SS12. On other pages: part 1, part 3, part 4 (Supplement).

simpl speling July 2000 part 2.


In defense of New Spelling.

One wonders why spelling reformers keep striving to 'reinvent the wheel' when we've been making an excellent one since 1910.

Most contributors to Simpl Speling - certainly to PVs and to email discussion - seem to feel a reformed spelling still needs to be invented.

A worthy foundation was laid by William Archer and others 90 years ago and published as an 18,000-word Dictionary of New Spelling (NS) by Walter Ripman in 1941. It was an excellent basic 'wheel' but some of its letter combinations gave us a bumpy ride. Any new spelling must be reasonably comfortable to present readers: it should look as much like TO as possible without sacrificing fonetic integrity. The 1941 wheel needed more rubber on its tire.

The merits of what we might call NS41 are impressive. Its crowning strength is the consistent use of the e-marker for long vowels: ae ee ie oe ue. Another strength - often overlooked - is its retention of letters that promote distinct pronunciation. It encourages distinct enunciation by preserving the vowels of unstressed syllables.

NS41 probably provides as good a basic wheel' for reform as we're likely to get without adding new letters. Thru the years it has undergone modifications to make it look more like TO without sacrificing the concept.

After a British-American meeting in 1955 James Pitman developed ITA, an NS derivative for learners but unfortunately embodying 16 unprofessionally designed ligatures. Godfrey Dewey in America published an 8000-word simplified dictionary representing improvements in NS. In 1986 a 44,000-word dictionary was published by what is now the American Literacy Council (ALC). In Britain further refinements, some quite valid, were proposed in the booklet NS90 but, regrettably, the major recommendation is a radical departure from the underlying tenet of consistency.

The longevity of the NS principle attests to its validity as a front runner on which a satisfactory spelling reform can be built.

Edward Rondthaler. USA. (Abridged) [See Journals, Newsletters, Personal View 8, Anthology, Bulletins, Web link to ALC.]

[See also JSSS J27. - Ed.]

Non-redundant, easy symbol set.

The membership seems to agree on getting rid of silent letters, doubled consonants, and redundant symbols, and having the remaining symbols represent only one sound to the extent that's possible.

The a, b, ch, d, e, f g, k i, j, l, m, n, ng, o, p, r, s, sh, t, u, v, w, y, and z symbols establish a basic symbol set, to which must be added the aa of compaarison, et al, and the zh of vizhun, et al. Then, letting a represent the two sounds in abet and cat, th the two sounds in this and thin, and using ae, ee, ie, oe, ue for the long vowels, the only sounds missing are those now represented by c/k/q, the au, oi, oo, ou, x, and the schwa. Because the public will find c more acceptable than either k- or q, let's drop k- and q, then replace x with either cs or gz, depending on the sound. We need oo for the sound in fool, et al, and need a replacement for its sound in good, et al, ergo, uu. Then, for consistency, we should replace au, oi, and ou with aw, oy, and ow thruout the lexicon. I then suggest using e for the schwa where it will not create ambiguities, u where it is more fitting, and uu where those two don't work.

This gives us a symbol set with no redundant symbols, in which only a, e, th; and u represent more than one speech sound, a symbol set as easily acquired by 5-year-olds as by 50-year-olds, and one that will fit a publisher's needs as well. Please comment.

George Lahey, USA. [See Newsletters, PV 6.]

Welsh w a nonstarter?

In reply to Nicholas Kerr (SSMar00), I too like w as in Welsh, but I think that it is a nonstarter for English. I find uo the least bad alternative (better than uu and oo, which also suggest a long vowel). Also, some dialects do pronounce this as a difthong, eg, guod (cf, guid in Scots).

I like Peter Gilet's proposals oo > u, ee > i, sh > s, ch > c, th > t (anoter skul ticer, ticing Inglis, hu rids and rids til it soks tru ter skins).

I take issue with Valerie Yule over short, frequently occurring words - du, tu, thru are readily acceptable and ov, wos, wot are redeemable. And why not wil, shal (but all), dol (but roll, hul (but pul)?

Robert Craig. England. (Abridged) [See Journals, Newsletters.]

Robert also asks that Simpl Speling publish charts of alternative spellings. We will do this if it becomes news, the primary concern of a newsletter.

'It is the generations of children to come who appeal to us to save them from the affliction which we have endured and forgotten'.

Breaking the Spell, published by Pitman & Son (on behalf of SSS), 1912.

C and g the 'root of all evil'?

I think that the dual functions of c and g could be considered as a root of all evil in English spelling. They cause frightful complications.

C is soft before the soft vowels e,i,y, and hard before the hard vowels a,o,u; similarly with g. But there are many exceptions.

Hard c before soft vowel, with a modifying letter: chemist.

Hard g before soft vowel, with no modification: gear, geld, get, geyser gibbon, giddy, gift, gig, giggle, gild, gills, girl, girth give, gynaecology (soft and hard gy's!!).

Hard g before soft vowel, with a modifying letter: gherkin, guerilla, guess, guest, guide, guild, guile, guilt, guinea-pig, guy.

Complications come when a word needs a letter added before a hard vowel to make g soft: George and its many derivatives - especially georgette!

Some words, for no reason, have a hard or soft additive: chaos, character, chlorine, choir, chord, chrome, chronic, chrysalis, school, technical, ghastly, ghost, ghoul, guarantee, guard.

What a shambles! All because of the pointless dual-purpose role of two letters! What a major advance the scrapping of the dual-functions of c and g would be for spelling. Putting aside the debate over whether hard c should be replaced by k or not, we could replace all soft-c spellings by s, and all soft-g spellings by j. We would achieve a great step forward, which, I suggest would gain popular support.

I note there is already uncertainty over some words, which are accordingly 'misspelt' frequently: supersede/ supercede, congestion/conjestion. This change would regularize these.

I was surprised Masha Bell's excellent research project (SSJuly99sup) did not make more of this: it has passing references in the findings 'surplus letters all over the place' and items 20 and 24 in the table of faults by type of errors.

Ted Relton, England. [See Newsletters .]

Catching up with the world.

Who said some things just never change? In September the New York Stock Exchange will begin quoting stocks in cents, as part of a move towards decimalization. Unlike other stock markets, the US still quotes and trades stocks in fractions rather than decimals.

Proactive consensus.

I was asked what I ment by 'consensus and proactivity' on my SSS enrolment form. Consensus means SSS members agreeing amongst ourselves what we would like the rest of the world to agree upon in English language reform. I say 'world' because every part of the world uses English, whether at airports or as its first language.

Proactivity means SSS promoting the reform it has agreed by consensus.

I, as a newcomer, suggest a survey of members to decide what would be our priorities in a reform campaign (forgive me if I am reinventing the wheel). This survey could be a list of proposals which we could tick if we feel they are desirable.

Here is a sample survey for 2000:

1. PH: affects sulfur but not pumphouse

2. GH: enough is enuf

3. OUR: humour is humor

4. DG and G: judg(e)ment is jujment - would Judge Judy approve?
Give and get: jin and jem. Trajectory, therefore trajedy

5. CC: axept, axident, aclaim, acrue

6. BT: no dout about det.

The list is far from complete.

Chris Kiwi, NZ [See Newsletters .]

Severe implications for braille people.

'Any simplification of English spelling is indeed going to have severe implications for people using braille,' according to Janet Reynolds, secretary of the Braille Authority of New Zealand.

She was answering a query from the Society, in relation to the submission it was putting before the NZ parliamentary select committee.

'This is because the braille code has dot symbols not only for individual letters, but also for common letter groups, such as ing and tion. The definition of these braille contractions varies from language to language, and is heavily dependent on spelling patterns,' she said.

Noted lexicografer dies.

David B Guralnik, at one time editor-in-chief of the Webster's New World series of dictionaries who included the word ain't in his first Webster's New World Dictionary in 1951, died in May. Legitimizing the slang term for isn't caused a furore: it 'was a revolution at the time,' he said later. But he believed lexicografers should record, not dictate, custom.

An approach to Chambers.

Tom Lang

After discussing American spellings with Cornell Kimball, I wrote to Chambers Dictionary, saying I was interested in American spellings.

I quoted a number of words in Chambers (1993 edition) as US or North American spellings or, in a few cases, as colloquial, eg, advertize, donut, tho, thru, etc. 'However,' I added, 'there are a few American spellings which are not shown in Chambers dictionary, namely

altho, brusk, cancelation, cigaret, comingle, comprize, curet, decalog, demagog, drive-thru, duolog, enterprize, hifalutin, hight (for height), ideolog, liquify, monolog, pedagog, penlite, prolog, putrify, see-thru, sluff, subpena, surprize, synagog, thoro, thruout, unmixt

'I feel there is strong justification for these spellings, as confirmed in the enclosed lists of words appeanng in a number of reputable American dictionaries (American Heritage, Merriam-Webster Collegiate, etc). I have underlined the relative words.

'I think it would be helpful if the above standard US spellings were to be shown in the next edition of your dictionary. Many people need to look up American spellings for recreational or other reasons. I would be pleased to know your reaction to this suggestion.'

I received the following reply from Penny Hands, senior editor: '... Your suggestions have been noted and your comprehensive list will be taken into consideration when work starts on the next edition of The Chambers Dictionary. In the meantime, thank you very much for your time and trouble.'

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