Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
h a l f b a k e r y
If you can read this you are not following too closely.

idea: add, search, annotate, link, view, overview, recent, by name, random

meta: news, help, about, links, report a problem

account: browse anonymously, or get an account and write.



Remove Schwa Vowels

Eliminate Wasteful Spelling
  (+4, -3)
(+4, -3)
  [vote for,

The schwa sound is the "unstressed and toneless" vowel that is very prevalent in the English language. I propose that schwa vowels, even those that are part of some sort of grammatical pattern, be promptly removed from English spellings wherever possible. There are certain combinations of consonants where the pronunciation would be unambiguous if the token vowel representing the schwa sound were to be removed, for example, in "taken," and "dinner." On the other hand, if the removal of the schwa vowel would result in a different pronunciation, or if the schwa sound is stressed, then the vowel is not replaced. Respective examples of the former and latter cases would be removing the second "e" in "benefit" and the first "o" in colo(u)r.

This update to the language would be beneficial in a number of ways. First, it emphasizes the schwa as the default or natural vowel. That is to say, the schwa should not be preferentially represented by any of the five standard vowels, as these each have their own short and long pronunciations. Secondly, the exclusion of a vowel represents the unstressed nature of the sound. Third, the change will marginally improve writing and typing speed.

Eliminating waste helps keep businesses and species competitive in their respective domains, so this change is not without precedent. To those who argue that the language would be "dumbed-down" in some sense, I rebut by claiming that English could contain more triple and quadruple vowel combinations, and that eloquence is currently suboptimal since these spellings are not used.

ADDENDUM: And while we're at it, we can throw away silent letters that do nothing to change the pronunciation.

Cuit_au_Four, Sep 28 2010

(?) how to pronounce... <a href="http://www...b2a1d_t.jpg" /></a>
[xandram, Sep 28 2010]


       Interesting. Current spellings never really took root until the early 1800s. Prior to that all English spelling was a bit haphazard.   

       Going back to such arbitrary craziness seems unnecessarily complex. We need to simplify spelling conventions, rather than complicate them.
infidel, Sep 28 2010

       what ?
FlyingToaster, Sep 28 2010

       This is no more complex than what exists. If the vowel makes a schwa sound and if its removal would result in an unambiguous pronunciation, then the vowel or vowel combination is removed.
Cuit_au_Four, Sep 28 2010

       yes, I understand that part, but what's a "schwa" sound... "unstressed and toneless" isn't that descriptive.
FlyingToaster, Sep 28 2010

       "This is no more complex than what xists. If th vowl makes a schwa sound and if its removl would result in an unambiguous pronunciation, then th vowl or vowl combnation is removed."   

       [CaF] Like this? I could live with it. (I might have missd a couple.)   

       [21] Why a bone? You usually have good reasons, whether I agree with them or not.
Boomershine, Sep 28 2010

       [-] bugger up text-to-speech
FlyingToaster, Sep 28 2010

       also, relies on pronounciation that varies between dialects. e.g. American doesn't seem to have the same "delete unstressed schwa syllable" rule as British, hence the complete inability of American tourists to pronounce place names like Gloucester, Warwick, or Southwark.
prufrax, Sep 28 2010

       Hold on. It is more complicated than what exists. I admit that English has many odd foibles, but it seems to me that the "schwa" sound is potentially a by-product of other grammatical forces. {I hadn't heard the phrase "schwa" before - forgive me if I have misunderstood}   

       "Taken", for example, is the past particple of the verb "take".
(This is a bad example because take is an irregular verb, but it is hopefully illustrative.)
Jinbish, Sep 28 2010

       [prufrax] I'm surprised to hear that American tourists are unable to pronounce Gloucester. Do they think it's pronounced differently in England?   

       Back on topic: This idea seems akin to contractions ("can't" for "cannot") which are orthographically respectable. Just one step further -- drops the apostrophe -- and extended over a broader domain.
mouseposture, Sep 28 2010

       Webster did quite enough damage to English, without taking his lunacy any farther, thank you.   

       [mouseposture], if you are American, would you like to try giving us a few phonetic spellings for, say:
infidel, Sep 28 2010

       //provide phonetic spellings//
Marylebone, and
Magdalen - too - while you're at it.
zen_tom, Sep 28 2010

       I do have some sympathy for this, which was clearly stolen from my mind at about ten to eleven this morning as i was walking up Beechcroft Road, Stoneygate, Leicester, when i had it. However, if you were to replace all schwas in English with a's, it would have the advantage of making various words of Romance origin look more like their ancestors and Catalonians would find it easier to learn English.
nineteenthly, Sep 28 2010

       //provide phonetic spellings// And Cholmondley.
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 28 2010

       Or, you could go the way of Bernard Shaw's "ghoti", take the letter sequences from the likes of Featherstonehaw and invent a long-winded but perfectly phonetic spelling system. Or was his real name George Bernard Stonehaugh?
nineteenthly, Sep 28 2010

       And, for good measure: Bicester, Brewood, Cambois, Derby, Euxton, Fowey, Happisburgh, Meopham, Ravenstruther, Southwark, Towcester, Wymondham and Ashby-de-la-Zouch.
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 28 2010

       Even here in Massachuseetts we have Worcester, Leominster, Leicester...more [see link].
(I grew up in Connecticut and do not speak like they say in the article.)
xandram, Sep 28 2010

It's not Millen and it's not gavvy, but I digress.

       Surely 'takn' sounds different from 'taken'? 'Flicker' sounds different than 'flickr', which (forgetting the website of that name)? The 'err' sound should be pronounced (and is in many dialects), rather than a brief '-r' syllable.
Jinbish, Sep 28 2010

It's not Millen and it's not gavvy, but I digress.

       Surely 'takn' sounds different from 'taken'? 'Flicker' sounds different than 'flickr', which (forgetting the website of that name)? The 'err' sound should be pronounced (and is in many dialects), rather than a brief '-r' syllable.
Jinbish, Sep 28 2010

       //Surely 'takn' sounds different from 'taken'?//   

       I would agree - the 'e' is pronounced between the 'k' and the 'n'. Also, poets would not like this. They would have to choose between piss'd off and pissed off.
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 28 2010

       Kirkgunzeon Crescent.
nineteenthly, Sep 28 2010

       Don't you mean "Motherington Creasceau"?
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 28 2010

       Okay, then then "en" present in past participles need not be subject to removal of the "e." If, in fact, you are giving some emphasis to the second syllable of the word, then you are pronouncing a short "e" sound and not a schwa sound. There is no middle ground there. This example highlights yet another benefit of the system, in that there is a more definite distinction as to what exactly should be pronounced as a schwa sound. Note, however, that the idea here is not to iterate through the dictionary and confirm schwa and non-schwa sounds. That is a matter for academic circles, town hall discussions, etc...   

       //various British towns and cities and other nonsense   

       Loanwords, proper names, and anything else that isn't allowed in Scrabble is exempt from the rule.   

       //[CaF] Like this? I could live with it. (I might have missd a couple.)   

       Yes, that's the idea. (Although exists would retain the e, as that is not a schwa). The "e" in missed is a silent e, and not a schwa vowel though, so it's not technically part of this idea. You raise a good point though, in that silent vowels should also be removed if the resulting spelling is unambiguous. I might be inclined to retain the "e" in "missed," since "missd" could be taken to be pronounced as "mis-suhd," but that is a matter for debate. On the other hand, in a word like trickle, the silent "e" could definitely be dropped without consequence.
Cuit_au_Four, Sep 28 2010

       I've spent the past half hour lying awake trying to work out how the names Featherstonehaw and Cholmondeley managed to get themselves so tangled up and why they read differently from either end, so "fan" is "featherstone", "shaw" is "stonehaw", "chum" is "cholmond" and "ley" is "lmondeley". I've now gotten up to inflict that on the rest of you.
nineteenthly, Sep 29 2010

       Gough barque teau bude handlemont gershitaw somme sleighup.
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 29 2010

       The next thing you'll know, they'll be making up silly rules and defending asinine spellings until it becomes completely indestinguishable from French. Oh, wait...
RayfordSteele, Oct 01 2010

       The French, however, attempt to string together as many letters as will fit in one syllable. I remember glancing at an article abstract with a French author whose name had six vowels in a row. So you see, I'm trying to prevent all of that.
Cuit_au_Four, Oct 01 2010

       How very Cocteauesque.
MaxwellBuchanan, Oct 01 2010


back: main index

business  computer  culture  fashion  food  halfbakery  home  other  product  public  science  sport  vehicle