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Wut's In A Wurd?


English is not an easy language to learn. Linguists say there are more than 40 distinct sounds in English that can be spelled out in 400 different ways. It's no wonder that shorthand spellings like "thru," "U" and "thanx" are becoming standard in e-mails and text messages. And that kind of spontaneous language degeneration is why a small but persistent group of simplified-spelling advocates wants to create a new, mostly phonetic, system of written English. They argue that both children learning English as their native tongue and second-language learners would have fewer linguistic headaches and could master the language more quickly if we got rid of the maddening unreliabilities that, for example, make "tomb," "bomb" and "comb" all sound different. The idea isn't new. One hundred years ago, President Teddy Roosevelt used simplified spellings in his presidential correspondence, and Andrew Carnegie created the Simplified Spelling Board to encourage more logical spelling. The Chicago Tribune even used some phonetic spellings in its published articles for 40 years. But experts like education professor Donald Bear argue that phonetic spelling strips words of their roots, and therefore much of their historical meaning. "Students come to understand how meaning is preserved in the way words are spelled," he said. And aside from meaning, the public just doesn't seem to like strange-looking phonetic spellings. "I think that the average person simply did not see this as a needed change," one librarian said. Stoodents, bak to thoez speling bookz.


I predict that an attempt to do this will encounter issues similar to those that already exist. Much of the redundancy that exists in today's words can be used to convey meaning or pronunciation. Case in point: in your last sentence, bak seems like a good choice for phonetically spelling back, but it could just as logically be used for bake. Do we now add other letters to differentiate? That gets us right back to where we are today...

I'm sorry, but using phonics to spell denies the history of words. I think it would be far better to teach our students that many cultures have contributed to the development of the English language. That's one aspect that makes it so unique. I say "no" to phonic-style spelling!

There is a long-standing debate on this subject. For historical perspective, readers may find the following site very informative http://www.foolswisdom.com/~sbett/history-SR.htm For a clearer understanding of the mental operations and attendant difficulties for a number of those learning to read English, readers may find a wealth of information at another site http://www.childrenofthecode.org/interviews/venezky.htm I think it is wonderful that spelling is not even a subject of study in countries where the orthography is a good match for the language's sounds. For almost 40 years I have observed first hand student struggles with both reading and writing--from the elementary level through secondary levels and into adult education--by both native speakers and second language learners. I have seen otherwise highly intelligent youth become discouraged and literally severely depressed when they feel defeated by the printed word. Decoding for reading purposes is bad enough; but encoding for writing can create an insurmountable problem leaving those who can speak and read well, extremely reluctant to commit their thoughts to paper. Though I may find etymology fascinating, I think that written language contributes most to our civilization when it allows for ideas and feelings to be exchanged with the greatest ease. I do think a reformed alphabet could serve us more effectively.

This reminds me of when I tried to learn Esperanza in High School and create a movement to adopt it as our universal language!

Ha Ha!

I'm just thankful that I don't have to read and speak Middle English...I'd be lost!

My point?...language evolves anyway, and if the populace adapts these changes, they will eventually become part of our everyday lives.

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Michele: This reminds me of when I tried to learn Esperanza read more
  • Joan Molozaiy: There is a long-standing debate on this subject. For historical read more
  • Lauchlan Jean: I'm sorry, but using phonics to spell denies the history read more
  • Chuck: I predict that an attempt to do this will encounter read more




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