Ugh-free English

Divvy   Mon Sep 03, 2007 11:02 pm GMT
Would we benefit from ugh-free spelling? I mean if we got rid of all the "ughs" in words such as these and found a new way to spell those words.

rough, tough
cough, trough
though, borough
through plough, bough
thought, bought
caught, aught
draught laugh
Skippy   Tue Sep 04, 2007 12:13 am GMT
Spelling reform is long overdue in English (it's about 500 years overdue) but at this point it'd be far too expensive to implement, and the prescriptivists would never be able to agree on actual reforms because it would look like "lazy" English... I'd have no problem adopting something based on IPA...

Ay kan dzhust si may mudherz fes... (Translation from Skippy-bet, "I can just see my mother's face").
Josh Lalonde   Tue Sep 04, 2007 2:38 am GMT
How would you suggest that we spell them, Divvy?
Guest   Tue Sep 04, 2007 4:02 am GMT
I think the biggest problem with phonetic spelling reform is that you'd need different spellings for all the different dialects. In Britain, Australia, etc., you'd need to get rid of a lot of the r's, for example, and even the th's in some cases.
Travis   Tue Sep 04, 2007 4:52 am GMT
Spelling reform in English is far, far harder than most would think it would be, due to the need for a true crossdialectal orthography, which is something that is far harder to create than an orthography for any given standard or dialect.
Divvy   Tue Sep 04, 2007 8:15 am GMT
How would you suggest that we spell them, Divvy?

As we do these:

buff, cuff
off, scoff
go, no; doe, floe
flu, gnu
how, cow
taut, astronaut
taut, astronaut
draft, raft
staff, chaff
Guest   Tue Sep 04, 2007 8:16 am GMT
<<crossdialectal orthography, >>

WTH? ??!!!
Josh Lalonde   Tue Sep 04, 2007 1:06 pm GMT
Travis:
<<crossdialectal orthography, >>

Guest:
<<WTH? ??!!!>>

It means exactly what it says: an writing system that works between different dialects. The difficulty with English spelling reform is that different dialects make different phonemic distinctions, so coming up with a system that works for everyone is tricky. John C. Wells has an article about it here: http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/wells/accents_spellingreform.htm .
Jim   Wed Sep 05, 2007 3:51 pm GMT
You'd be getting rid of the "gh"s ... just to be picky. It would be mostly doable, tho one problem which springs to mind is "thorough" which is pronounced differently in different accents. (Should it be "thoro" or "thurra"?)

rough, tough ==> ruff, tuff
cough, trough ==> coff, troff
though, borough ==> tho, burra
through plough, bough ==> thru, plow, bow
thought, bought ==> thaut, baut
caught, aught ==> caut, aut
draught laugh ==> draft, laff
eight, weight, weigh ==> eit, weit, wey
straight ==> strait
thigh ==> thie

"Laff" should work on both sides of the TRAP-BATH split rhyming with "staff".
Travis   Wed Sep 05, 2007 4:06 pm GMT
>>You'd be getting rid of the "gh"s ... just to be picky. It would be mostly doable, tho one problem which springs to mind is "thorough" which is pronounced differently in different accents. (Should it be "thoro" or "thurra"?)<<

At least here it is /"T@r@l/ > ["TR=:M:]. Of course, what I suspect happened here is that [o] was unrounded to [7] (which does happen sometimes for unstressed /o/ here) and then raised to [M], which got reanalyzed as /@l/.
Josh Lalonde   Wed Sep 05, 2007 4:27 pm GMT
<<At least here it is /"T@r@l/ > ["TR=:M:]. Of course, what I suspect happened here is that [o] was unrounded to [7] (which does happen sometimes for unstressed /o/ here) and then raised to [M], which got reanalyzed as /@l/.>>

Could it have been reanalysis of "thoroughly" as /T@r@l/+/i/?
Damian in London E14   Wed Sep 05, 2007 5:41 pm GMT
I've had enough of Slough as I had a rough time there, worse than I ever thought possible, so I bought a single train ticket out and went straight through to Paddington where I suddenly felt hungry so I bought some doughnuts and ate too fast as I began to cough and splutter which was embarrassing so I sat down under the boughs of a plane tree and sought comfort in the late afternoon sunlight in a park just off the busy thoroughfare that was the Edgware Road.
Travis   Wed Sep 05, 2007 5:48 pm GMT
>>Could it have been reanalysis of "thoroughly" as /T@r@l/+/i/?<<

I bet that that was a major factor in reanalyzing /l/ as being present there, and why other cases with unstressed word-final /o/ have not been reanalyzed in such a fashion.