SS15. On other pages: part 1, part 3, part 4 (Supplement).

simpl speling June 2001 part 2.

From the Society's AGM.

How are we progressing?

Among the topics before the annual general meeting was the annual audit of progress in relation to the Society's aims and objectives, as listed inside the cover of the Journal.

To check on progress for objectives A, B and E, which aim to raise public awareness, a public survey was suggested. The Society could conduct one (perhaps once every five years) or commission one for around £1500, to question a sample of 1000 people, or buy into larger surveys for about £1000 - £3000, depending on requirements. Results would not be easy to quantify.

Chair Chris Jolly said objective A (publicizing the unnecessary difficulties of English spelling) could be achieved without having a set of reform proposals agreed by the Society. He feared that internal disagreements might arise if one set of proposals was promoted as the SSS official one.

Membership secretary John Gledhill had, however, begun consulting ex-members about their reasons for leaving and reported that the two most frequent reasons given were
1. The Society was not going anywhere
2. It had no agreed reform proposals.
The meeting felt the Society should debate its objectives and ways of achieving them. The formation of a strategy group was seen as a first step in that direction.


Govts not to the FORE.

I wrote to the Secretary of State for Education about the use of American spellings in GCSE examinations.

The reply from the GCSE policy team said: The Government believes it is important that pupils learn the correct English spelling of words, rather than Americanisms. No doubt a similar approach is adopted by teachers in the USA when confronted with US/British differences in spellings.

The reply demonstrates the difficulties of expecting governments to tackle spelling reform. They prefer to take the easiest option, which, in the UK at least, is to say 'No'.

The Society's proposal in the New Zealand submission (JSSS 28) for an international body (perhaps called 'Forum for the Reform of English': FORE '?) is the way to go. However, the SSS will have to set the wheels in motion: I propose by direct approaches to English departments in universities worldwide. That is what governments would do, in any case, so cut out the middle man.

FORE could not restrict itself to spellings. To illustrate: Before a decision could be made about respelling schedule, there would need to be a decision between the shedule and skedule pronunciations.

Robert Craig, England [See Journals, Newsletters.]

Lobbying newspaper style editors.

Following up Robert Craig's excellent action in writing to editors about jail rather than gaol (what a terrible spelling that was!), I have written to the Style Guide editor of The Guardian in London, recommending that that newspaper adopts the spellings skeptic skeptical skepticism. They appear frequently in the paper, because of the ongoing debate in its pages about European integration.

I stated that the sc- spelling suggested that the words were pronounced with a soft sc- sound, and were thus confused with the medical word septic, particularly by children. I said that I did not consider the sk- spelling to be American, but more logical. I was able to point out that his style guide already states 'jail, NOT gaol', and that jail is an American re-spelling.

SSS members may download this style guide from U will not necessarily find that it accords with our own views, but it gives some useful tips on current usage.

Ted Relton, England. [See Newsletters .]

Why is Welsh w 'a non-starter'?

May I respond to the July 2000 edition of the much-loved Robert Craig column? Robert says Welsh w for the vowel in book 'is a non-starter.' Is there any reason against it except that it looks un-English and therefore should come in at a later stage of reform?

In its favor:
1. It works in Welsh
2. Articulation of consonantal w is almost identical to the oo sounds
3. It is similar to Soundspel's uu (PV 8), Singlish's omega (PV 12), and used in Menuspel (quoted in PV 7) and Interspel (PV 10).
There is a brief mention of it in the Cut Spelling Handbook (Ch3 Rule1 p90 and Ch6 p183-4). The sound occurs in a couple of dozen words and their derivatives. Words like wwl and wwd are initially surprising, but with u there are difficulties with inflections and derivatives like cukery and buking, not to mention the cood/cud and put/putt problem.

If u accept CS cutting of the vowel before velarized l as in consul, it is a short step to expressing the book vowel sound by leaving it out, as in carefl, bk, psh, pdding.

Or use Welsh w.

Jerry Dicker, England.

Part of national identity

There is a movement in Belgium to give Flemish its own spelling and recognized grammar.

The differences between Flemish and Dutch are of about the same extent as those between UK English and US English. What it does reinforce tho is the way that a spelling system is seen as an element of national identity. The Flemish movement arises from a feeling of being dominated (in linguistic terms) by 'standard Dutch' and denigrated as merely a dialect of the latter.

This is an important point about the psychology of spelling usage - 'Don't tinker with our national identity' is not just an English fenomenon.

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

RITEing a dictionary.

Some have suggested we RITE a dictionary. Doing a new dictionary from scratch would be a huge undertaking. We neither want nor need to do that. Our purpose is to present RITE spelling. My idea is to

(1) Write a paper that explains the RITE system.

(2) Contact the publishers of dictionaries to find one that agrees to publish one that explains the RITE system in the front and then in the body lists the words in RITE spelling, gives the TS spelling, and then the meaning spelled in RITE. The meanings would be those they already have in one of their dictionaries. That would save a vast amount of work.

I would think for those who have developed RITE, writing the paper to explain the system would be a labor of love.

A dictionary publisher may do our book if they think they can make money on it.

Timothy Travis, USA [See Newsletter, Web link.]

[See ISD in Newsletter topics.]

International Spelling Day

October 9 2001
(matching the date of Korean Hangul 'Great Letters' Day)

See website for details, activities, and competitions:

Prizes for individual and school collections.
Closing date for entries: September 9, 2001.

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

[Masha Bell: see Journals, Newsletters, Leaflets, Media, Personal View.]

Following up on Society's submission.

Those who made submissions to the House of Commons Education Sub-committee inquiry on early years education have been invited to comment on the committee's report. Here is an edited version of the Society's comments, written by Masha Bell, England.

1. We congratulate the Education Committee on the many very sensible recommendations it made regarding staffing and the general environment for early years, but many of them are costly and not easy to implement. They would also entail sustained higher spending year after year.

2. It appears that the committee was very impressed by early years provision in Denmark and that this strongly influenced its recommendations for the UK.

3. We would like to point out that identical child-care provision during the early years can lead to very different results later on. Denmark's neighbor Sweden delays formal schooling until the age of 7, allowing children to learn mainly thru play before then, exactly like Denmark.

4. Sweden has regularly been found to have the most literate adult population in the world. Denmark shares the UK's well-documented problem of poor adult literacy.

5. Swedish and Danish are very similar languages, but Sweden modernized its spelling in 1907. Neither Denmark nor England have made a serious attempt to modernize their antiquated, irregular, unpredictable and therefore very-hard-to-master spelling systems.

6. All improvements in early years provision are aimed at better educational outcomes in later years. Modernizing our spelling would be a cheap, simple, long-lasting and certain way to raise educational achievement from infant to university level. Many countries accomplished this in the last century by the same method which Sweden chose in 1907.

7. Is it not obvious that learning to read with baffling spellings like bread, dream, break - through, though, tough - call, shall - now know - do, go has to be fiendishly difficult? Learning to spell identical sounds in umpteen different ways is even harder: try, die, high - street, treat, metre, meteor - ceiling, thief - they, play - stole, coal, soul, roll - few, cue, queue - dizzy, busy - blood, mud - muddy, study.

8. English has a minimum of 3456 words with some spelling unpredictability. Italian has at most 700 such words. As a result of this difference the majority of Italian children can spell virtually every word in their language after two years of primary school while large numbers of English-speaking children still cannot spell many common words at the age of 16, after 11 years in full-time education.

9. Our children need to start formal schooling very early because they have to learn so much more than many other nationals in order to become reasonably competent spellers by the age of 16. Simplifying our spelling system would free up time for play and creativity in the early years and guarantee higher educational standards as well as less frustration and disaffection all round, among boys in particular.

What have u been doing?

Thinking globally and acting locally is a strategy for aspiring reformers. In our What one member has been doing series we would like to hear what u've been doing in your neck of the woods.

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