SS5. 8pp. On other pages, part 2, part 3.
[Allan Campbell: see Journals, Newsletters, Media.]
Working for planned change in English spelling for the benefit of learners and users everywhere
simpl speling March 1998 part 1.
Editor: Allan Campbell
90 not out!The Society was (as noted above) founded 90 years ago. Simpl Speling would like to have run a special issue for the occasion. But we do offer food for thought: editorial. Your comments are invited.
Dictionary alters thru entries.A major dictionary publisher, Random House, recently launched new editions of a couple of its dictionaries in which a few entries indicate the possible effect of evidence Society, member Cornell Kimball sent to it.
In the December 1996 Newsletter Cornell recounted (What one member has been doing) how he had sent to dictionary editors photocopies of newspaper and magazine articles which used had certain simpler spellings, such as thru, with a request they alter their entries accordingly.
Random House had previously listed thru as an 'informal' spelling. As noted in the article, an editor from Random House wrote back that he had "replaced the 'informal' description of thru with a short usage note explaining that some publications use it in standard contexts."
thru (throo). prep., adv., adj. THROUGH - Usage. The spelling THRU, advocated for over a century by various spelling-reform groups, is now used chiefly informally or in headlines or signs. However, some periodicals use THRU as a standard variant, regardless of context.In the second edition of its Webster's College Dictionary, 1997, thru is listed as a regular variant, and the entry contains a note which ends, "some periodicals use thru as a standard variant, regardless of context."
© Random House Inc
Cornell's evidence may have influenced other entries, including drive-thru (the Random House editor mentioned considering drive-thru as a variant spelling) and donut/donuts.
Random House had listed drive-through only in a previous edition, and had been listing donut as an 'unequal' variant. In this 1997 volume, drive-thru and donut are given as standard (equal) variant spellings.
[As the proverb says: A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. See also We can help them now, p.6. - Ed.]
AGM.The Annual General Meeting of the Simplified Spelling Society will be held at 10.45am, Saturday, 18 April 1998 Bernard Lamb, of the Queen's English Society, will talk on 'How to run English-related campaigns'
A committee meeting, open to all members, will follow. Please come if U can.
This 'n' that from here 'n' there.
Six weeks' publicity.The significant, if temporary, attention the press can bring to the work of simplifying spelling was shown by the San Jose Mercury News' reporting of Cornell Kimball's campaign (SS4 Nov97).
When it was over it had encompassed two articles in the newspaper's Sunday magazine (circulation 340,000 plus), and letters in six issues. The newspaper has not adopted any of Cornell's suggestions, but spelling awareness was raised.
One writer reiterated arguments often heard from Society members. He said English spelling makes it difficult for learners, some people always struggle with it, and some can't make it at all. He felt the author of the articles "is on to an incredibly important issue that deserves more attention than it receives". He saw an 'elitist attitude' of those able to cope with TO as a bar to change.
SSS members were among other writers.
Seeks tsar for English.Professor John Honey - whose book, Language is Power, criticizes a liberal orthodoxy that opposes the teaching of standard English and grammar in schools - has renewed his call for the appointment of a language tsar to uphold standards.
His proposed model would operate like the Acadèmie Française, created in 1634 to refine and watch over French.
He sees an English academy with leading lexicographers and academics such as Robert Burchfield, former chief editor of the OED.
But Dr Burchfield opposes an academy. "I don't think it would work," he says. "U can't hold a language like a prisoner of war; language is constantly unstable. The English are too rebellious in their attitude to language; they will never conform."
But Maurice Druon, a writer and secretary of the Acadèmie Fran¸aise, supports the creation of an English academy. The acadèmie, he says, "continually revises our Dictionnaire, by accepting or rejecting words newly introduced; by updating definitions, recording new meanings and indicating a register of language. It also issues cautions, warnings, and judgements. We do our best to induce a sense of sin in those who maltreat the French language."
J Cowley, The Times, London.
Latin languages appeal to Finns.The Finns are keen students of other European languages, but they find the Latin languages becoming more appealing than those of two closer neighbors, Germany and Russia. Only 3 percent of Finnish schoolchildren take Russian. And altho the figure of 53,000 upper school students studying German last year was higher than for any other language except English (100,000, of a 110,000 total) it appears to be the only major language experiencing a decline.
French had 23,000 and had a steady growth, but there was a surge in Spanish (2800) and Italian (1100), both up from zero in the previous year.
Sara Savan, of Finland's Spanish teachers' association, suggests: "Because U read Spanish as U see it, for Finnish people it's easier to pronounce." In the same way, Italian is also viewed as a natural winner.
Peter Chapman, The European, London.
Webster's on-line anniversary.Springfield printers George and Charles Merriam bought the rights to Noah Webster's dictionary in 1843. The Merriam-Webster Co. is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its first revision of Webster's work with a new web page at www.m-w-com
Webster wanted to record English as spoken in America. He added 50 American words like skunk to his Compendious Dictionary and 5000 words used on both sides of the Atlantic but considered too ordinary for any dictionary, such as the seemingly harmless lengthy. "What are we coming to?" fumed a critic. If this were permitted, the next edition might authorize strengthy.
But Webster had realized language is irreversible. "The process of a living language," he wrote, "is like the motion of a broad river which flows with a slow, silent, irresistible current."
Mary H Meier, Boston Globe.
'Trivial task' to change.In the development of the Angel Tongue phonemic system for the Access project (SSNov97), we developed programs that would translate the 44,000-word Rondthaler and Lias American Spelling word list and the 116,000-entry Carnegie Mellon, Institute phonetic word list. It is now what programmers would call a trivial task to change the character equivalency tables to that of any phonetic system. Co-incidentally, the Access project has chosen NES as the bridge English from ANJEL to TO.
Some minor discrepancies between the translations arise from decisions made regarding the Angel standards for phonemes, schwas, allophone pronunciations and so forth. We are currently wrestling with these issues before republishing the ANJeL Translator and the ANJeL Tutorial on our World Language Program page linked from the Web Pal page.
Using the translator, any machine-readable TO text is then translatable into the target phonetic spelling.
Bruce Beach. [See SS4.]
It is a damned poor mind indeed that can't think of
at least two ways of spelling any word.
- President Andrew Jackson (1767-1845)
at least two ways of spelling any word.
- President Andrew Jackson (1767-1845)
[Harry Cookson: see Journals, Newsletters.]
What one member has been doing and hearing.
People find reasons to oppose change.
Harry Cookson.I first heard of spelling reform when I learnt French at school. "French boys have to learn spelling twice!" I exclaimed. But the first year was spent on reading and writing by a phonetic alphabet system, which was easy, and the changeover to normal spelling was easy.
Wells and Shaw publicized reform. I read Shaw's alphabet. It was on the right lines, but went too far. I showed it to others. Nobody liked it. "Baby spelling," said one. "When children do not know the right spelling of a word they spell by sound."
When I became a school manager, I supported i.t.a. Teachers turned against it because of the problem of changing over to standard spelling. Now I see that learning to read by phonics is coming back as teachers are overcoming the problems of changing to standard spelling.
When I went to Portugal I discovered how quickly children learnt to read and write. I became a spelling reformer.
But I had no contact with other English reformers. I filled exercise books with sound-symbol relationships.
I spoke to a fellow Briton. "U know how easy it is to read Portuguese. English needs reformed spelling. Agree?"
Reply: "I learnt to read and write once and I do not want to do it again." I later found this to be a normal attitude. Even in France and Portugal, where there are occasional adjustments, most people do not follow them or are slow to do so.
I spoke to a teacher of English to the Portuguese. "Reform would make it, easier to learn and teach." He replied angrily: "No! A-e! Crazy!" He had seen a reform method that advocated graet, haet, waet, and hae. He was put off. Perhaps not surprising. Ae is a rare spelling, usually technical, and frequently does not have the long a sound.
I returned to England and discovered the SSS. I became a committee member, but, I am afraid, did not enhance the Cause.
There were many teachers in the Society. They put on a reform exhibition at a school. Parents attended well and were entertained but not much persuaded. Teacher membership fell off because 'reform was not making progress.'
I spoke to a printer. "No!" he said. "It will make my work harder."
A journalist came to an SSS meeting, and said that he opposed reform because children learning it at school and entering journalism would have an advantage over him. A journalist I know also opposes reform, and could offer no means of persuading journalists to accept it, but a computerized spelling check was hinted at. A newspaper was printed in reformed spelling but did not last long.
I spoke to a teacher outside the Society. "The past and present tenses of the verb to read are pronounced differently and have different meanings. Why not alter the past to r-e-d, as it is pronounced?"
Astonished reply: "R-e-d? But that is the color!"
I investigated and discovered that English had an exceptionally large number of homonyms, so it could not follow other countries which had reformed by sound. This led me to advocating reform by reading as a first stage. This would give only one way of pronouncing a particular letter group (subject to regional accent variations) but sometimes more than one way of spelling the same sound.
The latest edition of New Spelling was based on southern English pronunciation. I showed it to a Northerner. He pointed out that the words put/up had similar vowel sounds in the north, whereas the book spelt them differently. The same applied to has/fast. This would cause difficulties to Northerners, which was contrary to the whole purpose of spelling reform.
My first job was with the London office of an American company. It was suggested that we write to the head office in 'American' spelling. The typists exploded! "We would have to learn new spelling; use different spellings for British and American readers. We would be slower, make more mistakes." Pause. "Of course, if U raise our salaries ..."
Conclusion: After reform the two methods must run side by side as they do in reform countries. The changes must not be so great that people are distracted from the message they are reading or writing in order to concentrate on the spelling.
Reform is a nuisance to adults, so we must direct propaganda at parents and grandparents who are prepared to make some sacrifice for the children.
The problem at the moment is not in choosing the best reform, but in finding a good system that will persuade people to accept reform.
Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and being unexpectedly called away before U find out how it ends.Back to the top.
- Joseph Campbell, Creative Mythology. [Not unlike spelling! - Ed.]
On other pages, part 2, part 3.