English Spelling Reform
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08-02-2016, 09:56 PM (This post was last modified: 08-02-2016 10:06 PM by Bucky Ball.)
RE: English Spelling Reform
Oh noes.
If you change anything, how are we supposed to know about Horus and Isis ?
(Sorry ... too long to explain ... had to be here for a while).

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08-02-2016, 10:07 PM
RE: English Spelling Reform
(08-02-2016 09:54 PM)Glossophile Wrote:  How would information be lost if all texts are either already transcribed or easily transcribable by software?

The information in the words themselves - their spelling is the information about their origins and meanings.

Quote:What other form of disruption would there be that would last for generations?

Given that a generation is 20 - 25 years and lifetimes are 80+, then the transition would last at least 4 generations.

Quote:The amount of text in existence is enormous, I'm sure (to the point that "enormous" doesn't really do it justice), which is why I've proposed the development of on-demand transcription software, so that only the more important texts have to be transcribed en masse. The really obscure stuff can be transcribed as needed on a personal basis.

I think you are underestimating the amount of text.
You haven't addressed the printed material - most of which is not digitized.

Quote:The transcription would be done mostly by computers, which means that very little training will be necessary. What I imagine is that human transcribers would only get involved when the computer encounters a word it doesn't quite know what to do with and alerts them that it needs some help, which I think would be a proportionally rare occurrence.

Except for the bulk of the existing text which is not yet digitized.

Quote:Chinese has already been alphabetized in the form of Pinyin, unless by "alphabetized" you meant rendered into an alphabet for use as an official standard orthography rather than a teaching aid for the traditional characters.

Pinyin is a tool for transcription and pronunciation, not an orthography in general use.

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08-02-2016, 10:11 PM
RE: English Spelling Reform
(08-02-2016 09:22 PM)Chas Wrote:  
(08-02-2016 09:10 PM)Fireball Wrote:  "Regularization" of French spelling actually occurred in the 1800s. When you see a caret over the vowel in a word, you still know how to say it, but the caret is there to tell the old folks that there used to be an "s" after that vowel. 120 year old news, but it's from France; I'm not faulting you. France actually has a committee that has as its mission to maintain the "purity" of the language.

"ghoti"- you crack me up! I heard that joke decades ago! (I'm OLD)

Glossophile, if you want it all tied down and regular to nearly the last detail, just move to Germany. I admire the fact that German is pretty much always spelled the way it sounds, and if you see it in writing, you can pronounce it.

Missing ].

Thanks! I was having a helluva time with why it didn't show up.
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08-02-2016, 10:21 PM
RE: English Spelling Reform
We tried the radical English reform before. A fella named Daniel Webster pushed it for ages - and what we wound up with was a more confusing language than ever. After all his railing and rallying some of his words got adopted, a lot did not. There was no rhyme or reason as to which spellings were adopted either, it wasn't as if we said "Okay, that's a good rule, well apply it to similar words across the board". Nope. Just seemingly random for the most part. Some rules were generally adopted, but a lot of it was just because "Fuck you, we don't like that". Some spellings were half-adopted, and now have two or more accepted spellings in America/Canada. Most never got adopted overseas. A few have crept in in the 20th century and beyond causing the same problems there as it did here. That is how I describe the most successfully spelling reform in the English language in the past 300 years. English, unlike other languages such as German, is not efficient. It's an art. Its a living organism. It's a hodgepodge of words, phrases, and symbols that we inject, and abandon at whim. It's a behemoth, spoken nearly every where, with no way of creating an authority to govern it at this point. Just accept it's faults, and shortcomings along with it's charm and intrigue.

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08-02-2016, 11:08 PM
RE: English Spelling Reform
Spelling bees would suffer. Children learn to spell the most complicated words through origins and historical usage, etc. The history of a language is beautiful.

So tell me, under your system, would you change foreign words that perfectly explain what they are describing, such as lasagna (lazanya) or dejavu (dayzavoo)? I have to admit it pisses me off when I read a container in the cheese aisle that says "Parmasan" when it's parmigiano. There seems to be this underlying pompous attitude when foreign words that are easily pronounced or spelled get changed to suit English speakers. Why Spain and not Espana? Why Italy and not Italia? It's not as if we are using different letters. There is no fucking Y in the Italian language yet whoever came up with the spelling forced a Y in there. Are we not capable of pronouncing or spelling Italia? Really?

Sorry, but this whole topic is a non-starter for me and the simplifying of words is just irritating. If there is a need to do this then I see that as a blight on our overall educational system, not a problem that needs a patch, but a cure.

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08-02-2016, 11:12 PM (This post was last modified: 08-02-2016 11:29 PM by Glossophile.)
RE: English Spelling Reform
Chas, I've already addressed at length the issue of losing embedded information on word histories in an earlier response. Here's the relevant passage again.

"Glossophile Wrote:It is true that the etymology of words would no longer be reflected in their spellings, but I fail to see why that's really problematic.

First of all, even with all the etymological cues in current spelling, the typical layman's knowledge of word histories is superficial and scattered at best, and few really care to learn more.

Second of all, why should they necessarily care? Don't get me wrong. I personally find etymology/philology fascinating, but I also realize it's not everyone's cup of tea. While literacy is fundamentally useful for everyone (to the point of being indispensable in all but the least developed societies), etymology/philology is a specialized field of study, one whose scholars don't even rely exclusively (if even primarily) on orthographic clues. So why should a tool meant for the masses (especially one as important as reading and writing) cater so disproportionately to the esoteric interests of a relative few?

Thirdly, in my experience studying several foreign languages, I have never encountered another language with anything quite like the English preoccupation with etymology. Only French and maybe Portuguese are even in the ballpark. Are Hispanics or Italians as a group inherently less in touch with their roots simply because their language isn't spelled as if it were still Latin? Many critics seem to cry out that a big chunk of our heritage would be lost if we were to spell as we speak, but other languages with more consistent orthographies and histories that are no less ancient or proud seem to fare just fine with regards to historical pride and consciousness. At the very least, they don't appear any worse off in that department than we are. Honestly, I'm very suspicious that English-speakers' reverence for etymology emerged as a sort of after-the-fact justification for an already inconsistent spelling system. In other words, if history had gone differently and English had been reformed to reflect modern pronunciation more coherently, I doubt English-speakers would be any more concerned about etymology or historical heritage than speakers of Spanish or Italian are.

WillHopp, please see the above on word origins and language history. As for spelling bees, their very existence past the first grade is a symptom of the problem, and as for the "blight on our overall educational system," my view is that you have it backwards. Reforming the pedagogy would be the Band-Aid (or "patch"), while reforming the spelling itself would be the deeper cure. I've studied Italian and respect it as much as any other language, but once a foreign word is entered into our monolingual English dictionaries, as far as I'm concerned, we've made the word our own. At that point, it's time to let English be English. The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France. Would you prefer to have the famous poem on its pedestal about the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" inscribed in French?

I'm still unclear as to precisely what kind of "disruption" you're talking about that I haven't already addressed.

As for non-digital text, that's what scanners and character-recognition software is for. Granted, it's not quite 100% accurate, but it shows enough promise for me to be optimistic about it being up to the task by the time reform becomes a real possibility (if it ever does).

Fireball, if you admire the consistency of German spelling, why would you not want to see the same quality in English?

Dark Light, all languages are artistic and "living," but that doesn't preclude a sensible orthography any more for English than it does for any other language. Your well-informed description of Webster's attempts actually supports my point. His reforms largely failed precisely because they were unsystematic and did not apply the rules "across the board," as you put it. That is why I am proposing something strictly rule-based without any exceptions.

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09-02-2016, 12:28 AM
RE: English Spelling Reform
(08-02-2016 08:37 PM)Glossophile Wrote:  Chas, it is only "ugly and ridiculous" in comparison to the spelling to which you are accustomed. I submit to you that there is nothing inherently more respectable about "coup d'état," but you likely perceive it as more elegant just because you've been conditioned for so long to think there's something special about it. Please consider the possibility that you are confusing sheer familiarity with intrinsic beauty. A hypothetical person raised and educated under reformed spelling would probably find "kúdeita" perfectly pretty while finding "coup d'état" quite odd and possibly grotesque.

As for it not being English, if it's in the dictionary (and it is), it's ours. Plus, at least half of the English lexicon is ultimately French (or Latin). While I suppose there should be a minimum age for loan words to be respelled (e.g. it must have been in the language for at least 50 years before it is Anglicized), I don't believe any word should escape orthographic naturalization forever. Much of the problem is that so many words have done exactly that for centuries.

Dancefortwo, could I talk you into experimenting with my proposed spelling system? I would be very interested to see how much easier it might be for someone with challenges like yours.

Um. No. I'm messed up enough. I don't need any more spell shaming. Or is that shamming? I donno. Whatever.

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09-02-2016, 07:54 PM
RE: English Spelling Reform
(08-02-2016 11:12 PM)Glossophile Wrote:  WillHopp, please see the above on word origins and language history. As for spelling bees, their very existence past the first grade is a symptom of the problem, and as for the "blight on our overall educational system," my view is that you have it backwards. Reforming the pedagogy would be the Band-Aid (or "patch"), while reforming the spelling itself would be the deeper cure. I've studied Italian and respect it as much as any other language, but once a foreign word is entered into our monolingual English dictionaries, as far as I'm concerned, we've made the word our own. At that point, it's time to let English be English. The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France. Would you prefer to have the famous poem on its pedestal about the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" inscribed in French?

First, your analogy is poor, to say the least, and not just because the New Colossus poem was written by an American and was never written in anything but English. But a better analogy would have been to say the Statue of Liberty was from the French, and since it's ours now, why not give her earrings and a bible to better represent our culture? And of course this is ridiculous. Why? Because the Statue of Liberty is what it is and isn't supposed to be reimagined or repurposed. Just like foreign words are describing what their native speakers wish. American English is a perfect personification of America itself in that we are a melting pot of cultures and nations, therefore our language should reflect that, quirky spellings and all. The reason we have such a language is because we were late coming to the party. If you want different spellings, why not come up with truly original words for what you are trying to describe? I mean, if you (and by "you" I mean the students you are defending) are so baffled and discouraged by the spelling of lasagna, what not call it rufflecheez? That way, you truly own it and can invent the most simplistic spelling.

If our educational system can't teach children how to spell words effectively and correctly, the answer isn't to dumb down the spellings to a phonetic nightmare. The answer is to revamp the educational system. Of course the country is going out of its mind over Common Core math so good luck with changing the spellings of words.

Your suggestion that "because words are in our dictionary they now belong to us" is the symptom of a bigger problem, that too many Americans believe their way is the right way and only way. If the country shaped like a boot calls itself Italia, who are we to rename it Italy? I really appreciate your passion for this topic, but I find it a non-starter and hardly on the level of say the Cantonese-Mandarin transformation.

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09-02-2016, 08:13 PM
RE: English Spelling Reform
If we were to go through such a radical change, I'd rather it be in the form of switching to a more rationally constructed language that is not English like Esperanto. I don't see it happening. People tend to be emotionally connected to things like language. Threatening to change it is viewed as an attack on their culture or way of life. It might be more practical to get everyone on the same page by means of an international standard once robots take over the world and can administrate a global education system with some degree of consistency.

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09-02-2016, 08:30 PM
RE: English Spelling Reform
(08-02-2016 11:12 PM)Glossophile Wrote:  Chas, I've already addressed at length the issue of losing embedded information on word histories in an earlier response. Here's the relevant passage again.

Your passage wasn't actually particularly relevant, it was just your dismissive opinions.

Etymology is important in English precisely because English is a mongrel language. Recognizing the roots of words helps to discern their meanings, both denotive and connotative.

Someone learning vocabulary can be aided by recognizing the root words that form it, or the source language. The roots of modern English are Greek, Latin, Old English, Norman French, Scandinavian and Germanic languages - this is why etymology is important, interesting, and useful.

You go right ahead and be dismissive of it, ignoring its importance to keep your hobbyhorse rocking.

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