Spellling Reforms

Kabam   Sunday, June 15, 2003, 09:50 GMT
To Shana.

I'm French. What my English Teatchers have told me so far is "use either American or British spelling, but don't mix them up".
Jim   Thursday, June 19, 2003, 05:29 GMT

Sometimes two words are homophones in one dialect and not in another. For some people "wh" and "w" are pronounced differently.

whine / wine
whales / Wales
which / witch
whether / weather

These sound the same when I pronounce them but there are those who make a distinction. Another one is "fissure" and "fisher". I just looked it up in the dictionary and it said they are pronounced the same but I think I'd voice the "ss" in "fissure".

You wrote "Again, if 'c' were retained before the back vowel in capital," What do you mean by "back vowel"? The "a" in "capital" is a front vowel if I'm not mistaken.


If you're reforming spelling, then sure, get rid of "gh". It used to have a regular pronunciation but this sound no longer exists in English.

I agree with your "dh" verses "th" idea. Some suggest "tth" verses "th", I think this is a bad idea.

I agree the digraphs "ou" & "ow" should always sound like the diphthong "ow" in "cow".

What do you mean by "G becomes ZH and J becomes DJ"?

I guess you mean the sound of the "g" in "beige" would be written "zh". That's a good idea. But then you must mean that the sound of "j" in "jump" would be written "dj", why not just use "j"?

On the other hand you could mean that the letter "j" would be used for the sound of the "j" in "jump". This is fine, that's what it usually is anyway. But then you must mean that the letter "g" would be used for the sound of the "g" in "beige". This is a bad idea: how, then, would we write the sound of the "g" in "dog"?

I don't like the idea of replacing "sh" with "ss", unless you're consistant and replace "th" with "tt", "dh" with "dd" (like in Welsh), "zh" with "zz", etc. (unless you've got something better for these anyway).

Getting rid of the silent "k" in a good idea. In fact let's get rid of all silent letters.

Consonants are one thing. They really are the easy part. What are you going to do about the vowels? You gave us the hint that you'd use the "magic 'e'" but you can't always use it, e.g. "find".

And what's going on here "Duck (dVck) > Duk (dook)"?

I thought of a nice sentence which exibits (as far as I can make out) all the phonemes of English (except, perhaps, the glottal stop). How would you rewrite it in your reformed spelling? Here it is:

The hard working father of the quick brown fox which jumps over the lazy dog tours nearly all the lochs before noon looking for toys, treasure and shiny things that young people leave there.

Using a radical reform of my oun creation I come up with:

Ddx hard wxrkinn faaddxr ov ddx kwik brqon foks wwitc djamps xuvxr ddx lqizii dog turz nirlii ool ddx lokks bxfor nuun lukinn for toiz, trejxr qnd caenii ttinnz ddqt yann piipxl liiv ddxr.

However, I'm trying to come up with something more readable. Something more like:

Dhe hard werking faadher ov dhe quic broun fox which jumps over dhe lazy dog tuurs neerly aul dhe lokhs befor nuun looking for toys, trezher and shiny things dhat yung pepel leve dhare.

But this is a work in progress and I haven't ironed out the inconsistancies yet.
Clark   Thursday, June 19, 2003, 06:12 GMT
Jim, I was just reading about symbols used in language in a book by Saussure, and this got me thinking about something. The Chinese dialects are so very different from each other they could be considered different languages, but they can all read each other's writing because it is the same. What if the English-speaking nations got together and created a system using symbols rather than letters for English? I was thinking that there could be x amount of strokes possible to make one symbol, and each symbol would be one word. For example:

/^ could mean "water." And there would be three strokes to this symbol. The reason I bring up number of strokes is so that typing would be made possible. If there was a button for each stroke, then, in theory, one would be able to type this language with ease.

/^ = water
^* = want
)( = I
-]+ = because
)o = thirst
~* = be (am/are/is)

)( ^* /^ -]+ )( ~* )o.

I used two spaces in between each word, and the period is used how we use it now (is the "." called a "period" in Commonwealth English, or is it called a "full stop?").

Also, if this were to become a reality, there would be many more smaller strokes to make up one symbol. I think in Japanese there are a total of eight different strokes possible to make, but I am not sure on how many strokes are used generally in each symbol.
Jim   Thursday, June 19, 2003, 07:57 GMT
Yes, it's called a "full stop" in Commonwealth English.

Why not just use Chinese characters? There are advantages and disadvantages of idiographic writing but I think you'd want some phonetic symbols in to use conjunction with them (like in Japanese).

I'm not sure what you mean by "in Japanese there are a total of eight different strokes possible to make," There are three different systems for writing Japanese. Two of them are phonetic (almost 100%) and the other is Chinese characters. The two phonetic ones (katakana & hiragana) evolved from Chinese characters but are much simpler. For each of these kana there are only a few strokes per character but for the others characters can have a huge number.
Kabam   Thursday, June 19, 2003, 09:17 GMT
... often up to 20 strokes and sometime beyond!
SagaSon   Thursday, June 19, 2003, 09:43 GMT
Jim, when I said that in words like Pressure which has a SH the SS would be gone because there new spelling would be Preshure.
S with sound of Z will be always a single s, starting S and double S will always sound like S in Sock.
chantal   Thursday, June 19, 2003, 10:35 GMT
thank you for your explanation. My reference for the homophones is Standard English (Oxford dictionary) but I don't know much about the different dialects in British English.
I might have made a mistake as I am no expert on the phonetics.
chantal   Thursday, June 19, 2003, 21:54 GMT
You wrote :
'Getting rid of the silent "k" in a good idea. In fact let's get rid of all silent letters'.

There will be some confusion about how the pronunciation should be if 'silent K' is removed. If 'K' is removed in 'know', how would we pronounce 'now' ? like 'now' in 'right now' ? or as before when there was a 'K' ? the same confusion with 'knowledge' maybe not with 'knife' or 'knee'.

At school, I was taught that English is (or was ?) hugely irregular. I got used to that irregularity and I can't imagine to write 'nee', 'neel' and 'night' instead of 'knee', 'kneel' and 'knight'. Nevertheless, it's nice to get rid of all silent letters in English.
Jim   Friday, June 20, 2003, 00:16 GMT

I'm no expert on phonetics either. We're all used to the fact that English spelling is irregular. Perhaps it's better kept that way but, hypothetically, if we were to reform it, silent letters would have to go.

If the reform were phonetic, silent letters would be disposed of but there should be no confusion about how to pronounce something (that is, except for the fact that there are different accents).

In the context of SagaSon's proposal removing the "k" from "know" would be no problem because he also suggests that "ow" should always be pronounced like it is in "cow". We've got this problem anyway with current spelling, e.g. "The girl wearing a bow likes to bow." However, he hasn't told us how he'll spell the "ow" sound in "know".


What are you going to do with the vowels? If "ow" will always be pronounced like it is in "how" then what about "slow", "grow", "mow", "tow", "low", "glow", "row", "sow", etc.

Why not "presher" for "pressure"? But I see what you mean now, I thought you meant to respell "fish", for example, as "fiss".

When you write "S with sound of Z will be always a single s, starting S and double S will always sound like S in Sock." Is this what you mean:

zoo ==>> soo
zip ==>> sip
sip ==>> ssip
sod ==>> ssod

That is spell the "z" sound in "jazz" with a single "s" and the "s" sound in "sing" with a double one, i.e. "ss". Then you don't need the letter "z". Why would you want to do this? Aren't the words "zoo", "zip", "sip", "sod", etc. better spelt the way they are?
Lana   Friday, June 20, 2003, 14:08 GMT
Trying to reform English spelling to be phonetic is not possible--the result would be so different it would be a new language.

Homophones would require the invention of completely new words to replace the "duplicates." In Spanish, homophones are written with an accent to distinguish between the two words, but in English there are many more homophones and some have more than 2 forms.

Pronunciation evolves over time, and different groups pronounce differently--You shouldn't change the spelling of words over time or among groups! For example in ancient Latin, "c" was always a hard c, pronounced like k. Later, it was pronounced as ch when before i or e. Still later, it was pronounced like s in those positions. But the spelling of the words never changed!

When learning Chinese, you see a new word and you must learn the pronunciation along with the character. You can't figure it out just by looking at the character. Think of English like that. You must learn the "character" (the whole word) and how it is pronounced.
John BA Linguistics   Friday, June 20, 2003, 14:49 GMT
No single person could EVER change the way we spell as current spelling is too widely accepted. Any change that is made should be done so through spelling evolution and words that are already widely in use.

For instance:

You = U
Are = R
See = C
Why = Y
Ok = K
m8 = mate
g8 = gate
pl8 = plate
w8 = wait
b8 = bait
coz = cause or because
Centre = Center
The -ISE/ISATION suffix should be standardised, making IZE incorrect
A plural z is currently used informally - i.e. he'z, Paul'z,
John   Friday, June 20, 2003, 14:51 GMT
Sorry, I meant possessive z
Simon   Friday, June 20, 2003, 14:55 GMT
He'z possessive???

He gave me he'z bike???
Jim BSc Physics   Monday, June 23, 2003, 00:53 GMT
John BA Linguistics,

I agree that no single person could change the way we spell. Webster tried and met with minimal success. Only a few of his reforms were accepted by the American people. In fact it could be argued that what this fella did set the process of reform back centuries. Now we have too competing standards and few of us will accept the other's way of spelling. A reform coming from the wrong side of the Atlantic will be met with resistance. If if weren't for Wester and his dream (come nightmare) of American English, there'd be no spelling schism and we could get on with reform together. It still wouldn't be easy but it would be moving faster.
8   Monday, June 23, 2003, 01:49 GMT