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Karina Galperin: Why don’t we write words the way we pronounce them? 
Posted: 16 March 2017 09:23 PM   [ Ignore ]
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http://www.ted.com/talks/karina_galperin_why_don_t_we_write_words_the_way_pronounce_them?utm_source=newsletter_daily&utm_campaign=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_content=button__2017-03-16

Interesting talk, but I agree with the first comment on the talk:

I do not speak Spanish. But I would warn Spanish speakers to be very clear that they understand why a particular word is written and spelt the way it is, before changing or simplifying it.

To change the spelling of a word just because it is easier, or takes too long to learn to spell it correctly, is not a good enough reason to make a change in any language.

I have found in my study of Universal Law (in English) that noting the origin of a word, and where the parts of the word derived, gives me that added understanding and history that links everything together.

etymology
noun
the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history.
- the origin of a word and the historical development of its meaning.

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Posted: 17 March 2017 03:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The quoted comment assumes a conflict between etymology, as embedded in spelling, and a simplified orthography in which written symbols come to correspond more closely to common pronunciation.  I question that assumption of conflict.

AE (American English) has, thanks to Mr. Webster, dispensed with some vowels that persist in BE (British English).  Some of those vowels are the residue of Norman French.  Does their absence in AE constitute an attack on etymology?  Does it cause us to misunderstand and misuse the words?

Early in the TED clip, a screen caption in Spanish used the spelling “ase” in place of the conventional “hace”. They are pronounced
the same in the presenter’s Argentine Spanish.  No harm done, other than to emotional calm.  It was, I’ll confess, a little jarring, but
usefully provocative.  Of course it would be much more disconcerting in most of the Iberian peninsula, where the H is also silent, but the C is far from equivalent to the rioplatense S.  Argentina- AH say vs. Spain (mostly)- AH thay.

This battle between reformers and traditionalists has been going on in Spanish for hundreds of years, with no visible harm to etymology.  Gyrasol has evolved into girasol since the Royal Academy’s 1734 dictionary, while continuing to mean sunflower.
The word’s origin has not been disguised nor deformed any more than its meaning.

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Posted: 17 March 2017 05:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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She does address the etymology question toward the end of the talk. She’s right. Etymology is the province of etymological dictionaries. We don’t “lose” the etymology; for most of us, we never had it in the first place. For those that are attuned to etymology (that’s most of us here in this group), we’ll still have it.

In general, I agree with her. (Which may be surprising for those who’ve heard me opine on spelling reform before.) Her approach is based on solid linguistic principles, she has a good grasp of how the internet and technology is changing the nature of writing, and the reforms she’s proposing—as far as I understand them, not being a Spanish speaker—are quite modest. They’re on the order of the German spelling reform of the 1990s, which was a success. (Also note, none of her examples were of vowels, which are trickier than consonants.) The one thing I’d add is that for her proposals to be successful, they must be a multinational effort, like the German spelling reform was. Spanish is too big a language for one country to take on spelling reform. If it succeeded in only one for a few countries, it would make things worse.

But that’s not to say that what works in Spanish can be made to work in English. The spelling challenges of English are of an entirely different nature and order of magnitude.

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Posted: 17 March 2017 05:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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The solution is to use Pitmans shorthand, based entirely on the sound of words, not on their spelling.  But that would mean the teaching of standard English so that everyone bases their shorthand on the same sounds and what I pronounce as “aunt” could be read by people all over the English-speaking world and not written “ant”, “ent”, “awnt” or however.

So much for that theory.

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Posted: 17 March 2017 07:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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In Spanish most if not all of the candidates for reform are consonants:  b/v consolidation, elimination of the silent h, and a move towards consistency when s and c share a common pronunciation.  Vowels are not contentious, although the occasional surviving y might be replaced by i.

In Portuguese, on the other hand, nearly all of the reforms have involved vowels and accented vowels The reforms, with a good record of success in general, have brought spelling and pronunciation closer, with no visible harm to etymology.

For those interested in the Portuguese reforms, the Wikipedia article is surprisingly clear and accurate.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reforms_of_Portuguese_orthography

Mr. Wilton properly noted that the spelling challenges of English are of a different order of magnitude.  The ‘correct’ spelling of
Wm. Shakespeare’s last name, both by the author himself and by others, is adequate proof.

ElizaD gave me a smile with her comments.  Phonologically accurate spelling of English as spoken in my kitchen would have to include RP, Nottingham dialect, the three or four local mid-coast Maine accents, and my own hybrid eastern U.S. speech.  It would be a dog’s orthographic breakfast, at best.

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Posted: 17 March 2017 09:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Vowels are not contentious, although the occasional surviving y might be replaced by i.

How many vowels are in Spanish? One site I’m looking at says five, but I don’t know how reliable that site is. And how does Spanish handle diphthongs?

English has more than twice as many vowel sounds as there are vowel letters, so a one-to-one correspondence is not possible. Also, diphthongs are inconsistent, sometimes using a single letter, sometimes using two. For English, at least, unless you add more letters to the alphabet, there is no way to implement comprehensive spelling reform.

And none of these schemes take into account regional pronunciation differences. I don’t know how widely different dialects of Spanish vary around the world, but for English, any system that uses Pitman or IPA would create more more difficulties in reading comprehension than ease of spelling would fix.

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Posted: 17 March 2017 09:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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There are but five vowels in Spanish, plus the atavistic Y, which, when found in the wild, is pronounced exactly as the letter I.  It’s name in Spanish—i griega—translates as ‘Greek I’.

Dipthongs in Spanish require two contiguous written letters.  Unless a diacritical is used, A, E, and O are emphasized, while I and U are weaker sounding.

While there are pretty obvious differences in sounds across nations and within nations for Spanish—the lady in the TED presentation elongates her vowels in a typically Argentine fashion, compared to the more clipped, percusive pronunciation one hears in México or Spain—the basic vowel sounds change little from one geography to another.  Consonants are considerably more variable.  Take, for example, the verb ‘to eat’, comer.  In Spain it sounds like co MARE, while Caribbean speakers often change it to something close to co MELL.  The letter S is voiced in most of the Spanish speaking world, while some Argentines aspirate it.
In other places, a final S is just dropped in casual speech.

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Posted: 17 March 2017 12:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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cuchuflete - 17 March 2017 09:56 AM

There are but five vowels in Spanish, plus the atavistic Y, which, when found in the wild, is pronounced exactly as the letter I.  It’s name in Spanish—i griega—translates as ‘Greek I’.

Dipthongs in Spanish require two contiguous written letters.  Unless a diacritical is used, A, E, and O are emphasized, while I and U are weaker sounding.

While there are pretty obvious differences in sounds across nations and within nations for Spanish—the lady in the TED presentation elongates her vowels in a typically Argentine fashion, compared to the more clipped, percusive pronunciation one hears in México or Spain—the basic vowel sounds change little from one geography to another.  Consonants are considerably more variable.  Take, for example, the verb ‘to eat’, comer.  In Spain it sounds like co MARE, while Caribbean speakers often change it to something close to co MELL.  The letter S is voiced in most of the Spanish speaking world, while some Argentines aspirate it.
In other places, a final S is just dropped in casual speech.

I am certainly no expert on Spanish, but from my time in Spain, it was more my impression that Z did not exist, all the s’s were unvoiced, definitely at the start of a word.

It’s quite ironic that the thing is about Spanish spelling reform; in my view, it is one of the best languages in the world for relating spelling to pronunciation. Not perfect but beats others I have had to do with hands down!

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Posted: 17 March 2017 01:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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BlackGrey - 17 March 2017 12:37 PM

cuchuflete - 17 March 2017 09:56 AM
There are but five vowels in Spanish, plus the atavistic Y, which…



The letter S is voiced in most of the Spanish speaking world, while some Argentines aspirate it.
In other places, a final S is just dropped in casual speech.

I am certainly no expert on Spanish, but from my time in Spain, it was more my impression that Z did not exist, all the s’s were unvoiced, definitely at the start of a word.

It’s quite ironic that the thing is about Spanish spelling reform; in my view, it is one of the best languages in the world for relating spelling to pronunciation. Not perfect but beats others I have had to do with hands down!

You are correct.  I misused ‘voiced’ in contrast to aspirated.  I don’t know the linguistic term for the way S is normally spoken in Spain.  It sounds about the same as the letter spoken by an English speaker, a sort of hissing sound when it is in the middle of a word such as buscar.  Most Argentines make the sound in their throat, with some air flow at the upper palette, so it sounds
more like boo car.

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Posted: 17 March 2017 02:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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The quoted comment assumes a conflict between etymology, as embedded in spelling, and a simplified orthography in which written symbols come to correspond more closely to common pronunciation.  I question that assumption of conflict.

I don’t think the comment assumes that the conflict is specifically between etymology and spelling. The comment only suggests that when a particular word is written and pronounced in a certain way, it would be advantageous to understand the etymology of the word, which would explain the incongruous spelling. For example, in English, the words aisle and isle, might create a quandary for non-native speakers who might find that the spelling is incompatible with the pronunciation. However, if one studies why those words are spelt that way it would clarify the rationalization for the particular spelling. 

I understand, that the spelling might not make sense in modern English, but I don’t think that was the point in the comment.

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Posted: 17 March 2017 04:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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But people, at least the vast majority, don’t study the etymology and don’t have clue how to interpret the etymological clues. If the point is to devote less time to learning spelling, then saying one must also study etymology to understand the spelling just adds to the problem.

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Posted: 17 March 2017 11:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Other languages manage to keep the orthography regular without calamity, despite the fact that it can make the etymology less obvious. The Italian words chifel, stambecco, boicottare are all adopted words that were given Italianised spelling, but the loss of etymological information doesn’t make them harder for Italians to learn

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Posted: 19 March 2017 04:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Dave Wilton - 17 March 2017 05:11 AM

They’re on the order of the German spelling reform of the 1990s, which was a success.

Why do you say that? Many of them were counterintuitive or pointless. Newspapers like the FAZ refused to implement them. According to a teacher I knew at the time, the main result was that people spelt things as they liked and nobody gave a damn any more. It took another reform in 2006 to get rid of some of the mess, and not all of the remaining changes have been accepted by everyone.

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Posted: 19 March 2017 06:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Wikipedia:

As of 2004, most German printed media used spelling rules that to a large extent comply with the reforms. These included most newspapers and periodicals, and the German press agencies Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA) and Reuters. Still, some newspapers, including Die Zeit, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and the Süddeutsche Zeitung, created their own in-house orthography rules, while most other newspapers used approximately the rules set out by the DPA. These in-house orthographies thus occupy a continuum between “old spelling with new rules for ß” and an (almost) full acceptance of the new rules.

In books, the extent of implementation varies according to the book’s subject, and it often varies within a publishing house. Approximately 80% of newly published books use the new system.[citation needed] Schoolbooks and children’s books generally follow the new spellings, while the text of novels is presented as the authors prefer. Classic works of literature are typically printed without any changes, unless they are editions specifically intended for use in schools.

Polls in the early 2000s showed that a majority didn’t like the changes (even though they mostly complied with them). I would bet that polling now would show higher acceptance, or, among the younger crowd, unawareness that there had even been a change.

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Posted: 19 March 2017 01:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I suspect we spend too much time arguing about spelling.  Why should everybody be compelled to spell exactly alike?  The fact is, that lots of people spell words differently, and I’m not sure that makes what they write all that more difficult to read. I can spot a spelling “deviation” from a long way off, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s meant.

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Posted: 20 March 2017 01:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I suppose it’s a success in that most people follow it, or try to. But not if that’s supposed to mean that everyone’s happy with it. And, you know, after 20 years, you get used to most things.

https://www.welt.de/vermischtes/video157550047/Rechtschreibreform-war-ein-Flop.html

http://www.spiegel.de/lebenundlernen/schule/rechtschreibung-reform-ein-flop-a-1106789.html

https://www.nzz.ch/feuilleton/zeitgeschehen/zwanzig-jahre-rechtschreibreform-was-die-reformer-wollen-ld.129110

http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/rechtschreibreform-waffenruhe-im-woerterkrieg.724.de.html?dram:article_id=347228

http://www.augsburger-allgemeine.de/panorama/20-Jahre-Rechtschreibreform-Was-hat-s-gebracht-id38903307.html

http://www.bild.de/ratgeber/2016/rechtschreibreform/die-haeufigsten-fehler-47293968.bild.html

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