English Spelling Problem


Article E17


in [www.mngogate.com]

01. In some languages, the written words match with the spoken words. English language is a glaring exception. Majority of words are illogically spelled. Examples. Symbol (a) stands for different sounds in (alone, art, and, all, age). Words (cell, sell) have common sound and contain a redundant symbol (l). Some symbols are silent, like (h) in (honest).. Combination (ie) is used in (believe) but a reverse combination (ei) is used in (receive). Odd combination (ough) is used with different pronunciations in (through, though, enough) etc. Problem is solved, by taking proper guidance, in methodical steps (simple words at start, difficult words later). Some grammar is also studied. Some extra time is needed. Finally students learn and memorize essential spellings.

02. Attempts were made in the past to reform spellings.... They did not work. It is difficult to alter habits of millions of people, who watch words on millions of books, media etc. etc. Reforms are now much more difficult since English has now become a "World Language" for global business, research, communications etc. 65% English speakers are (ESLP) = (English Second Language People). 35% are (ENLP) = (English Native Language People) Numbers here are approximate. (ESLP) have invested lot of time, money etc. to study English. They may oppose or ignore any spelling reforms.. Hence, it is better not to reform any spellings. Some University websites in non-English countries are bilingual (English & local language). Many technical world-level conferences are conducted in English (Papers & Proceedings).

03. English language has some merits. In some languages, even inanimate objects have grammatical genders.. Verbs, adjectives vary in some languages gender-wise. No such complication in English. Separate pre-positions such as (from, in) are used in English. Some languages use post-positions that may be joined to the nouns, endings of which may be first changed. Hence English words are distinct, easy for listing. Google > Frequent 1000 English words. An alphabetic list appears. A pronunciation guide may be made with it. They account for nearly 90% words in Everyday English. Frequent 200 or 2000 words may be checked.

04. There is one more reason why spellings should not be changed. Every language has few dialects, wherein pronunciations change to some extent, from place to place, community to community. A standard written language is very convenient for all people. American English, British English, Indian English etc vary to some extent. Some put stress on certain symbols. Some omit (r) while speaking word (father), and so on.

05. A pronunciation guide will be useful. It must not disturb Standard English. Change of script is very useful. Hindi, Marathi use Devanagari script (nearly phonetic, but add some symbols like apostrophe mark, if needed). Sounds of English words can be written in that script with suitable symbol-sound relations. That will be a pronunciation guide. There are some guidebooks showing English sample words, sample sentences also with Devanagari equivalents, to study English (and other languages). Script being different, words therein will not disturb Standard English. Let us see whether Roman script itself can be used for pronunciation guidance.

06. Try these symbol-sound relations. a (a-alone) aa (a-art) ae (a-at) 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). These are tentative, and may be improved. They are designed for sounds in English. They are practical, though not scientific (specific single symbol for a specific single sound). Stress on a symbol may be shown with a colon (:) after it. Apostrophe mark is required in words like (man's, can't). Use hyphen for words like (anthill) > (ant-hill) as (th-thin) is not there. Some words like (red, go) are already spelled clearly.

07. Using above relations, sounds-showing words may be made starting with asterisk (*). Thus, (yellow *yelo) (judge *jaj) (who *hoo) (right *raait) (special *speshal) (know *no). (doctor *dauktar) (nurse *nars) (friend *frend) (one *wan) (won *wan) (live *liv < verb) (live *laaiv < adjective). In this way, write all 1000 (or whatever) frequent words. Some sample sentences can be also made using above. All symbols are available on usual English-serving devices. Popular (ab..yz) order of symbols can be used for sorting words in dictionaries, in both directions (who > *hoo) and (*hoo > who). Please note the function of asterisk. It is a warning, that such sound-guiding words are not to be used in Standard English.

08. I live in India. I give above suggestion for consideration. It is for thinkers in US, UK to decide what suits their students. Devanagari script based pronunciation guide will suit many Indians.

09. Monolingual (ENLP) tend to speak, with fast speed, even to (ESLP) audiences, some of them may not well understand. Slower speed will be better for proper communication.

10. Spell-check tools and certain audio clips are helpful to tackle the spelling problem.. A new technique has come, wherein spoken Sound waves lead to English words on a screen. Computers are indeed wonderful ! English is a (s-v-o) (subject-verb-object) language.. Many languages are (s-o-v). Still, (after some period of trials, errors), computer programs now help to give good translations of sentences (s-v-o) to (s-o-v) and vice versa.

11. I visited USA many times. I was in USA around Sept-Oct 2016. I found there was no interest among people and media to reform spellings. I checked with contacts in other countries too. Complete silence, no agitation, no letters to editor. People see illogical spellings on Road-signs (Right Turn etc), Notices at markets, theaters etc. All these do not require any changes. They continue. No spelling reform. Pronunciation guides are enough, with the proviso that they should not disturb Standard English..

12. (www.spellingsociety.org) is a very useful website. It deals with various issues of English spellings.

13. Website articles E01, E02, E16 suggested a parallel language with reformed spellings. Here is a modified suggestion in view of Para 02, 11.
Learn Standard English (with traditional spellings) for access to lots of information, literature, World contacts etc.


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Updated on : $ January 1, 2017 $
Author : Madhukar N Gogate - mng1932@yahoo.com