English Spelling Reform
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22-02-2016, 04:53 AM
RE: English Spelling Reform
Gloss, you ain't getting traction. And you won't. As you pointed out, even minor changes affecting only a few words have met with massive resistance. What makes you think that you won't meet massive resistance over your more radical changes? It's *too late*.

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(06-02-2014 03:47 PM)Momsurroundedbyboys Wrote:  And I'm giving myself a conclusion again from all the facepalming.
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22-02-2016, 05:25 PM
RE: English Spelling Reform
(22-02-2016 03:56 AM)undergroundp Wrote:  It doesn't matter what the cause was. The fact remains that the spelling of a word changed and meaning was lost. What I've been trying to say from the very beginning.

The cause does matter if you want to argue that spelling reform is the reason for that loss of meaning, which is what I thought you were trying to say, since you brought up such semantic shifts as an argument against reform.

(22-02-2016 03:56 AM)undergroundp Wrote:  And you still think that this is convenient? I struggled so much through a course on Shakespeare at uni, I can't even begin to imagine how it would be to also have to scan thousands of pages of text just to read it.

Luckily, you most likely wouldn't have to, since classic literature would be one of the first bodies of text to be officially transcribed en masse, so the transcriptions would already be readily available for you.

(22-02-2016 03:56 AM)undergroundp Wrote:  And what about English-teaching books? What about us, here in the jungle?

I'm not sure what you're getting at here. The elementary textbooks would probably be written in the students' native language, and the new orthography would be one of the first things such books would teach. So by the time they're ready for more advanced books with much more limited usage of the native language, they'll be quite familiar with the spelling system.

(22-02-2016 03:56 AM)undergroundp Wrote:  My point was that Cretans did not have a hard time adjusting to any new reforms (like the change from Katharevousa) because despite their different dialect, the spelling preceded their accent. Here you will have dialects that precede the spelling. That is the problem and that is the point I've been trying to make with Cretans all along.

How could the spelling precede the accents? Are you telling me that Cretans spoke the mainland standard perfectly until standardized Dimotiki was introduced and then suddenly started diverging into a more unique accent afterwards? That makes no sense.

(22-02-2016 03:56 AM)undergroundp Wrote:  You keep using the example of Dimotiki and Katharevousa even though I've pointed out to you that it is not a good example. The changes were minor and people still struggle with it. Your changes won't be minor and people will certainly be struggling for much longer than 40 years.

My point was that the difficulty some Greeks are experiencing even after 40 years may have more to do with how the reform was promulgated than with the reform itself. Again, I recommend a transitional period of 50 years, during which the old and new orthographies would co-exist. How long was the transition for the final implementation of Dimotiki?

(22-02-2016 03:56 AM)undergroundp Wrote:  Again, the change would be immense. It would need billions, maybe even trillions of dollars to even just begin enforcing it, and I'm talking about the US only here. Tell an uneducated person that English will become simpler and they'll be thrilled. Tell them they have to scan all their books, buy new books for their kids, change the signs at their shops, change all their papers, upgrade their computers and take lessons for the "new spelling", and they'll probably regret being so excited about it.

This is precisely why the process would likely be spread out over a few decades. I'll admit, the economics of it is still quite daunting, but I'm not convinced that it outright couldn't be done without proper planning.

(22-02-2016 03:56 AM)undergroundp Wrote:  "Children taking 1/2 or even 1/3 of the time it currently takes them to attain foundational literacy"

This. It does not reasonably follow. It's your personal interpretation, as is your insistence on the fact that this will somehow make your country better.[/quote]

That last bit about making my country better, yes, there is plenty of room for interpretation there. But my estimate of how much faster children could acquire literacy is just middle-school mathematics. Let's say x is the rate of literacy acquisition in a shallow orthography (including what English could be if it were reformed) and E is the rate of literacy acquisition for current conventional English.

The study says, "The rate of development in English is more than twice as slow as in the shallow orthographies." Hence, E = 2x. A bit of algebra gives x = E/2. That is why I say that children could learn to read and write in roughly half the time it currently takes them.

(22-02-2016 03:56 AM)undergroundp Wrote:  What reasonably follows is that if Australians and Canadians are doing fine despite that handicap, the reform is not the most important issue here.

But why have the handicap at all if we don't have to? Reform could allow the mediocre to do well while those who are already doing well do even better.

(21-02-2016 07:19 PM)Glossophile Wrote:  First of all, there are also non-native learners around the world to consider, and second of all, even though other English-speaking countries may not need it as badly as we in the US do, I believe there's still plenty of room for them to gain from a spelling reform.

(22-02-2016 03:56 AM)undergroundp Wrote:  I was actually talking about those people. The non-native learners. I haven't seen you considering them so far.

Non-native speakers are actually one of the two main reasons I support reform (the other one being native children). In fact, I think English's current role as a worldwide lingua franca makes the sustainability of its complex orthography a more relevant issue than ever before.

(22-02-2016 03:56 AM)undergroundp Wrote:  You are not giving me any reason why the reform should be radical, you're just talking about the uproar. Who cares about the uproar? What's important is that people will have an extremely hard time adjusting in the case of a radical change, but a gradual reform would be smoother with a lesser impact on literacy and education.

Oh, so you were talking about a piecemeal reform (as opposed to a cold-turkey reform). Again, some previous comments of mine from another forum might help explain why I don't think that's ultimately a good idea (the time scale is accelerated in comparison to my 50-year proposal, but that doesn't really impact the point being made).

Glossophile Wrote:Piecemeal reform (a reform implemented in stages rather than all at once) does seem like an almost ideal solution. It's bound to be gentler on public sensibilities and therefore easier to sell. However, in my opinion, there is also a rather substantial downside.

First, I must simplify things a bit for the purpose of easy illustration. So let's assume that the international commission identifies 10 rules of English spelling that, if rigorously enforced, can constitute a fully functional orthography all on their own.

For the sake of not having to repeat long phrases, I will also define a couple of shorthand terms:

Great Legacy Transcription (GLT) = a systematic re-spelling or transcription of virtually every pre-reform text imaginable, or at least all but the most trivial ones, for posterity (everything from classic literature to road signs); no doubt a massive undertaking only partially expedited by the likely aid of computers

Incremental Interim Transcription (IIT) = a systematic re-spelling or transcription of all texts produced since the first stage of piecemeal reform; basically a mini-GLT covering only those new writings produced in the intermission between stages

Hypothetical Timeline:

January 1, 2017
- all exceptions to rules 1 and 2 are re-spelled into adherence
- first GLT to bring pre-2017 texts into compliance with rules 1 and 2.

January 1, 2022
- all exceptions to rules 3 and 4 are re-spelled into adherence
- second GLT to make pre-2017 texts, previously made compliant with rules 1 and 2, now compliant with rules 3 and 4 as well
- first IIT to bring all written material produced between 2017 and 2022 into compliance with rules 3 and 4

January 1, 2027
- all exceptions to rules 5 and 6 are re-spelled into adherence
- third GLT to make pre-2017 texts, previously made compliant with rules 1-4, now compliant with rules 5 and 6 as well
- second IIT to bring all written material produced between 2022 and 2027 into compliance with rules 5 and 6

January 1, 2032
- all exceptions to rules 7 and 8 are re-spelled into adherence
- fourth GLT to make pre-2017 texts, previously made compliant with rules 1-6, now compliant with rules 7 and 8 as well
- third IIT to bring all written material produced between 2027 and 2032 into compliance with rules 7 and 8

January 1, 2037
- all exceptions to rules 9 and 10 are re-spelled into adherence
- fifth GLT to make pre-2017 texts,previously made compliant with rules 1-8, now compliant with rules 9 and 10 as well
- fourth IIT to bring all written material produced between 2032 and 2037 into compliance with rules 9 and 10

Now, a cold-turkey reform would look more like this:

January 1, 2017 – new orthography promulgated, GLT, new code taught in progressively lower grades over an agreed-upon timespan

Done!

Do you see the problem? Rather than have a single GLT and be done with it, the piecemeal approach requires several cumulative and layered GLTs/IITs to preserve access to heritage writings and make things as easy as possible for future historians who will increasingly rely on specialists to decrypt TS in their research. As costly as reform is likely to be in any case, doing it in phases is almost certain to multiply those costs significantly.

Plus, neither a GLT nor an IIT is an instantaneous event. The former especially will probably take a few years at least. This means that, unless the phases are spaced out at an arguably impractical speed, at about the time the first GLT or IIT is finally complete, the start of the next one will be just around the corner. This will only serve to disillusion the public.

Even if we begin with only IITs and delay a single GLT for the final act, that still adds up to one GLT and multiple IITs as opposed to just one GLT and nothing else required by a more cold-turkey approach.

Piecemeal reform may be easier to sell to the public in the beginning, but in the long run, it seems woefully inefficient.

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Ἡ μόνη ἱερᾱ̀ ἀληθείᾱ ἐν φυσικῇ φιλοσοφίᾳ ἐστίν ἡ ἱερῶν ἀληθειῶν σπάνις.
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22-02-2016, 05:32 PM
RE: English Spelling Reform
So to recap: the benefits are evanescent and the implementation would be a horrendous nightmare.

Shucks, let's go for it!

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23-02-2016, 01:35 PM
RE: English Spelling Reform
(22-02-2016 05:25 PM)Glossophile Wrote:  The cause does matter if you want to argue that spelling reform is the reason for that loss of meaning, which is what I thought you were trying to say, since you brought up such semantic shifts as an argument against reform.

Look, it's quite simple. My argument was this: If the spelling of a word is changed, its meaning can change or be lost.
Whether because of similar sounds or a spelling reform, the spelling of a word can change and that means it may lose its meaning.

(22-02-2016 05:25 PM)Glossophile Wrote:  Luckily, you most likely wouldn't have to, since classic literature would be one of the first bodies of text to be officially transcribed en masse, so the transcriptions would already be readily available for you.

Shakespeare was just an example. You are missing the point.


(22-02-2016 05:25 PM)Glossophile Wrote:  I'm not sure what you're getting at here. The elementary textbooks would probably be written in the students' native language, and the new orthography would be one of the first things such books would teach. So by the time they're ready for more advanced books with much more limited usage of the native language, they'll be quite familiar with the spelling system.

What I meant was that even people who speak just a tiny bit of English would need to be taught again. Not to mention that countries all over the world would need to radically change their teaching system. This is not just about the US.

(22-02-2016 05:25 PM)Glossophile Wrote:  How could the spelling precede the accents? Are you telling me that Cretans spoke the mainland standard perfectly until standardized Dimotiki was introduced and then suddenly started diverging into a more unique accent afterwards? That makes no sense.

I was not talking about Dimotiki specifically. That was just one of the reforms that have taken place in history. What I'm saying is that the spelling of words changed many times, but it happened all over the country. The Cretans had the exact same writing system, spelling and grammar as other Greeks, yet they have developed (throughout the centuries) a different accent.

In their case, their accent preceded many reforms in Greek spelling.

(22-02-2016 05:25 PM)Glossophile Wrote:  My point was that the difficulty some Greeks are experiencing even after 40 years may have more to do with how the reform was promulgated than with the reform itself. Again, I recommend a transitional period of 50 years, during which the old and new orthographies would co-exist. How long was the transition for the final implementation of Dimotiki?

That is quite a complicated and interesting matter.
So, I called my mum who was at school during all those changes and I asked her about the whole thing.
She said that Katharevousa may have been around up until 1976, but even from 68 when she started school, it was not taught at schools. However, they were not taught Dimotiki either, it was rather a "simplified" Katharevousa. Then around 1980, the polytonic stress system was nullified in a single day, being considered a mistake when used from then on. She was in uni by then and it seems many people had a hard time and got lower grades because of it.

That basically means that even though Katharevousa was there, people were taught a simplified version of it, while speaking Dimotiki in casual conversation. So, there was no "official" transition, just the official abolishing of Katharevousa at some point. The changes to Dimotiki later were gradual.

You can still find old shop signs with the simplified version of Katharevousa and many official documents are still written in it or use phrases from it, but it seems the changes in schools were gradual without much consideration about what citizens were comfortable with.

My mum says she has forgotten most of the "old rules" as well as the polytonic system so it doesn't confuse her anymore, however what I said about people having difficulties was mostly about older people. I can't be sure how the state handled the whole thing and if that is the cause of the confusion, but my mum says she still feels the urge to write things differently than the norm (as I do too, since, as I've said, things changed even after I left school).

(22-02-2016 05:25 PM)Glossophile Wrote:  This is precisely why the process would likely be spread out over a few decades. I'll admit, the economics of it is still quite daunting, but I'm not convinced that it outright couldn't be done without proper planning.

It's still very, very unrealistic.

(22-02-2016 05:25 PM)Glossophile Wrote:  That last bit about making my country better, yes, there is plenty of room for interpretation there. But my estimate of how much faster children could acquire literacy is just middle-school mathematics. Let's say x is the rate of literacy acquisition in a shallow orthography (including what English could be if it were reformed) and E is the rate of literacy acquisition for current conventional English.

The study says, "The rate of development in English is more than twice as slow as in the shallow orthographies." Hence, E = 2x. A bit of algebra gives x = E/2. That is why I say that children could learn to read and write in roughly half the time it currently takes them.

Except education doesn't work like mathematics. There are many other factors to keep in mind that you may not even have thought about.

And yet, that last bit that is simply your opinion is the whole basis for your proposal. There is no tangible evidence or sufficient reason to put forth such extreme measures.

(22-02-2016 05:25 PM)Glossophile Wrote:  But why have the handicap at all if we don't have to? Reform could allow the mediocre to do well while those who are already doing well do even better.

Again, opinion.

(22-02-2016 05:25 PM)Glossophile Wrote:  Non-native speakers are actually one of the two main reasons I support reform (the other one being native children). In fact, I think English's current role as a worldwide lingua franca makes the sustainability of its complex orthography a more relevant issue than ever before.

I think you are underestimating children's ability to deal with languages. I've taught English to kids from ages 7 to 14 and I have never heard any of them complain, wonder or even comment on why this or that word is pronounced like that. They're simply told that this is how it is, and they somehow manage to learn it.

(22-02-2016 05:25 PM)Glossophile Wrote:  Oh, so you were talking about a piecemeal reform (as opposed to a cold-turkey reform). Again, some previous comments of mine from another forum might help explain why I don't think that's ultimately a good idea (the time scale is accelerated in comparison to my 50-year proposal, but that doesn't really impact the point being made).

Glossophile Wrote:Piecemeal reform (a reform implemented in stages rather than all at once) does seem like an almost ideal solution. It's bound to be gentler on public sensibilities and therefore easier to sell. However, in my opinion, there is also a rather substantial downside.

First, I must simplify things a bit for the purpose of easy illustration. So let's assume that the international commission identifies 10 rules of English spelling that, if rigorously enforced, can constitute a fully functional orthography all on their own.

For the sake of not having to repeat long phrases, I will also define a couple of shorthand terms:

Great Legacy Transcription (GLT) = a systematic re-spelling or transcription of virtually every pre-reform text imaginable, or at least all but the most trivial ones, for posterity (everything from classic literature to road signs); no doubt a massive undertaking only partially expedited by the likely aid of computers

Incremental Interim Transcription (IIT) = a systematic re-spelling or transcription of all texts produced since the first stage of piecemeal reform; basically a mini-GLT covering only those new writings produced in the intermission between stages

Hypothetical Timeline:

January 1, 2017
- all exceptions to rules 1 and 2 are re-spelled into adherence
- first GLT to bring pre-2017 texts into compliance with rules 1 and 2.

January 1, 2022
- all exceptions to rules 3 and 4 are re-spelled into adherence
- second GLT to make pre-2017 texts, previously made compliant with rules 1 and 2, now compliant with rules 3 and 4 as well
- first IIT to bring all written material produced between 2017 and 2022 into compliance with rules 3 and 4

January 1, 2027
- all exceptions to rules 5 and 6 are re-spelled into adherence
- third GLT to make pre-2017 texts, previously made compliant with rules 1-4, now compliant with rules 5 and 6 as well
- second IIT to bring all written material produced between 2022 and 2027 into compliance with rules 5 and 6

January 1, 2032
- all exceptions to rules 7 and 8 are re-spelled into adherence
- fourth GLT to make pre-2017 texts, previously made compliant with rules 1-6, now compliant with rules 7 and 8 as well
- third IIT to bring all written material produced between 2027 and 2032 into compliance with rules 7 and 8

January 1, 2037
- all exceptions to rules 9 and 10 are re-spelled into adherence
- fifth GLT to make pre-2017 texts,previously made compliant with rules 1-8, now compliant with rules 9 and 10 as well
- fourth IIT to bring all written material produced between 2032 and 2037 into compliance with rules 9 and 10

Now, a cold-turkey reform would look more like this:

January 1, 2017 – new orthography promulgated, GLT, new code taught in progressively lower grades over an agreed-upon timespan

Done!

Do you see the problem? Rather than have a single GLT and be done with it, the piecemeal approach requires several cumulative and layered GLTs/IITs to preserve access to heritage writings and make things as easy as possible for future historians who will increasingly rely on specialists to decrypt TS in their research. As costly as reform is likely to be in any case, doing it in phases is almost certain to multiply those costs significantly.

Plus, neither a GLT nor an IIT is an instantaneous event. The former especially will probably take a few years at least. This means that, unless the phases are spaced out at an arguably impractical speed, at about the time the first GLT or IIT is finally complete, the start of the next one will be just around the corner. This will only serve to disillusion the public.

Even if we begin with only IITs and delay a single GLT for the final act, that still adds up to one GLT and multiple IITs as opposed to just one GLT and nothing else required by a more cold-turkey approach.

Piecemeal reform may be easier to sell to the public in the beginning, but in the long run, it seems woefully inefficient.

Well, whatever, it's not like I'm advocating for it anyway Tongue
I'm against it in any possible way. I was just wondering about the abruptness of the whole thing. I see your point.

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23-02-2016, 06:44 PM
RE: English Spelling Reform

The only sacred truth in science is that there are no sacred truths. – Carl Sagan
Sōla vēritās sancta in philosophiā nātūrālī est absentia vēritātum sanctārum.
Ἡ μόνη ἱερᾱ̀ ἀληθείᾱ ἐν φυσικῇ φιλοσοφίᾳ ἐστίν ἡ ἱερῶν ἀληθειῶν σπάνις.
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23-02-2016, 06:47 PM
RE: English Spelling Reform
(23-02-2016 01:35 PM)undergroundp Wrote:  Look, it's quite simple. My argument was this: If the spelling of a word is changed, its meaning can change or be lost.

You haven't established that. To my recollection, every case that you've given as an example of meaning being lost or changed has been the result of something besides a change in spelling, therefore, the if-then relationship that you're positing has not been demonstrated. You're essentially affirming the consequent.

(23-02-2016 01:35 PM)undergroundp Wrote:  Shakespeare was just an example. You are missing the point.

I mentioned classic literature as a whole, not just Shakespeare. And now that I think about it, academic journals (or at least the major ones) would be a good candidate for high-priority transcription as well.

(23-02-2016 01:35 PM)undergroundp Wrote:  In their case, their accent preceded many reforms in Greek spelling.

As is likely the case in general, which was exactly my point.

(23-02-2016 01:35 PM)undergroundp Wrote:  What I meant was that even people who speak just a tiny bit of English would need to be taught again. Not to mention that countries all over the world would need to radically change their teaching system. This is not just about the US.

Much of your general concern over the difficulties that reform might present to those already literate or partially literate could most likely be minimized by pacing the implementation of reform just right. It seems to me like the major upheavals in Greek spelling happened within a timeframe significantly shorter than the half-century that I propose for English.

(23-02-2016 01:35 PM)undergroundp Wrote:  Except education doesn't work like mathematics. There are many other factors to keep in mind that you may not even have thought about.

And yet, that last bit that is simply your opinion is the whole basis for your proposal. There is no tangible evidence or sufficient reason to put forth such extreme measures.

It is not the whole basis for my proposal. The main benefit is enabling children to acquire foundational literacy much faster than they currently do and perhaps also empowering the poorest of readers/writers to catch up to those more proficient. Those are both reasonable to expect. Now, extrapolating from there to children becoming more academically inclined due to being encouraged by earlier success at reading/writing, that is a more speculative matter at this point. But even if that turns out to be overly optimistic, I still think just shaving off a year or two of literacy training will be worth it, especially in the long run.

As for other factors in literacy education, were those factors not also present in the students sampled in the 2003 study? Whatever the multi-faceted causes of the extended time it takes to become foundationally literate in English, does not the ratio given in the paper apply proportionally to all those factors as an amalgamation?

(23-02-2016 01:35 PM)undergroundp Wrote:  I think you are underestimating children's ability to deal with languages. I've taught English to kids from ages 7 to 14 and I have never heard any of them complain, wonder or even comment on why this or that word is pronounced like that. They're simply told that this is how it is, and they somehow manage to learn it.

Again, the question is not just whether they can ultimately master English orthography, but also whether it takes them significantly longer than it really should, and how much time and money could be saved if we offered a much simpler system.

The only sacred truth in science is that there are no sacred truths. – Carl Sagan
Sōla vēritās sancta in philosophiā nātūrālī est absentia vēritātum sanctārum.
Ἡ μόνη ἱερᾱ̀ ἀληθείᾱ ἐν φυσικῇ φιλοσοφίᾳ ἐστίν ἡ ἱερῶν ἀληθειῶν σπάνις.
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24-02-2016, 12:52 AM
RE: English Spelling Reform
(23-02-2016 06:47 PM)Glossophile Wrote:  Again, the question is not just whether they can ultimately master English orthography, but also whether it takes them significantly longer than it really should, and how much time and money could be saved if we offered a much simpler system.

Hey if Christians and Muslims just *got on*, how much money and so forth could be saved? You're divorced from reality dude.

Unless your system offers significant and obvious benefits that anyone, not just language students, not just those who have to learn English as a second language, *also* those who know and like the current system, can appreciate - it is doomed.

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(06-02-2014 03:47 PM)Momsurroundedbyboys Wrote:  And I'm giving myself a conclusion again from all the facepalming.
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