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HD: Spelling Reform
Posted: 15 August 2016 09:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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ᴚǝǝƶɐʍɐɈ - 14 August 2016 03:17 PM

I’d never write naycha myself, but I feel I’ve no logical or morally decent reason to censor others from using it.

Logicality and morality don’t always sit comfortably with language.

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Posted: 15 August 2016 02:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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… I’d never write naycha myself, but I feel I’ve no logical or morally decent reason to censor others from using it.

I’m with Eliza, when have logic and morality ever had anything to do with language?

English-speaking children needed an average of three years to attain basic reading fluency, while pupils in the 12 other countries took between three to 12 months.

And you believe a lack of standard spelling would help children learn to read more easily? How can that be possible? One day it’s naycha, the next it’s nature? If you already know the word nature, then puzzling out naycha from context may not be so hard, but if you’re just learning to read, then helter-skelter spelling is going to make to the whole deal much harder.

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Posted: 16 August 2016 05:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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When I was first reading later-medieval and 16th century English texts, I was made to pause by “trew” the first time I saw it, and not thereafter; and with that pattern learned by just one exposure to it, I didn’t blink when I came across “rewfule” for “rueful” and suchlike.

[...]

It’s human naycha. Human what? How many times do you need to see naycha in your own language before you know what it means? I do pronounce ‘r’ myself and I’d never write naycha myself, but I feel I’ve no logical or morally decent reason to censor others from using it.

Yes, if there is a pattern that is repeated across multiple texts and you are continually exposed to it, then alternative spellings aren’t a big issue. As I said, the differences between British and American spelling aren’t a big problem for readers. But that’s not what you’re advocating, which is a relaxation of standards so there will be a myriad of spelling differences, without readily discernable pattern, that readers will continually have to confront.

The example of naycha is a good one. It reflects a dialectal or slang pronunciation of the word. Does every dialect of English have its own spelling standard? That’s the case with medieval texts, and it does make them very difficult to read. For example, reading Chaucer is relatively easy. He writes in the London dialect, which is noticeably (emphasis on relatively here) familiar to today’s standard English. But switch to the contemporaneous Pearl poet, who is from the region around Chester, and you’re in for a world of trouble.

I haven’t read the Seymour paper, but from the abstract, it would seem the solution he points to is a single, standard revision of English spelling to reduce orthographic depth (i.e., bring the language closer to a one-to-one correspondence of phonemes to letters). It has to be a single, “totalitarian” standard, or otherwise readers will have difficulty every time they switch to a new writer.

For a global language like English, having a single written standard, while allowing spoken varieties to flourish, is a distinct advantage.

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Posted: 16 August 2016 05:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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As I said, the differences between British and American spelling aren’t a big problem for readers. But that’s not what you’re advocating, which is a relaxation of standards so there will be a myriad of spelling differences, without readily discernable pattern, that readers will continually have to confront.

In Brendan Behan’s prison memoir Borstal Boy, he mentions that one of his fellow-inmates, sentenced for stealing lorryloads of cut flowers, was known as ‘Chewlips’ after the type of flower he had stolen. That’s a perfectly reasonable phonetic spelling of the word here in southern Rightpondia - in fact rather more accurate than the official one; but I can’t help feeling it would give Leftpondian schoolchildren some difficulty.

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Posted: 16 August 2016 08:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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A lot of spelling reform could take place without the need to choose American or British English. That choice would only be necessary if we were going for a perfectly regular relationship between orthography and pronunciation.

The minimalist option would be to change the spelling of words that are at odds with any perceived “rules” of English pronunciation in an obvious way, e.g. friend, receipt, hour. Fixing those would not discommode British or American speakers.

A small step up from that would be to regularise some of the vowel spellings to increase consistency, so that one could work out how a vowel should sound by reading it (but not necessarily the converse); e.g. determine that “ou” is always /əʊ/, requiring changes to double and wound (ie injury, not the past tense of wind). Similarly, it could be decided that “ear” is always /ɪə(r)/, necessitating changes to the spelling of bear and pear.

These changes would not be dialect-specific, would result in text that still looked like English, but would go a long way towards making reading easier for new English speakers.

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Posted: 23 August 2016 02:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Dave Wilton said “what you’re advocating, which is a relaxation of standards so there will be a myriad of spelling differences, without readily discernable pattern.” I reply, obviously I’m advocating relaxation of standards so there will be multiple spellings of one word, but Dave Wilton’s vision that there wouldn’t be readily discernable patterns is badly prejudiced and erroneous. In the 16th century in French and English, when spelling was less frozen than it is now, some writers opted for a more phonetically accurate spelling of words, others opted for the predominant traditional spelling of the prior century, and others aimed to purify some word-forms to return them to their classical Latin roots. Nobody then had a problem with reading any of it.

The 2003 study by Seymour was mentioned above. Here’s some info about. A report in 2016 summarizes Seymour’s study and findings as follows:

“A large cross-linguistic investigation of 14 European languages in which word… reading was measured at the end of first grade. In word reading [that’s one word], accuracy was near 100% in most languages with the most regular orthographies (e.g., German, Greek and Italian); it was lower (around 80%) in less consistent orthographies (e.g., French and Danish), and only 34% (over three standard deviations below the 14-nation mean) in English, the least regular orthography. These findings [of Seymour’s study] have been replicated in a number of smaller-scale studies that compared English-speaking children with children speaking German [ref: 3, 4], Dutch [ref: 5], Spanish [ref: 6], Portuguese [ref: 7], Italian [ref: 8], Greek [ref: 9], and Turkish [ref: 10]. Therefore, reading acquisition is [MUCH] faster in readers of regular orthographies during the first years of schooling. In irregular orthographies, beginning readers need a relatively long period of time to acquire and automatize irregular orthography-phonology mappings [ref: 11].” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4927093/

By late primary school English children have learned to read about as well as the others. English children during primary school are spurred into adopting “larger processing units” (initially, more than a syllable, and later more than a word), because the smaller processing units are riddled with so many inconsistencies. The same 2106 report has:

“We compared reading acquisition in English and Italian children up to late primary school analyzing Reaction Times and errors as a function of psycholinguistic variables and changes due to experience. Our results show that reading becomes progressively more reliant on larger processing units with age. But this is modulated by consistency of the orthography of the language. In English, an inconsistent orthography, reliance on larger units occurs earlier on. This has been quantified by us by faster Reaction Times, a stronger effect of lexical variables, and lack of length effect. In Italian, a consistent orthography, reliance on larger units occurs later and it is less pronounced. This is demonstrated by the larger length effects, which remain significant even in older children.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4927093/

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Posted: 23 August 2016 06:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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I’m sorry but what is your point? Spelling doesn’t matter and you have the science to prove it? The English language will get back to you.

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Posted: 24 August 2016 03:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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In the 16th century in French and English, when spelling was less frozen than it is now, some writers opted for a more phonetically accurate spelling of words, others opted for the predominant traditional spelling of the prior century, and others aimed to purify some word-forms to return them to their classical Latin roots. Nobody then had a problem with reading any of it.

It’s not my period, but I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that people did have trouble reading it and that there is commentary to show that is the case. (Part of the problem is that the perceived importance of learning English grammar and spelling waxes and wanes over the centuries. You have to look carefully at who is saying what, and why. You can’t dip in with a quick Google search and get an accurate perception of the situation. It requires detailed study. Also, in the earlier periods the community of writers and the amount of material available to read was much smaller, making the absolute problem smaller, even if the same relative difficulty in reading obtained.)

As to those studies, they show that irregular orthography makes it harder to learn a language initially, but in the long-run students catch up (but not without lost opportunity-cost for time that could have been spent learning something else). That’s no surprise. But the suggestion of relaxing the current standard, without replacing it with a more regular one, would only lead to even more irregular orthography, worsening the language acquisition problem. It seems there are three options:

1) Do nothing and keep the current irregular orthography. Requires no additional effort. No improvement in language acquisition.

2) Replace the current irregular orthography with a more regular one. Requires a great deal of additional effort (how much depends on how much change you want to make). There will be a payoff in making English easier to learn.

3) Relax the standard without replacing it. Requires less effort, worsens the language acquisition problem.

Of these, #3 is clearly the worst option.

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