SPELLING REFORM

Vivian Cook 

The English have no respect for their language, and will not teach their children to speak it. They cannot spell it because they have nothing to spell it with but an old foreign alphabet of which only the consonants-and not all of them-have any agreed speech value. (G. B. Shaw, Pygmalion, Preface)

 

Aim of The English Spelling Society: The reform of English spelling for the benefit of learners and users throughout the world.

Objectives

A To publicize the unnecessary difficulties of English spelling and the benefits that its simplification would bring.

B To raise awareness of the alphabetic principle, its corruption during the long history of written English, and its more rational application in other languages.

C To promote research and debate on ways of reforming English spelling, and to prepare a graded set of proposals for relating word-forms more predictably to speech-sounds.

D To help co-ordinate proposals for English spelling reform across both English-speaking and non-English-speaking countries.

E To persuade the public, opinion-formers, policy-makers and relevant agencies of the need for and practical possibilities of reforming English spelling.

Shavian Alphabet (Kingsley Read 1959)

Shaw (Shavian) alphabet Gettysburg example

Shaw (Shavian) alphabet key words examples


i.t.a. (initial teaching alphabet) Pitman 1960s
ita (Pitman) alphabet key list

ita alphabet specimen text

Mark Twain Speech

"Reform" OED 1. a. The amendment, or altering for the better, of some faulty state of things, esp. of a corrupt or oppressive political institution or practice; the removal of some abuse or wrong. Reform Act 1831-32 reform school (nearly all examples 19th C)

Some sixteenth century predecessors

Claude Holyband 1576 'the great strife betwene them that would haue our tongue written after the auncient orthographie, and those that do take away many letters as superfluous in writing'

Richard Mulcaster 1582 aimed to 'rip vp the hole certainties of our English writing' so that he 'maie wipe awaie that opinion of either vncertaintie for confusion or impossibilitie for direction, that both the naturall English maie haue wherein to rest and the desirous stranger maie haue whereby to learn'

John Hart 1569 An Orthographie
4 forms of corruption: diminution - 1 letter 2 sounds; superfluity - not sounded but used for quantity; usurpation - one takes the place of the other g/j/; misplacing - proper order is violated
omissions: y, w, c, silent e; no capital letters (but slant before letter)
additions: 5/6 new characters for consonantal i, ch, vocalic l; dot under vowel to show length

Sir John Cheke (ca 1542 as described by Strype 1705)
'1. He would have none of the letter E put to the end of Words, as needless and unexpressive of any Sounds as in these Words Excus, giv Vnless where it is sounded and then to be writ with a double E, as in Necessitee
2. Where the Letter A was sounded long, he would have it writ with a double AA in distinction from A short as in maad, Straat, Daar
3. Where the Letter I was sounded long, to be writ with double I, as in Desiir, Liif
4. He wholy threw out the Letter Y out of the Alphabet, as useless, and supplied it ever with I, as mi, sai, awai.
[Source: R. Foster Jones (1953) The Triumph of the English language, Stanford U.P]

Now compare the arguments for Speech reform