English Orthography Reform

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Salmoneus
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by Salmoneus »

Xonen wrote: 07 May 2021 21:28
This is a good point – and one that at least I myself have probably never really considered. It does make a lot of sense, though; many of the irregularities occur in fairly common words, so they're relatively easy to memorize. Although I'm guessing they can still be a bit of an extra hassle for children when they're first learning to spell, at least (I'm assuming this was a survey of adults?).
Yes, they probably are a hassle for children - but a brief one. Children are great at learning lots of facts, and because the number of serious (yet common enough to be important) irregularities in English is very small, there's not a lot of facts to learn there. If it causes some annoyance, it's shortlived. It should be noted that most people, when they first encounter that whole "did you know that 'ough' can be pronounced seven different way!? it's insane!?" thing is to go "wow, yeah, you're right, that IS insane!"... NOT "oh god, you don't have to tell me, I remember what a hassle it was to remember how to spell 'cough'!". And as for the fact that, oh yeah, words like "have" are irregular, let alone "to"... most people have never even noticed it. I've also had the privilege* to know a child of spelling-learning age, and while a bunch of words gave her trouble, none of them were the dreaded irregular words.

In that regard, people get some things wrong about child learning in particular. First, children don't need to work out how a word is said, because, unlike non-native speakers, they already know how it's pronounced. They just need to remember how to spell it. And in that regard, having a memorable spelling is more important than having a regular one. It's a huge help when words are spelled with common patterns. And "cough" and "enough" ARE spelled with common patterns - it's easy to remember 'ough' as a pattern; the fact it's not always pronounced the same way is a relatively minor issue. [however, I still sometime have hesitation around words like 'taught' and 'fought', knowing whether it's augh or ough - the patterns are two similar]

The one single word my teachers put the most effort into teaching us? 'Beautiful'. I can still remember the song you're meant to sing to yourself to tell you how to spell it. Because it's that' "eau" sequence, which isn't common in English (at least, not primary school English). It's not the potential ambiguity in pronounciation that's the problem - it's remembering the order of the letters. [c.f "bureaucracy", where there's also a temptation, if you remember the odd letter sequence, to put it in the first syllable instead...]

But yeah, nobody really has a problem with 'cough' or 'enough' - but "irreverent", that's a fucking nightmare. [there is no phonetic reason it couldn't be ireverent, or irreverrent, or irreverant, or irreverrant, or whatever - the fact that the single 'v' is actually irregular is the least of its problems!]


*privilege? Also a horrible word to spell. [the schwa is 'i', but the unstressed /I/ is 'e'...] I used to have terrible spelling; experience, and Latin lessons, and a LOT of writing online, have fortunately cured most of it. But there are still words I instinctively avoid because I have to reassure myself that I know how to spell them. 90% of the time, it's schwas, and most of the rest of the time it's doubled letters...
In any case, removing irregularity would still have the benefit of making learning the pronunciation easier for non-native speakers. And considering the importance of English as a lingua franca, non-native speakers are a pretty important demographic... Perhaps I should start lobbying for the EU to adopt my spelling reform as its official version of written English. 🤔
You joke, but I was just thinking this the other day. I'd had another prod at the future of spelling reform in my SF setting, and concluded that, yes, the EU (or Europe in some form) could be an important factor in this regard. Europe has a lot of English speakers, so has reason to institute reform, but has few native speakers, so doesn't have the same ingrained resistance [N.B. fuck you, schwa in 'resistance', whom I just spelled wrongly!] to overcome. A root-and-branch reform isn't likely - they need to maintain fluency in worldwide English - but I don't think it's out of the question that they may one day develop, or adopt from someone else, some sort of optional "simple spelling" thing.


[To be serious: most viable routes to reform involve simply adding voluntary alternative spellings to the dictionary for some words. First you say "we're not going to penalise people for using these 'wrong' but understandable spellings". Then you say "people are free to continue to spell everything the same way, but in order to maximise understanding among non-native speakers, we're going to use these simpler spellings in our communications". Then you say "it would be helpful if subsidised media channels also started using the new official spellings, to increase awareness of them." Then "we're going to teach these spellings as the default in schools, to speed up literacy acquisition". Then "publishers of children's books might want to use the new, simpler spellings that children are being taught". And so on...]
Zé do Rock
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by Zé do Rock »

Xonen wrote: 07 May 2021 21:28
Salmoneus wrote: 05 May 2021 18:28But if you don't mark schwas, then you can't have a meaningful spelling reform. Schwa-mispellings are one of the two most common forms of spelling mistake in English, and are connected to the other big problem (whether a consonant should be single or double after schwa - though I guess it doesn't actually matter whether it's schwa or just destressed).

[I recently found a survey of the top 20 most difficult words to spell, as self-reported (ie the words people had most trouble with). Of the 20, at least 7 and arguably 8 of them are at least in part difficult because of schwas (whether 'liquefy' has a confusing schwa or is outright irregular varies from person to person). Around 9 of them have possible double letters after unstressed vowels (some words have both problems). The other big difficulties are S/C confusion and rare letter sequences (that may not be ambiguous to read, but are hard to remember to write). Only between 1 and 3 of them were due to outright irregularities, which is the problem that most reformers focus on solving...]
This is a good point – and one that at least I myself have probably never really considered. It does make a lot of sense, though; many of the irregularities occur in fairly common words, so they're relatively easy to memorize. Although I'm guessing they can still be a bit of an extra hassle for children when they're first learning to spell, at least (I'm assuming this was a survey of adults?).

In any case, removing irregularity would still have the benefit of making learning the pronunciation easier for non-native speakers. And considering the importance of English as a lingua franca, non-native speakers are a pretty important demographic... Perhaps I should start lobbying for the EU to adopt my spelling reform as its official version of written English. 🤔
Shure, i gess shwas ar the moast common sound in the english languaj. But i wudnt say that not marking shwas makes a reform senseless: RITE oanly makes the endings /@r/ and /@nt/ regguler, with E, thus 'driver' and 'asistent'. And stil: wile in Traditional Spelling u hav rufly 50% of the werds predictable by english spelling patterns, but not safe (if u heer /bEd/ and /hEd), u can spel 'bed' and 'hed', but u cant be shure if thees ar the actual spellings of the werds - in this case 'bed' is predictable but not safe, 'head' is not predictable). And (rufly) 50% of the werds ar unpredictable. In RITE u hav 72% of the werds predictable (by rules) And safe, 16% ar predictable by english spelling patterns but not safe, and 12% ar unpredictable. But i hav to say that the counting was made in a running text but not including repeeted werds - utherwize the number of unpredictable spellings wud be much hier, becaus extreemly common werds like 'the', 'to', 'of' hav usualy shwas and ar unpredictable.

Thus TS (traditional spelling) has 50% predictable but unsafe wen u no all spelling patterns in english, 50% unpredictable.
RITE has 72% predictable and safe, 16% predictable wen u no all spelling patterns, 12% unpredictable.

I wudnt say such an impruvement isnt werth wile.

The problem with shwas is that thare is no agreement wether sertan sounds in sertan werds ar shwas or not. So either the sistem inventer ses: "We considder it a shwa ware I, the inventer, considder it a shwa". Or he alows for alternativ spellings - menny thouzands of them. I cant imajin that menny peeple wud like that.

Anuther problem is that thare mite be eeven 2 shwas, sum peeple say thare is a shwa that is mor towards the /I/ sound, and call it shwi. And sumhow mi brane ses that too, wen it cums tu a solution: the moast common letter for shwa is E, but how menny peeple wud apruve of a werd like 'around' being spelt 'eround', or 'ago' being speld 'egoe' for 'ago', how menny peeple wud apruve of difekelt for difficult, eroame for 'aroma', etc? Thare thay wud say, wi the hel doo u want tu respel a perfect werd like 'aroma' in such an aukward way? We cud also take A, but how menny peeple wud apruve of a werd like 'grantad', 'endad'? Or anpridiktabal? That looks mor like hindi than english. Or with U, but i'v seen alredy skeems that uze U for shwa, and thay'r hardly reedable, reedubul: Thu intelujunt und unpridiktubul sulooshun. OK, peepul uesd tu aulturnutiv spelings wil hav fueur problums with it, but reed u hoel paej uf this und ue'l see it is quite tiring. Und for peepul hoo doent hav kontakt with aulturnutiv spelings its thu horur.

Wel, i'v dun quite a fu poles amung frends and aquaintenses, and judjing bi wat i herd, such a tipe of reform dusnt hav the slitest chanse. And thare AR reforms moast peeple wud apruve of, eeven if thay'r far from perfect.

Menny shwas ar in werds that we no in the ferst day(s) of scool: the, of, to, etc. Quite a fu of them arnt realy a problem becauz the shwa in wun werd is a cleer vowel in a derivvativ: the O in atom is a shwa, but peeple also no 'atomic', ware O is not a shwa. And then thare ar quite a fu rare werds, usualy from latin or greek orijin, but moastly u reed them much mor offen than u heer them. And if u no them bi thare ritten form, u doant hav a problem tu no how it is speld. The oanly problem is tu no ware the stress is, and wether the unstressd vowels ar shwas. Wel, usualy thay Ar shwas, and thare ar sertan patterns for the cases ware thay'r not. Sumtimes u'l get it rong ennyway, but thare mite the consolation that the person hoo's lissening tu u probbably woant be shure either if a sertan unstressd vowel is a shwa or not.

Sloly sloly cachy munky.
Titus Flavius
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by Titus Flavius »

Update of Vowels:

ɪ <i>
ʊ <u>
e <e>
ə <ə>
ɒ <o>
æ <a>
ʌ <ȧ>

i: <ī>
u: <ū>
ɔ: <ō>
eə (ɛː) <ea>
ɜ: <ə̄>
ɑ: <ā>

eɪ <ei>
aɪ <æi>
ɔɪ <oi>
əʊ <au>
aʊ <æu>

ɪə (ɪ:) <ia>
ʊə (ɔ:) <ua>
ɔə (ɔ:) <oa>
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