SS11. On other pages: part 1, part 3, part 4 (Supplement).

simpl speling March 2000 part 2.


Fonemic flexibility.

I've just had a brainwave. One of the main stumbling blocks to a fonetic spelling reform is that there are all kinds of different sounds uttered, and if we try for absolute accuracy, we end up with a very complicated system. Yet many of these differences in sounds are not important to write because when, say, faced with rid and reed the context tells us immediately which pronunciation to give the word, even if they were spelt the same.

What I suggest then is that we incorporate into our spelling reforms a certain amount of fonemic flexibility and write all oos as u, ee as i, sh as s, ch as c, all air sounds as eir, all o sounds as o, and th as t or d.

We would have something as follows. 'I am anoder disgruntled skul ticer sik of wasting hours of my time, and yirs of my pupils' lives, ticing all de wird speilgs of Englis. Ticers have various carts and drin and nmonics, but de slow kids never learn to spell anyway, and de oders simply rid and rid till it soks in tru deir skin.'

Peter Gilet, Australia. [See Newsletters.]

Place renaming is an ongoing process.

In India name changes for metropolitan cities (SSNov99) took unnecessarily long. The British Raj ended in 1947, and within the first 10 years the names of many smaller cities and towns were changed.

Thus, Poona became Pune (pu-push, ne-net), Sholapur became Solapur, Baroda became Vadodara, Cawnpore became Kanpur, Benares became Varanasi. Rivers Ganges and Tapti were renamed Ganga and Tapi. Many streets honoring British officers were renamed. Public statues of Queen Victoria, King George, etc, were transferred to museums. Only metropolitan cities such as Bombay, Madras, Delhi, Calcutta, Bangalore remained unchanged, but their renaming process started in 1995. Do not be surprised if one day Delhi and India are Dilh and Hindustan.

Why was all renaming not done at once? It would be convenient for maps, geografy books, encyclopedias, etc. India is a democracy, so any city renaming has to be approved by local municipality, state government, and central government.

That takes time. Special interests lobby against renaming. For example, many institutions carry the name Bombay, such as University of Bombay, Bombay Chamber of Commerce. They were reluctant for many years, and their opinion could not be ignored. Now, University of Bombay too is called University of Mumbai.

Renaming happens elsewhere, too. Dacca in Bangladesh is now Dhaka. Ceylon and Burma are Sri Lanka and Myanmar. The Japanese renamed Singapore as Shonan in World War 2. After recapture by the British, it reverted to Singapore. New York was once New Amsterdam. Renaming should not be seen as an absurdity. Peoples' sentiments must be respected.

Indians too give twists to foreign names. The English language is Angrezi in Hindi, Ingraji in Marathi.

Madhukar N Gogate, India. [See Journals, Newsletters, Web link.]

Incremental, measurable.

The days of Oxford English being the only show in town are long past, which is why the pretense that language planning in the case of English will only affect spelling is untenable, and why reforms must be incremental.

Rengo - Rectified English.
Rengo 1: Reconciliation of British English and American English.
Rengo 2: Introduction of better spellings, previously tested by the SSS in its house style.
Rengo 3: Regularized English
Rengo 4, etc, until the process is complete.
Rengo objectives should be measurable. Acceptance of American spellings is measurable. It can be measured in terms of recognition by ministers of education. It can be measured in terms of newspapers which adopt them.

Robert Craig, England. [See Journals, Newsletters.]

No bellyaching, please, we know what's best.

I favor agreeing on a spelling scheme. I want everyone to use it. But, I do not believe we have the power either to agree or to convince everyone. I think trying to do so wastes our time.

I think that if we work very hard for a very long time and raise lots of money and hire advertising experts, then, and only then, we may lead many to dislike TO, and to want to spell differently.

Should that day come, the only way I know to create a working majority is to let the reformers select the reforms, to give them a sense of owning the reform.

Handing me a plate and directing me to 'Eat it all, and no bellyaching, please, because we know what's best for u' would not win me to any cause. How about u?

Nelson Helm, USA. [See Newsletters .]

A bridge between TO, new spelling.

English has some ways to represent sounds. One is 'fonetic symbols' or IPA, another is 'menuspell' (PV7.) I do not know much about menuspell but it seems to me neither systematic nor clear. Anyway, it is too long!

IPA is, of course, systematic and clear. But it requires special fonts. So it is not likely to be used in emails or such.

We, users of English as a second language, are often embarrassed not only by proper names of persons or geografical names but also by ordinary words when we read them. How could we pronounce words not in dictionaries?

The problem is that the English language lacks appropriate means to represent its pronunciation accurately for use on the net. What we need is an alternative spelling to IPA.

For example, Nu Folik Fo'netik (PY7, Steve Bett) will almost suit. I also have some ideas, but at this time I leave it to other members. It can be, but need not be, a new candidate for new spelling.

First we should establish this convention, 'Spell to Read'. Next, spread it to the world by means of the net. Then we would have three ways to spell English: TO - Simplified Spelling - Spell to Read. The Simplified Spelling would be the bridge between TO and Spell to Read. This situation would lead a tendency to simplify English spelling.

Yasuyuki Hosiba, Japan.

Meind yaur perversifications.

I wrote a book some 40(?) years ago, maybe more, called Meind Yaur Lanwij . Have now nearly finished a further suggested design for ss called Reitspel in a book called English Spelling Perversifications.

Shall send a copy when it is finished. It might just help. Yoo nevur no, doo yoo? Noa dabual leturz and no doobl auntaundr!

John Miles, England

Teachers a conservative lot.

Re Disappointing response to advertising trial (SSNov99): I wasn't surprised at the low uptake. My short article in The Link drew no response - not even hostile! When u consider Link is sent to every registered teacher and to all levels of the Scottish education system, from nursery to university, it is quite incredible.

We have to understand that teachers as a group are a conservative lot, maybe even ultraconservative, and are too concerned about 'getting thru the day' to be bothered about anything that smacks of reform. I firmly agree with Valerie Yule, who believes teachers are 'not as good a target as we may think.'

In fact anyone who dares to mess about with the status quo gets short shrift from the education establishment. Take Maria Montessori, A S Neil and Edward de Bono, all innovators who've been marginalized. If change is to come it will be imposed from above. We know that other countries have modernized so we should attempt to discover how they managed to do it and learn from them. Maybe SSS members in other countries can throw some light on the subject.

George Anderson, Scotland. [See Journals, Newsletters.]

Superfluous and confusing.

I would support Robert Craig (SSNov99) in his call to remove the superfluous and confusing l in could, would, should. However, I would go further, along with CS, and remove the o also, since otherwise u are left with the digraf ou, which in many cases is pronounced as proud, cloud.

Robert may not like u as the spelling for the second person, but it's there already in frases like While-U-Wait, and any reform would be foolish to reject out of hand a better form that is already accepted by the public. While I agree with him in writing to keep the oo digraf for the long rounded front sound, as in fool, boot, hoof, tooth, I disagree with him when it comes to the short vowel in good and book. (Incidentally, I recognize that many people pronounce hoof, tooth with a short vowel.) Two letters in a word would seem to suggest a long vowel sound, and uo cannot fail to suggest a difthong.

I have long thought that we could take a leaf out of Welsh's book, and use w to represent the short rounded sound, as in fwt, bwk, lwk, brwk, twk. The only fly in this particular ointment would be wwd, which begins to look a bit too ziggy and zaggy.

Nicholas Kerr, England. [See Newsletters.]

Net chat.

Excerpts from a few of the posts in the SSS internet discussion groups.
A pun on the word 'net'.


Changing the small frequent words is hardest to get any acceptance for from anyone who has learnt to read even slightly, because

1. It is what is most overlearnt, so people are most reluctant to change.

2. It makes most difference to the look of English text.

3. There are only about 100 of them and they do not cause the hassles the rest of the minefield does.

4. It has been an old custom in fiction to represent the speech of the vulgar and stupid as dialect in 'spelling reform', eg, wos, wot, so people laugh at it.

There is a similar difficulty about replacing plural s with z when pronouncd /z/. Once the general principle is grasped, which is early, it is easier to slam s on all plurals than to have to listen and distinguish between the final plural for, say, cats and cads.

Valerie Yule, Australia. [See Journals, Newsletters, Media, Personal View, Anthology, Bulletins, Web links.]


Big official changes in Dutch were (very roughly, and from memory) in 1830, 1890, 1933, 1954, 1970, 1996. Before that, apart from some deliberations of the 17th century bible translation committee, most changes were gradual and unofficial in origin, often inspired by particular influential grammars.

Dutch simplified spellers had a field day: I read about 400 (sic) published proposals for simplified Dutch spelling for my research, covering the period 1580-1970. Nearly every grammar in that period included statements on how spelling should be changed; some were sensible, some were mad, all were different. Just imagine if they had had email! Phew! Compare that to English grammars which always include statements about how spelling should not be changed. That's why we may have to have a different approach.

John Gledhill, England. [See Journals, Newsletters, Media.]


We know there are some changes which are normally acceptable. We know there are some changes which are normally not acceptable. We know there are some changes which are marginal. We know we cannot change s to z. We know we can change ph to f. This is why the idea of retaining the 'magic e' can work. This is why we have repeated that certain spellings cannot be used.

Ron Footer, England [See Newsletters.]

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On other pages: part 1, part 3, part 4 (Supplement).