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English spelling reform

English spelling reform

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Encyclopedia
For hundreds of years, many groups and individuals have advocated spelling reform
Spelling reform
Many languages have undergone spelling reform, where a deliberate, often officially sanctioned or mandated, change to spelling takes place. Proposals for such reform are also common....

 for English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

. Spelling reformers seek to make English spelling
English orthography
English orthography is the alphabetic spelling system used by the English language. English orthography, like other alphabetic orthographies, uses a set of habits to represent speech sounds in writing. In most other languages, these habits are regular enough so that they may be called rules...

 more consistent and more phonetic
Phonetics
Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that comprises the study of the sounds of human speech, or—in the case of sign languages—the equivalent aspects of sign. It is concerned with the physical properties of speech sounds or signs : their physiological production, acoustic properties, auditory...

, so that spellings match pronunciations and follow the alphabetic principle
Alphabetic principle
According to the alphabetic principle, letters and combinations of letters are the symbols used to represent the speech sounds of a language based on systematic and predictable relationships between written letters, symbols, and spoken words...

.

Common motives for spelling reform include making the language easier to learn, making it more useful for international communication, or saving time, money and effort.

Spelling reform proposals can be divided into two main groups: those that use the traditional English alphabet
English alphabet
The modern English alphabet is a Latin alphabet consisting of 26 letters and 2 ligatures – the same letters that are found in the Basic modern Latin alphabet:...

, and those that would extend or replace it. The former are more conservative and do not introduce any new letters or symbols. The latter may involve adding letters and symbols from other alphabets or creating an entirely new one. Some reformers favor an immediate and total reform, while others would prefer a gradual change implemented in stages.

Some spelling reform proposals have been adopted partially or temporarily. Many of the reforms proposed by Noah Webster
Noah Webster
Noah Webster was an American educator, lexicographer, textbook pioneer, English spelling reformer, political writer, editor, and prolific author...

 have become standard in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 but have not been adopted elsewhere (see American and British English spelling differences
American and British English spelling differences
One of the ways in which American English and British English differ is in spelling.-Historical origins:In the early 18th century, English spelling was not standardized. Differences became noticeable after the publishing of influential dictionaries...

). Harry Lindgren
Harry Lindgren
Harry Lindgren was a British/Australian engineer, linguist and amateur mathematician. He was born in Newcastle-on-Tyne in England.In 1935 he emigrated to Australia...

’s proposal, SR1
SR1
Spelling Reform 1 or Spelling Reform step 1 is an English spelling reform proposal advocated by Harry Lindgren. It calls for the short sound to always be spelt with E. For example, friend would become frend and head would become hed...

, was popular in Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 for a number of years and was temporarily adopted by the Australian Government.

Spelling reform has rarely attracted widespread public support, sometimes due to organized resistance and sometimes due to lack of interest. There are a number of linguistic arguments against reform; for example that the origins of words may be obscured. There are also many obstacles to reform: this includes the effort and money that may be needed to implement a wholesale change, the lack of an English language authority or regulator, and the challenge of getting people to accept spellings that they are unaccustomed to.

History


After the invention of the printing press
Printing press
A printing press is a device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium , thereby transferring the ink...

 in the 1440s, English spelling began to become fixed. This took place gradually through printing houses, whereby the master printer would choose the spellings "that most pleased his fancy". These spellings then became the "house style". Many of the earliest printing houses that printed English were staffed by Hollanders, who changed many spellings to match their Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 orthography. Examples include the silent h in ghost (to match Dutch gheest, which later became geest), aghast, ghastly and gherkin. The silent h in other words—such as ghospel, ghossip and ghizzard—was later removed.

There have been two periods when spelling reform of the English language has attracted particular interest.

16th and 17th centuries


The first of these periods was between the middle of the 16th century to the middle of the 17th when a number of publications outlining proposals for reform were published. Some of these proposals were:
  • De recta et emendata linguæ angliæ scriptione in 1568 by Sir Thomas Smith, Secretary of State to Edward VI and Elizabeth I
  • An Orthographie in 1569 by John Hart, Chester Herald
    Chester Herald
    Chester Herald of Arms in Ordinary is an officer of arms at the College of Arms in London. The office of Chester Herald dates from the 14th century, and it is reputed that the holder was herald to Edward, Prince of Wales, the Black Prince. In the reign of King Richard II the officer was attached...

  • Booke at Large for the Amendment of English Orthographie in 1580 by William Bullokar
    William Bullokar
    William Bullokar was a 16th-century printer who devised a 40-letter phonetic alphabet for the English language. Its characters were in the black-letter or "gothic" writing style commonly used at the time...

  • Logonomia Anglica in 1621 by Dr. Alexander Gill, headmaster of St Paul's School in London
  • English Grammar in 1634 by Charles Butler
    Charles Butler (beekeeper)
    Charles Butler , sometimes called the Father of English Beekeeping, was a logician, grammarist, author, minister , and an influential beekeeper. He was also an early proponent of English spelling reform...

    , vicar of Wootton St Lawrence
    Wootton, Hampshire
    Wootton is a small village in Hampshire, England, west of Basingstoke. The name is derived from the Old English wudu tun meaning woodland settlement or farm.-History:...



These proposals generally did not attract serious consideration because they were of too radical a nature or were based on an insufficient understanding of the phonology of English. However, more conservative proposals were more successful. James Howell
James Howell
James Howell was a 17th-century Anglo-Welsh historian and writer who is in many ways a representative figure of his age. The son of a Welsh clergyman, he was for much of his life in the shadow of his elder brother Thomas Howell, who became Lord Bishop of Bristol.-Education:In 1613 he gained his B.A...

 in his Grammar of 1662 recommended minor changes to spelling, such as changing logique to logic, warre to war, sinne to sin, toune to town and true to tru. Many of these spellings are now in general use.

From the 16th century onward, English writers who were scholars of Greek
Ancient Greek literature
Ancient Greek literature refers to literature written in the Ancient Greek language until the 4th century.- Classical and Pre-Classical Antiquity :...

 and Latin literature
Latin literature
Latin literature includes the essays, histories, poems, plays, and other writings of the ancient Romans. In many ways, it seems to be a continuation of Greek literature, using many of the same forms...

 tried to link English words to their Graeco-Latin counterparts. They did this by adding silent letters to make the real or imagined links more obvious. Thus det became debt (to link it to Latin debitum), dout became doubt (to link it to Latin dubitare), sissors became scissors and sithe became scythe (as they were wrongly thought to come from Latin scindere), iland became island (as it was wrongly thought to come from Latin insula), ake became ache (as it was wrongly thought to come from Greek akhos), and so forth.

The English Restoration
English Restoration
The Restoration of the English monarchy began in 1660 when the English, Scottish and Irish monarchies were all restored under Charles II after the Interregnum that followed the Wars of the Three Kingdoms...

 also brought with it the introduction of a rococo
Rococo
Rococo , also referred to as "Late Baroque", is an 18th-century style which developed as Baroque artists gave up their symmetry and became increasingly ornate, florid, and playful...

 French influence, prompting English spelling towards a cavalier retreat to a complex spelling culture (e.g., 'Charles' replacing 'Charls'), arguably associated with the monarchy, which lasts to this day. Oxford, one-time headquarters of the embattled Royalist army, now hosts the English dictionary so equated with supreme English linguistic authority in the current era (although it has been argued that those publishing dictionaries thereby have a commercial interest in keeping spelling less than transparent).

19th century



The second period started in the 19th century and appears to coincide with the development of phonetics as a science. In 1806, Noah Webster
Noah Webster
Noah Webster was an American educator, lexicographer, textbook pioneer, English spelling reformer, political writer, editor, and prolific author...

 published his first dictionary, A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. It included an essay on the oddities of modern orthography and his proposals for reform. Many of the spellings he used, such as color and center, would become hallmarks of American English
American English
American English is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of the world's native speakers of English live in the United States....

. In 1807 Webster began compiling an expanded dictionary. It was published in 1828 as An American Dictionary of the English Language. Although it drew some protest, the reformed spellings were gradually adopted throughout the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

.

In 1837, Isaac Pitman
Isaac Pitman
Sir Isaac Pitman , knighted in 1894, developed the most widely used system of shorthand, known now as Pitman shorthand. He first proposed this in Stenographic Soundhand in 1837. Pitman was a qualified teacher and taught at a private school he founded in Wotton-under-Edge...

 published his system of phonetic shorthand
Pitman Shorthand
Pitman shorthand is a system of shorthand for the English language developed by Englishman Sir Isaac Pitman , who first presented it in 1837. Like most systems of shorthand, it is a phonetic system; the symbols do not represent letters, but rather sounds, and words are, for the most part, written...

, while in 1848 Alexander John Ellis
Alexander John Ellis
Alexander John Ellis FRS was an English mathematician and philologist. He changed his name from his father's name Sharpe to his mother's maiden name Ellis in 1825, based on a condition for receiving significant financial support from a relative on his mother's side.- Biography :He was born...

 published A Plea for Phonetic Spelling. Both of these were proposals for a new phonetic alphabet. Although unsuccessful, they drew widespread interest.

By the 1870s, the philological societies of Great Britain and America chose to consider the matter. After the "International Convention for the Amendment of English Orthography" that was held in Philadelphia in August 1876, societies were founded such as the English Spelling Reform Association and American Spelling Reform Association. That year, the American Philological Society adopted a list of eleven reformed spellings for immediate use. These were: are→ar, give→giv, have→hav, live→liv, though→tho, through→thru, guard→gard, catalogue→catalog, (in)definite→(in)definit, wished→wisht. In 1883, the American Philological Society and American Philological Association
American Philological Association
The American Philological Association , founded in 1869, is a non-profit North American scholarly organization devoted to all aspects of Greek and Roman civilization...

 worked together to produce 24 spelling reform rules, which were published that year. In 1898, the American National Education Association
National Education Association
The National Education Association is the largest professional organization and largest labor union in the United States, representing public school teachers and other support personnel, faculty and staffers at colleges and universities, retired educators, and college students preparing to become...

 adopted its own list of 12 words to be used in all writings. These were: tho, altho, thoro, thorofare, thru, thruout, catalog, decalog, demagog, pedagog, prolog, program.

20th century onward


The Simplified Spelling Board
Simplified Spelling Board
The Simplified Spelling Board was an American organization created in 1906 to reform the spelling of the English language, making it simpler and easier to learn, and eliminating many of its inconsistencies...

 was founded in the United States in 1906. The SSB's original 30 members consisted of authors, professors and dictionary editors. Andrew Carnegie
Andrew Carnegie
Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish-American industrialist, businessman, and entrepreneur who led the enormous expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century...

, a founding member, supported the SSB with yearly bequests of more than US$300,000. In April 1906 it published a list of 300 words, which included 157 spellings that were already in common use in American English. In August 1906 the SSB word list was adopted by Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

, who ordered the Government Printing Office to start using them immediately. However, in December 1906 the U.S. Congress passed a resolution and the old spellings were reintroduced. Nevertheless, some of the spellings survived and are commonly used in American English today, such as anaemia/anæmiaanemia and mouldmold. Others such as mixedmixt and scythesithe did not survive. In 1920, the SSB published its Handbook of Simplified Spelling, which set forth over 25 spelling reform rules. The handbook noted that every reformed spelling now in general use was originally the overt act of a lone writer, who was followed at first by a small minority. Thus, it encouraged people to "point the way" and "set the example" by using the reformed spellings whenever they can. However, with its main source of funds cut off, the SSB disbanded later that year.

In Britain, the cause of spelling reform was promoted from 1908 by the Simplified Spelling Society
Simplified Spelling Society
The English Spelling Society is an international organisation, based in the United Kingdom. It was founded in 1908 as the Simplified Spelling Society and celebrated its Centenary Conference at Coventry University in June 2008...

 and attracted a number of prominent supporters. One of these was George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60...

 (author of Pygmalion
Pygmalion (play)
Pygmalion: A Romance in Five Acts is a play by Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. Professor of phonetics Henry Higgins makes a bet that he can train a bedraggled Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, to pass for a duchess at an ambassador's garden party by teaching her to assume a veneer of...

) and much of his considerable will
Will (law)
A will or testament is a legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his/her estate and provides for the transfer of his/her property at death...

 was left to the cause. Among members of the society the conditions of his will
Shavian alphabet
The Shavian alphabet is an alphabet conceived as a way to provide simple, phonetic orthography for the English language to replace the difficulties of the conventional spelling. It was posthumously funded by and named after Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw...

 gave rise to major disagreements which hindered the development of a single new system.

In 1949, a Labour MP
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

, Dr. Mont Follick
Mont Follick
Dr. Mont Follick was a British Labour Party politician, and a campaigner for spelling reform. He was Member of Parliament for Loughborough from 1945 to 1955, having previously held the post of professor of English at the University of Madrid in Spain...

, introduced a private member's bill
Private Member's Bill
A member of parliament’s legislative motion, called a private member's bill or a member's bill in some parliaments, is a proposed law introduced by a member of a legislature. In most countries with a parliamentary system, most bills are proposed by the government, not by individual members of the...

 in the House of Commons, which failed at the second reading. However in 1953 he again had the opportunity and this time it passed the second reading by 65 votes to 53. Because of anticipated opposition from the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

, the bill was withdrawn after assurances from the Minister of Education that research would be made into improving spelling education. This led in 1961 to James Pitman
James Pitman
Sir James Pitman, KBE was a British businessman, civil servant, publisher, politician and spelling reformer.Sir James was vitally concerned with the teaching of children to write the English language...

's Initial Teaching Alphabet
Initial Teaching Alphabet
The Initial Teaching Alphabet was developed by Sir James Pitman in the early 1960s...

, introduced into many British schools in an attempt to improve child literacy. Although it succeeded in its own terms, the advantages were lost when children transferred to conventional spelling and after several decades the experiment was discontinued.

In 1969 Harry Lindgren
Harry Lindgren
Harry Lindgren was a British/Australian engineer, linguist and amateur mathematician. He was born in Newcastle-on-Tyne in England.In 1935 he emigrated to Australia...

 proposed Spelling Reform 1
SR1
Spelling Reform 1 or Spelling Reform step 1 is an English spelling reform proposal advocated by Harry Lindgren. It calls for the short sound to always be spelt with E. For example, friend would become frend and head would become hed...

(SR1), which calls for the short /ɛ/ sound (as in bet) to always be spelt with <e> (for example friend→frend, head→hed). For a short time, this proposal was popular in Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 and was adopted by the Australian Government
Government of Australia
The Commonwealth of Australia is a federal constitutional monarchy under a parliamentary democracy. The Commonwealth of Australia was formed in 1901 as a result of an agreement among six self-governing British colonies, which became the six states...

. In Geoffrey Sampson
Geoffrey Sampson
Geoffrey Sampson is Professor of Natural Language Computing in the Department of Informatics, University of Sussex....

's book Writing Systems (1985) he wrote that SR1 "has been adopted widely by Australians. Many general interest paperbacks and the like are printed in SR1; under Gough Whitlam
Gough Whitlam
Edward Gough Whitlam, AC, QC , known as Gough Whitlam , served as the 21st Prime Minister of Australia. Whitlam led the Australian Labor Party to power at the 1972 election and retained government at the 1974 election, before being dismissed by Governor-General Sir John Kerr at the climax of the...

's Labor Government the Australian Ministry of Helth was officially so spelled (though, when Whitlam was replaced by a liberal
Liberal Party of Australia
The Liberal Party of Australia is an Australian political party.Founded a year after the 1943 federal election to replace the United Australia Party, the centre-right Liberal Party typically competes with the centre-left Australian Labor Party for political office...

 administration, it reintroduced orthographic conservatism)".

Arguments for reform


Advocates of spelling reform make these basic arguments:

Spelling should change alongside pronunciation

  • Pronunciations change gradually over time and the alphabetic principle
    Alphabetic principle
    According to the alphabetic principle, letters and combinations of letters are the symbols used to represent the speech sounds of a language based on systematic and predictable relationships between written letters, symbols, and spoken words...

     that lies behind English (and every other alphabetically written language) gradually becomes corrupted. If the maintenance of regularity in the orthography of English is desired, then spelling needs to be amended to account for the changes.
  • Spellings do change, regardless of conscious public resistance, just slowly and not in any organized way. Music was spelt as musick until the 1880s, and fantasy was spelt as phantasy until the 1920s.

Ambiguity leads to confusion


Unlike many other languages, English spelling has never been systematically updated and, as a result, today only partly observes the alphabetic principle. As a consequence, English orthography is a system of weak rules with many exceptions and ambiguities.

Most phoneme
Phoneme
In a language or dialect, a phoneme is the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances....

s in English can be spelled in more than one way. Conversely, many graphemes in English have multiple pronunciations, such as the different pronunciations of the combination ough
Ough (combination)
Ough is a letter sequence often seen in words in the English language. In Middle English, where the spelling arose, it was probably pronounced with a back rounded vowel and a velar fricative, e.g., or . It is by far the sequence of letters with the most unpredictable pronunciation, having at least...

 in words like through, though, thought, thorough, tough, and trough. These kinds of incoherences can be found throughout the English language
English orthography
English orthography is the alphabetic spelling system used by the English language. English orthography, like other alphabetic orthographies, uses a set of habits to represent speech sounds in writing. In most other languages, these habits are regular enough so that they may be called rules...

, and would naturally cause extra difficulty in learning and practice and lead to uncertainty due to their sheer number.

Such ambiguity is particularly problematic in the case of homograph
Homograph
A homograph is a word or a group of words that share the same written form but have different meanings. When spoken, the meanings may be distinguished by different pronunciations, in which case the words are also heteronyms. Words with the same writing and pronunciation A homograph (from the ,...

s with different pronunciations that vary according to context, such as bow, desert, live, read, tear, wind, and wound. Ambiguous words like these make it necessary to learn the correct context in which to use the different pronunciations and thus increase the difficulty of learning to read English.

As an ideal, a closer relationship between phoneme
Phoneme
In a language or dialect, a phoneme is the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances....

s and spellings may eliminate most exceptions and ambiguities and make the language easier to master for students. If done with care, a revision in such a direction would not impose an undue burden on mature native speakers.

We should undo the damage


  • Some proposed simplified spellings – such as frend for friend (see Shakespeare's grave, right) and ake for ache – already exist as variant spellings in old literature. Reinstating these old forms would not create new spellings.
  • Some exceptions in English spelling are the result of attempts by scholars to "correct" older spelling by adding silent letters to reflect the word's Latin or Greek origin, or create a false correlation with those. For example, the word island was thought to come from Latin
    Latin
    Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

     insula, but is actually of Anglo-Saxon origin and was once spelled igland, and later, iland (compare with the corresponding Dutch
    Dutch language
    Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

     word eiland).
  • Doubt and debt have never been pronounced with a [b] sound; they came to English from French, and the 'b' was taken in from their Latin antecedents dubitum and debitum.

Coherence with etymological roots


Many English words are based on French modifications (e.g., colour and analogue) even though they are derived from Latin or Greek. Spelling reform by reason of etymological origin should not be confused with phonetic spelling reform, even though the spelling of some words may converge; in other cases, the objectives may be divergent (e.g., fibre). See American and British English spelling differences
American and British English spelling differences
One of the ways in which American English and British English differ is in spelling.-Historical origins:In the early 18th century, English spelling was not standardized. Differences became noticeable after the publishing of influential dictionaries...

 for greater detail.

We should remove redundancy

  • The English alphabet
    English alphabet
    The modern English alphabet is a Latin alphabet consisting of 26 letters and 2 ligatures – the same letters that are found in the Basic modern Latin alphabet:...

     contains several letters whose characteristic sounds are already represented elsewhere in the alphabet. These include X
    X
    X is the twenty-fourth letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet.-Uses:In mathematics, x is commonly used as the name for an independent variable or unknown value. The usage of x to represent an independent or unknown variable can be traced back to the Arabic word šay شيء = “thing,” used in Arabic...

    , Q
    Q
    Q is the seventeenth letter of the basic modern Latin alphabet.- History :The Semitic sound value of Qôp was , a sound common to Semitic languages, but not found in English or most Indo-European ones...

     and C
    C
    Ĉ or ĉ is a consonant in Esperanto orthography, representing the sound .Esperanto orthography uses a diacritic for all four of its postalveolar consonants, as do the Latin-based Slavic alphabets...

    . As a result, many linguists consider our use of the alphabet to be redundant and inefficient.

Obstacles


There are a number of barriers in the development and implementation of a reformed orthography for English:
  • Public resistance to spelling reform has been consistently strong, at least since the early 19th century, when spelling was codified by the influential English dictionaries
    Dictionary
    A dictionary is a collection of words in one or more specific languages, often listed alphabetically, with usage information, definitions, etymologies, phonetics, pronunciations, and other information; or a book of words in one language with their equivalents in another, also known as a lexicon...

     of Samuel Johnson
    Samuel Johnson
    Samuel Johnson , often referred to as Dr. Johnson, was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer...

     (1755) and Noah Webster
    Noah Webster
    Noah Webster was an American educator, lexicographer, textbook pioneer, English spelling reformer, political writer, editor, and prolific author...

     (1806).
  • English vocabulary is largely a melding of ancient Latin, Greek, French and Germanic terms, which have very different phonemes and approaches to spelling. Some reform proposals tend to favor one approach over the other, resulting in a large percentage of words that must change spelling to fit the new scheme.
  • The large number of vowel sounds in English and the small number of vowel letters make phonemic spelling difficult to achieve. This is especially true for the three vowels /uː/ (e.g.: fume, moon), /ʌ/ (e.g.: hut, sun) and /ʊ/ (e.g.: look, put) which are represented in English by only two symbols, oo and u. Spelling these phonemically cannot be done without resorting to unusual or novel letter combinations, diacritic
    Diacritic
    A diacritic is a glyph added to a letter, or basic glyph. The term derives from the Greek διακριτικός . Diacritic is both an adjective and a noun, whereas diacritical is only an adjective. Some diacritical marks, such as the acute and grave are often called accents...

     marks or the introduction of new letters.
  • The variety of local accents makes it difficult to agree upon spellings which take into account most accents. Furthermore, some words have more than one acceptable pronunciation, regardless of dialect (e.g. economic, either). Spelling reform may solve this issue by continuing to allow multiple pronunciations of a standard spelling, as happens today with the modern standard spelling of such words, or by allowing multiple acceptable spellings for such words. Other spelling reform proposals impose a new spelling that is based on a particular pronunciation.
  • Some inflections are pronounced differently in different words. For example, plural -s and possessive -'s are both pronounced differently in each of cat(')s (/s/), dog(')s (/z/) and horse(')s (/ɨz/). The handling of this particular difficulty distinguishes morphemic proposals, which tend to spell such inflectional endings the same, from phonemic proposals that spell the endings according to their pronunciation.
  • The English language is the only language in the top ten major languages that lacks a worldwide regulatory body with the power to promulgate changes to orthography. The establishment of such a body may be necessary before any co-ordinated efforts to reform English spelling can be undertaken globally.
  • Some words are spelled so differently when compared with their pronunciation – such as tongue and stomach – that changing the spelling of such words would noticeably change the accustomed shape of the word. Similarly, the irregular spelling of very common words such as is, are, have, done and of makes it difficult to respell such words to remove the irregularity without introducing a noticeable change to the appearance of English text. Such difficulties tend to create acceptance issues.
  • Spelling reforms render pre-reform writings more difficult to understand and read correctly in their original form, often necessitating translation and republication. Today, relatively few people choose to read classic literature in the original spellings as most of it has been republished using modern spellings. Similarly, changes in "modern" spelling could require new translations of old text, and translation of previously "modern" texts into the new standard, in order to keep the works accessible going forward.
  • For people profoundly deaf since birth or early childhood (who might already find reading and writing very challenging), each change of spelling would be arbitrary, as they would be unable to use sounds as a guide, and they would thus have to unlearn and learn each case individually.

Writing conveys meaning, not phonemes


The central criticism of many purely phonemic proposals for spelling reform is that written language is not a purely phonemic analogue of the spoken form. When advocates claim that the units of understanding are phonemes, critics take exception, claiming that the basic units are instead words. Writing is intended to convey meaning to the reader. Reforms such as English Spelling on One Page, Interspel
Interspel
Interspel is a set of principles introduced by Valerie Yule to meet the challenge of how to remove unpredictability and inconsistency from present English spelling while keeping the present heritage of print through minimal change in its appearance. That can be done when prevailing assumptions...

, try to maximise this as a modification of the purely phonemic. Some of the most phonemic spelling reform proposals respell closely related words less similarly than they are at present, such as electric, electricity and electrician, or (with full vowel reform) photo, photograph and photography.

Cognates in other languages


Because English is a West Germanic language
West Germanic languages
The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three traditional branches of the Germanic family of languages and include languages such as German, English, Dutch, Afrikaans, the Frisian languages, and Yiddish...

 that has borrowed vocabulary heavily from distant and unrelated languages, the spelling of a word often reflects its origin. This gives a clue as to the meaning of the word by providing a historical marker for the origin, useful for readers to see relationships within and between languages. For example, Latin- or Greek-based word parts are often reducible to their meaning. Even if their pronunciation has deviated from the original pronunciation, the written form of the word is a record of the phoneme, so derived words give clues to their own meaning, but respelling them could obscure that relationship. The same is true for words inherited from Germanic whose current spelling still resembles its cognates in English's related languages of Dutch and German, which a phonetic spelling reform could obscure in some cases, such as light/German Licht, knight/ German Knecht; ocean/French océan, occasion/French occasion. Those spelling reform proposals that respell words phonetically may thus obscure the connection between English and the Romance and Germanic languages, as well as Latin and Greek.

Whose accent?


Another criticism of spelling reform is that many proposals generally do not take into account the main variants, dialects and regional accents by choosing to spell words to match the pronunciation in a particular accent. A popular example is Rhotic and non-rhotic accents
Rhotic and non-rhotic accents
English pronunciation can be divided into two main accent groups: a rhotic speaker pronounces a rhotic consonant in words like hard; a non-rhotic speaker does not...

. As another example, the first syllable in the pronunciation of the word simultaneously can rightfully be as the first sound of psychic /sɑɪ/, or as the first sound of cymbal, /sɪ/, yet SoundSpel
SoundSpel
SoundSpel is an English language spelling reform proposal. Its origins date back to 1910.SoundSpel has been endorsed by the American Literacy Council because English speakers can easily read it.-Phonetics:Phonemes are represented as follows:...

 purports siemultaeniusly as the spelling, indicating preference of the former. Many reform proposals ignore or overlook distinctions in regional accents that are still represented in the orthography. Examples include the distinguishing of fern, fir and fur that is maintained in Irish and Scottish English; the distinction between toe and tow that is maintained in a few regional accents in England; and the tendency in most accents to distinguish between the vowels in marry /mæri/, merry /mɛri/, and Mary /meəri/.

Advocates tend to see this point as less of a flaw and more of a challenge. It is very admittedly something which needs addressing in any proposal, however. Various solutions have been proposed. A few have tried to introduce simple mechanisms for catering to specific variations in accent. Some have sidestepped the issue altogether by promoting some kind of application of free spelling, in which one spells according to the local accent. Regardless, though, advocates are firm in their stance that being difficult or challenging is not a reason to abandon the idea altogether.

False friends


Many reform proposals attempt to make too many changes to English orthography at once and do not allow for any transitional period where the old spellings and the new may be in use together. The problem is an overlap in words where a particular word could be an unreformed spelling of one word or a reformed spelling of another, akin to false friend
False friend
False friends are pairs of words or phrases in two languages or dialects that look or sound similar, but differ in meaning....

s when learning a foreign language.

For example, a reform could propose to respell wonder as wunder and wander as wonder. However, both cannot be done at once because this causes ambiguity. During any transitional period, is wonder the unreformed spelling of wonder or the reformed spelling of wander? (This could be resolved by using the old wander with the new wunder.) Other similar chains of words are devicedevise → *devize, warmworm → *wurm and ricerise → *rize.

This argument is very similar to Whose accent? above in its intent. In addition to the beginning sentiment given above, advocates would go as far as saying that even if this cannot be resolved, the resulting confusion would be less than what we currently suffer under a sometimes irrational and chaotic system, and furthermore, would be only temporary.

Spelling reform proposals



Most spelling reform
Spelling reform
Many languages have undergone spelling reform, where a deliberate, often officially sanctioned or mandated, change to spelling takes place. Proposals for such reform are also common....

s attempt to improve phonemic representation, but some attempt genuine phonetic
Phonetics
Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that comprises the study of the sounds of human speech, or—in the case of sign languages—the equivalent aspects of sign. It is concerned with the physical properties of speech sounds or signs : their physiological production, acoustic properties, auditory...

 spelling, usually by changing the basic English alphabet or making a new one. All spelling reforms aim for greater regularity in spelling.

Using the basic English alphabet


Common features:
  • They do not introduce any new letters, symbols or diacritics
    Diacritics
    diacritics is a quarterly academic journal established in 1971 at Cornell University and published by the Johns Hopkins University Press. Articles serve to review recent literature in the field of literary criticism, and have covered topics in gender studies, political theory, psychoanalysis, queer...

    .
  • They rely upon familiar digraph
    Digraph (orthography)
    A digraph or digram is a pair of characters used to write one phoneme or a sequence of phonemes that does not correspond to the normal values of the two characters combined...

    s.
  • They try to maintain the appearance of existing words.


Notable proposals include:
  • Cut Spelling
    Cut Spelling
    Cut Spelling is a system of English-language spelling reform which reduces redundant letters and makes substitutions to improve correspondence with the spoken word. It was designed by Christopher Upward and was for a time being popularized by the Simplified Spelling Society. The resulting words are...

  • Handbook of Simplified Spelling
  • SoundSpel
    SoundSpel
    SoundSpel is an English language spelling reform proposal. Its origins date back to 1910.SoundSpel has been endorsed by the American Literacy Council because English speakers can easily read it.-Phonetics:Phonemes are represented as follows:...

  • Spelling Reform 1 (SR1)
    SR1
    Spelling Reform 1 or Spelling Reform step 1 is an English spelling reform proposal advocated by Harry Lindgren. It calls for the short sound to always be spelt with E. For example, friend would become frend and head would become hed...

  • New Spelling
  • Sayspel

Extending or replacing the basic English alphabet



These proposals seek to eliminate the extensive use of digraphs
Digraph (orthography)
A digraph or digram is a pair of characters used to write one phoneme or a sequence of phonemes that does not correspond to the normal values of the two characters combined...

 (such as "ch", "gh", "kn-", "-ng", "ph", "qu", "sh", voiced "th", voiceless "th" and "wh-") by introducing new letters and/or diacritic
Diacritic
A diacritic is a glyph added to a letter, or basic glyph. The term derives from the Greek διακριτικός . Diacritic is both an adjective and a noun, whereas diacritical is only an adjective. Some diacritical marks, such as the acute and grave are often called accents...

s. The impetus for removing digraphs is so each letter represents a single sound. In a digraph, the two letters do not represent their individual sounds but instead an entirely different and discrete sound, which can sometimes lead to mishaps in pronunciation, in addition to much lengthier words.

Notable proposals include:
  • Benjamin Franklin's phonetic alphabet
    Benjamin Franklin's phonetic alphabet
    Benjamin Franklin's phonetic alphabet was Benjamin Franklin's proposal for a spelling reform of the English language. It used many of the same letters, but changed some of them and what sounds they represented. It was one of the earliest proposed spelling reforms to the English...

  • Deseret alphabet
    Deseret alphabet
    The Deseret alphabet is a phonemic English spelling reform developed in the mid-19th century by the board of regents of the University of Deseret under the direction of Brigham Young, second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.In public statements, Young claimed the...

  • Initial Teaching Alphabet
    Initial Teaching Alphabet
    The Initial Teaching Alphabet was developed by Sir James Pitman in the early 1960s...

  • Interspel
    Interspel
    Interspel is a set of principles introduced by Valerie Yule to meet the challenge of how to remove unpredictability and inconsistency from present English spelling while keeping the present heritage of print through minimal change in its appearance. That can be done when prevailing assumptions...

  • Romic alphabet
    Romic alphabet
    The Romic Alphabet, sometimes known as the Romic Reform, is a phonetic alphabet proposed by Henry Sweet. It is the direct ancestor of the modern International Phonetic Alphabet...

  • Shavian alphabet
    Shavian alphabet
    The Shavian alphabet is an alphabet conceived as a way to provide simple, phonetic orthography for the English language to replace the difficulties of the conventional spelling. It was posthumously funded by and named after Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw...

     (revised version: Quikscript
    Quikscript
    Quikscript is an alphabet specifically designed for the English language. Quikscript replaces traditional English orthography, which uses the Latin alphabet, with completely new letters. It is phonemically regular, compact, and comfortably and quickly written...

    )
  • Unifon
    Unifon
    Unifon is a phonemic orthography for English designed in the mid-1950s by Dr. John R. Malone, a Chicago economist and newspaper equipment consultant. It was developed into a teaching aid to help children acquire reading and writing skills. Like the pronunciation key in a dictionary, Unifon matches...


Historical advocates of reform


A number of respected and influential people have been active supporters of spelling reform.
  • Orm/Orrmin
    Ormulum
    The Ormulum or Orrmulum is a twelfth-century work of biblical exegesis, written by a monk named Orm and consisting of just under 19,000 lines of early Middle English verse...

    , 12th-century Augustine canon monk and eponymous author of the Ormulum
    Ormulum
    The Ormulum or Orrmulum is a twelfth-century work of biblical exegesis, written by a monk named Orm and consisting of just under 19,000 lines of early Middle English verse...

    , wherein he states that, since he dislikes the way that people are mispronouncing English, he will spell words exactly as they are pronounced, and describes a system whereby vowel length and value are indicated unambiguously. He distinguishes short vowels from long by doubling the following consonants, or, where this is not feasible, by marking the short vowels with a superimposed breve
    Breve
    A breve is a diacritical mark ˘, shaped like the bottom half of a circle. It resembles the caron , but is rounded, while the caron has a sharp tip...

     accent.
  • Thomas Smith
    Thomas Smith (diplomat)
    Sir Thomas Smith was an English scholar and diplomat.He was born at Saffron Walden in Essex. He was educated at Queens' College, Cambridge, where he became a fellow in 1530, and in 1533 was appointed a public reader or professor. He lectured in the schools on natural philosophy, and on Greek in...

    , a Secretary of State to Queen Elizabeth I, who published his proposal De recta et emendata linguæ angliæ scriptione in 1568.
  • William Bullokar
    William Bullokar
    William Bullokar was a 16th-century printer who devised a 40-letter phonetic alphabet for the English language. Its characters were in the black-letter or "gothic" writing style commonly used at the time...

     was a schoolmaster who published his book English Grammar in 1586, an early book on that topic. He published his proposal Booke at large for the Amendment of English Orthographie in 1580.
  • John Milton
    John Milton
    John Milton was an English poet, polemicist, a scholarly man of letters, and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell...

    , poet.
  • John Wilkins
    John Wilkins
    John Wilkins FRS was an English clergyman, natural philosopher and author, as well as a founder of the Invisible College and one of the founders of the Royal Society, and Bishop of Chester from 1668 until his death....

    , founder member and first secretary of the Royal Society
    Royal Society
    The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

    , early proponent of decimalisation and a brother-in-law to Oliver Cromwell
    Oliver Cromwell
    Oliver Cromwell was an English military and political leader who overthrew the English monarchy and temporarily turned England into a republican Commonwealth, and served as Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland....

    .
  • Charls Butler, British naturalist and author of the first natural history of bees: Đe Feminin` Monarķi`, 1634. He proposed that 'men should write altogeđer according to đe sound now generally received,' and espoused a system in which the h in digraphs was replaced with bars
    Bar (diacritic)
    A bar or stroke is a modification consisting of a line drawn through a grapheme. It may be used as a diacritic to derive new letters from old ones, or simply as an addition to make a grapheme more distinct from others....

    .
  • James Howell
    James Howell
    James Howell was a 17th-century Anglo-Welsh historian and writer who is in many ways a representative figure of his age. The son of a Welsh clergyman, he was for much of his life in the shadow of his elder brother Thomas Howell, who became Lord Bishop of Bristol.-Education:In 1613 he gained his B.A...

     was a documented, successful (if modest) spelling reformer, recommending, in his Grammar of 1662, minor spelling changes, such as 'logique' to 'logic,' 'warre' to 'war,' 'sinne' to 'sin,' 'toune' to 'town' and 'true' to 'tru', many of which are now in general use.
  • Benjamin Franklin
    Benjamin Franklin
    Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

    , American innovator and revolutionary, added letters to the Roman alphabet for his own personal solution
    Benjamin Franklin's phonetic alphabet
    Benjamin Franklin's phonetic alphabet was Benjamin Franklin's proposal for a spelling reform of the English language. It used many of the same letters, but changed some of them and what sounds they represented. It was one of the earliest proposed spelling reforms to the English...

     to the problem of English spelling.
  • Samuel Johnson
    Samuel Johnson
    Samuel Johnson , often referred to as Dr. Johnson, was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer...

    , poet, wit, essayist, biographer, critic and eccentric, broadly credited with the standardisation of English spelling into its pre-current form in his Dictionary of the English Language (1755).
  • Noah Webster
    Noah Webster
    Noah Webster was an American educator, lexicographer, textbook pioneer, English spelling reformer, political writer, editor, and prolific author...

    , author of the first important American dictionary, believed that Americans should adopt simpler spellings where available and recommended it in his 1806 A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language.
  • Isaac Pitman
    Isaac Pitman
    Sir Isaac Pitman , knighted in 1894, developed the most widely used system of shorthand, known now as Pitman shorthand. He first proposed this in Stenographic Soundhand in 1837. Pitman was a qualified teacher and taught at a private school he founded in Wotton-under-Edge...

     developed the most widely used system of shorthand
    Shorthand
    Shorthand is an abbreviated symbolic writing method that increases speed or brevity of writing as compared to a normal method of writing a language. The process of writing in shorthand is called stenography, from the Greek stenos and graphē or graphie...

    , known now as Pitman Shorthand
    Pitman Shorthand
    Pitman shorthand is a system of shorthand for the English language developed by Englishman Sir Isaac Pitman , who first presented it in 1837. Like most systems of shorthand, it is a phonetic system; the symbols do not represent letters, but rather sounds, and words are, for the most part, written...

    , first proposed in Stenographic Soundhand (1837).
  • U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt
    Theodore Roosevelt
    Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

     commissioned a committee, the Columbia Spelling Board, to research and recommend simpler spellings and tried to require the U.S. government to adopt them; however, his approach, to assume popular support by executive order, rather than to garner it, was a likely factor in the limited change of the time.
  • Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson
    Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson
    Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson, FRS was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom during much of Queen Victoria's reign and remains one of the most popular poets in the English language....

     was a vice-president of the English Spelling Reform Association, precursor to the (Simplified) Spelling Society.
  • Charles Darwin
    Charles Darwin
    Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

     FRS, originator of the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, was also a vice-president of the English Spelling Reform Association, his involvement in the subject continued by his physicist grandson of the same name.
  • John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury
    John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury
    John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury PC , FRS , known as Sir John Lubbock, 4th Baronet from 1865 until 1900, was a polymath and Liberal Member of Parliament....

    , close friend, neighbour and colleague of Charles Darwin, also involved in the Spelling Reform Association.
  • H.G. Wells, science fiction writer and one-time Vice President of the London-based Simplified Spelling Society
    Simplified Spelling Society
    The English Spelling Society is an international organisation, based in the United Kingdom. It was founded in 1908 as the Simplified Spelling Society and celebrated its Centenary Conference at Coventry University in June 2008...

    .
  • Andrew Carnegie
    Andrew Carnegie
    Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish-American industrialist, businessman, and entrepreneur who led the enormous expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century...

    , celebrated philanthropist, donated to spelling reform societies on the US and Britain, and funded the Simplified Spelling Board
    Simplified Spelling Board
    The Simplified Spelling Board was an American organization created in 1906 to reform the spelling of the English language, making it simpler and easier to learn, and eliminating many of its inconsistencies...

    .
  • Daniel Jones
    Daniel Jones
    Daniel Jones is the name of:* Daniel Jones , phonetician, author of The Pronunciation of English* Daniel Jones , chancellor of the University of Mississippi* Daniel Jones , Welsh composer...

    , phonetician. professor of phonetics
    Phonetics
    Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that comprises the study of the sounds of human speech, or—in the case of sign languages—the equivalent aspects of sign. It is concerned with the physical properties of speech sounds or signs : their physiological production, acoustic properties, auditory...

     at University College London
    University College London
    University College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and the oldest and largest constituent college of the federal University of London...

    .
  • George Bernard Shaw
    George Bernard Shaw
    George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60...

    , playwright
    Playwright
    A playwright, also called a dramatist, is a person who writes plays.The term is not a variant spelling of "playwrite", but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder...

    , willed part of his estate to fund the creation of a new alphabet now called the "Shavian alphabet
    Shavian alphabet
    The Shavian alphabet is an alphabet conceived as a way to provide simple, phonetic orthography for the English language to replace the difficulties of the conventional spelling. It was posthumously funded by and named after Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw...

    ."
  • Mark Twain
    Mark Twain
    Samuel Langhorne Clemens , better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist...

    , a founding member of the Simplified Spelling Board.
  • Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell
    Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell
    Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell, Bt, OM, GCMG, GCVO, KCB , also known as B-P or Lord Baden-Powell, was a lieutenant-general in the British Army, writer, and founder of the Scout Movement....

  • Upton Sinclair
    Upton Sinclair
    Upton Beall Sinclair Jr. , was an American author who wrote close to one hundred books in many genres. He achieved popularity in the first half of the twentieth century, acquiring particular fame for his classic muckraking novel, The Jungle . It exposed conditions in the U.S...

  • Melvil Dewey
    Melvil Dewey
    Melville Louis Kossuth Dewey was an American librarian and educator, inventor of the Dewey Decimal system of library classification, and a founder of the Lake Placid Club....

    , inventor of the Dewey Decimal System, wrote published works in simplified spellings and even simplified his own name from Melville to Melvil.
  • Israel Gollancz
    Israel Gollancz
    Sir Israel Gollancz was a scholar of early English literature and of Shakespeare. He was Professor of English Language and Literature at King's College, London, from 1903 to 1930....

  • James Pitman
    James Pitman
    Sir James Pitman, KBE was a British businessman, civil servant, publisher, politician and spelling reformer.Sir James was vitally concerned with the teaching of children to write the English language...

    , a publisher and Conservative
    Conservative Party (UK)
    The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

     Member of Parliament
    Member of Parliament
    A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

    , grandson of Isaac Pitman
    Isaac Pitman
    Sir Isaac Pitman , knighted in 1894, developed the most widely used system of shorthand, known now as Pitman shorthand. He first proposed this in Stenographic Soundhand in 1837. Pitman was a qualified teacher and taught at a private school he founded in Wotton-under-Edge...

    , invented the Initial Teaching Alphabet
    Initial Teaching Alphabet
    The Initial Teaching Alphabet was developed by Sir James Pitman in the early 1960s...

    .
  • Charles Galton Darwin
    Charles Galton Darwin
    Sir Charles Galton Darwin, KBE, MC, FRS was an English physicist, the grandson of Charles Darwin. He served as director of the National Physical Laboratory during the Second World War.-Early life:...

    , KBE, MC, FRS, grandson of Charles Darwin
    Charles Darwin
    Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

     and director of Britain's National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in World War II, was also a wartime vice-president of the Simplified Spelling Society
    Simplified Spelling Society
    The English Spelling Society is an international organisation, based in the United Kingdom. It was founded in 1908 as the Simplified Spelling Society and celebrated its Centenary Conference at Coventry University in June 2008...

    .
  • Mont Follick
    Mont Follick
    Dr. Mont Follick was a British Labour Party politician, and a campaigner for spelling reform. He was Member of Parliament for Loughborough from 1945 to 1955, having previously held the post of professor of English at the University of Madrid in Spain...

    , Labour
    Labour Party (UK)
    The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

     Member of Parliament
    Member of Parliament
    A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

     and linguist
    Linguistics
    Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

     who assisted Pitman
    James Pitman
    Sir James Pitman, KBE was a British businessman, civil servant, publisher, politician and spelling reformer.Sir James was vitally concerned with the teaching of children to write the English language...

     in drawing the English spelling reform issue to the attention of Parliament
    Parliament of the United Kingdom
    The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

    . Favoured replacing w and y with u and i.
  • Isaac Asimov
    Isaac Asimov
    Isaac Asimov was an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000...

  • HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
    Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
    Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh is the husband of Elizabeth II. He is the United Kingdom's longest-serving consort and the oldest serving spouse of a reigning British monarch....

    , one-time Patron of the Simplified Spelling Society
    Simplified Spelling Society
    The English Spelling Society is an international organisation, based in the United Kingdom. It was founded in 1908 as the Simplified Spelling Society and celebrated its Centenary Conference at Coventry University in June 2008...

    . Stated that spelling reform should start outside of the UK, and that the lack of progress originates in the discord amongst reformers (although his abandonment of the cause was coincident with literacy being no longer an issue for his own children).
  • Robert R. McCormick
    Robert R. McCormick
    Robert Rutherford "Colonel" McCormick was a member of the McCormick family of Chicago who became owner and publisher of the Chicago Tribune newspaper...

     (1880–1955), publisher of the Chicago Tribune
    Chicago Tribune
    The Chicago Tribune is a major daily newspaper based in Chicago, Illinois, and the flagship publication of the Tribune Company. Formerly self-styled as the "World's Greatest Newspaper" , it remains the most read daily newspaper of the Chicago metropolitan area and the Great Lakes region and is...

    , employed reformed spelling in his newspaper. The Tribune used simplified versions of some words, such as "altho" for "although".
  • Edward Rondthaler
    Edward Rondthaler
    Edward Rondthaler was a typographist as well as a simplified spelling champion and chairman of the American Literacy Council. He was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania...

     (1905–2009), commercial actor, chairman of the American Literacy Council and vice-president of the Spelling Society.
  • John C. Wells
    John C. Wells
    John Christopher Wells is a British phonetician and Esperanto teacher. Wells is a professor emeritus at University College London, where until his retirement in 2006 he held the departmental chair in phonetics....

    , London-based phonetician, Esperanto
    Esperanto
    is the most widely spoken constructed international auxiliary language. Its name derives from Doktoro Esperanto , the pseudonym under which L. L. Zamenhof published the first book detailing Esperanto, the Unua Libro, in 1887...

     teacher and former professor of phonetics
    Phonetics
    Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that comprises the study of the sounds of human speech, or—in the case of sign languages—the equivalent aspects of sign. It is concerned with the physical properties of speech sounds or signs : their physiological production, acoustic properties, auditory...

     at University College London
    University College London
    University College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and the oldest and largest constituent college of the federal University of London...

    : current President of the Spelling Society.
  • Valerie Yule
    Valerie Yule
    Dr. Valerie Yule is a researcher in literacy and imagination, clinical child psychologist, academic, school psychologist and teacher, working in disadvantaged schools, Melbourne and Monash Universities in psychology and education; the Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne and the Royal Aberdeen...

    , a fellow of the Galton Society, vice-president of the Simplified Spelling Society
    Simplified Spelling Society
    The English Spelling Society is an international organisation, based in the United Kingdom. It was founded in 1908 as the Simplified Spelling Society and celebrated its Centenary Conference at Coventry University in June 2008...

     and founder of the Australian Centre for Social Innovations.
  • Doug Everingham
    Doug Everingham
    Douglas Nixon "Doug" Everingham is a former Australian politician and minister.Everingham graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery from the University of Sydney in 1946 and worked in public and private hospitals and as a family doctor.Everingham was elected the Australian Labor Party...

    , doctor, former Australian Labor politician, health minister in the Whitlam government, and author of Chemical Shorthand for Organic Formulae (1943).
  • Chris Jolly, author, entrepreneur, publisher, Spelling Society activist and originator of Jolly Phonics
    Jolly Phonics
    Jolly Phonics is a systematic synthetic phonics programme designed to teach children to read and write. Children learn the 42 letter sounds of the English language, rather than the alphabet. They are then taken through the stages of blending and segmenting words to develop reading and writing...

    .

See also

  • English orthography
    English orthography
    English orthography is the alphabetic spelling system used by the English language. English orthography, like other alphabetic orthographies, uses a set of habits to represent speech sounds in writing. In most other languages, these habits are regular enough so that they may be called rules...

  • Folk etymology
  • List of reforms of the English language
  • Phonemic orthography
    Phonemic orthography
    A phonemic orthography is a writing system where the written graphemes correspond to phonemes, the spoken sounds of the language. In terms of orthographic depth, these are termed shallow orthographies, contrasting with deep orthographies...

  • Regional accents of English
  • Spelling reform
    Spelling reform
    Many languages have undergone spelling reform, where a deliberate, often officially sanctioned or mandated, change to spelling takes place. Proposals for such reform are also common....

  • English Spelling Society
    English Spelling Society
    The English Spelling Society is an international organisation, based in the United Kingdom. It was founded in 1908 as the Simplified Spelling Society and celebrated its Centenary Conference at Coventry University in June 2008...

  • American and British English spelling differences
    American and British English spelling differences
    One of the ways in which American English and British English differ is in spelling.-Historical origins:In the early 18th century, English spelling was not standardized. Differences became noticeable after the publishing of influential dictionaries...


Further reading

  • Righting the Mother Tongue: From Olde English to Email, the Twisted Story of English Spelling, by David Wolman. Collins, ISBN 978-0-06-136925-4. http://www.rightingthemothertongue.com/
  • Bell, Masha (2004), Understanding English Spelling, Cambridge, Pegasus
  • Children of the Code An extensive, in depth study of the illiteracy problem.

External links