Radical spelling reform or partial modification?

Rodrigo   Mon Oct 22, 2007 10:31 pm GMT
I can only think of some cases where a reform is possible but I am not an expert in dialectal variety to choose a correct way. Nevertheless, I ask:
Publicly and Automatically (cly and cally sound close enough to be confusing)
Nation, Organization, vision, obsession, depression, decision (All, except maybe for vision, end in the same sound, yet they're spelt differently)

My last point may be biased by my first language because it's also very confusing in it.
Woodman   Mon Oct 22, 2007 10:46 pm GMT
"bridg" and "bridgh" just look like typos for "bridge".
guest   Tue Oct 23, 2007 2:54 pm GMT
Well, spelling reform doesn't have to mean conversion to a completely phonetic, one-spelling-fits-all-words type of situation. You get something that looks totally simplistic and WEIRD when you do that.

It's possible to have multiple varieties of spelling for the same sound-- just no isolated, unique spellings.
"Nation, Organization, obsession, depression" can still keep their individual spellings for the "-shun" sound rendered by either "-tion", "-[ss]ion" (the -ss of 'obsession' really belongs to the 'obsess' part of the word) because those spellings occur repeatedly in many words. Even "-cion" and "-sion" (like in 'fashion') in words would be fine. There is no need to alter "-tion" to look like it's pronounced, because the cluster "-tion" is always pronounced as "-shun".

This leaves the option to form words from various approved spelling forms to preserve the aesthetic nature of the written language, which is *very important* to its success. It's has been the lack of this, I believe, that has caused many to baulk at the notion of such a proposal.

Take for instance a phonetic spelling for 'nature'.
Oftentimes it ends up looking like 'naicher' which is just UGLY! No one who writes 'nature' today would ever opt to start spelling it like that. Be real! However, a more standard, conservative form based on the history of the word like 'naatuur' might be more easily accepted. 'aa' is long a, 'uu' is long u (here pronounced 'yoo') which causes the preceeding 't' to become a 't+y'>'ch' sound, just like it actually happened historically.

Guest   Sun Oct 28, 2007 3:11 pm GMT
<<"omnippotent" for "omnipotent"
"omnivvorus" for "omnivorous"

Good work Schoonmaker for making these words "simpler".

"The present spelling leads the reader to think òm.nee.póe.tant." he argues. Surely most of those who don't know how the word is pronounced probably don't know what it means either ... enter the dictionary in which one not only finds definitions but pronunciations as well.>>

Well, here's a related respelling Schoonmaker has on the future word list:

interpolate - interppolate (low priority)


Well even he himself calls it "low priority".
Jon   Sun Nov 11, 2007 11:44 am GMT

I have several questions for now to ask of people advocating spelling reforms, and also some issues I'd like to see addressed.

1) To those advocating spelling reform, how would you decide which dialect to go by?

2) Also, how do you reply to claims set forth by Noam Chomsky that although phonetically English spelling does not appear sensible, the spelling represents underlying phonemic properties of the language?

A good example is in words such as "pat" /pæt/. A rather rigid rule of English is that syllables are almost never permitted to terminate in a lax vowel. (Schwa isn't usually considered a vowel, and only terminates the syllable in certain words, most of them borrowed.) In the word "pat", the lax vowel (/æ/) is closed with the /t/. When the past tense morpheme is afixed to the word, the spelling becomes "patted" (extra "t") /pætəd/. When spoken, the /t/ phoneme doubles to close the first syllable and to also open the second one. It needs to double in use, of course, to avoid an empty coda in the first syllable, which would cause that syllable to terminate in a lax vowel (a no-no for English). The orthographic representation of the word, as you see, reflects the double use of the /t/ phoneme. Many more words follow this same pattern.

3) Another issue: One of the benefits of the seemingly inconsistent English spelling is that it preserves etymology. So, for example, let's take the word "logic", which might be reform-spelled as "lajik" /ladʒɪk/. If I learn the word "logic", and what it means, I can figure out the meaning of word endings, such as "-logy" (e.g., "biology", reform-spelled as "biialujee" /bajalədʒi/). In the current system, "y" and "i" are recognised as often representing the same sound depending on the location of the letter (i.e., "y" usually replaces "i" at the end of a word). With this information in place—which comes as a part of the current spelling's learning package—, "-logy" isn't far off from "logic"; and though they are pronounced differently, I can easily discern the meaning of one having learned the other. This is only the case in the current spelling system. Now, if you think that's a stretch, just consider my relief when I can understand the meaning of "logos" without getting my dictionary! In a reformed spelling, these three would be: "lajik", "lujee", and "logos". Phonetically unrelated, the current spelling helps readers recognise the relationship amongst these three words and allows them to figure out the meaning of two of them, if they know one, without every having to look them up! In other words, it increases learning.

4) Finally, how on Earth will you ever implement such a system? My linguistics professor said it best when he said something like: you'll have better luck getting rid of peoples' Social Security than forcing them to change their spelling. People don't like being told what to do! Furthermore, what would people read? Nothing is written in reformed spelling. Some of the greatest works of literature would not be understandable without translating all of them. Children growing up with reformed spelling wouldn't even be able to read the Declaration of Independence! Will all these things have to be translated into reformed spelling? When the pronunciation changes 50 years from now (remember, we're still in the midst of the Great Vowel Shift), will the reformed spelling change too? Will all those works be retranslated? Will we just decide to live without them? Let's hope not!

Sounds like so much ridiculous work, with few, if any, benefits, not to mention problems of implementation, choosing whose dialect to represent, etc.

May I ask how reform proponents would deal with these issues? I have more questions, of course, but I think these will suffice for now.

S   Sun Nov 11, 2007 4:44 pm GMT
Boy, I'm just glad I don't have to worry about all these things in Spanish.
Jon   Sun Nov 11, 2007 9:32 pm GMT
«There's no phonetic doubling of intervocalic /t/ in most varieties of English;»

I'm not talking about phonetics. I'm talking about the phonemic realisation of what is going on. You are right in saying that phonetically most people pronounce it with a flap, but that is just an allophone of the /t/ phoneme. The current spelling preserves the phonemic realisation that the /t/ phoneme must double for the two syllables. The diagram representing the mental realisation indicates that the /t/ doubles in use.

«Not really. Though there are several important vowel shifts going on in different dialects these days.»

Yes, sorry. I guess it's more like A great vowel shift than The Great Vowel Shift. ;-) But, I think my point is still the same.

«I'm just glad I don't have to worry about all these things in Spanish.»

Not all Spanish-speakers speak the same. By the way, how do you folk pronounce "x"? Is there a difference between "ll" and "y"? Are "j" and "g" ever made the same?

Guest   Sun Nov 11, 2007 10:06 pm GMT
Not all the Spanish speakers speak the same. In fact Spanish could be even more phonetic, but scholars refused to it because it would end up being too trivial.
Jon   Sun Nov 11, 2007 11:13 pm GMT
«belonging to both syllables»

Yes. It belongs to the first syllable, and belongs to the second syllable. The phoneme is used for two things. That the phoneme is used to do two things is represented in the orthography. It is also represented in a diagram of the word, where it is shown to be shared by both syllables. No one phonetically or phonemically thinks there are two /t/, nor have I said such. Instead, they realise, phonemically, that the /t/ is doing a 'double duty'. You cannot have /pæ/-/təd/ because you'll end your syllable in a lax. You cannot have /pæt/-/əd/ because the /t/ is required in the first place to actually determine what the past-tense morpheme will be. The /t/ must stick with them both: /pæt/-/təd/, which combined looks as: /pætəd/.

Guest   Mon Nov 12, 2007 12:31 am GMT
<<Not all Spanish-speakers speak the same. By the way, how do you folk pronounce "x"? Is there a difference between "ll" and "y"? Are "j" and "g" ever made the same? >>

* How do we pronounce "X"? - Just like it sounds, except in the word Mexico.
* Is there a difference between "ll" and "y"? - No, but you kinda know which is the correct one, it's really simple.
* Are "J" and "G" ever made the same? - Actually "J" sounds like the English "H" (Javier/Havier) and "G" sounds like in "Good", the only time when both J/G sound the same is when follows an E or I, but still you know which is the correct one, because otherwise it looks weird.
Guest   Mon Nov 12, 2007 12:47 am GMT
I don't completely agree with the message above:

* Is there a difference between "ll" and "y"? ----> Yes, in some dialects of Spanish, but in other ones there isn't .For example, in Castilian Spanish it is not correct to pronounce ll and y the same way.

J : in Castilian Spanish sounds like ch in German "Ich". In American Spanish J sounds like H in "He".

G: it represents the same sound as J but when it is followed by the letter U it sounds like G in "Gold"
Guest   Mon Nov 12, 2007 12:53 am GMT
A minor correction:

G: it represents the same sound as J but when it is followed by A, O, U, UE, UI, it sounds like G in "Gold".
Guest   Mon Nov 12, 2007 1:15 am GMT
You obviously aren't a native Spanish speaker so never mind, about the ll/Y thing, you're right some small comunities in Spain make the difference but 98% of Spanish speaker doesn't.
Guest   Mon Nov 12, 2007 1:17 am GMT
according to your second post, J sounds as G when followed by A, O, U, UE and UI, but then would Javier and Gavier sound the same? I don't think so.
Guest   Mon Nov 12, 2007 8:58 am GMT
No, I said that in Spanish when G is followed by A,O,U, UE, UI, it sounds like G in Gold. Otherwise, it represents the same sound as J. Hence Javier and Gavier sound different.