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Is Simplified Spelling Worth Reform? 1183

Posted by timothy
from the a-pruh-po-or-rediculous dept.
digitalhermit writes "I guess many folks are of very little brain, and big words bother them... There's a push for simpler spelling. Instead of 'weigh' it would be 'way.' 'Dictionary' would be 'dikshunery' and so forth. Dunno if it's a joke, but it seems in earnest. Mark Twain must be spinning around somewhere." Twain is often credited with the satirical call for spelling reform called "A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling," though according to Wikipedia, Twain was "actually a supporter of reform," and the piece may have been written by M.J. Shields. Benjamin Franklin was another champion of spelling reform, and even came up with a phonetic alphabet to implement such reform.
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Is Simplified Spelling Worth Reform?

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  • by IntelliAdmin (941633) * on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:24PM (#15668929) Homepage
    You no what? It aint never gonna happen. People hate change, and unless you force them to (Like the communist Chinese switch to simplified) people will spell the way they want. (Kind of like trying to get Americans to switch to metric)
    Windows Admin Tools [intelliadmin.com]
    • by IAmTheDave (746256) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (ds-evademanesab)> on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:28PM (#15668972) Homepage Journal
      You no what? It aint never gonna happen.

      Agreed, especially considering it was originally proposed [sdsu.edu] in 1789 by our most famous dictionary's namesake, so if he can't get it going, well then, I ask you, who really can?

      • by Trifthen (40989) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:41PM (#15669134) Homepage
        Part of the problem is context. In English, since there are so many words which are homonyms, information is actually transmitted by the spelling of the word. It's bad enough one word can have dozens of meanings, but then you have cases like: Weigh, way, and whey. If we compressed that to simply 'way', which way would you way the way? (In which manner would you determine the effect of gravity upon watery milk byproducts?) See the problem?

        Simplified spelling destroys context and meaning in English. We would basically have to rewrite the language from scratch to avoid problems like the one outlined above. In not so simple terms: that will never happen.
        • but then you have cases like: Weigh, way, and whey. If we compressed that to simply 'way', which way would you way the way?

          In the context. Japanese has the same issue and that's how they deal with it. Besides, it would vastly increase the odds of constructing puns.
          • by js3 (319268) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:48PM (#15669222)
            brilliant idea. Lets take a fairly easy to grasp language and turn in into japanese for people who can't spell.
            • English is a lot of things, but 'easy to grasp' isn't one of them. From what I understand, it's one of the more difficult languages to learn, due to it's zany "every rule is an exception" philosophy.
              • by lawpoop (604919) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @03:17PM (#15669579) Homepage Journal
                I had a conversation with a native Chinese speaker and a native Slovenian speaker. Both agreed that English was *incredibly* easy to learn, mostly because it has comparatively rules. The Slovenian speaker had learned German, Slovakian, and Italian. I'm not sure what other languages the Chinese speaker learned.

                We don't have noun genders like other European languages, and we don't have too many verb conjugations. It's also easy to transform words into other parts of speech, e.g. verbing nouns, or making verbs nounish or noun-y, so it's pretty easy to re-use words you already know.

                So just learn a few rules, learn the vocab, and the few exceptions, and you're set.
                • by Dr. Evil (3501)

                  I hear quite differently from most non-native speakers I run into. English is full of nuiances and exceptions. The best statement I heard is that it is very easy to learn enough English to "get by", but the language is extrodinarily difficult to master.

              • Sort of the x86 assembly of languages?
            • by Pyroja (616376)
              Um.. Easy to grasp? As a student at the Presidio of Monterey, I have to disagree. I'm learning Chinese at the moment, and that's classified as a Category 4 language, right up there with Japanese and Arabic. Guess what? English isn't in that category. No sir, it's Category 5, as in, even more difficult to learn.

              Just remember that next time you try to learn Chinese. Because yes, English is more difficult.
              • Just remember that next time you try to learn Chinese. Because yes, English is more difficult.

                For whom? I would argue that a French-only speaker/reader would have a much easier time learning English than an Arabic-only speaker/reader. Ditto an English user vs. a Japanese user learning Chinese. My wife spent a couple of years in Japan ten years ago. She can still read the odd Chinese sign around town, whereas I have no idea.

              • by saihung (19097)
                I speak Chinese, and I can't for the life of me understand why people think it's so hard. Granted the writing system is amazingly backward, but the spoken language itself is pretty straightforward with little in the way of grammatical messiness. In my experience Swedish, for instance, is MUCH harder than Chinese.
                As for English, I guess as a native speaker the only way I can assess how hard it is to learn is to look at foreign learners and judge how hard of a time they have. And since I sometimes teach ES
          • Or, we could pronounce them the way they're spelled.
            wh used to be a 'hw' sound, ay ey and ei used to be defined more carefully, and gh actually represents a variation of voiced spirant that often took the place of g when it fell between two vowels. (a form of this shows up as the f-sound at the end of trough)
            But, there are still big problems. A lot of words underwent I-mutation (a form of vowel and diphthong sound shifting) in prehistoric (i.e., before written manuscripts) Old English from its Germanic roo
          • In the context. Japanese has the same issue and that's how they deal with it.
            No, they don't. That is one of the key roles of Kanji, to help distinguish which of up to a dozen homynyms is being referred to, which would be impossible with just Hiragana, and is one reason why the use of Kanji has also withstood calls for simplification.
          • by forkazoo (138186) <(wrosecrans) (at) (gmail.com)> on Thursday July 06, 2006 @05:28PM (#15670922) Homepage
            In the context. Japanese has the same issue and that's how they deal with it. Besides, it would vastly increase the odds of constructing puns.

            The Japanese also have the kanji. This is basically similar to how we have dfferent spellings for things. Our distinct spellings come from different source languages of borrowed words, and different root words. The kanji similarly are different if the word represents a different idea but has the same sound.
        • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:56PM (#15669312)
          Well, we could always overload words the way a C programmer would:

          way -> way
          weigh -> way1
          whey -> way2

          Although introducing namespaces would be more clear to the reader:

          way -> Directions::way
          weigh -> Measurements::way
          whey -> Foodstuffs::way

          But since we're talking about text documents in general, maybe we should base a new simplified spelling scheme on XML:

          way -> <spelling:overloaded_word category="directions"> way </spelling:overloaded_word>
          weigh -> <spelling:overloaded_word category="measurements"> way </spelling:overloaded_word>
          whey -> <spelling:overloaded_word category="foodstuffs"> way </spelling:overloaded_word>
        • by arivanov (12034) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @03:18PM (#15669594) Homepage
          Well... There are examples to that.

          Russian, Bulgarian, Serbian, a few others.

          They have all undergone a reform around the turn of the last century which simplified spelling and grammar. As a result Russian grammar can be expressed in under 8 pages and the language has in total around 40 exemptions to these rules. Everything else is built out through some fairly simple grammar rules. Bulgarian and Serbian are quite similar to Russian to this extent, though their language reform did not go that far.

          The results are quite interesting though most people prefer to "oversee" them, because expressing them is considered to be very politically incorrect.

          First of all as a result of the reform, most English speaking humanity students find Russian staggeringly hard. Engineering students (the few that are interested in languages) cruise through it with ease. I am speaking from the experience of trying to teach students at an American University Russian and it was not fun. The humanity majors could not gear their brain into "rule operating mode" and that was it. Some of them knew 3-4 languages by that time, but Russian was beyond them.

          Second, Russians and attention to detail do not mix. I am half Russian and I have lived there for 10+ years so I am speaking this out of experience. Their brain functions from the perspective that things are built according to rules and most of them are not good at memorising exemptions and minute details. At the same time they will swipe the ground with you on math, ability to draw general conclusions and cold cynical logic. Sometimes you think that their entire bloody nation got a Turette syndrome.

          Third, they even learn to read in a completely different manner. They learn to assemble things in blocks to get a meaning. That is simply impossible with English. An average toddler will outright get lost trying to get through all the intricacies of bought vs buy and caught vs catch and so on, so they learn to recognise words a whole, not to try to assemble them. This once again changes the way people think.

          So on so forth. And by the way we can continue along these lines looking at Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese and especially Chinese. Each of these shapes the brain in a specific pattern and some thoughts which are OK for them will be immensely foreign to an English speaker. And vice versa of course.

          Overall, "the language shapes the thought". There are some very good observations by David Brin in the Uplift series to that regard that a language by design may prohibit certain type of thinking. So someone with a different language may come to a thought which will never otherwise occur.

          A language reform will change the way English think. It is not just a problem of word meaning and context. It will fundamentally change education, culture, way of thinking, etc.

          You are right, I do not believe it will happen.
    • by bunions (970377) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:29PM (#15668982)
      yeah. You'll never see people abbreviating things like 'you' and 'your' to 'u' and 'ur' or spelling 'through' or 'night' to 'thru' and 'nite'.

      Sadly, I've seen 5th grade papers where the kid spelled through 'thru' and the teacher didn't let out a peep. :(
      • Sadly, you don't know that "thru" and "nite" are the informal spellings of "through" and "night." Moreover, they are also valid spelling which can be found in any dictionary.
      • by Ignorant Aardvark (632408) <cydeweys@gmail. c o m> on Thursday July 06, 2006 @03:58PM (#15670058) Homepage Journal
        Sadly, I've seen 5th grade papers where the kid spelled through 'thru' and the teacher didn't let out a peep. :(

        Through->thru was one of Webster's proposed spelling reforms. Don't knock it too badly. You may be more familiar with some of Webster's other proposed spelling reforms that did succeed, such as colour->color, programme->program, etc. Through->thru didn't have quite the same level of success but it's still used ubiquitously on road signs for space-saving concerns.
    • While I think you're right, I don't think you've hit the root of the problem. Assuming we could come up with a standardized pronunciation for every word across all dialects and accents of English, and then assuming we could get everyone to agree to use a simplified phonetic spelling system on those pronunciations, the system would still go obsolete in about 50 years as pronunciations start to vary again. While people are very resistant to organized change, disorganized change is somewhat inevitable. Ther
      • by Metzli (184903) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:50PM (#15669246)
        Pronunciation differences would have a huge impact on this change in spelling. Should you spell car as "cah" like a Northeasterner? Should door be spelled "doeor" like a Southerner says it? Since there isn't a truly standard pronunciation used by everyone, how can there be pronunciation-based spelling without causing major communcation problems?
    • difference: (Score:5, Insightful)

      by conJunk (779958) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:34PM (#15669043)
      You're right, it won't/shouldn't happen, but it's not like metric:

      Our spelling of words inherits from their roots. English is the kind of language the hunts down other languages and corners them dark alleys to nick their vocabularies, and that history is in the spelling. If a words is unfamilliar, its spelling is a clue to its meaning. "Simplified Spelling" robs us of an ability to learn new words easily.

      TFA says that these weirdos claim that illiteracy rates would drop if spelling were simplified. Not likely. The reson folks are illiterate is that we refuse to fund our schools sufficiently, or pay teachers enough to hire qualified ones. Not to mention that (and I wish I had a cite for this handy) the fact that junk food is cheaper than fresh food with plenty of veg means that kids in the poorer parts of America tend to have diets that reduce their ability to concentrate and learn. The problem isn't the language, it's social.

      Metric on the other hand was regected out of misguided nationalism, and because people tend to refuse to acknowledge a good thing when they see it.

    • by omeomi (675045)
      You no what? It aint never gonna happen.

      I can't decide whether to think your misuse of the word "no" is meant to be ironic or not, given the context...
    • There have been attempts to reform German spelling [wikipedia.org], and they have not entirely caught on [wikipedia.org]. This is despite a few advantages that attempt has over any potential English spelling reform: 1) There are recognized organizations responsible for the language, at least officially, and they got together in a big conference, agreed upon it, and got all the relevant governments to agree; and 2) the reform was relatively minor, not nearly as enormous a deviation from established spelling norms as these proposed English reforms.

      If many German newspapers and normal people simply ignore the reforms under those circumstances, what do you think the chances of English spelling reform ever catching on are?
  • nothing? (Score:5, Funny)

    by IAmTheDave (746256) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (ds-evademanesab)> on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:25PM (#15668933) Homepage Journal
    Nuthing fore u tu see here. Pleez mov alon.
  • Finally! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:25PM (#15668936) Homepage Journal
    A chance to use the metric alphabet! [jt.org]
  • by XorNand (517466) * on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:26PM (#15668949)
    This is exactly what America needs: something that allows the populace to think even less in their everyday lives. The aversion to expending a little extra effort seems to be a uniquely American thing. We invent all of these machines to save us from having to perform manual labor. Then we all get fat and develop health problems from lack of physical activity. So now we pack it into gyms where we run in place, climb fake staircases, and lift heavy pieces of iron up and down for no useful purpose. Mindboggling. Taking mental shortcuts will be just as beneficial.
    • by Hoplite3 (671379) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:43PM (#15669156)
      Seriously. Look at the explosion of diacritical marks. Spelling reform (in the limited sense of having only one way to write each sound) was carried out in the 1800's. All spelling reforms will cause words to look funny, if not stupid. This is because, to the chagrin of middle schoolers, people judge your intelligence and content based on spelling.

      Reform isn't a mental shortcut, its a good idea to encourage correct communication in a language with world-wide significance. If the Anglosphere could promulgate a change in spelling, it will improve commerce and reduce misery for students around the world. It isn't just an American thing, it's a rational thing.

      But coordination is key. A change must be made by England, Australia, India, South Africa, and America simultaneously for best effect. The difficulty is that the question of which letter groups make the same sound depends on accent, so any change will require compromise. It's doubtless this is the reason why languages such as Croat could change spelling quickly, while English lags behind with an unravelling of standard spellings and a profusion of meaningless letter groups.
  • Not again (Score:4, Funny)

    by luder (923306) * <slashdot@lbrasPARIS.net minus city> on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:26PM (#15668953)

    (sigh) Don't they ever learn? From this page [wordpress.com]:

    "The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.

    As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5- year phase-in plan that would become known as "Euro-English".

    In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c". Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favour of "k". This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter. There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with "f". This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.

    In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent "e" in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.

    By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v".

    During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru.

    Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas."

  • by Kelson (129150) * on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:28PM (#15668978) Homepage Journal
    Yu shud bi shur tu rid this artikel on speling riform [upenn.edu]. It wil mayk yu laf, i hop.
  • Simple solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:29PM (#15668983)
    A simple solution involves solving these spelling problems around the world. It's a simple, six letter word.

    It's called SCHOOL.
    • ... skewl
    • Re:Simple solution (Score:5, Interesting)

      by conJunk (779958) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:53PM (#15669280)

      absolutely. any problem cited with "students in america take longer to spell than in countries with phonetic languages" omits one teensy factor:

      i don't have cite for this, but my guess is that those kids who take years to learn to spell didn't start learning it until the teacher showed them at school, probably around age six or seven. the development of the human brain is such that young kids can learn almost anything really easily, and if their parents had taken the time to start reading books to them from the beginning, and helping the kids sound out words when they show an interest, and those kids likely would not be taking years to learn.

      i used to teach english as a second language to 3 and 4 year old japanese kids with extremely ambitious parents. those kids could pick up phonics and english spelling no problem. the natural OCD-like nature of kids make the details easy for them, as long as their having fun, and have a good healthy diet that's conducive to a reasonable attention span

      • Re:Simple solution (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Reziac (43301) * on Thursday July 06, 2006 @03:03PM (#15669401) Homepage Journal
        Exactly. Parents no longer sit down and read to their preschool-age kids. My mom DID... and I could read at a 4th grade level by the time I was 5 years old -- AND I already had a sufficient grok of phonics (by intuition, not training) that I could work out ANY word, even one I'd never seen before. (The only ones that gave me trouble were irregulars like "Bartholomew" -- where the accents don't fall on the standard syllables.)

        Between that, and when spelling/phonics began being taught (in my era, that was in the 2nd grade), it was very easy for me and for most students. Kids who couldn't read, and who couldn't puzzle out new words, were very rare.

        But now? Spelling isn't taught until the 4th grade or even later. Phonics often isn't taught at all, another legacy of the "whole word recognition" debacle (if you watch severe dyslexics, you'll see that WWR is how they read -- so the object of WWR was apparently to make everyone read at the level of the lowest common denominator!) I remember when the first WWR experiments came along -- my 5th grade class was one of 'em, and even at that age we KNEW we were being shortchanged compared to the other kids.

        As to "odd" spellings like weigh vs way, they DO convey meaning. Frex, a "weigh station" is not the same thing as a "way station".

        • It's not just that kids aren't taught early enough. English is genuinely tough stuff [pntic.mec.es]. Try to read that poem quickly; I'm a native speaker and not stupid by any means, but I couldn't get though it without errors or breaking rhythm (at least, not on the first try).
    • by Distinguished Hero (618385) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:56PM (#15669317) Homepage
      A simple solution involves solving these spelling problems around the world. It's a simple, six letter word. It's called SCHOOL.

      Actually, after the spelling reform, it shall be a four letter word: "scul." :P
    • by iminplaya (723125) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:58PM (#15669347) Journal
      It's called SCHOOL.

      In the US, we say "escuela".
  • by Yahweh Doesn't Exist (906833) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:29PM (#15668990)
    the prefix + stem + suffix model is far better than this phonetic bullshit.

    e.g. centre, centripetal, centrifuge are all connected concepts and share the stem "centr".

    the American spelling "center" has the stem "cent" which suggests center is something to do with 100; a center is a machine/person that makes cents?

    you only make things more difficult for yourself in the long run if you wimp out of learning things properly in the beginning.
    • by $lashdot (472358) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:44PM (#15669170) Journal
      "Centre" is not an example of the prefix + stem + suffix model. It is a reminder that England was for a time ruled by the French.
    • I agree that such spelling makes more sense for appending prefixes and suffixes. However, shouldn't you then pronounce the word "sent-reh" instead of "sent-er"? Or is the trailing 'e' silent, and the 'er' sound just a vowel-less 'r'? Silent letters are evil.

      A truly sensible language needs spelling that reflects pronunciation (or vice-versa, e.g. dictionary shouldn't be spelled 'dikshunary'; people should learn to dictate properly and articulate the 'tion' [ala 'tyon'] sound instead of slurring it into "shun
    • by tim1724 (28482) * on Thursday July 06, 2006 @04:11PM (#15670186) Homepage Journal

      We spell it "center" for a few reasons:

      1. "Center" is the older spelling! Here's what the OED has to say about it:

        The prevalent spelling from 16th to 18th c. was center, in Shakespeare, Milton, Boyle, Pope, Addison, etc.; so the early dictionaries, Cotgr. ('centre, F., a center'), Cockeram, Phillips, Kersey, and all the thirty editions of Bailey 1721-1802; but the technical volume of Bailey (Vol. II.) 1727-31 and the folio 1730-36, have centre; 'an interleaved copy of the folio of 1730 was the foundation of Johnson's Dictionary', which followed it in spelling centre; this has been generally adopted in Great Britain, while center is the prevalent spelling in the United States.

        So "center" was still the predominant spelling even in British usage during the 18th century. The switch to the French spelling "centre" happened too late for us to switch. (But since Canada continued to be British territory for so much longer, they got the new spelling. Although in my experience, Canadians tend to use both interchangeably.)

      2. Consistency. We have "-er" words. You have "-er" and "-re". How is that easier?

        US spelling tends to use more Latin word endings than French endings. While the Roman word was neuter rather than masculine (so they spelled it "centrum") if it had been masculine, it probably would have been "center". (It certainly wouldn't have been "centre"). Yes, British usage is fairly consistent (using "-re" for Latin 2nd declension neuter words which ended in "-rum") but in American usage you don't have to know whether the Latin word was masculine or neuter ... it's "-er" either way. And although I think learning Latin is very good for one's understanding of English (and it's "color", damnit, even the Romans spelled it correctly ;-) I don't realistically expect most people to learn it.

      Note that in the case of "color" (and other "-or/-our" words) the "-our" spelling was in fact in place prior to the 18th century. (With the curious exception of "honor", which continued to be spelled either with or without the 'u'.) Even Noah Webster himself used "colour" in early editions of his dictionary. It wasn't until he switched to the older Roman spelling that the US dropped the 'u'. Yay, Webster.

      The Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] on the differences between American and British English is quite fascinating. The notes on how Canadian and Australian usage are interesting, as it can seem quite random.

      Note that I use British punctuation rules for handling punctuation which occurs near quote marks. The American style (which finally seems to be losing hold) is simply illogical.

  • English (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Distinguished Hero (618385) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:32PM (#15669017) Homepage
    Due to the way that written was English developed, it is one of the few Indo-European languages to not be written in a phonetic manner (if you only know English, you may not completely comprehend what this means). That being said, now that English is an international language, and a huge portion of the world's population is already familiar with the way it is written, fragmenting and reforming it at this point is an asinine idea. Furthermore, there exist languages which are even less phonetic than English (e.g. Mandarin ("Chinese"), the Kanji portion of Japanese) and those people manage to do fine.

    P.S. Implementing this idea would also mean that people would soon lose the ability to read the vast body of works already written in English; a huge translation effort would have to be undertaken, and a lot of works would still remain untranslated. Such a loss is not acceptable (unless you have Orwellian intentions in mind).
    • Re:English (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jim_Callahan (831353)
      Well, it is written in a phonetic manner, it's just written in a manner that was phonetic under the dialects in which the written language was formed, which is not necessarily phonetic in modern dialects. We don't shift spelling too much to keep up with dialects because I, as a Texan, enjoy actually being able to read the notes my professor, a Louisianan, writes on the board, and he enjoys knowing wha the hell I'm trying to say when he grades my reports. Similar principles apply to business.

      In conclusion
  • by gilroy (155262) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:35PM (#15669051) Homepage Journal
    ... That the written language "should" reflect the spoken language. We make the unconscious (but unsupportable) connection that "written English" and "spoken English" are the same language, but they're not. They just happen to have easy mappings -- not as easy as these folks want, apparently, but nonetheless, not too difficult.

    For example, when you speak, what do you do to separate words form one another? The surprising answer is, nothing. Take a tape of ordinary conversation. Run it through an oscilloscope. Look for the breaks. You won't find them. We "blur" words together in sentences. (I suspect this is why anyone speaking a different tongue always sounds like he/she is speaking very quickly... your brain hasn't learned to put the "spaces" back in by context.)

    And that's for words. It's worse for letters. In an oscillograph of the word "bat", you won't see discrete units for "b", "a", and "t". It's just one sound. Heck, the "letters" we pronounce depend on what comes before or after.

    The people behind this movement also act as if pronunciation is fixed, while of course, it is not. Some of the "nonsense" words they offer up as looking the same but not rhyming did rhyme, once. Then the spoken language evolved and, since the written language is considerably less plastic (an advantage, I would maintain), the oddness is frozen in.

    Finally, when we adopt spelling that "looks like" the pronunciation... whose pronunciation will it look like? Bostoners and New Yorkers and Atlanteans pronounce many words in different ways. Who gets to be the official "correct" one?

    Moving in favor of spoken English won't help literacy. I suspect, albeit without proof, that such a move would hurt it.
    • American Sign Language is considerably different from both written and spoken English, but there's no written equivalent for ASL except written English.

      ASL isn't just a word-for-word translation of English. It would be extremely tedious to sign that way; you could more-or-less do it, but you'd sound very stilted (just like if you spoke in the same way you wrote). It's not even just an abbreviation; there are syntactic structures used in ASL that have no exact word-for-word correspondence to either spoken
    • by Tired_Blood (582679) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @03:03PM (#15669404)
      For example, when you speak, what do you do to separate words form one another? The surprising answer is, nothing. Take a tape of ordinary conversation. Run it through an oscilloscope. Look for the breaks. You won't find them. We "blur" words together in sentences. (I suspect this is why anyone speaking a different tongue always sounds like he/she is speaking very quickly... your brain hasn't learned to put the "spaces" back in by context.)

      A ... younger ... Shatner ... would ... disagree.
    • by someone300 (891284) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @03:03PM (#15669408)
      Totally agree. Words when written to be read whereas when pronounced are to be heard. These two functions are not identical. Reading words works by analysing the curves and spacing of the marks on the paper or screen. Having things that are pronounced the same written different ways will increase the amount of individual patterns that our brain can quickly recognise and can speed up reading greatly once the language has been learned properly.
      Since stuff written phonetically is more likely to have patterns repeated between words since there are few unique sounds in the English language, it could mean that average reading ability would become worse, despite the initial learning being quicker.

      Our brain tries to look for shortcuts. How often has it happened that you read something like "Well" as "We'll" when it's in a valid context. This perhaps indicates that our brain is only skim reading and using the context and the overall look of the word to derive it's meaning. Just as not many people have trouble udnersatnding wehn wrods are wrirten lkie tihs, provided they don't overthink. If there are more words that look similar because they have similar sounds, it could result in more mistakes. Our brain probably isn't going to listen to every other syllable when someone is speaking but we might read only every other letter.

      Any anyway, if we're going to go the simplified spelling route.. why not just teach the phonetic alphabet to everyone?
    • "For example, when you speak, what do you do to separate words form one another? The surprising answer is, nothing. Take a tape of ordinary conversation. Run it through an oscilloscope. Look for the breaks. You won't find them."

      Actually, to clarify, you will find them. They don't occur between words, however, but they are consonants. That's right -- consonant sounds are actually silences, stoppages of sound.

      Try this simple experiment: say the following sentence as slowly as you can: "I'm going to the sto

    • >The people behind this movement also act as if pronunciation is fixed, while of course, it is not.

      That was once the case, but no longer so.
      Now in the age of mass communications, the level of isolation needed for languages to drift have largely
      disappeared. Nowadays, regional accents that formed in the US are slowly receding, and most people have
      generally softened to or wholly adapted the US comman accent and sound.

      The levels of isolation needed for entire new languages to formed dissappeared at the dawn
  • It CAN'T happen (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Reality Master 101 (179095) <.RealityMaster101. .at. .gmail.com.> on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:36PM (#15669074) Homepage Journal

    I gave this a lot of thought one time. Everybody wants this and thinks it's a good idea, but there's a fundamental reason that it's simply impossible to reform spelling into a logical phonetic system:

    People pronounce words differently.

    Think about it... would it be to-may-to or to-mah-to? And that's just for starters. Factor in regional dialects and different vowal pronounciations. It simply can't happen.

  • by Fritzerei (516102) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:41PM (#15669136)
    This is totally absurd. Simplifying English spelling would eradicate the link between words and etymologies, causing words to become mere signifiers of sounds. Words possess heaps of cultural significance that implicate literature, poetry, performing arts, and even visual arts. And practically speaking, what are we to do w/homonyms?

    The simplification of Chinese characters represents a similar reformation, but at least traces of etymology remain in tact. A more accurate analogy to this proposal would be if the Chinese were to exclusively use Pinyin [wikipedia.org] instead of Chinese characters -- simplified or traditional. Ask any Chinese-speaking individual what she'd think of the idea, and she'd say it's malarky.

    If Americans really wanted to do this -- simplify spelling to eliminate inconsistencies between words and sound -- it would be a slightly better idea to make everyone use the IPA [wikipedia.org] at least.
  • by Were-Rabbit (959205) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:46PM (#15669192)
    So ... rather than try to get people to think about the words they want to use and rather than educate them on the proper spelling of words, we're going to dumb down the language because people don't want to learn how to spell difficult or similar-sounding words correctly.

    Uh huh.

    This movement appears to be indicative of the propensity of lackadaisical or indeed preposterous individuals to repudiate the necessities of encouraging a proper enlightenment of the intricacies of linguistic comunication. Unquestionably, this preposterous recommendation can only be indicative of a desire to bring forth an ideology resulting in the reduction of the instruction of responsibilty upon one's self. One must ponder the disappearance of intellectual progress when considering why our many progenitors incurred no difficulty in the attainments of the identical language. Yet for reasons unknown the current populous has in some way been deemed too intellectually challenged to educate themselves of the same vocabulary. This indicates a very bankrupt, mental capacity with respect to the educational capacities of my fellow homo sapiens and should not be looked upon favorably.
    • This movement appears to be indicative of the propensity of lackadaisical or indeed preposterous individuals to repudiate the necessities of encouraging a proper enlightenment of the intricacies of linguistic comunication. Unquestionably, this preposterous recommendation can only be indicative of a desire to bring forth an ideology resulting in the reduction of the instruction of responsibilty upon one's self. One must ponder the disappearance of intellectual progress when considering why our many progenito
  • by penguinstorm (575341) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:49PM (#15669237) Homepage
    It's an earnest effort, but an Ameri-centric view.

    The argument for more phonetic spelling ignores the question of "Which phonetic version is our model?"

    American's pronounce words quite differently than the British do and even -- in some situations -- Canadians.

    Try this one: Pasta.

    In the U.S. it's predominantly pronounced P-aw-sta
    (This is not the case in, say, Alabama where it's pronounced "Macaroni" in my experience.)

    In Canada it's a hard "a" sound. P-a-sta.

    You say "Lou-ten-ent" and Canadians say "Lef-ten-ent"

    I say since we set fire to your White House we get to choose the spelling. In honour of the colour, I pleaded at the theatre for a more concise judgement.

    (Ok. Pleaded is a linguistic pet peeve of mine whereas the others are words that are spelt differently.)
  • by jd (1658) <.moc.oohay. .ta. .kapimi.> on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:50PM (#15669241) Homepage Journal
    Why stupid? Because:


    • Pronounciation drifts over time. This means that when you read a text, you must not read it as you pronounce things NOW, but how the writer pronounced things THEN, even assuming the same regional accent.
    • Pronounciation drifts over geography. Different areas have different accents. Some areas use sounds that simply don't exist - in any form - in other locations. So you must not read things as you pronounce them HERE, but how the writer pronounces them THERE, even assuming the same timeframe.
    • Words evolve over space and time, some falling into disuse, others changing in form or meaning. "Simplified" spelling does nothing to help in understanding what was written.
    • Simplified phonetic writing was used by the Norse - first as "Older Futhark" (30 characters) which was later simplified further to "Younger Futhark" (16 characters, plus 4 more they added on later when they discovered they couldn't write anything useful). In the end, it didn't make things any easier. It's easier to write, sure, but it's actually much harder to read.
    • It's impossible to validate, as the namespace would be vastly more oversaturated than it already is. If anything, we need a far MORE formalized spelling to reduce the number of collisions.


    "Simplified" spelling is a grave error, because the constant shifting of language rapidly overwhelms any benefits that might be had. The inconsistancies in a formal spelling system accumulate O(1), but the changes required in a phonetic system will accumulate O(n). Periodic re-alignments may be useful, but loosening the spelling system would be a disaster.

  • by 200_success (623160) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:52PM (#15669276)
    No Jesus, no pees. No Jesus, no pees.
  • by caffeine_monkey (576033) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @02:54PM (#15669287)
    This is completely retarded. What about regional accents? If I say toe-MAY-toe, and you say toe-MAH-toe, what's the phonetic spelling of the word?
  • Short answer is no (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ulrich Hobelmann (861309) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @03:33PM (#15669786) Journal
    Long answer is: we've had it in Germany. The reform was led by an arbitrary government committee (group of ministers for educational affairs) and led to changes that were simply wrong etymologically, or grammatically.

    Basically: if you don't really really know what you're doing (and with a grown language that's hundreds/thousands of years old, almost nobody really knows everything), don't change a language.

    After a while in Germany, most newspapers reverted to either the old writing, or their own writing (mixture of "official" new writing style, and the old one), while most authors simply continued to use the old style. Design by committee doesn't work.
  • by caffiend666 (598633) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @03:42PM (#15669871) Homepage

    Just because it makes sense now is not a reason. Things are made unintelligable with time. People attempt to draw distinctions between things and change them subtley. Time compounds the issue. A significant advantage must be shown before doing this. Even simple reality makes things change. China is reforming the written language out of necessity, because becoming literate in classic Chinese takes almost a decade. Latin is easier... Shaving a year or two off of this schedule means more time for real learning. Words are pronounced differently a year from now, in different places, even by people who attend different schools. I wouldn't want people with 'Harvard' accents dictating spelling, I live in Texas. I'm sure people at Harvard would equally hate the idea of someone from Texas like Bush dictating the dictionary.

    For example, months in many languages are counted. First Month instead of January, second month instead of February, and so on. This used to be the case in English. But, the start of the year was changed to reflect the solar calendar instead of a lunar calendar, and the months no longer made sense. What was the seventh month of the year, was now the 9th month of the year and so on. The names September, October, November, and December each mean seventh month, eigth month, ninth month, and tenth month respectively. Even though they are in fact the 9th - 12th months.

    Adding 'engineered' changes only add to the confusion long term. Not only do people have to deal with tense and style changes, but forcing more changes on top of it only makes problems worse. Words gain meaning with time. This will happen whether we try to temporarily fix it or not.

    This is no better than the political correctness debates. A word which may be proper and make sense one year quickly gains meaning in both positive and negative connotations until many are unwilling to use a word. The end result of not accepting this additional meaning is that old written language quickly becomes unintelligible. Forcing change makes the issue worse. The Chinese had riots when they briefly tried switching to the latin alphabet in the 50s.

    A big part of the reason the Chinese stopped switching to a phonetic alphabet is it would in many ways destroy their national identity. Mandarin is spoken very differently from Cantonese. But, they largely can understand each others writing. If they had switched to a completely phonetic system, there would be very little tying that nation together. Written Chinese is more like spoken Mandarin from a few hundred years ago. Not even regular Mandarin speakers would be able to read a phonetic version of what was spoken a few years ago.

    English is an evolved language. Because of this, it is easy to start but hard to master. It will continue to evolve.

  • by Catbeller (118204) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @03:54PM (#15670009) Homepage
    Illiteracy, such as not caused by brain disfunction, would disappear almost overnight if English was spelled phonetically. Everyone knows how to speak and hear English; it's the spelling that's broken. Excepting dialect, most illiterate people could become literate in a week by simply learning the phonetic alphabet. And think of the time wasted learning how to spell in school! Years!

    It would make learning English an order of magnitude easier (still have our insane conjugations and other grammatical nonsense to overcome - fight, fought, bring, brought, what the hell).

    But, dream on... one would still have to learn old spelling to read everything previously written. That's why Esperanto exists; a fresh start.

    Man is not a rational animal, but a rationalizing one. We'll still be on soapboxes insisting that "right" (originally sounded like "rikt") be spelled the way the Anglo-Saxons woulda spelled it as the waves rise over the shores and over our heads in that big meltdown a-comin'.
  • Japanese (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DirePickle (796986) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @04:03PM (#15670102)
    I don't really think that our goofy spelling has that much to do with our country's literacy and folks with spelling problems. Consider Japanese. It has two phonetic syllabaries with 46ish characters each, so that's easy enough. But then you have to know 2000ish general-use kanji, almost each one with at least two completely different pronunciations, to read the newspaper. And Japan has historically had one of the highest literacy rates in the world, though I don't have a citation. And I've heard that recently the kidlets are having trouble keeping up with the kanji, as they become as lazy as Western students.
  • by Beltway Prophet (453247) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @04:40PM (#15670455) Homepage Journal
    As for me, I demand nothing less than total disambiguation. We need sufficient variation in spelling to make sure that the sense of each word is clear. I shouldn't have to depend on context to infer what you mean. If you reply to this post and call me "slipshod," I want to know that you are referring to the sloppy, careless reasoning of my post, and not to the looseness of my footwear (for which I propose to the new substitute "slipshoed"). Likewise, trademarks using common words will be disambiguated from the meaning of those words - popular word game Scrabble would need to be renamed, as this spelling is already in use by at least four other meanings, each of which will need its own variation anyhow. We can keep "scrabble" for "to scratch or scrape," but make subtle changes to the rest; "scragble" for "to struggle toward a goal," "scrubble" for "to climb over" (as over rubble!) and the sense "to scribble" should simply be eliminated, as "scribble" is already too close to "scrabble" anyway and might as well be handled as a variant of pronunciation. The game itself might be renamed B-3, after the second letter in the alphabet and its point value in the game (A-1 having been used for the tasty steak sauce and several thousand local plumbing, towing, and other services companies vying for the first spot in the telephone directory, each of which will celebrate its uniqueness with a new, never-before-seen name). Each town with the same name as another will also need to be reborn under a new moniker (surely a cause for revelry in the Midways, Fairviews, and Oak Groves [nwlink.com] of the world!). Finally, each of us whose name unfortunately coincides with that of another, shall have to make the tiniest of adjustments, on a first-come, first-served basis; thus, the eldest John Smith on record shall keep his spelling, while the next shall have to be subtly altered (Johnn Smith), and the next altered only the tiniest bit (Jahnn Smith), and so on (Djahnne Pschmiythe). For completeness, the birth and death certificates, tax and census records, and headstones or memorial plaques of some few billions of our ancestors shall likewise need to be "tweaked," possibly according to some fractal algorithm in cases where no living relatives can recommend how John might have preferred it, if only he'd taken the opportunity.
  • by pan-y-vino (903145) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @05:07PM (#15670735)
    This reminds me something that happened to me a few years ago. Believe it or not but this is actually a true story. I repeat... this really IS a true story! I am not making this up!

    A friend of mine, who is a sculptor, comes up to me one day and says she really wants to go to a conference in Norway. Lots of famous sculptors, opportunities to meet relevant people in her sector, an opportunity to learn lots of new things...

    Next thing she does is give me the forms etc. etc. to fill out for her because she is Spanish and doesn't know any English. When I say "she doesn't know any English" I mean she doesn't even know "yes" or "no". (Well, she does know "no" because it's the same in Spanish, but you get my drift)

    So what I did is translate the forms into Spanish and have her fill in the replies. I then filled in the forms for her in perfect English.

    To her surprise she was accepted, and invited to the conference. They were so impressed with her work that she was invited at no cost (they even paid for her flight) with one condition ... she had to give a presentation of her work ........ yes ..... you guessed it .... in either English or English.

    Of course I had been a bit cheeky and put on the form that her English was "quite good" (because it was a prerequisite to be accepted).

    I thought she'd give up but no...

    Guess what we did ... yes ... you guessed it again. She prepared a speech in Spanish and I translated it into English. Now, those of you that are bilingual or speak good Spanish know that in the latter language EVERYTHING with about 1 exception (que?) is pronounced exactly as it's written. Spanish has very few vowels (A, E, I, O, U can each only be pronounced in one way), so it occurred to me to translate a 3/4 of an hour presentation from proper English to English-like pronounciation using the very simple Spanish rules.

    In the end it became so easy for me that I could just write:
            "Elou jau ar iu tudei. Ai am duin fain zank iu. Zi uezer tudei is veri nais."
    without even thinking about it.

    Next thing my friend did was practice for about 2 weeks... after which I set her loose on a few English speaking friends of mine and... believe it or not they actually understood what she was reading.

    So, of course, she set of to Norway, went to her (free) 5 star hotel and next day gave her speech. She tells me that, what happened next is a follows:
            1) a big round of applause.
            2) about 30 minutes for the audience to ask her questions.

    I don't know what happened next, she never told me.
  • by The Cornishman (592143) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @05:34PM (#15670976)
    Here is an answer I sent some time ago to the guy who runs www.freespeling.co.uk when his ideas were aired on the BBC. He is in favour of no spelling rules at all except phonetics (maybe fonetiks hoo noz?), but some of the arguments are sound in this context too.

    ===================

    I am one of those people, and it may be luck or early grounding, who does not find it difficult to spell in the dictionary fashion, and I have some grave concerns about the concept of freespeling.

    First of all, as someone who uses technical documentation every day, I believe that freespeling will introduce ambiguities. If I cannot rely on people always to spell the same word in the same way, how can I be sure that they actually mean the word I think they mean?

    Secondly, it is my experience that freely spelled words are not, in fact, easier to read. I am not an educationalist, but I understand from limited reading that when one reads, one does not, in fact, construct the sound of the word by translating the page letters into phonetics. Rather, you learn the shape of a word, and the pattern 'yacht' is read and understood for its meaning without some intermediate step of working out that ach has the sound of a short o in this context. Dyslexia is an imperfection in this mechanism, and I don't think freespeling is going to help.

    I distinctly remember, as a child, reading the word 'Colonel' and not knowing that it was the same word as the military rank, though I did know that word. It wouldn't have helped to have had it spelled Kernel, though, because then the abbreviation Col. throughout literature would have been obscured. That brings me to a third point - if freespeling becomes widely adopted, people unfamiliar with the dictionary spellings will find it much harder to read the vast literary legacy which has arisen since the standardization of spelling. (And yes, I know that might have been standardisation!). I fear that we shall be in a situation analogous to the everyday reader trying to get to grips with Chaucer, or even Shakespere in his original spellings. It's not easy to do; at least I can't do it.

    I am sure that Shakesperian spellings are a product of pronunciation at the time of writing - Shakespere wrote 'dye' for the word we write as 'die' (or I do, in any event) because he pronounced it with two vowel sounds - dy-e. Will freespeling track the changes in pronunciation? If so, for which national or regional accent? In Bristol (UK), the speech pattern is often to add a terminal L sound to words ending in a vowel - should it be acceptable for Bristolians to write 'good ideal' when they want to convey 'good idea'? Or read Uncle Remus, written gloriously but phonetically in the speech pattern of a US slave at the turn of the nineteenth century. It's freely spelled, but it needs a good deal of intellectual effort to extract the meanings.

    Finally, I am concerned about information retrieval. At the moment, much information on the World-Wide Web, and in electronic document repositories is automatically indexed word by word. (This is on the false premise that the words in a document tell you what it is about). If words are freely spelled, then the task of retrieval becomes so much harder. To find documents about 'building', one will need to search for 'bilding', too, and in many cases you won't even be able to guess how someone with an accent very different to your own might have spelled the word you are seeking.

    I shall continue to correct spellings wherever I think that an error is a barrier to understanding.

    =================

    I'd also like to add that the Austrians attempted a simplified spelling of German, contrary to the article stating that German is already simply spelled, and have reverted in considerable measure. Sorry, no citation for that.

  • by Palal (836081) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @05:56PM (#15671170) Homepage
    1. French have done it. See this [wikipedia.org]. Microsoft was one of the driving factors.
    2. Russians did it in 1917 by dropping the "hard sign" in most places and getting rid of the letter "yat'" as well as changing the spelling of some words, which made everything more readable.

    Hauever, if Inglish woz tu bi chen'gd intu a fonetic len'gwich, it wood soon bikam eether simil'ar tu Dzhermun or Dutch in spelin'g were it origineited.

    I speak/write/type Russian, Ukrainian and English. The hardest part about learning English was the vocabulary and getting the patterns of spelling (through, though, etc.). Once that and the grammar rules were down, it wasn't hard from that point forward. Moving to the US at a young age also helped.

    I think simple changes such as through=>thru, though=>tho, borough=>boro should be widely adapted as they're easy to implement and people already use them widely.

    If big changes were made to a language, we'd experience a couple of problems:
    1. Current speakers won't be able to read the new spelling (we read words, not syllables, remember?)
    2. Kids in school now will have trouble learning the language their teachers don't know. Then, some teachers will force students to learn the new spelling, while others will prefer the old spelling, and given the fact that we don't have a standardized educational system we won't have a single standard for a couple of generations(why does everything have to be individualized??? France and Russia got right, why can't we adopt their system?!?!?!).
    3. Gradual implementation will have to take place. You teach kids spelling from day one in first grade and you go through with it until they graduate from school. You teach the new spellign every in subsequent year, but you don't touch the kids that have already learned spelling and let them re-learn it later, or not learn it at all.
    4. For 50 years we need to be willing to accept both types of spelling.

    People will have trouble typing using the new spelling. I constantly have trouble typing transliterated words in Russian, using an English keyboard because I know how to type using a real Russian layout and constantly want to switch - think of Dvorak vs. Qwerty - you'd need to change the layout to make typing easier. Even if you don't change it, it will still be harder to type.

    As for the metric system - it's much easier. Everything has to be industry-driven. First places that need to change are city planning departments and construction firms. If things change from feet to meters (or metres, if you prefer) everyone will follow. Again, this will have to be done gradually and to an extent it is already done in some industries. Personally, I have a big problem with feet. I can't picture how long 2000 ft is but I can picture 600 m... but that's a matter of preference. I can see it happening the other way around too. Don't get me started on conversions. In the end, it's hard to do reforms and what you need is an event for the reforms to happen suddenly (like a revolution) or a gradual implementation over a number of years (something we in the US don't seem to be able to do since we like instant gratification so much and we don't like to use our brainz).

    In eni kejs, itz never too erli to start so wi better start nau wi litl ings.
  • by Pedrito (94783) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @06:09PM (#15671266) Homepage
    What is it with people in this country? Is it too damn difficult to use your brain anymore?

    My cousin was diagnosed with dyslexia in his senior year of high school. He got his B.S. degree in English. ANYONE can learn to spell and read. As others have pointed out, the problem, like so many other problems in our society, is that parents don't want to be involved in raising and educating their kids. It's like as soon as their kids can walk and talk, they feel like they've done their share and the rest is the society's responsibility.

    This attitude really needs to change around. People need to start reading to their kids more and help teach their kids to read early on. My mother got her degree in English and my father got his in Journalism, so the standards of "functional literacy" in our house, growing up, was a bit higher than average. To some degree, I probably don't really understand how people can grow up not learning to read. Most of my friends growing up didn't seem to have problems learning English either. So, unless children today simply have less brainpower for some reason, there's no reason they can't learn English as well. They just need their parents to get a bit more involved in teaching them English.

    I lived in Mexico for 3 years. Spanish is SIMPLE in terms of spelling, but you'd be surprised how poorly people write, in general. My Mexican girlfriend had a degree journalism and I still had to correct her spelling from time to time. I suspect the difference is, her parents didn't teach her to read as a child because they couldn't read, a problem many Mexicans of that generation face. So, parents, take your kids to the bookstore, buy them some books, and spend the evening reading with them. It shouldn't be a chore. It's your child. You should enjoy spending the time with them.
  • Proof of concept (Score:3, Informative)

    by vga_init (589198) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @06:34PM (#15671449) Journal
    I see a lot of posts claiming that engineered writing won't work and that simplified phonetic writing is somehow damaging to the language or impractical for several reasons, but before delving into too much speculation let is try to examine real world applications. My main example is Korea's hangul [wikipedia.org] writing. I actually have taken the time to learn it myself, and it's a wonder to behold and use. Be sure to read up on its history and usage. :)
  • by Michael Snoswell (3461) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @09:05PM (#15672353) Journal
    Before we convince the whole English speaking world to change, how about we wait for the US to convert to metric instead of using the old English Imperial system?

    Then once hell has frozen over we can think about changing english spelling.

    One other problem with changing spelling is we are purposely removing connections to the roots of the words. Often the spelling of a word tells us a lot about it's meaning (if we are unsure) and hints at subtlties that will be lost if we move to phonetic spelling. In fact often the "odd" spelling of some words is because of the original derivation of words.

    English is very good at "absorbing" words from other languages and with that often comes unusual spelling which, however, provides valuable insight into underlying meanings.
  • by GWBasic (900357) <slashdot.andrewrondeau@com> on Thursday July 06, 2006 @09:06PM (#15672360) Homepage
    "Fonetik" spelling wont work for a very simple reason: As we gain experience reading, we no longer look at each letter. We read by looking at the SHAPE of the word; our brains totally bypass the step of converting letter to their corresponding sounds.

    How many of you stumbled through TFA's weird spellings? I certainly did! The loose correlation between written English and spoken English is a great teaching aid for youngsters! If we decided to re-spell all of our words, every adult would need to re-learn to read, because all of the words would have different shapes!

    Another problem with "Fonetik" spelling is that it blurs distictions between subtle pronouciation differences. In reality, "Fonetik" and "Phonetic" sound slightly different. Even the words "Enuf" and "Enough" sound slightly different!

    Perhaps the only real way to improve spelling is to be slightly more liberal with common words; popular changes will stick.

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