Personal Views are the self-expression medium for Society members. The views expressed here are the author's and are not necessarily shared by the Society, or a majority of its members.
[PV 10 stated an earlier version of SSS Aim.]
[See Journal, Newsletter, Anthology, and Bulletin articles and web by Valerie Yule.]

Personal View 10. 1999.

by Valerie Yule.

Valerie Yule thinks that English spelling reform is essential for international literacy. This is essential for knowledge and inspiration, bases for imagination and essential for survival of the living planet and quality of life. She has worked on all these fronts as a clinical child psychologist teacher, academic, researcher and writer. Publications include contributions to professional books and journals, literacy videos and collectedstories by disadvantaged children.

Unpublished books are on imagination, ideas and inventions, preventing poverty, the alternative householder, psychology for teenagers, spelling and society, literacy innovations and thinking.

Dr Yule is a Fellow of the Galton Society, Vice-President of the Simplified Spelling Society and founder of the Australian Centre for Social Innovations.

Human engineering and spelling reform.

1. How 'human-engineering' principles answer objections to spelling reform.
2. Criteria to meet the needs & abilities of readers, writers and learners.
3. The 1st step - SurplusCut Spelling.
Sample texts.
On another page, part 2.
4. Guidelines for International English Spelling.
Sample texts.
Notes on guidelines.
5. Short reading list.
6. Action for the future.
Spelling is as basic as air and water to our society. All have been taken so much for granted that we are shocked to discover that we may not still to be able to breathe fresh air and drink pure water. Even science fiction usually assumes that English spelling stays the same although worlds and universes change.

Yet few of us can read well and most of us cannot spell well, and all are directly or indirectly disadvantaged by traditional English spelling 90). Methods of teaching literacy are seriously handicapped. Other countries successfully improve their writing systems, and English spelling is not a sacred totem. Human engineering applied to all other communications technology fits tasks to their users. It can be applied to English spelling.

The criteria for improving English spelling must go beyond the aims of the Simplified Spelling Society to promote easier learning and more economical spelling. Our spelling system should be a best fit to match the needs and abilities of the wide variety of users and learners, native speakers and English learners, the bright, the dull, the present literates, Web-users and computers, and fit the nature of the English language. It must be an International English Spelling, since most users of English print today are not native speakers. A neat system of one-sound/one-symbol will not 'fit all'. All spelling assumptions must be tested and choices designed and tested by research, not just by logical arguments.

This Personal View seeks to set out what, on present evidence, some of these choices might be.

Five major features for International English Spelling.

1. Rationale.

All the usual objections to spelling improvement are answered by Interspel

2. A user-frendly spelling to match needs and abilities of readrs, writers and lernrs.

2.1. Readrs. Most readrs of TO English today read poorly, read litl and do not enjoy it. This dislike is aquired thru the trublsom business of lerning TO. They gess and misread - hence the popular litracy theory that all readrs reconstruct what they read, rathr than try to undrstand the writer. New vocabulry lernt from reading TO oftn cannot be used in speaking because pronunciation is uncertn. Interspel promotes betr reading strategies and mor enjoyment.

2.2. Writers. Notoriously writers hav problems trying to spell correctly in TO, in trying to remembr the unpredictabl spelling patrns, what the surplus letrs are and where they go, and how to spel unclear vowels. The great numbr of 'bad spelrs' realy show that TO is 'bad', and the task needs changing. The common trends of their mistakes show how peple would prefer to spel. 'Bad spelrs' tend to spel foneticly, and to shortn rathr than lengthn spellings, altho one cause of poor spelling is trying to imitate the feklessness of TO, in a vain hope of hitting the mark.

i. 'Bad spelrs' would benefit by easier spelling, so that they could spel by rationl rules rather than ransak their desperat memories or time-consuming dictionries. 'When in dout leave it out' is a principl to prevent them throwing in extra letrs 'just in case'.

ii. 'Good spelrs' in TO who hav taken great trubl to become so, can continue to use TO. As they aclimatise to more consistent spellings they can switch over gradualy

iii. A 5-15% reduction of letrs in words is a significant saving in efort and time, as wel as in costs and trees. It is an eficient streamlining for writers.

3. Users of Internationl English as a second language now outnumbr nativ speakrs and this majority is increasing. Interspel would benefit them in many ways:

A global standard in English spelling such as Interspel, with its broadband pronunciation, wil promote internationl comunication in English. Peple can continue to celebrate their local linguistic difrences thru their writn styl, specific vocabulary, spoken accents and intonation, while able to reach an internationl readership - c/f Lewis Grassic Gibbon, a writer in Scots dialect who is widely read beyond Scotland, because he did not spell in 'braid-Scots' spelling.

English-speakrs lerning a second language transfer easily to consistent difrences in spelling systems in lerning languages with regular spelling like German and Italian, because it is consistency that counts. A consistent English spelling therefor need not change to the Continentl vowel system to be internationly readabl and pronounceable.

2.4. Needs and abilities of lernrs. The '20,000 contradictory facts of English spellings', so labeld by Sir James Murray, the great compiler of the Oxford English Dictionary, have always been dificult for lernrs. One sound/ one symbol is stil an impracticabl ideal but lernrs' literacy problems can be significantly cut without it. A consistent spelling system that introduces consistent rules and has a few sight words is not beyond beginrs' capacity. They can start with the basic sound/spelling correspondences, then progress to full Interspel, which retains access to TO in the world around them. The consistency of Interspel makes it posibl for all lernrs to use the fonic and visual strategies for future good reading at present open only to the verbaly giftd, and to be asistd but not directd by gessing from context. Novel printd words are at first decoded, then, as they become familiar, they are read by fast and automatic visual recognition processes, while fonic decoding strategies remain availabl for furthr new words. The erly use of fonic decoding also sets in place auditory processes in short-term memory which asist in reading long sentences and passages, by helping to prevent forgeting their beginings by the time the end is reachd. The spelling exeptions of Interspel are few enough to remembr, including forin words which are mostly encounterd at a mor advanced level.

Lerning to read can nevr be efortless except for the giftd few. Writing is a cultural lerning, not instinctivly drivn like speech. Most societies never had writing systems. Interspel reduces th efort required. Lernrs apply their minds and reason for a short time to understand the simpl principls of the writing system and its sound-symbol relationships, and then practice to peak eficiency by 'real reading', rathr than first rote-memorising words or spelling drill for three years. Beginrs can work out the spoken version of almost every word in Interspel; morfemic and gramaticl indicators help to work out the meanings of new vocabulary met in context. Fast lerning makes reading enjoyabl.

Interspel used as an initial lerning spelling includes gides to pronunciation and irregular stress that need not be always represented in adult text, since 'one-trial lerning' or lttl mor is sufficient, eg, the initial spellings LONGGR FINGGR can theraftr be representd as LONGR FINGR. In contrast to the Initial Teaching Alphabet, ita, beginrs start to move directly into reading mor stream-lined 'adult' text while stil lerning with the initial aids, and are also facilitated in entry to TO.

Fonic representation for lerners.
a) Consistent sound-spelling relationships make fonic decoding reliable not booby-trapd as with TO. Howevr, unlike most spelling reform proposals, Interspel is not lockd into a rigid aplication of the alfabetic principl alone, but integrates visual, fonemic and cognitiv strategies for word and text reading. Regular spelling does not solv all lerning problems - they stil ocur for social reasons as in Germany, socio-educationl reasons as in Indonesia, and in Finland due to features of the language.

Spelling reformrs often assume that perfect sound/symbol correspondence would make reading and writing very easy, thinking that hearing sounds in words and blending them into words in print would come naturaly, since children must automaticly analyse and synthesise speech when they listn and talk. Howevr, for litracy, this automatic analysis of speech must be made conscius and abstract. The speech sounds identified in a writn languaj are a cultural abstraction, only aproximating the speech sounds that foneticians find we realy make. Failure to be taught or to discovr how to hear fonemes in words and 'Phonic awareness' must and can be taught, as it is not now, and a consistent spelling system solves many of the problems, without claims as a panacea.

b) Beginrs oftn aply letr-name pronunciations in writing and reading, so that concise spellings like LITL, APL and ANSR with sylabic consonants are easier for them than, say, LITTLE or LITUL.

c) Long words and strings of consonants or vowels are not easy for lernrs. Interspel assists segmentation into sylabls by retaining patrns of Consonant-Vowel-Consonant (CVC) for significant semi-vowels. Accents for long vowels and distinctiv spellings for vowels in final position help to identify morfemes, which facilitate reading for meaning and identifying unfamiliar vocabulary, as in PARLAMENTRI and HIWAYMAN, rathr than PARLMNTRI or PAARLUMENTARIE or HIWAMN or HIEWAEMAN.

Methods of lerning to read. Poor fonics teaching methods plus the dificulties of teaching English spelling explain why teachrs welcomd the promises of 'Look and Say' (constant visual repetition) and 'Whole Language', (suposed 'natural' absorption of litracy from the environment without specific teaching). A logicl, consistent spelling system makes posibl vastly improved and innovativ teaching methods. It is then esier to show lernrs how to hear sounds in words, how to encode them from speech, and how to decode words in print to achiev reading for meaning. Hence the promotion of a half-hour cartoon take-home video to set out the writing system and demonstrate how to read and spell. This undrstanding of 'how to' is a crucial key to litracy. Teachrs say 'the penny has dropd' and textbooks say 'the child intuitivly..'

Interspel does not require lerning abstract rules. A dubl page chart makes an encourajing and handy summary, showing the limitd size and nature of the task. Each element can be tickd off as it is mastrd thru generalising and undrstanding from exampls - eg. text with contrasting words with stress on the first or second sylabl can generate the rules for pronouncing stress in words.

Lerning to speak English, reading aloud, and relating speech and print. Interspel shows the forml pronunciation of English words, as used in a public speech, as the base for spelling and decoding words. Natural slurring in evryday articulation produces informl speech. Overseas lernrs of course stil require audio lerning for intonation patrns and accents.

Lerning to write. Small children's writing shows natural trends in transcribing the spoken language befor they are afectd by the irregularities of TO. They spel economicly, condensing rather than expanding long vowels, eg. "TH PLAN MAD A FOSD LADIG AT TH EPOT". They prefer singl vowel letrs to digrafs. Children, like adults, have no problems with reading or spelling BANANA, whether they pronounce it as /bannannuh/, /baanaanah/, /bnaner/, or whatevr. The simplest spelling is usualy the easiest. Interspel is close to children's 'natural spelling' and its consistent rules and alternativ acceptabl spellings allow some leeway, while setting limits.

Interspel and individual difrences in lerning

1. Bright lernrs need not be held back by having to sit thru sequential class teaching, and becoming confused, bored or rebellius, as can hapn now. They could 'teach themselvs to read' as soon as they wer redy, with a pre-school video, Interspel's consistent sound-spelling relationships with their few exceptions and rules set out on two pajes, and great books to read.

2. Slow lernrs can lern at their own pace in the classroom, without being irretrievably left behind, because as their abilities/ motivation developd, the 'instructions how to' and the litracy video would always be availabl to them. They do not then hav to rely entirely on rote memory or on auditory distinctions many find dificult, such as -S or -Z for verb endings or two /th/ sounds. They can use the same wider range of strategies of future good readers, without being booby-trapd.

3. Dyslexia and specific lerning dificulties. Gaps and confusions in lerning TO compound any problems of developmental delay or erly deficiencies in verbal or perceptual abilities. These are oftn resolvd too late to prevent the emotionl lerning blocks that are a major cause for continuing dyslexia. This erly demoralisation can be preventd by the clarity of Interspel's spelling system, and the multipl strategies it makes mor accessibl for lernrs.

3. The first step - 'SurplusCut' spelling

Drop the surplus letters in words

The most acceptabl introduction to spelling reform, as clearly shown by reserch, is to clear clutr from TO by omitting useless letrs from words (Yule 1991). 'Surplus' letrs are defined as serving no purpose in showing pronunciation or meaning of words. They mislead lernrs and increase spelling mistakes in writing. Modern tecnologicl and business trends towards streamlining are alredy shown in 'advertising spellings' and trends in spelling change such as DEVELOP and PROGRAM replacing DEVELOPE and PROGRAMME.

Surplus letrs that can be cut out include:-

Advantages of cutting surplus letrs from words

Much of this Personl Vew has been ritn in moderat SurplusCut, with moderat dropping of surplus letrs and F replacing PH. The author's unintentionl inconsistencies frustrate the fact that at first most writers wil be inconsistent. Other aparent inconsistencies ilustrate the definition of 'surplus' as 'surplus to identification of meaning' by present TO readrs as well as surplus to representation of pronunciation.

Sampl SurplusCut Text to compare with other reform proposals


Exampl with moderat cutting of surplus letrs.

Sound /f/ speld F and soft g with J. Text is 3.3% shortr than TO. 94% of words unchanged.
It was on the first day of the new year that the anouncement was made, almost simultaneusly from three observatries, that the motion of the planet Neptune, the outrmost of all the planets that wheel about the Sun, had becom very eratic. A retardation in its velocity had been suspectd in Decembr. Then a faint, remote spek of light was discovrd in the rejion of the perturbd planet. At first this did not cause any very great exitement. Sientific peple, howevr, found the intelijence remarkabl enuf, even befor it became known that the new body was rapidly growing larjr and brightr, and that its motion was quite difrent from the ordrly progress of the planets.

Text with mor drastic cutng of surplus letrs.

64% of words unchanged. 6.3% shortr. Market reserch shows that the least popular letr deletion is to cut THE to TH. THE is the most comn word in text, so cutng it by a third makes a visual jolr. TH is therefor one of th later 'mor drastic' cut spelngs to be made.
It ws on th first day of th new year that th anounmnent ws made, almost simultaneusly from three observatries, that th motion of th planet Neptune. th outrmost of all th planets that wheel about th Sun, had becom very eratic. A retardation in its velocity had been suspectd In Decembr. Then a faint, remote spek of light ws discovrd in th rejion of th perturbd planet. At first this did not cause any very great exitement. Sientific peple, howevr, found th intelijence rernarkabl enuf, even befor it became known that th new body ws rapidly growing larjr and brightr, and that its motion ws quite difrent from th ordrly progress of th planets.
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