Phonetic Spelling...

Y dont wi spel evrything funetikly? If wi wer tu hav a cupl mor leters for tha TH’s and CH’s, then I think it wud b isier tu spel stuf (after a bit uf ajustment tu tha nu speling uf wurds.

I just developed a migraine headache. That type of spelling slows my reading down. Tremendously.

P.S. “wurds” could be “werds.”

Check out Melvil Dewey, inventor of the Dewey Decimal System in the 19th century, and also an advocate of a phonetic simplified English spelling system.

Which, needless to say, didn’t fly.

It’s simple enuf, after about 400 years of having those spellings imposed on us, people can’t read anything else.

Anuther argument is that there ar so many diffrent dialects and pronunciations out there, if we wer to spell phonetically, the spellings would vary too much across diffrent areas. And then, when an American is reading sumthing ritten by an Auzzie, he wouldn’t be able to understand anything.


Here in the UK people there has been a simplified spelling movement for over a century, one pioneer being George Bernard Shaw, no less.

The idea never gets anywhere for various reasons. First of all, because not enough people care about it one way or another. Those who can spell don’t have a problem and those who can’t seem - in general - to get by okay. So people give their ‘feeling strongly’ time to other issues.

Secondly, human languages are evolved rather than designed. Even if you came up with a simplified phonetic spelling tomorrow and everyone adopted it, within a few years there would be regional variations and different preferences.

Thirdly, any ‘organised’ change would be very hard and expensive to implement. Imagine trying to get every book publisher, newspaper publisher, TV station (for when written captions appear), school, sign-writing company etc. to agree on one new set of spellings and implement them faithfully!

Fourthly, it’s not as easy as it may seem to decided on the ‘correct’ phoentic spellings for many words. Sure, you might not get many arguments that ‘flem’ makes more sense than ‘phlegm’. But what’s the clearest phonetic rendition of ‘beauty’? some scope for debate here.

Fifthly, our current spellings may not be very rational, but it does help to preserve some meaningful distinctions: shoot / chute, slay / sleigh, soar /sore. Although one can nearly always work out the intended meaning from context, it is easier to read faster if there are fewer of these look-alike words to analyse.

I would like to point out that, as difficult as it would be to implement, many countries do successfully pull it off.

Lets look at Germany, a country not terribly different from English-speaking countries in comparison to other non-English speaking countries.

Compared to the US, Germany has a far broader range of dialects (although Britain has a comparably broad range). All the same, there is a “High German”: the Hannover “dialect” (and lets not beat around the bush here – there is a “High American English” whether we here in the US acknowlege it or not: midwestern English. This is what more or less all major American national newscasters speak on TV).

Germany has an organization whose job it is to conform the spelling to pronunciation and, in some cases, to logic.

Once you know the rules, spelling is a breeze. If you hear a word, you know how it MUST be spelled because, with just a couple of exceptions, there isnt any other way. Only a couple of foreign words, notably French, dont follow a pronunciation-spelling consistency.

In fact, just about every European language except French, English, and Czech have very easy spelling-pronunciation rules.

To say “it would be too difficult to implement” is a cop-out. Like adaptation to the metric system, many many countries disprove this.

To say “there are too many regional variations” is also a cop-out for the same reason. American dialectical variation is nothing compared to German.

Sure, human languages evolve, and people in different countries develop their own pronunciation, but Spanish, for example, is spoken by a huge number of people ranging the globe, and, from what I hear (I dont speak Spanish) spelling is logical and simple. Somehow the Spanish speaking world seems to pull off this stunt but we cant or wont, or we make excuses.

I think the only realistic argument is preservation of tradition: “we do it this way because we have always done it this way”. Its a dubious argument, but the only half-way defensible one I can think of.