Globish (Parallel English with neat spelling)
- British rule in India ended in 1947. Several freedom movement leaders respected English language, with its great treasure of knowledge. Generally people are sentimentally attached to their mother tongues, which connect them to societies. It is easier to understand or express any thoughts thru the mother tongue. Due to popular demand and agitations, India was reorganized on linguistic basis. For example, the State of Maharashtra was formed in 1960, with Mumbai (Bombay) as its capital and Marathi as its official language.
- All Indic (= Indian) languages have progressed after freedom. But English too stayed. People move from one state to another, for business, jobs, etc and need link languages at general and intellectual levels. English language made big strides in science and technology and became a world language. English is equally easy and difficult for all Indians. India has accepted English and Hindi (in Devanagari script) as official link languages. All central government productions (coins, postage stamps, taxation forms etc) are bilingual (English and Hindi). Industries use English for interest warrants, engineering drawings, contract documents, product labels, stock market quotations etc. which require machines based on the Roman script. India has about 15 major languages in 12 different scripts. Phone books and vehicle plates are in English. Roman script is convenient for word-sorting and typing.
- Information technology has given further impetus to the study of English. It is now a compulsory second language even in primary schools in Maharashtra. Similar is the policy of some other states. There are certain differences. English nursery rhymes are based on Indian names (not Little Jack Horner etc). India uses British English and some American English software. Indian counting units are crore and lakh (1 crore = 10 million = 100 lakh).
- It is estimated that among India's 1000 million people, 20 million know English well enough and 40 million know English, to some extent (Numbers are approximate and related to year 2000) Around year 2050, India may become the country with largest number of English-knowers (as second language). However, the quality of English is going down in India, due to want of proper teachers. It may be noted that the Indian scripts are alphabetic (showing vowels and consonants) and somewhat phonetic. That helps students in learning English. For example, English-Marathi dictionary gives English pronunciation in Devanagari.
- I worked for promotion of an optional Roman script for Indian languages during 1984 to 1995 under auspices of Roman Lipi Parishad (later closed for want of public support). I got in touch with Simplified Spelling Society in UK. I published privately my proposal on Globish in July 1998. I gave talks, wrote articles and exchanged views on email. I enclose my proposal (with some revision). Later, there are two epilogues A and B.
- In case of Indian languages, the short and long vowels are based on time duration of breath. It takes more time to utter (keen) compared to (kin), and hence Indians treat (ee) as a long vowel, (i) as a short vowel. But the English grammar defines short-long vowels differently --- a-e-i-o-u are short in (at, egg, it, of, up) and they are long, when they sound like names of symbols, as in (age, english, idea, open, unit). Terms short-duration, shortish, long-duration, longish may be used to indicate breath duration of vowels.
- Multi-language, multi-script human race obviously needs a link language. Due to reasons of history, business, technology and Internet, English is marching ahead as a link language. It has many good features. English adjectives and verbs do not have complexity of gender. English is written in Roman script, which is very easy for keyboard working and dictionary listing. Pronouns you-he-she apply to all persons, whatever be their status. However, English is quite difficult to learn, due to its irregular spellings.
- Note some examples of irregular spellings. Symbol (a) denotes various sounds in (alone, art, apple, all, age). For a common sound, there are two spellings (sell, cell). Symbol (h) is silent in word (honest). Word (believe) contains group (ie) while word (receive) contains reverse group (ei). A very odd word group (ough) denotes different sounds in (rough, though, thought, through).
- Several factors contributed to these irregularities. Roman script contains only 26 symbols, which are inadequate to denote uniquely all basic sounds. While accepting in English oddly spelled foreign words (like colonel), thinkers of that time did not adjust spellings. Pronunciation of some words has changed with time. Long usage has now standardized all spellings.
- Litigants in courts often speak a common language. Economic or sectarian interests may over-ride friendly bonds of a common language. Non-English-speakers usually prefer their own languages. True enough. All the same, an easy link language is necessary for global friendship, mutual understanding and a world-government of future. Non-English-speakers at higher levels are already motivated to learn English. This learning process will be boosted, at all levels, if the difficult spellings are made easy and friendly.
- English language has many other odd features. Thus, plural of (mouse) is (mice), and not (mouses). There are some ambiguous words. For example Indian means (original inhabitants in America) or (persons in India). America means (American continent) or (USA). Proper meaning is taken with reference to context. It is possible to remove such ambiguities and oddities. We shall not deal with that problem. The task is to find and popularize neat spellings, reasonably (not 100%) simple and phonetic, to suit the spoken English.
- The spelling disorder is widespread and vast, hence it is irreparable. Thousands of words would need respelling. Millions of people, spread on all continents, would need retraining. The written form of English is used in billions of books, contracts, coins, documents, softwares, tickets, taxation forms, newspapers, prayers, signboards, technical papers, correspondence, maps, accounts, labels, etc. All schools, grammar books, dictionaries, encyclopedias, phone books etc are geared to the current spellings. With meanings, some references and emotions come to our mind when we read any text. Like standard weights, we need standard and familiar spellings for business, jobs, knowledge, emotions and communication.
- Note some important points.
- Words such as sign, signature would lose relationship on respelling since -g- is silent in -sign-, spoken in -signature-
- our eyes read words and pictures. Sense of "seven dollars" is obtained on reading picture "$ 7". Eyes treat clumsy spellings as pictures.
- Irregular spellings can be grouped for ease of learning. Thus, fight-light-might-night-right-sight-tight form a group of similarly spelled odd words.
- Dictators can force people to take a new script or respell words. But USA and UK, the main English-users, are democracies.
- Some English-speaking critics may object to interference with their language, by outsiders. But note that ESL (English Second Language) users already outnumber EFL (English First Language) users, and the difference is widening with passage of time. Both EFL and ESL users should be consulted in developing Globish.
- Non-English-speaking countries, interested in their local languages, may oppose heavy expenditure to revise English-teaching books, airport signboards etc.
- Pronunciation choice, for respelling, may prove controversial.
- It is not practical to reform spellings in current English language. Establishment would oppose reforms. The remedy is to design a parallel global link language, Globish, which would be English with neat (easy, phonetic) spellings. It will belong to whole mankind. Current English would continue as before for business, jobs, literature etc. Globish would be self-learnt as a hobby by English-knowers. It may be initially restricted to friendly jokes, letters etc. It may start with say 1000 everyday words, but further words can be added as and when necessary. Eventually a World Academy would regulate its growth.
- A question may be asked - who will teach Globish to people ? All schools teaching English, all books and newspapers in English will be indirect teachers of Globish. Only thing to be done is to recast spellings, and assemble words and sentences in a parallel but independent language. Some classes and guide books in printed / electronic format can be arranged, for some initial training. Establishment does not oppose learning of English in Hindi script or learning of Hindi in English (Roman) script, at informal levels. Establishment does not oppose writing English in a shorthand script. Government and people do not oppose study of foreign languages. Treat Globish as an independent language, foreign to all at present time, but as a common link language after some years
- Globish is designed for sounds in English language, and is based on Roman symbols abcde etc. Capitals ABCDE etc are usually omitted. Three dots (and not a single dot) would be used to end a sentence. Names, brands, acronyms, and any other words that may have to be continued with current spellings, would start with capitals for indication. No diacritics (like dots below symbols) are used, so the current English-printing machines can be used for Globish. Symbols are so chosen that the apostrophe mark (shortform apo) is normally not required. Without a hyphen in word (co-operation), one may read it with (coo) as in (cool). Such rare need of hyphen would occur in Globish too. Globish (bi-ing) = English (being).
- Following symbols are proposed. a (a-american) aa (a-art) ae (a-apple) au (aw-law) b (boy) ch (chair) d (dog) dh (th-they) e (egg) ee (eel) ei (eight) f (fee) g (girl) h (he) i (it) j (jam) k (king) l (lamp) m (man) n (no) o (open) oa (oa-goat) oo (oo- cool) p (pin) r (run) s (see) sh (she) t (toy) th (thin) u (pull) v (victory) w (woman) y (yes) z (s-his) zh (s-measure). Here a, aa, ae, au, e, ee, ei, i, o, oa, oo, u are 12 vowels and rest 23 are consonants. A diphthong has 2 vowels in succession. For example, English (height) = Globish (h + aa + i + t = haait). Dictionary listing will be based on sequence abcde...yz. Note that most symbols (such as a, b, ch ) are already used for sounds indicated above. Vowels (e, i, o, u) are short in duration, while (ei, ee, oa, oo) are long in duration of breath. English (get, kin, no, pull, gate, keen, note, pool) = Globish (get, kin, no, pul, geit, keen, noat, pool). Actually, I would love to remove distinction between short duration and long duration vowels. For instance, Globish (kin) would stand for both English (kin, keen). Proper meaning is to be taken from context. That was proposed earlier, but is revised looking to some responses.
- Symbol names 0123456789 and abcdefg (in Globish) -- ziro, wan, too, three, foar, faaiv, siks, sevan, eit, naain, ei, bee, see, dee, ee, ef, jee. Some other words Icecream (aa)(i)(skree)(m) = aaiskreem. Station (ste)(shan) = steshan. People (pee)(pa)(l)= peepal. Globish will be written by composing syllables (as shown above in brackets). Globish will be sound-consistent. We may use pronunciations in Webster or Oxford dictionary.
- Example ( He is fine. Two cats too went to city. Eat it quickly ) = ( hee iz faain… too kaets too went tu siti... eet it kwikli... ) Globish (too) has many meanings, as is the case with some English words (fair, saw, present etc) Choose meaning from context. Globish ( ran, raen) = English ( run, ran) respectively. To remove confusion, one may use apo (apostrophe mark) during initial stages. For example, Globish (ran) may be written in Globish as (ra’n). In course of time, people would not require apo.
- An artificial language Esperanto, with easier grammar and sound-consistent symbols, was launched about 100 years ago. It has made some progress. However, the world is motivated to learn English and not Esperanto. English odd spellings prove a stumbling block. Globish will be easier to learn and it will run parallel to English. Hence Globish has prospects of becoming a link language of world in years to come. Many dual signboards can be made in English and Globish, such as < DANGER denjar > reserving capitals for English and smalls for Globish. United Nations have been formed, keeping all nations intact. Similarly, Globish too can be developed, keeping intact all languages including English.
- Scientists use (C, Ca) for carbon, calcium respectively, and close further debate on chemical symbols. (Nobody argues - Take C for calcium, Ca for carbon). Same should hold for globish symbols. By all means, debate them for some time, but ultimately accept a scheme and then use it without further arguments. Choice of symbols is just 1 % of the task. Main 99% task is that of popularizing Globish. Few compromises may have to be made, for example, plurals of English (cat, dog) are (cats, dogs). In Globish, the phonetic plural (daugz) may have to be replaced by (daugs) to comply with simple rule of adding (s) to singular noun (as is the case with kaets). High degree of phonetic accuracy is not worth the trouble. Despite illogical spellings, English language has advanced worldwide. Wide usage is the main factor for progress of any language. Some disparity between visible and vocal language cannot be avoided. Pronunciations change with time, though spellings remain frozen once they are standardized. Please note that a script is not a tape-recorder. It is good enough if it denotes sounds with say 95% accuracy. Common people will have no interest in a scholarly bulky script. Globish has taken (a) for sound of (both a --american) (a -alone) (a -chemical) (first a -again). Take some starting symbols and then choose other symbols. Take starting symbols a (apple) u (up) if you so prefer. My selection is not the last word.
Epilogue - A
- When explaining Roman script to a Marathi audience, I use Marathi symbols in their sequence (not abcd sequence) with Roman equivalents, and Marathi words. Thus, k as in kamal (= lotus) not k as in king. While explaining Globish to Indian audience, I use abcd sequence, use English medium for talk, but I sprinkle some Hindi, Marathi etc. This works very well. It is good to distribute to audience some leaflets, giving bold type symbol-sound relations and few examples, and author's contact address. Audience glances at leaflets while hearing speech. One can also use techniques like overhead projector, powerpoint.
- Since Indian scripts are somewhat phonetic and syllabic, audience appreciates Globish, but none implements it. People do not feel any urgency. India has many problems already, and recasting English is not on Indian agenda. People realize that English has spelling problem, just as Indian languages have gender problem. People do not mind a Roman option for Marathi, since it does not disturb edifice of Marathi, based on its current script. I can introduce some reforms in Roman option, which cannot be done in the current form of writing. Direct talks are necessary to explain pronunciation and other points. Some other websites have partly mis-interpreted Globish due to a communication gap.
- In the past, I tested Marathi school children having some knowledge of English, whether they could read Romanized Marathi simple sentences, after an initial explanation for 15 minutes. A large majority found it easy. When told to write few Marathi words in Roman script, only 5% clever children tried, and they too made mistakes. Thus, it is difficult to implant symbol-sound relations in minds of anyone. Learning is a slow process. In schools, the teachers teach, then they test, they check answer books, allot marks, and give prizes (incentives). The students learn after making few mistakes in the beginning. It is easier to learn a passive skill (reading, listening) than an active skill (writing, speaking) regarding any unfamiliar language.
- The learning process in school is aided by books, newspapers, signboards, TV etc. Suppose word " right " is reformed to " raait " or " rite ". What happens? Students will continue to see signboards such as " right turn " and articles on " citizens rights " etc in newspapers. A bewildered student may ask parents for guidance. Since the parents are trained with current spelling, they may reject new spelling and complain to Press and Government. All publishers, newspapers, employers, Government officers too would not take a kind view. A brick-maker is interested in selling bricks, improving bricks, making money and not in reforming spelling brick to brik. All business correspondence, stories, poems, reports, advertisements, crossword puzzles, dictionaries are geared to current spellings. New spelling that is learnt will be lost in absence of constant exposure.
- After freedom in 1947, Marathi thinkers thought of adopting Sanskrit (mother of many Indian languages) names for chemical elements etc. Except for ordinary terms (like water) Marathi language simply had to accept English words. Business determines language reforms. Why lose money, energy and time in translating potassium permangnate? These words are used by industries, so better write them in Marathi script. India could not give up English, because there is public inertia in accepting major linguistic changes.
- A language is a social custom and an asset. Comparatively, it is easier to popularize science, as people see benefits of cars and TVs. and these products can be bought by people, one-by-one. For Roman Marathi, it is necessary to recast spellings of English words, which do not fit with Marathi symbol sound relations. This led to the idea of using capitals only to start unrespelled words. (Write Pneumonia or nyumoniaa in Marathi). Since Indian coins, stamps etc bear words in two scripts, a separate-script (end three dots, no capitals) Globish looks a good solution to Indian minds. Globish is just a proposal, with provisional name and symbols. Its name has sound of (glow) and it refers to (Globe) not just (England).
- Ideally, a scheme should serve several languages, and in that case, full energy of whole world would help growth of Globish. But it would be difficult to forge unity among various language users. For example, would English speakers accept (d) for th-they and (d’) for d-dog, if that suits other languages?. Why have an un-uttered (h) in (sh)? Why not take (x) for sh-she ? A universal academic scheme might become too bulky and unpopular.
Epilogue - B
- My viewpoint is different from those whose mothertongue is English. I can understand their concern to make spelling reforms in English. I sympathize with them if the odd spellings hurt literacy programs. For me, English is a second language. We, in India, for obvious reasons have no patriotic songs or prayers in English. Sentimentally, we are nearer to our mothertongues, which connect us to our societies. We have illiteracy problems, not because of odd English spellings. Our scripts are somewhat phonetic, but the population explosion beats every development.
- Since English is not my mother tongue, I (and other Indians) use it usually in written form. When spelling reformers tell me that “of” is pronounced with “f” as “v” in “victory”, it beats me. Pronunciations change with distance and time. India is multilingual, and accepts English as a tool for development (technology, world contacts). I and many people in India, whom I contacted, do want current spellings to continue. We have to acquire wealth and health. We have to communicate. My engineering business will be hurt if I use the terms “siment, brik, bilding, brij” instead of “cement, brick, building, bridge”
- I advocated an optional Roman script for 15 Indian languages written in 12 different scripts. I did not suggest cancelling current scripts. Why destroy existing lines of communication? Why hurt sentiments? While English has spelling absurdities, Indian languages have gender absurdities. No language is perfect. The Roman option was proposed to harness all English-printing machines for Indian languages, and to ease reading unfamiliar languages. Computers have now solved many problems. With the flick of a button, one can change scripts. I failed to convince people. The Roman option (with proper symbol-sound relations) did not click. A lesson is to be learnt. People don’t discard their current writing systems.
- Billions are spent on making books, signboards to conform with the current systems. So, let British and American spelling differences continue. A proper approach is to respect people and their spellings, and start a new language, a new script at an informal level. I call that Globish. What is Globish? It is English, with reformed spellings, easy enough for common people, using small symbols (a, b, c, d, e, f ) etc, no capitals, three dots at the end of a sentence, no diacritics, with grammar and vocabulary as in English. Capitals are used to start names, brand names etc which cannot be respelled. One can easily navigate from English to Globish. “ hi iz e jauli gud felo” = He is a jolly good fellow. It is easy to teach Globish. Danger = “denjar”. No Entry = “no entri”.
- Treat Globish as different from English, just as we consider Russian and German different. Russian “P” equals “R” in English. German “J” equals English “Y”. Similarly, decide on certain symbol-sound relations for Globish, and follow them. English “u” has different sounds in “unit, push, up, busy ”. Take one of the relationships in Globish. Others are bound to look funny, like Russian “P” equal to English “R”.
- Why do this exercise? Globish would be easier to popularize in the world. Those who want to do serious work must learn English too. Laymen will be told that “siment, brik” in Globish are written in English as “cement, brick”. A poet may like to write a few poems in Globish. Some editor may encourage crossword puzzles in Globish. Globish would grow as a route parallel to English.
- We must take steps to promote an easy link language, to foster world brotherhood. Globish is suggested. I would like to keep away from reforms within English. That discussion becomes endless and fruitless. Millions of people will not accept changes. No airport will change signboard “arrival” to “arival” simply because the redundant “r” is not acceptable to reformers.
- English is a world language, which is its strength and paradoxically its weakness. The world is not interested in obliging England and America to reform spellings. However, a parallel Globish route may interest whole mankind. It would even show that the English-speakers are willing to shed some ego, and accept a new world language.
[ Epilogue - B (without numbering ) appeared in “Simpl Speling” July 1999 Newsletter of Simplified Spelling Society, UK, titled as "A link language on a parallel route".]
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Author : Madhukar N Gogate