Some successful modern reforms of writing
Portuguese spelling reforms:
Matching language and writing system
Over one hundred million people in
Portugal and former colonies share the same orthography and the
same spelling reforms with only minor differences. This has
prevented the dialects that have developed from becoming
completely new languages.
The original Portuguese spelling system had been
phonetic, but it was superseded by the 'pseudo-etymological'
classical spellings of the Renaissance 'with utter disregard
for pronunciation' (Williams, 1962) - a move also seen in
English spelling up to 1800.
This was so awkward that a spelling commission was set up
within four months of the fall of the Portuguese monarchy in
1911.Many surplus letters and consonant doublings were
Reform was seen as an important part of urgent social
reforms and modernisation.
Minor but significant modifications have continued
since 1931 through the co-operation of the Portuguese
Academy of Sciences and the Brazilian Academy of Letters.
Brazilian nationalists rebelled in 1934 and the 'anarchy' of
the old Brazilian spelling of 1891 was reinstated, but after
years of work, Brazil and Portugal finally signed an
historic Orthographic Agreement in 1943.
Mayhew (1975) reported that the great expense in
reprinting books and tragedy of cutting ties with the past
that had been predicted did not eventuate after all.
Educated Portuguese and Brazilians accepted the new forms
more easily because they recognised their resemblance to
Spanish and even Italian, thus showing a value for
Etymology and tradition together maintain some
irregularities, and Portuguese and Brazilian spelling does
differ slightly, but further reforms are expected.
In the same way, international agreement and some minor
tolerated disagreement might also be feasible for English
orthography despite differences between American and British
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