Friday, May 07, 2010


There's an amusing twist on Twain's plan to improve English spelling here. Well, it amused me!

Italian is naturally pretty much phonetic apart from knowing where to stress a word. English spelling is a nightmare to learn especially if you're learning it as a second language but I'd find it hard to recognise words if they were spelt fənetikly.

Would it be worth going to a sensible phonetic spelling for the sake of future readers? Or is our spelling too entrenched for that?


Wendy Ramer, Author said...

Don't get me started. In my grammar classes, I inevitably give my students a brief history of the evolution of English from Old English, to the Norman Invasion, to Middle English and Shakespeare, to Modern English and the introduction of cyber vocabulary. It helps them accept the "mishigas" (Yiddish for craziness) that is English spelling.

Bernita said...

I think spelling should evolve organically by usage without deliberate interference by "improvers."

fairyhedgehog said...

Wendy, my memories of the lectures I attended on Old and Middle English are pretty hazy by now!

Bernita, I think that's what will always happen. You can't make up a language and have it catch on and you can't hold back a language from developing: you only have to look to Esperanto and French for examples of each of those.

Old Kitty said...

LOL!! Loved the link!

For you ze var is over!

Nooo please not phonetically spelt words - I'm just about grappling with txt speak and that's just not right!


Take care

fairyhedgehog said...

Kitty, it made me laugh too. Like you I hate text speak.

Kate said...

Was this post inspired by my last post? I wrote it in the middle of the night and have since fixed at least some of the spelling errors :)

Richard said...

During my early schooldays, my school along with most in the area - in an attempt to be progressive - adopted phonetic spelling.
It was introduced in a number of areas of the UK in the mid sixties.

I could already read and write 'traditional' English before I started school - my Mum was a good teacher. :-)

The school then taught me that traditional' English was obsolete and spelling it the way you said it was the way of the future, so I wrote one way at home and an entirely different way at school.

The 'phonetic' fad only lasted a few years, at which point most of my classmates who'd never learned 'traditional' spelling were a bit screwed because they'd got to learn to spell all over again.

I wonder how many of them would, these days, have been deliberately misdiagnosed as dyslexic simply to trigger more money to fix what wasn't broken using somebody else's budget?

Cynical? Me? Nevah...

L. T. Host said...

I think even if they were to try and do this, there would still be a large faction of people who wouldn't change. You can't MAKE everyone use a new language, or a variation thereof, just like you can't MAKE them only talk about certain things, etc. Well, you can't the way things are now. The way they are in 5-10 years, who knows.

Ugh. I agree with Wendy. It's just best not to get me started :)

Lexi said...

English is the world's Top Language because, in spite of its foibles, it is easy to learn. No genders, for one thing.

I love the fact that the spelling of words tells you their history - I'd hate to lose that for the sake of challenging our under-challenged state school pupils even less than they already are.

jjdebenedictis said...

English IS spelled phonetically.

Provided you speak English the way they did 700 years ago in England.

Think of how someone with a thick Scottish brogue pronounces 'knight'; they say it 'kuh-nigg-h-t'. Everyone used to do that. So 'knight' is phonetic.

However, my brother claims that when printing presses came in, typesetters were paid by the letter, so they purposefully standardized spelling to the most complicated versions of words that were being used at the time.

fairyhedgehog said...

Kate, in a word: no! Great idea though.

Richard, that failed experiment sounds dreadful. I'm so glad I missed that.

LTH, agreed. In France they try to stop them using English words like le weekend. It just doesn't work.

Lexi, is it the world's Top Language? I mean, it is for me but I'm biased.

jj, I think you need to say was rather than is! That's interesting speculation about the printing presses.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Hm, JJ. Sort of like Charles Dickens got paid by the word?

I don't see any problem with changing the way we do things here in the states. Look at how well we've adopted the metric system.

(Excuse me while I laugh my head off)

fairyhedgehog said...

I'm laughing too! At least the UK managed to go mostly metric although I'm not sure it's as much of a step forward as it might be.

DJ Kirkby said...

I'm sure I would find it easier to spell words phonetically but don't know if I'd be able to read them...

JaneyV said...

Brilliant Fairyhedgehog!

DJK - you've got a point there. I work with 5 and 6 year olds who are learning to read and write through the phonics system. We teach them the phonics first and then get them to free-write using the phonics (learning to spell comes later). There is a real skill in figuring out what the kids have written. Often when I'm clueless I just say "Super writing X! Can you read it for me?" and 9 times out of 10 they can't. Such is the effort they put into breaking up each word into its component sounds that they completely forget what they were trying to say.

fairyhedgehog said...

DJK, that's such a good point!

And your experience clearly bears that out, Jane. I love how you're so tactful with the kids.

Robin B. said...

Totally agree with Lexi!

fairyhedgehog said...

Hi Robin! Nice to see you in here.

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