English Spelling Revision: How?

Clark   Thursday, August 28, 2003, 21:34 GMT
Some of us at Antimoon have talked about the possibitlies of a spelling reform for the English language, but I do not think we have ever talked about "how" this could happen.

So, what would it take to create a Global English Standard? Would there be a lot of convincing to be done? Would there need to be some freindly relations made between countries (eg. England and Ireland forgetting about past events)? Wo would need to be convinced; politicians, biliionaires, teachers/professors, students, businessmen?

I myself have not made up my mind on how a spelling reform could be brought about in the English language, but I will tell you a little realisation that I just came to in the last couple of days.

My native language is English, and for a while there, I did not like English that much for some silly reason, but I realised that English is the language that I know the best, and is the language of my country, as well as the language of a majority of my ancestors. But the biggest impact is that I am an American, and so many people have come to this country and learned how to speak English; we are united by a language.

Anyways, sorry to go on about that. So, what do you think it would take to get people interested and convinced that a spelling reform in English is what we need? Would it take one country to do it, and then other English speaking countries would follow, or get several countries to agree on one system?

I would be a little afraid that if one country devised one system, then another country would devise a different system, and then the English language would start to split up just like Latin and the Romance languages. So, I would hope that several countries would agree on one system that would incorporate all of the different accents and dialects.
someone not here   Friday, August 29, 2003, 07:49 GMT
I just read that English is becoming a "denative" language. Which means that any nation or people can speak English without fear of favouring one nation or group of people over another.

This has a remarkable similarity to what has happened with the German dialects and High German. A lot of the German dialects have been giving way to High German, and some people speak High German as their native language. This is like English because there are so many people speaking English, and most Germans (or German-speakers) also speak High German.
hmm   Friday, August 29, 2003, 08:01 GMT
I've seen some ideas for spelling reforms but I don't think people from different english speaking countries could agree on one. Different dialects have different homonyms (I think thats the right word) and keeping different sounds spelt differently in one would probably not go down well in another country where they sound the same, after all, a reform should make things simpler, not more confusing. I think thats probably the main reason why governments have stayed away from reforms.
Ben   Friday, August 29, 2003, 09:25 GMT
Spelling reform could never work - linguistic mutation is as natural as evolution, that's how Old English (eg. hus) turned into Middle English (eg. huse) which turned into modern English (eg. house). Besides, there is already a 'standardised' English - British English. This is the 'mother tongue' from which all other forms of English derived (that's even the case with dialects within Britain).

As soon as attempts start being made to 'standardise' a language, you get yourself into the 'Cornish scenario'. The Cornish language has 3 different forms - Mediaeval, Modern, and Standard. Each time a new form was invented, it was an attempt to standardise the last one, re-inventing words and coming up with new grammar. As a result, modern Cornish is a very contrived language becuase of attepmts to standardise it.

The same would happen if we tried to standardise English - no one would then be happy!
Andy   Friday, August 29, 2003, 12:39 GMT
Well, nobody is talking about standardizing the language, but the spelling system is long over due for reform. There is no excuse for ridiculous constructions like 'ough' with nearly a dozen different pronunciations. Webster did not go nearly far enough with his attempt. Written language serves to help us communicate ideas, but most written languages (once a few rules are established) give the reader a fair chance of knowing how a word is pronounced. When other languages take in a foreign word they usually alter the spelling to reflect their native orthography. It's time English did the same and settled on a standard set of spelling rules which would make life easier for both native speakers and especially for foreign learners.
Ben   Friday, August 29, 2003, 14:01 GMT
That opens a bit of a can of worms though...If you try and tell an American that he has to spell colour with the u, or an Englishman that he has to spell it without it then regional differences are going to appear, and the whole system is going to collapse. As for the 'rediculous constructions' - that is just how the language evolved. -Ough emerged as a corruption of the Old English H ('heah' became 'high', for example). I don't dispute that it's difficult and complicated, and I agree that English is notoriously difficult to pronounce for the non-English speaker, but that's one of the beauties of the language, isn't it?

Moreover, if we are reforming English, do you suggest at the same time that we should reform spelling rules in Spanish, merging Catalan, Andalucian etc. into one universal spelling/pronounciation system? After all, they have just as many peculiarities (pronounciation rules over X etc.) as English.
?   Friday, August 29, 2003, 15:34 GMT
I have friends from Majorca who told me Catalan is a completely different language to Castillan Spanish, not a dialect. I saw some written down - it reminded me of french
Cly   Friday, August 29, 2003, 19:04 GMT
Yes, castillan is the only language with English to have the " th " sounds like in " the ".

Eh, here are some very irregular spelling besides " ough " words :
- business The internet extension is " biz " not " bus "
- wednesday As a learner, I still need a spell checker to know where to insert the silents letters.
- restaurant whoa, it's not fair to import a foreign word without altering it.

I have study the English spelling through history. The direction of evolution is clear : from Old English via Norman invasion to current English, spelling is more and more irregular !
English is the only important language due to USA, so there is no interest in worrying about the spelling of other languages.
Julian   Friday, August 29, 2003, 19:22 GMT
How is "restaurant" an irregularly spelled word?
Clark   Friday, August 29, 2003, 20:05 GMT
In America, the "au" in "restaurant" is hardly pronounced in normal conversation speed; making it sound something like "res-trant."

As for spelling reform, who would need to be contacted? Which group of people would most likely support a spelling reform and in which country (or countries)?

If you had to guess, which country or countries would be the most likely to have a spelling reform in the English-speaking world?

I did not really want to talk about the actual spelling reform, but if the countries that decided to have a spelling reform agreed on a single system that would encompass all of the differeces among the countries' accents and dialects, that would be the best.

Ben, Català is a different language as said before. And using Spanish is a bad example for a language for spelling reform. Spanish is one of the most phonetic languages of the world, no matter which Spanish-speaking country you go to.

Anyways, enough people have to be convinced that spelling reform is a good thing, and will benefit the people.
Clark   Sunday, August 31, 2003, 09:36 GMT
Is there an English language equivalent to "Académie Française"?
Tom   Sunday, August 31, 2003, 09:42 GMT
No, thankfully not.
--   Sunday, August 31, 2003, 09:47 GMT
Some time ago I've seen a report on TV about the adaptations that UK had to make to fit in European Union. It had to use measurements International System in areas like agriculture, cattle-raising. There were movements of English Notherners farmers for staying using inches, feets, pounds because it was a patriot question to keep English traditions. Don't know if it would really be effective any change on the spelling system of English language.
--   Sunday, August 31, 2003, 09:50 GMT
I meant "patriotism issue" above.
Clark   Sunday, August 31, 2003, 09:59 GMT
I did not thik there was. I just thought there might have been some group that wanted to keep the English language "English." Though that is hard to do considering English has taken something from a lot of different language from round the world.

Do you think then, --, that to bring around spelling reform, people will have to fight for it? Do you think many people would be willing to fight for spelling reform? And if there were enough to fight for it, do you think there wuld be enough people to support such a movement?