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Spelling Simplified

More is less, more or less
  [vote for,

Helping my son with his homework has brought home to me the difficulties of English spelling. Especially the double vowel words with "gh" are hard to learn.

Most methods of simplifying spelling seem to be based on using fewer letters and following pronounciation. Instead, one should mimic the spelling of the "gh-words" that can be pronounced in so many ways. Since more words would be spelled similarly, less spellings would have to be learned. Some examples:

He fell from the bough and cried, "Ough!"
You look as though you want me to gough.
The ball went into the rough, hit by the golf bough.
To get rid of the hiccough, drink this ough.
I let out a sigh as I watched the birds fligh high in the skigh.
There will be a drought without a dought.
Faugh! This pork is raugh!
Here's all she has bought, and it's an awful lought.
If you're going to sneeze and cough, then just get ough.
She let out a laugh when he walked like a giraugh.
The horse's "neigh" meant it wanted to pleigh.
That's quite a height for any keight.
He won't be through until he says, "I love yough."

FarmerJohn, Apr 08 2002

Old as the hills, this one... http://etutors.virtualave.net/poem.htm
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough? [waugsqueke, Apr 08 2002]

Mark Twain's classic spelling reform satire http://www.mantex.co.uk/samples/spell.htm
His magnificent octopus. [Aristotle, Apr 09 2002, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Unifon, the language for the computer age http://www.unifon.org/
Maybe, someday. [entremanure, Apr 12 2002, last modified Oct 21 2004]


       Surely you realize that spelling reform has been a perennial cause celebre for aeons?
Dog Ed, Apr 08 2002

       Yes and I hesitated after reading the heated discussions here, still I dare posting a fresh twist on the solution.
FarmerJohn, Apr 08 2002

       Simplify everything. Have the same spelling for everything. Make it easier for the kids to learn.
neelandan, Apr 08 2002

       I was waiting for that...and have them all pronounced the same too to make it easier for the kids to read.
FarmerJohn, Apr 08 2002

       I think that would just make things more complicated. There are already eight ways to say 'ough', do we really need to complicate things by adding more words that people have a 1 in 8 chance of pronouncing correctly?
[ sctld ], Apr 08 2002

       *cough* nough dough tough yough
thumbwax, Apr 08 2002


       Cute rhyme (rym?) though.
phoenix, Apr 08 2002

       Go fish, phoenix.
(everyone else, 'gh': as in cough. 'o': as in women. 'ti': as in action.)
sappho, Apr 08 2002

       Please. This is ancient stuff.
waugsqueke, Apr 08 2002

       Actually, I don't think English is considered an ancient language.
bristolz, Apr 08 2002

       This is new. Most spelling reform is phonetic. This is more arbitrary. I still think a better solution would be to leave out vowels in an arabic/hebrew style, since they're often the biggest problem in English.
pottedstu, Apr 08 2002

       Lv t vwls? Tht wld b hrdr t rd, thgh. :) I *do* like the idea of fonetik speleen...er, phonetic spelling with the Shavian alphabet. The only problem is with regional differences in pronunciation.
mrouse, Apr 08 2002

       Loughborough. I would gladly bet money (but not very much because I'm chicken) that there are Americans who have just read that one and thought 'Laow-burrow'. Actually it is promounced Luff-bra. I am just off to write a 'lifeless limerick' to illustrate this.
[[phoenix] of course, typgraphical errors in many cases are just a result of having more thoughts than my fingers can keep up with. I'm not going to change it, I'll hold firm with promunciation. You never know, it could start a trend.]
sappho, Apr 09 2002

       How about the town of Lancut? Pronounced "wine-sooth."
bristolz, Apr 09 2002

       [sappho] And how do you pronounce 'promounced'?   

       Try these American names:
Sault Saint Marie
phoenix, Apr 09 2002

       //Here's all she has bought, and it's an awful lought//
This may represent the pronunciation in certain parts of the world (I can't imagine where, right enough) but it's not universally accurate. This, of course, is the problem with spellings based on phonology. For example, my friends in Liverpool pronounce "whales" and "Wales" identically, while I don't. It could all get even more confusing than it already is!
salachair, Apr 10 2002

       It's more common among Scots than among English to sound the H in 'whales' and similar words.
You may wish to try the place-names Porthoustock and Malpas.
angel, Apr 10 2002

       How right you are, angel. I had the piss ripped mercilessly out of me when I lived in Lancashire for pronouncing the "wh" sound in whales, why, etc. I quickly learned to adopt a local accent while at school, in the interests of self-preservation. Don't know if I could manage it now, though!
salachair, Apr 10 2002

       No, folks. We're going about it all bass-ackward. There is nothing wrong with the way words are spelled. What we need is *pronunciation reform*.   

       We need the International Forum on the Standard Pronunciation of English Words (better known as IF-SPEW) to compile an official set of specifications on the precise sound of each letter. These specifications would need to be in the form of parametric equations that take into account the natural physical variations in the human vocal structure.   

       Once the specifications are ready, a team of programmers and circuit designers builds a text-to-speech converter that follows these rules flawlessly and allows users to vary the built-in parameters at will. Finally, surgeons will remove the vocal structures of all English speakers. Everyone will be issued a portable text-to-speech converter to re-enable communication. At the same time, all audio recordings must be destroyed, as they are irrecoverably tainted by incorrect pronunciation. The result is that everyone will be able to speak English with perfect pronunciation. Future generations can skip the surgery, since they have learned to speak with standard pronunciation since birth.   

       Or just do a better job of teaching standard spelling, grammar, and pronunciation to students, and insist that they use it consistently. Infractions would be punishible by having the offender's mouth washed out with soap.
BigBrother, Apr 10 2002

       Anyone who takes the above even a little bit seriously needs to try on that nice long-sleeved coat with the zipper in the back.
BigBrother, Apr 10 2002

       Seems like a good idea to me, BB. Rip the throats out of all those English speakers and replace with electronics.   

       I volunteer to design it.   

       I do not speak English (only write).
neelandan, Apr 11 2002

       Seriously, neelandan? You write it perfectly. You could speak it, I gather, you just choose not to? (Rarely have occasion to?)
waugsqueke, Apr 11 2002

       Replace all words with "Hey!"   

       Works in New York.
Morbius, Apr 11 2002

       waugs, neel, I have a number of acquaintances who, despite having lived most of their lives in the U.S., are barely comprehensible when they speak English, but their written English is flawless.
beauxeault, Apr 11 2002

neelandan, Apr 12 2002

bristolz, Apr 12 2002

       Probably the most advanced language already in use is Korean. Although it borrows some Chinese pictograms, it is based upon phonetics and the position of the parts of the mouth. Its ease of use accounts for a very high literacy rate in Korea, South Korea at least.   

       We ought to learn from Korean or maybe Unifon (link)is the answer. Otherwise, you find out if you have a knack for recognizing and remembering entire words as unique, thereby not being dependent upon rules. That's how I know English. No good at rules, though (math).
entremanure, Apr 12 2002

       Anyone got any ideas for punctuation reform? I think we should get rid of all punctuation except round brackets ( ) and use these to bracket sentences, clauses, subordinate clauses, phrases, etc. It might end up a trifle nested, but not having to worry about all those weird keyboard symbols would more than make up for it. Although we might still need question marks, as I found out while trying to put this paragraph into my new format.   

       (anyone got any ideas for punctuation reform?) ( I think we should get rid of all punctuation except round brackets ( ) and use these to bracket ((sentences) (clauses) (subordinate clauses) (phrases) (etc))) ((it might end up a trifle nested) but (not having to worry about all those weird keyboard symbols would more than make up for it)) (although we might still need question marks (as I found out (while trying to put this paragraph into my new format)))
pottedstu, Apr 12 2002

       I like the idea) )stu) except I would substitute a single closing parenthesis for commas and apostrophes) and use a standard pair in place of periods() It would solve the nesting problem to which you refer) although that could be considered a feature) I suppose() In regard to the problem of question marks) the obvious answer is to eliminate questions()
waugsqueke, Apr 12 2002

       The nesting problem results from the fact that language is not naturally nested.
Sentences have a beginning and move towards an end.
They may have a beginning (a middle) and an end.
But that is surely better than the following option.
((They have a beginning) a middle and an end).
They may have a beginning (a middle part) (another middle part the writer only just thought of) and an end.
I wouldn't want
((((them to have a beginning) a middle) another middle) and an end)
because needing to start all the nests at the beginning would preclude the writer thinking of other phrases (as is my wont) while writing.
Another point is that I refuse to eschew the use of full stops.
sappho, Apr 12 2002

       Hear hear. Punctuation adds drama! Nesting merely confuses. And what, perchance, of the semicolon?   

       You're all looking for change for change's sake. English works beautifully, and the richness of it allows the subtleties of poetry. Anyway, the English language is a fresh and evolving one - we borrow any words we need, or want, because they express our sentiment better. It's difficult to get people to shoehorn new words into proper verb structures, etc.   

       (th cmbntn f ll ths rls smply mks t dghclt t rd nythng, prtclrly f thr r brcktd ds (lk ths) nd (qtd ns) n th sm sntnc) nd hw, f y dn)t nst prprly) r w sppsd t knw whn it strts nd nds)   

       The combination of all these rules simply makes it difficult to read anything, particularly if there are bracketed ideas (like this) and 'quoted ones' in the same sentence? And how, if you don't nest properly, are we supposed to know when it start and ends?   

       Oh? Oh! Oh. Oh... or: (h)
imagin8or, Oct 14 2004


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