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4.0 out of 5 stars There are hundreds of ways to regularize English, 14 April 2006
This review is from: Spelling For The 21st Century: The Case For Spelling Reform (Paperback)
Sanford Silverman, a retired teacher, makes a strong case for spelling reform. The case has been made a number of times over the past 100 years.

The first one written around 1890 by Alexander Ellis provided some statistics on the extent of the irregularity of English. English spelling is ambiguous and fails to provide a reliable guide to pronunciation. Conversely since each sound can be spelled a variety of ways. Dewey (1971) claimed that each sound (phoneme) was spelled an average of 14.7 different ways. Thus knowing how to pronounce a word is no guarantee that you can spell it.

English is a mix of at least 4 distinct spelling systems. It would be much easier to learn and use if it there was only one spelling system and one and only one symbol for every sound.

The most recent book with the title The Case for Spelling Reform was written by member of Parliament, Dr. Mont Follick, in the mid 1900's. Dr. Follick was a former professor of Spanish. His solution looked like English written in a Spanish orthography.

In the 1700's, a Portuguese official living in London tried to describe spoken English using Portuguese orthography. It looked quite similar to Follicks effort. The words derived from Latin look fine written in Spanish or Portuguese, some Germanic words are unrecognizable.

Silverman devotes a full chapter on his alternative highly phonemic writing system. Follick does not take the opportunity to plug his solution and describes it in less than one page.

There are hundreds of ways to regularize English and all of them disrupt the recognition of some words. Most can be read without much difficulty but the more one deviates from a dictionary key, the harder they are to spell.

One can remove a few irregularities in English without annoying the already literate. Any attempt to remove most of them results in respelling over 50% of the words in the dicitonary. Some of the respellings are so odd that the word cannot be recognized as a sight-word. They require that the reader "sound-out" each letter or sound-sign. A rather slow laborous process.

The speling soesieyety wuns transkriebd dhair publicaeshunz in nue speling but eeven advokats ov reeform objected.

No one except a beginner chooses to read text transcribed into an unfamiliar consistent code. Beginning readers like consistently coded text because they can read it 2 to 10 times as fast. Code literacy in a dictionary key can take as little as 3 months.

The problem is that code literacy often didn't transfer. It didn't always accelerate traditional literacy.

Silverman provides an example what he considers to be a good way to regularize English. This is probably the weakest chapter in the book because few people are very satisfied with someone elses respellings. What works for one person does not work for someone else.

what a consistent representation of English speech might be like by referring them to a dictionary key.
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Location: Austin, Texas

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