY or PI YN THE SKI?
Here is an articl by one of the Working Party mentiond by Laurie Fennelly. You will gather that the Working Party will giv a great deal of constructiv thaut to the task of finding a system which can be offerd as a possibl permanent reform to official bodies and to the public.

Editor.


PY IN THE SKY or PI YN THE SKI?

by Christopher Upward.

1. The I/Y problem.

In her July editorial Mona Cross invites comments on two spellings on the newsletter cover which hav caused readers to stall. One at once notices two words which do mor than just cut redundant letters: 'briet' (bright) and 'hie' (high) introduce the digraf IE to represent the long (difthong) value of I, /aI/, which t.o. only uses in final position in a few monosyllabls like "die", "lie", and their derivativs. Especially with 'briet', one is misled by the regular t.o. pronunciation of IE when in non-final position, which is /i:/, as in 'brief' - and is also the regular German spelling for /i:/, as in 'Sie', 'Wiesbaden', (EI being regular spelling in German for /aI/, as 'Mannheim'). We must therefor ask: what is the best way to regularize short /I/ and long /aI/, as in bit/bite? T.o. uses I and Y, as well as an assortment of digrafs such as IE, YE, EY, El, AI, and sometimes tacks on GH for good measure.

2. A historical view.

The historical context is interesting here. If we look at texts written 400 years ago, we notice that in those days the English wer in some confusion as to how to distinguish between the letters I and J, or between U, V, W. To us this confusion is almost unbelievable since we regard the consonants J, V, and W as being a pretty unambiguous guide to pronunciation, and in no way overlapping with the vowels I and U. But if we imagin ourselvs 400 years into the future, after English spelling has long been rationalized (we fervently hope!), and look back at 20th century spelling, surely we would be equally staggered that, when there ar two distinct and very common sounds, /I/ and /aI/, and two distinct letters, I and Y, the primitiv scribblers of 1984 could not draw the obvious conclusion and regularly use I for /I/ and Y for /aI/.

3. Vowel-letters and vowel-sounds.

And really, tho it is the representation of vowels rather than of consonants that is the bane of t.o., the two vowels /I/ and /al/ ar just about the easiest to deal with. For one thing there are not the contradictory pronunciations that bedevil A, O or U; for another, I/Y has just two basic values, as in bit/bite, not three, as A and U hav; and for a third thing, we hav two redy-made letters to hand, just waiting to be consistently allocated to the two sounds, which is mor than can be said of the long and short values of A, E, O or U.

4. Which letter for which sound?

These observations are not new, but the Simplified Spelling Society's own book, "New Spelling", is for instance still bogged down in the dual use of these letters, partly because of the complicating factor that Y has a second, very distinctiv function as half-vowel, half-consonant when it precedes a vowel at the start of a syllabl (yam, yes, young, lawyer). It has also been suggested that I should be used for the long value /aI/, and Y for the short value /I/. There ar nevertheless some important considerations which indicate that perhaps the reverse allocation (I for /I/, Y for /aI/) would be easier. And ease of use must surely be the key criterion for deciding which of the two alternativs to adopt, both because what is easier is likely to prove mor acceptabl to the public, and because, as articl A2 of the Society's constitution says, the aim is reform "in the interests of ease of learning and economy in writing."

5. The international context.

But first: what are the implications for English as an international language? For foreigners whose mother tongue also uses our roman alfabet, it is important not to make English look even mor hideously unpronounceabl than it alredy does. In other Western languages the letter I has the fairly standard pronunciation of /I/, /i/ or /i:/ (it is no coincidence that the international fonetic alfabet uses variants of it as symbols for such sounds); for English to drop that value of I would therefor mean destroying a feature that now links our language with others. The vowel Y on the other hand is rare in the other 3 major West European languages, and it does not hav a standard pronunciation: in German its rare occurrences are pronounced like ü; in Spanish it occurs in some common words (y, muy) in which it is pronounced like I; in French most of the frequent Ys used in the 16th century (moy, luy, ay, croy) hav long since become I, and fonemically the two ar anyway interchangeabl; while the Italian alfabet has no Y at all (using it for foreign words only). For English suddenly to start only using Y for /i/ would therfore be, to say the least, confusing. Would you, for instance, prefer the taste of spaghetty?

6. Orthografic system.

A systematic representation of the fonemes of English would pair the long and short values of the vowel-letters. The following pairs of words (spelled in t.o.) illustrate the system, with the short values given first:
A pat/bait, bath; E pet/beat; I pit/bite; O pot/boat; U put, putt/beauty.
Since over 2/3 of the vowels we speak hav the short values, the most economical system of spelling will reserv the simpl letters AEIOU for these short values and use other devices, such as digrafs, to represent the long values. If I = /aI/ and Y = /I/, a doubl hole is knocked in that system.

7. The principl of minimum disturbance.

When spelling reformers ar faced with such a choice, an important question is always: which alternativ will cause the least disturbance to the existing system? Frequency counts ar essential here, as they will tell us how often spelling changes will need to be made if I = /aI/ or if I = /I/. Some relevant statistics ar:
1. /I/ (as in 'it') represents some 8% of the fonemes produced in spoken English (it is the second most common vowel-sound), whereas /aI/, as in 'like', has a freqency of under 2%.

2. I is the 6th most common letter in written English, whereas Y is only the 16th most common - and that includes its most regular (tho less common) and quite different use at the start of syllabls as in 'yes, lawyer'. The commoner letter should represent the commoner sound.

3. If we ignor 32 cases of I/Y used in digrafs, difthongs, and for other sounds including /j/,in the 500 most common English words the occurrences of the two letters ar as follows:
I as in 'it': 79 cases of I=/I/ I as in 'like': 24 cases of I=/aI/
Y as in 'by': 3 cases of Y=/aI/ Y as in 'very': 21 cases of Y=/I/
Total 82 for 'it/by' pattern Total 45 for 'like/very'

4. This preponderance of th 'it/by' pattern is greatly increased when word-frequency is taken into account. Thus, the 7 words containing the letters I or Y which hav a frequency higher than 5,000 per million all follow the 'it/by' pattern, while 27 of the 45 words following the 'like/very' pattern have a frequency of under 300 per million.

8. Economy.

Substantial gains in economy can be made by spelling all /aI/ sounds with Y, since it so happens that /aI/ is the most common of all the long vowels and difthongs in English. With the singl vowl-letrs AEIOU reservd for short values, a less economical method such as digrafs would normally be required to represent the less common long values, and it is therefor very fortunat that the letter Y should.be availabl to represent the most common of them: maximum economy is the result. All those common IGH words, which the Society's SR proposals on -OUGH and -AUGH conspicuously avoided, fall like ninepins, shedding two letters each in the process: hy, sy; bryt, delyt, fyt, lyt, myt, nyt, plyt, ryt, syt, tyt.

9. Regularity.

As with all long vowels and difthongs in English, t.o. has a plethora of ways of representing /aI/. Compare: by, mild, like, high, height, die, dye, eiderdown, aisle. These can then be regularized to: by, myld, lyk, hy, hyt, dy, dy, yderdown, yl; and the gain in economy is nearly a third: 12 out the 39 t.o. letters hav been saved.

10. Confusion with semi-vowel Y and digraf Y?

The book "New Spelling" (p.108) rejects this use of Y becaus of its other use at the beginning of a syllable which would be unchanged. But since the position in the word of the two uses of Y is distinctivly different, confusion is hard to imagin. In theory, confusion could arise if the long vowel Y directly preceded a vowel letter, as when spelling a trifthongal glide, such as "higher", "liar", "prior"; but by writing such words without a second vowel-letter at all, we avoid the problem and get their spelling to rhyme as does their sound: hyr, lyr, pryr. At a stroke we hav achieved economy and regularity. Indeed the use of y obviates that hazard of all digrafs, namely that somtimes the same pair of letters can represent separat sounds, as in "quiet" where IE is not a digraf at al. Y thus makes for a clearer distinction than in t.o. between "quiet" and "quite", with 'quyet' and 'quyt'. Y also occurs as the second letter in digrafs such as ay, ey, oy, where it in effect represents the sound /I/; such words as bay, obey, boy could therefor be written bai, obei, boi, but since this use of Y is mainly confined to final position, and the sound is regular, this change is unimportant.

11. Exampls of the two systems.

If there is any remaining doubt as to which use of Y is to be preferred, perhaps some practical exampls will dispel it. Consider the alternativ possibilities with rim/rhyme, still/style, tip/type. If I = /aI/, and Y = /I/, we hav rhyme perversely becoming rim, styl becoming stil, and type becoming tip, with rim equally perversely becoming rym, still styl, and tip typ! Whereas with rim/rym, stil/styl, tip/typ, we surely all know exactly where we stand. Then, ar we really going to write all those constantly recurring little words as yn, ys, yt, wyth, hys, thys? But inevitably, any regularization of I/Y is going to reverse the present pattern of spelling in some words: socyeti and yvi ar two extreme consequences of the recommended system; and we would have to get used to writing the adverbial suffix as -LI, not -LY - but the very regularity of it is a great practical help in implementing this change. On the other hand all those verbs and nouns like to bury/to deny, city/supply, whose identical ending is belied by their differing pronunciation, ar neatly distinguished in all their parts: buri/deny; buris/denys; burid/denyd; buriing/denying; citi/supply; citis/supplys.

12. Exercises.

Now let's try putting these ydeas into practice. In the first fyv sentences, all the I and Y sounds ar omitted: see if you can insert I or Y correctly, but do not insert any other letters.
a. Peter P...per p...cked a p...nt of p...ckled pepper.

b. Ever... arm... fears the m...l...tar... m...t of ...ts enem....

c. Des...rable countr... res...dence qu...t near the sea-s...d.

d. He qu...ckly t...d...d the k...tchen befor his w...fe arr...ved home.

e. W...ll sc...ent ...f..c d...scover...s ...mprove our l...ves?
In the next fyv sentences two letters need changing; in Nos. 1-4 a letter also becomes redundant, whyl in No.5 rather mor letters vanish ...
a. Why does he think drink helps him drive stylishly?

b. By investing unwisely his sister frittered away the inheritance.

c. Life is but a melancholy flower.

d. Buy nine early cauliflowers.

e. Hitler insisted might is right.
13. The historical context again.

Lest anione should think these spelling patterns ar a daring innovation, let us remynd ourselves that meni of them wer wydspred centuries ago. William Blake after all entytled his poem "The Tyger". The trouble was, people were inconsistent in their wryting. Let us close by re-wryting the first two verses of his poem consistently, distinguishing I and Y - and using full cut spelling into the bargain:
Th Tygr

Tygr! Tygr! burning bryt
In th forests of th nyt,
Wat imortl hand or y
Cud frame thy fearfl simetri?
In wat distnt deeps or skys
Burnt th fyr of thyn ys?
On wat wings dare he aspyr?
Wat th hand dare seze th fyr?
T.o. would requyr anothr 34 letters to write this.



SECTION III.

[Ayb Citron: see Journals, Newsletters, Anthology, Bulletins.]

An extract from a letter of September 13th 1984, from Abe Citron, who is a lecturer in the U.S.A. and an important member of the society called "Better Education Thru Simplified Spelling". His adres is Michigan, U.S.A.

We hv come to th conclusion that, within th field o business, th computer field is th most likely to pick up some new spelling forms. We include here all th people using home computers, since they ar especially open to innovation.

Following this idea we hv recruited Sheldon Hamburger of INFODATA, INc., a firm which sets up computer programs for business firms. He joined our Board two months ago and is now helping us to write materials for publication in some of the numerous publications devoted to the computer field.

We hope to obtain at least one other person on our Board who is very sophisticated about computers.

Further, we plan to attempt get on the programs of meetings of computer people to present the idea of simplified, shortened spelling as an aid to the efficiency of computer use.

The only anachronistic element in the use of computers is our spelling.

Best wishes,
Yurs,
Ayb

An Aid to the EFFICIENCY of COMPUTER USE

100 SPD SPLG WURDS. (BY NUMBER OF LETTERS). 10 SEPT. 1984.


1 N AND
2 R ARE
3 B BE
4 C CAN
5 F FOR
6 I IN
7 Z IS
8 M MORE
9 O OF
10 T THE
11 W WITH
12 U YOU

1 BK BACK
2 BN BEEN
3 BT BUT
4 CM COME
5 CD COULD
6 DZ DOES
7 DU DO
8 FM FROM
9 GD GOOD
10 HD HAD

11 HV HAVE
12 HR HER
13 HM HIM
14 HZ HIS
15 HY HIGH
16 LV LOVE
17 NU NEW
18 NT NOT
19 WN ONE
20 SD SAID
21 SM SOME
22 TU TO
23 WZ WAS
24 WR WERE
25 HU WHO
26 WO WITHOUT
27 WD WOULD
28 YR YEAR

1 UGN AGAIN
2 BCZ BECAUSE
3 BFR BEFORE
4 ENF ENOUGH
5 EVN EVEN
6 GVT GOVERNMENT
7 HIR HERE
8 HVR HOWEVER
9 NOE KNOW
10 LES LESS
11 LYF LIFE
12 LYK LIKE
13 LTL LITTLE
14 MYT MIGHT
15 NVR NEVER
16 NYT NIGHT
17 WNS ONCE
18 OVR OVER
19 PPL PEOPLE
20 RYT RIGHT
21 SHD SHOULD
22 SHO SHOW
23 SNS SINCE
24 THT THAT
25 THN THEN
26 THM THEM

27 THR THERE
28 THS THIS
29 THO THOUGH
30 TYM TIME
31 WEL WELL
32 WHT WHAT
33 WHN WHEN
34 WHR WHERE
35 WCH WHICH
36 WIL WILL
37 YUR YOUR
1 BZNS BUSINESS
2 CMTY COMMITTEE
3 CUPL COUPLE
4 CORS COURSE
5 EVRY EVERY
6 HOWS HOUSE
7 MUNY MONEY
8 STIL STILL
9 THER THEIR
10 THRU THROUGH
11 WHYL WHILE


1 UGNST AGAINST
2 ALTHO ALTHOUGH
3 COLIJ COLLEGE
4 FORIN FOREIGN
5 HMSLF HIMSELF
6 NOLIJ KNOWLEDGE
7 SCOOL SCHOOL
8 SMTHG SOMETHING
9 STOPT STOPPED
10 THAUT THOUGHT
11 TRUBL TROUBLE
12 THRUT THROUGHOUT

12
28
37
11
12
TOTAL 100
WN LETTER WORDS
TWO LETTER WORDS
THREE LETTER WORDS
FOR LETTER WORDS
FYV LETTER WORDS

COMPILED BY AYB CITRON 10 SEPT. 1984


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On other pages: part 1, part 2, part 4.