Are spelling reforms futile?

Jim   Tuesday, February 10, 2004, 04:54 GMT
Maybe we could spell the word "thorough" like this "þúrœ" and Aussies, Kiwis, Americans, Brits, Canadians and the Irish alike could all be equally disatisfied with it.

Hæve a look æt the IPA chart ænd you'll find that there is a voiced glottal fricative, like [h] just voiced.
Jim   Tuesday, February 10, 2004, 05:05 GMT

I don't think the idea of banning words is all that great. Sometimes two words are not exactly synonomous. Are "gaol" and "prison" really synonomous? "Scissors" and "shears" certainly aren't. Sure, the "c" in "scissors" is redundant but it does fit the pattern of "c"'s usually being pronounced as /s/ before "i", "e" or "y". If you ditch the "c" in "scissors" then what excuse do you have for keeping it in "scent"? But if you ditch it from "scent" then you form a homograph with "sent".
paul   Tuesday, February 10, 2004, 15:30 GMT
If 2 words sound exactly the same then they should be spelled the same, or at the very least with different letters that have an equivalent pronunciation. (i.e. sent, sennt, sentt)
I'd much rather have the obvious confusion of a homonym, where I have a clear starting point. At least, I know how the Damn word is pronounced.
And I might even recognise it when I hear it.

I grew up trying to pronounce a whole range of words as they were spelled,
because my parents were not native speakers.

As for synonyms, English has an over-abundance of recognizable synonyms.
I sure we can find a word replacement, that will be synonomous enough.
Unless you are a poet or something.

Regards, Paul V.

P.S. scissors = siz..rz in ASCII?
See how little phonetic correspondence there is.
Simon   Tuesday, February 10, 2004, 15:42 GMT
I spent my last fifty sents on a sent which I sent to my girlfriend.
Paul   Wednesday, February 11, 2004, 17:31 GMT
Good point.
Now you see why americans prefer to use the word Perfume instead of scent.
Scent is still used in the more general meaning of a specific smell.

Do the English say pence, pennies or cents, nowadays?
Regards, Paul V.
Ryan   Wednesday, February 11, 2004, 19:07 GMT
They said "pence" or most often just "p" when I was over there.
Jim   Thursday, February 12, 2004, 07:45 GMT
They'd say "penny" if it's only one, otherwise "pence" or just the short form, "p", mentioned by Ryan (as far as I know).

Here's a silly story that I've written. There are two versions. A spelling reformed version and the original version.


Ie koodn't afford a fifty sent purfyoom soe ie sent mie deer gurlfrend the sent ov a deer. I'd collekted this sent from the deer little deer that wonderz around mie yard in a daiz sum daiz.

The daiz is indyoosd by drinking a pail ov pail ail which duz soe ail the deer deer. The pail ail iz brood bie a brood ov hoaly munks hoaly dedikaited too wurshipping Asclepius, the sun ov the god ov the sun. The munks spend moast ov thair daiz praying too him and from time to time thay sing a him or too too him too. Thay keep too saikred reliks: The Or Of Pees and The Pees Of Or.

The Or Of Pees iz sed too hav been yoozd bie wun of the orzmen on Asclepius' ship. Thair had been a raffle forteen senturiez ago for the for for orz ov Asclepius' ship: The Or Ov Pees, The Or Ov Helth, The Or Of Lite and The Or Of Wormth. Alas, this order ov munks oanly wun wun.

The Pees Ov Or iz aktually a pees ov ion or sed too hav been unurthed bie Asclepius. Thay beleve the or too kontain an ion ion with healing pour. Thay keep it in a rombik doadekaheedron maid ov a pain ov glas kut intoo twelv. If yoo hav a pain, thay beleve, yoo hav oanly too tuch a pees ov the pain and the pain will vanish leving yoo in pees.

Thair in thair monastry thay keep surten animalz and plants for thair feests. Thay yooz yooz, yooz and time from time too time but moast ov the time thay yooz sum extreemly unplezant smelling chickens. Duzens ov theze foul foul ar kept bie the munks. The stench iz cauzd bie woundz inflikted bie lise which suk the blud ov the poor chikkenz.

The munks hav a ritual in which thay ask Asclepius too heal the burdz. Thay taik a vain ov a sakrificed chicken and strech it out, then thay get inside and pleed for the mursy of thair dayety. It appeerz that thay wil kontinyoo too pray forever that the lise wil not kontinyoo too pray on the chikkens maiking the foul foul but all this praying in a vain seemz too bee praying in vain for the lise keep praying on the poor burdz.

However thingz ar not az bad az wuns thay wur. Bak in the fifteenth sentury a maid braut a flour too the monastry and nokked on its strainj gait, which waz maid, ov cors, ov yoo. A munk with a strainj gait kaim up too the strainj gait and askd whie the wooman waz thair.

"Ie hav heer a flour which mite help with yor woez." replied the maid.

The munk thaut for a minut for he wonted too bee sure the wooman waz telling the trooth. Then he askd "Wooman, kanst thow see?"

"Ie, an ie ie hav got." replied the maid "'Tiz too the rite ov mie noaz and God noaz ie'v got wun too its left too, ie, too ies hav ie."

"Then whot kanst thow see?" askd hee.

Shee lookd furst at a yoo which was eeting gras, then the munk, then the gait of yoo and a bunch of smelly chikkenz. "Ie see a yoo, yoo, yoo and foul foul. Theze burdz I am heer too help."

Seeing that shee waz a troothful wooman the munk let the maid in saying "Wee shall hier thee, wooman, doo thy wurk in the naim ov Asclepius hoo iz hier than thow art or ie am."

Shee just smiled politely for shee nyoo nuthing ov Asclepius, the or or or but shee nyoo about nyoo flourz and shee nyoo that shee'd had enuf ov livving next too a bunch ov smelly chikkenz.

Shee sed that shee waz going too baik bred and askd for sum flour and a grait. The munks gave thair finest flour and a reelly grait grait too hur. Shee took all theze thingz intoo the kichen and graited the flour intoo the flour. Then the maid maid menny loavz of bred.

The chikkens ait ait ov theze loavz. The flour kontaind in the bred killed of menny ov the lise but not all ov them. Sins that time the munks hav bred chikkens too rather like eeting this flour bred and hav kept thair burdz neerly lous free but not free enuf.


I couldn't afford a fifty cent perfume so I sent my dear girlfriend the scent of a deer. I'd collected this scent from the dear little deer that wanders around my yard in a daze some days.

The daze is induced by drinking a pail of pale ale which does so ail the dear deer. The pale ale is brewed by a brood of holy monks wholly dedicated to worshipping Asclepius, the son of the god of the sun. The monks spend most of their days praying to him and from time to time they sing a hymn or two to him too. They keep two sacred relics: The Oar Of Peace and The Piece Of Ore.

The Oar Of Peace is said to have been used by one of the oarsmen on Asclepius' ship. There had been a raffle fourteen centuries ago for the four fore oars of Asclepius' ship: The Oar Of Peace, The Oar Of Health, The Oar Of Light and The Oar Of Warmth. Alas, this order of monks only won one.

The Piece Of Ore is actually a piece of iron ore said to have been unearthed by Asclepius. They believe the ore to contain an iron ion with healing power. They keep it in a rhombic dodecahedron made of a pane of glass cut into twelve. If you have a pain, they believe, you have only to touch a peice of the pane and the pain will vanish leaving you in peace.

There in their monastery they keep certain animals and plants for their feasts. They use ewes, yews and thyme from time to time but most of the time they use some extremely unpleasant smelling chickens. Dozens of these foul fowl are kept by the monks. The stench is caused by wounds inflicted by lice which suck the blood of the poor chickens.

The monks have a ritual in which they ask Asclepius to heal the birds. They take a vein of a sacrificed chicken and stretch it out, then they get inside and plead for the mercy of their deity. It appears that they will continue to pray forever that the lice will not continue to prey on the chickens making the fowl foul but all this praying in a vein seems to be praying in vain for the lice keep preying on the poor birds.

However things are not as bad as once they were. Back in the fifteenth century a maid brought a flower to the monastery and knocked on its strange gate, which was made, of course, of yew. A monk with a strange gait came up to the strange gate and asked why the woman was there.

"I have here a flower which might help with your woes." replied the maid.

The monk thought for a minute for he wanted to be sure the woman was telling the truth. Then he asked "Woman, canst thou see?"

"Aye, an eye I have got." replied the maid "'Tis to the right of my nose and God knows I've got one to its left too, aye, two eyes have I."

"Then what canst thou see?" asked he.

She looked first at a ewe which was eating grass, then the monk, then the gate of yew and a bunch of smelly chickens. "I see a ewe, you, yew and foul fowl. These birds I am here to help."

Seeing that she was a truthful woman the monk let the maid in saying "We shall hire thee, woman, do thy work in the name of Asclepius who is higher than thou art or I am."

She just smiled politely for she knew nothing of Asclepius, the oar or ore but she knew about new flowers and she knew that she'd had enough of living next to a bunch of smelly chickens.

She said that she was going to bake bread and asked for some flour and a grate. The monks gave their finest flour and a really great grate to her. She took all these things into the kitchen and grated the flower into the flour. Then the maid made many loaves of bread.

The chickens ate eight of these loaves. The flower contained in the bread killed off many of the lice but not all of them. Since that time the monks have bred chickens to rather like eating this flower bread and have kept their birds nearly louse free but not free enough.

P.S. "scissors" = [siz..(r)z] in Antimoon's "Phonetic" ASCII Aplhabet which isn't really phonetic but phonemic; note the brackets around the "r": not everyone pronounces it.

P.P.S. Piece bee with ewe, buy the weigh.
Paul   Sunday, February 15, 2004, 18:01 GMT
if you can find all those homonyms, I am sure someone writing phonetically can find enough synonyms to make his meaning clear. Isn't a sign of good English writing not to be too repetitious?

Regards, Paul V.
Jim   Sunday, February 15, 2004, 23:42 GMT
I was being repetitious for fun. Repetitious with a purpose, even if the purpose is only fun, isn't a sign of bad English as far as I'm aware. I'm sure you could find homonyms for many of those words but forcing people to do this would not be what I'd consider acceptable. Besides what about "two", "to" and "too", can you find homonyms for two of these? What's a homonym for "yew"? "Sheep" is not a homonym for "ewe".
Ness   Monday, February 16, 2004, 03:19 GMT
English orthography isn't very efficient as a phonetic system, but I don't think we should throw it out completely. There are not enough differences between the British and American systems, to make them mutually unintelligible. To change systems now in favor of a more phonetically accurate system, would bring up the question of which pronunciations to use. It would make it harder for the different members of the English-speaking to communicate in the written form. It would also be harder for future generations to read records kept by their predecessors. For better or worse, we are stuck with our current system.
....   Monday, February 16, 2004, 03:53 GMT
Jim   Monday, February 16, 2004, 07:23 GMT
The answer to the question of which pronunciations to use may be "all of them": only change things where there is enough agreement on pronunciation, e.g. change "through" to "thru" but don't touch "schedule", change "people" to "peeple" but leave "leiutenant" as it is.
Jarec   Monday, February 16, 2004, 10:24 GMT
Invade British culture with loads of American movies so British children learn to speak American English. When an American person marries a British person, insist on American pronunciation of your children.
So British English will die out and then you can finally reform English and noone will complain.
Paul   Monday, February 16, 2004, 15:07 GMT
The British probably sell more TelevisionPrograms world wide than the Americans.
As for an auxillary Phonetic Alphabet for English, there are number out there, including IPA and ASCII on this site which would do the job.
Both ASCII and Shaw Alphabet handle Rhotic/NonRhotic pronunciation seamlessly.
I don't see it as a big problem.

You could have a program on word processors to Toggle back and forth between Phonetic and standard English Spelling.
I would think it would be a less sophisticated program than a Spell-checker.

What's the problem really?
Inertia probably.

Regards, Paul V.
Dwayne   Monday, February 16, 2004, 18:39 GMT
Tom wrote:
>>>Are spelling reforms futile?<<<
IMHO, a small spelling reform is possible, but the idea to make English a phonetic language is doomed -- there are to many dialects, too many users; so the agreement is unlikely. Besides, do we really want to make it phonetic when it has such large number of homophones. And then pronunciation will keep evolving and spelling is much more conservative, so it does not worth the trouble.

Jarec wrote:
>>>Russians for example don't have [h]<<<
The Russian language does not have /h/ but it has a very similar sound, which usually denoted as /kh/ in English text.
>>>If Russians have a [h], why do they have "Gamlet" instead of "Hamlet" then?<<
Another good example would be the word hamburger, but this replace is not a rule. For example, hotdog is pronounced with the /kh/ sound, and "Hume" is pronounced without "h" at all.
By the way, there are many names that Russians pronounce incorrectly though they have all needed sounds for them, for example: Einstein, Feynman.