THE RULES OF ENGLISH SPELLING -
ON ONE PAGE
a draft still being worked on, for research, experiments, and comments.
- Explanation of the Rules of English Spelling on One Page
and the BBC Text Guide to Pronunciation as a base for its Dictionary Key and beginners' first learning
- Demonstrating the Rules of English Spelling on One Page
- Where to start with Rules on One Page
Beginning readers and writers
Users of present spelling, as writers and readers
Writers of text for publication
- Examples: Short versions of the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
of the United Nations
for everyone to be able to read
. Short versions to print out
How difficult would present spelling become for a next generation that used One-Page Spelling Rules?
If English spelling obeys its main rules, that can be set out on one page, the appearance of print is changed by less than 7% of letters, yet the task of literacy becomes dramaticly less. A few graphemes and phonemes can have a limited range of variants, few enough to make choices easier.
Spelling patterns (grafemes) 41 spelling patterns (grafemes) can be pronounced only one way, 12 will have two possibilities, and 6 have three.
English sounds (fonemes) 28 fonemes have one spelling only, 6 have two rule-governed possibilities – as in sizes, pity, round-cow, boil-boy and moon-tabu; 4 have three possible spellings – as in quik-cat-box, since-six, taut-saw-fort, spa-farm-bazaar; 5 ‘long’ vowels have five possible spellings each, as in A – bake baby bay bait bàt, E – mete meet meat me mèt , I – mite might my final kind, O – mole modal moat mòt, and U – mute music mew cue cùt. There are 6 spelling patterns for the sound ‘er’, as in her- bird-motor-mortar-drama, and stress can be shown as in perturb. This is a dramatic cut from present ways to spell or pronounce a word, where five vowels alone can be spelled in 80 different ways
There need be no surplus letters in words, that are of no use to represent meaning or pronunciation, and often mislead. 37 or so very common irregular words are retained, since they make up to 12% of the words you read in everyday text.
Dictionaries would include spellings that applied these rules among the alternativ spellings already permitted, for confirmation by popular choice. The premier French dictionary, authorised by l'Académie Française, has recently included alternative spellings for 6000 French words, with the aim of making literacy more accessible to all.
The task of literacy becomes dramatically less when spelling keeps its own rules.
Where do you start?
1. Anyone literate can start anytime by dropping surplus letters that do not help with meaning or pronunciation. Acomodate? Garantee? Jurnal?
2. Dictionaries can include spellings that apply these rules among their thousands of already permitted alternative spellings for words. The premier French dictonaary is already doing this for 6000 French words, authorised by the
Académie Française, to promote literacy.
3. Beginning lerners. A one-sound-one-spelling- pattern dictionary key for pronunciation based on the BBC Pronunciation Guide is also used as the beginners’ start to literacy, which can cross dialects. It is then modified by the other rules, which produce a morphemic-phonemic spelling. Since the rules fit on one page, they are no more tedious than a guide to doing anything else, and lerners absorb them by reading and writing, not by abstract rote.
One innovation only. This experimental version of the 'Rules of English spelling on One Page' adds one innovation to help learners and that applies the 'Chomsky' principle for visible linking of word-families. One way to show long vowels (pronounced as in the alphabet names AEIOU) is to add a grav accent to the short vowels a e i o u, as in bàby mèdia chìld gòld mùsic. And so, national/nàtion, competition/compèting, finishfìnal, composition/compòsing deduct/dedùcing. A single diacritic mark that is optional but can help so much.
The RULES OF ENGLISH SPELLING on one page
All consonant patterns have only one possible pronunciation except for c as in circus and charade, g as in garage, s as in suns, y as in my yabby, th as in this and that, z as in zoo vizion
Vowel spelling patterns: a as in baby banana, e as in remediate, i as in finding fries for Mimi, o as in Apollo, u as in unduly rude.
ar as in car, er as in her/very, ur as in perturb (showing syllable stress), ir as in bird air as in fair, au as in taut, or as in fort, ou as in round, oi as in boil, oo as in book or boot.
Vowels in final place as in pity, banana, me/bee/theme, alibi/Mimi go menu/new, baker/ saw cow boy tabu/too
Other spellings for long vowels - make maids play, beat meet, night, boat and as in màt mèt mìt mòt mùt
Grammatical spellings - s/es for plurals, tenses, possessives. d/ed for participles.
Doubled consonants show short vowels or stressed syllables or both, as in carrot berry stirrup horrid curry umbrella, committee. ck= doubled k.
Obscure schwa vowels in casual speech are spelled as in formal speech, but are not followed by doubled consonants, e.g. comittee, acommodate.
Silent e lengthens the preceding vowel, as in make mete mite mote mute. So –ence or –ance, etc will depend upon the preceding vowel, as in dependant silence able.Other suffixes include –able (meaning able to.)
NO redundant letters that show neither meaning or pronunciation. Exampls - autum, gardian, gage, mischivus.
The only exceptions: -
1. 37 or so very common irregularly spelled words are kept as 'sight' words, because they make up to 12% of everyday text: all almost always among as come some could should would four half know of off one only once other full/ful pull push put their they to two as was what want who why, and international word endings -ion/-tion/-sion/zion.
2. Very exotic spellings, mostly French, such as bourgeois,bouquet, and names of people and places.
EXPLANATION OF ENGLISH SPELLING RULES
on one page
If English spelling obeys its major rules, then very few grafemes will have more than one possible pronunciations and few sounds (fonemes) more than one possible spelling.
Then the task of literacy is dramatically less.
Dictionaries would include spellings that applied these rules among their thousands of already permitted alternative spellings for words. The French are already doing this for 6000 French words.
Pronunciation keys in dictionaries would use the basic sound-spelling relationships that beginners would learn in learning to read.
Children’s introduction to education would include thinking, in learning to read, not unexplained rote learning of what seems silly to them. Spellers could reason out how to spell, and be permitted to use any of the rule-based patterns to spell a word ‘correctly’.
There would still be a standard spelling for fast composition and fast reading, but it would include a narrow range of alternatives. Since it was so easy to learn and use, it would hold the international spoken English language more closely together and more mutually comprehensible than is happening at present, when so many English-users remain illiterate or almost so.
Learners would have very few choices to make in decoding. Visual learning would consolidate these choices in the spelling of words, unlike the present plethora of unpredictables.
Spellcheckers can allow the alternative choices in spelling, since they are so few.
* Spelling pattern - a relationship of letters to sounds. This can vary according to place in a word and grammatical function of the word.
Note: This draft is for experiment, research and comments.
EXPLANATION OF ENGLISH SPELLING RULES
Demonstrating their aplication
See also the short form of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, set out in 3 modes - for learners, without spelling traps for readers, and in present spelling
If English spelling obays its major rules, then almost every spelling pattern* has no mor than two possibl pronunciations and almost every sound no mor than two possibl spelling patterns.
Then the task of literacy is dramaticly less.
Dictionaries would include spellings that aplied these rules among thair thousands of alredy permitted alturnativ spellings for wurds. The French ar alredy duing this for 6000 French wurds.
Pronunciation kees in dictionaries would use the basic sound-spelling relationships that beginners would lern in lerning to read.
Children’s introduction to education would include thinking in lerning to read, not unexplaind rote lerning of what seems silly to them. Spellers could reason out how to spell, and be permitted to use eny of the rule-based patterns to spell a wurd ‘correctly’.
There would still be a standard spelling for fast composition and fast reading, but it would include a narro range of alturnativs. Since it was so easy to lern and use, it would hold the international spoken English language mor closely together and mor mutually comprehensibl than is happening at present, when so meny English-users remain illiterat or almost so.
Lerners would hav very few choices to make in decoding. Visual familliarity would consolidate these choices in the spelling of words, unlike the present plethora of unpredictabls.
Spellcheckers can allow the alternativ choices in spelling, since thay ar so few.
* Spelling pattern - a relationship of letters to sounds. This can vairy acording to place in a wurd and gramattical function of the wurd.
Note: This draft is for experiment, reserch and comments.
Check out these changed spellings, and examin the reasons for each one.
Where do you start? A summary
- Beginning readers and writers start with the Dictionary Key, and then quickly add the Rules on One Page modifications, and become able to read present spelling too, while writing according to the One Page Rules, with its flexible but still rule-based options.
- Adepts in present spelling can read spelling with Rules on one Page with no difficulty. They can start to use the spelling, beginning with cutting out surplus letters, and other changes that appeal to them. They can write for publication in the full Rules on One Page by following those rules, using the options that they prefer.
- Writing. Readers of present spelling who find it difficult to write can adopt the Rules on One Page which they find easiest to begin with, probably starting with cutting out surplus letters.
- Publications to be used by learners can follow the Rules on One Page, using the options they prefer when alternatives are acceptable.
- Dictionaries will use the Dictionary Key for their pronunciation guide.
An international English Spelling Commission will monitor research and development, and final global use of the improved International English Spelling. In the meantime, public usage will be an on-going test of what is most useful.
We are not a mostly illiterate people that can be subject to drastic change as was possible when Russia, Turkey and Indonesia changed their writing systems. We have a heritage of print to keep accessible. Individuals will adapt and change at different paces.
But because the rules are set out on one page, with a limit to options, there will not be the chaos of 'spell as you like'.
How difficult would present spelling become for a next generation
that used One-Page Spelling Rules?
No harder than it is for us today to read 17th century texts or correspondence before Johnson’s Dictionary. Obsolete vocabulary and idioms are more likely to baffleus.
1. 60 Graphemes give only 88 different ways to represent sounds according to location in One-Page Spelling Rules
This is a ‘simple’ representation of English sounds, for ordinary readers, not IPA standard. It includes diphthongs. The obscure vowel schwa in casual speech is represented as in formal speech with every syllable sounded out, as in ‘independent’.
Forty one Spelling patterns each match one sound only
b d f g h j k l m n p qu r t v w x z sh wh nk
air – fair
au - taut
aw - saw
ou - out
oi - boil
oy - boy
oo - boot
uu (?) or u for the would put push should group o words.
silent e pattern – make mete mite mote mute
ai – maid
igh – night
oa - boat
Twelve Spelling patterns can each represent either of two sounds
c – circus dance
g – garage damage
s - sizes
z – zip vizion
th – this thing
e – met me
o – hot cold
ar – far Paris
er – her eratic
ir – bird ironic
or – for forest
ow – now growing
Seven Spelling patterns can each represent 3-4 sounds
y – my yabby
ch – child, chemist, charade
ng – danger hinge finger
a – banana baby
i – in kind Mimi
u – fun music tabu
ur – urgent currant fury
2. How sounds (phonemes) are represented by letters in One-Page Spelling Rules
27 sounds are each represented by one spelling pattern only
a b d e f g h j l m n o p r t u v w y sh
th (this) th (thing) wh ng ngk..air
uu (as in put) - ? u as in put or uu?
5 sounds can each be represented by two spelling patterns only
z – sizes
i – pity (one is the final place vowel spelling pattern)
ow – round cow ( “)
oy – boil boy ( “)
oo – moon tutu ( “ )
5 sounds can each be represented by three spelling patterns
k – quik cat box
s – since six
ch – child, chemist, charade
or/aw – taut saw fort
ah – spa farm bazaar
5 sounds can each be represented by five spelling patterns
A – bake baby bay bait bàt
E – mete meet meat me mèt
I – mite might my final kìnd
O – mole modal moat mòt
U – mute music mew cue cùt
6 spelling patterns for the sound ‘er – bird perturbs motor mortar drama
That is, 43 sounds, with rules for how they can be represented by 83 spelling patterns.
except for the 37 very common irregularly spelled words that are not changed.
3. Present Spelling patterns that are no longer required
- The spelling patterns used according to the One-Page Rules have mostly only one pronunciation, with only a few exceptions. None of them would have the many other unpredictable possibilities that they have now.
The spoken word also has mostly one way to spell it, with relatively few sounds requiring decisions between possibilities, and the range of those possibilities is few.
- Many other spelling patterns (graphemes) would be no longer required.
Although these are so many in present spelling, they actually apply to only a small proportion of words in running text. (See Rondthaler & Lias, 1986 for counts of spelling patterns.) But small landmines can cause a great deal of damage.
The compilations below are not complete lists.
a. 98 vowel spelling patterns that are no longer required
b. 49 Consonant spelling patterns no longer required
Language changes from the bottom up. This has often been remarked in recent times, and now extends to its spelling. SMS texting is the most remarkable development. ‘Advertising spelling’ is also an influence. Researcher Joe Little has collected demotic spellings now used in the popular press, such as: -
-->u cudn't/shud/ shudn't / shud've, wud, gud
ph-->f foto ch-->k skool
Other increasingly common shortenings include: catalog, dialog, donut, hiway, thruway, drive-thru
However these are not systematic changes, and could add to spelling chaos if adopted ad hoc.
Attempts have been made, unsuccessfully, to program computers to spell with rules, as in the 19560s Stanford experiments. However, once computers could hold complete dictionaries, Spellcheckers enabled English spelling to continue in print unchanged. The costs for learning literacy remain. Yet computers and the Internet are major means for experiment and systematic change, based on cognitive psychology, the needs and abilities of users, even more than on descriptive linguistics.
An International Commission on English Spelling is needed.
Pitman, J & St John, J. 1969. Alphabets & Reading. London: Isaac Pitman & Sons.
Rondthaler, E & Lias, E. 1986 Dictionary of simplified American Spelling. Scholars edition. New York: the American Language Academy.
Venezky, R L. 1999. The American Way of Spelling: the structure and origins of American English Orthography. New York: Guilford.
Wijk, A. 1959. Regularized English. Stockholm: Almquist & Wiksell. Wijk, too, aimed to keep Engliish spelling backwards compatible, by being conservative in change, but contrast his Regularized Spelling which took 100 pages of a 361-page book to explain its multiplicity of rules. His 'summary' of the rules took ten pages. English Spelling On One Page is more systematic, and takes more account of the nature of the English language and the nature of the difficulties in its spelling.
As you can see from the revised Spelling Rules for English on one page -
60 Graphemes give 88 ways to represent sounds according to location in One-Page Spelling Rules
Not bad, compared with the hundreds of present possibilities and combinations.
1. Writing the spoken word. "One foneme is represented by only one grafeme” applies to 27 sounds, 5 sounds can be represented either of 2 grafemes, five by 3 grafemes each, and one has six possibilities for spelling. The obscure unstressed sound Schwa is not represented by a particular grafeme.
2. Pronouncing the written word. 41grafemes (spelling patterns) can be pronounced in only one way, 12 grafemes each have two possible ways to pronounce them, and seven grafemes have each three possible pronunciations.
This makes it far easier to learn spoken English from the written, and written English from the spoken, contrasting with the present multitude of unpredictabilities either way.
It allows variant spellings, but within an easy range with rationale for use, so that readers are not held back by variety of unfamiliar spellings, and spelling changes can be established by democratic preferences.
3. 31-32 very common words with irregular spellings remain unchanged.
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