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Why is there animosity toward modernizing English spelling?

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Ediacara Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-06-07 09:30 PM
Original message
Why is there animosity toward modernizing English spelling?
Or:

Way iz er nəmasitiy tord madernayzin Iŋgliʃ spelin?

Whenever this is brought up on DU (generally in the Lounge) there is a huge firestorm about the dumbing down of the language or people supporting replacing English spelling with leet. It's a total non sequitur, no one supports that. Is Spanish dumbed down when its spelling periodically changes with changes in pronunciation? Has anyone ever seriously thought that English spelling should be replaced with leet, which is generally just as non-phonetic?

What I want to know is why people cling so much to an almost entirely non-phonetic spelling system that hasn't changed much in the last 500 years. At what point do we come to the conclusion that English spelling is just too absurd to live with? Are we already too far gone and any change would be seen as derailment?
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raccoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-10-07 09:39 AM
Response to Original message
1. I hav no animosity tord it!

Seriously, I agree that English spelling is too absurd to live with.

I think Spanish has the advantage over ENglish in that respect.

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TheBaldyMan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-11-07 11:54 AM
Response to Original message
2. There is an issue of clarity with standardised spelling and grammar
while not necessary it does help communication across cultural divides.

As a mother tongue Scots speaker I am very relaxed about Scots grammar and spelling - you have to be - every individual seems to have their own vernacular, indeed two scots from different regions usually converse in English! so they can understand what the other is saying. Some dialects of Scots being almost mutually incomprehensible.

On occassion I have had the joyful experience of reading what someone else has written in Scots, it's like trying to decypher Jacobean English. That's including the stuff being written today. It may be perceived as a problem because you have to read the stuff very carefully and crack the code to understand what is being expressed.

Bizarrely there are Scots dictionaries and grammars but hardly anybody has seen one or feels the need to consult one. Most people muddle through Burns using the glossary for Ayrshire dialect at the back of the book. Even then I would dispute what ssome of the terms mean.
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supernova Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-13-07 05:02 PM
Response to Original message
3. How many lanaguages
are phonetically spelled anyway? :shrug:

English spelling has changed little, largely because we have ben so Economically sucessful, I would think. IOW, there really hasn't been a need to revise i to accomodate non-native speakers and writers. That might change in the future, however as American dominance winds down.
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pdxprog Donating Member (36 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-20-08 12:53 PM
Response to Original message
4. Thing is, whose pronunciation would you standardize it to?
English is a global language now, with local variants at different levels of standardization around the world. Updating spelling to match the regional pronunciation of one of them could be construed as a power trip.
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Occam Bandage Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-20-08 02:12 PM
Response to Original message
5. Because the only people who it would help are the people who are least able to advocate for it.
That is to say, it would really only help ESL learners. Meanwhile, it would have the following disadvantages:

1. It would require every living English-speaker to re-learn to read and write all over again, leading to slower reading/writing speed among all currently-literate generations.

2. The conversion would be enormously complex and difficult.

3. It would lose quite a bit of the encoded etymological clues. For instance, "phonetic" and "phonics" would no longer appear to be cognate.

4. It would have to decide to represent only one certain dialect, or else run the risk of having mutual unintelligibility. Most likely, different countries would take different standards, requiring a literate English-speaker to keep several dictionaries in their minds.

5. The whole shebang would have to be repeated every generation anyway.
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raccoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-23-08 10:05 AM
Response to Reply #5
7. Standard radio/tv speech.

I think this should've happened centuries ago.

You brought up some very good points, though.
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Occam Bandage Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-08-08 05:17 PM
Response to Reply #7
11. If it had happened centuries ago, it would be almost as useless by now as standard orthography.
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ZombieNixon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-22-08 11:00 AM
Response to Original message
6. There are a couple of issues with this.
1. Widespread use of English. So many people around the world speak English with their own little twist, and among those who are literate, the current, archaic orthographer serves as a potential unifier. It enables me to read a letter written by my grandfather in India, who, to the untrained ear, has an unintelligible accent.

2. Related: dialectical variation. No English-speaking country has had a "national academy" a la Germany or Spain to regulate the "proper" form of the language. As English spread throughout the world, every country that adopted some modicum of English as widespread has mixed it with local languages and accents to form a loosely-related collection of dialect, which sound very different from each other. The Queen's English and African-American vernacular are linguistically further apart than Danish and Norwegian, though while the latter two are considered separate languages, Queen Elizabeth and Kanye West are both considered to speak the same language, English. So, when our new spelling system comes into place, will a male sibling be a "brother," a "brəə", a "brutha", or a "bro"?

3. Orthography. The 26 letters of the Latin alphabet are notoriously suited to writing English, a language with 44 phonemes, 11 or 12 of which are vowels, while Roman script has only five vowels and 21 consonants. We could adopt a couple of extra letters, like other Germanic languages, or retool the existing orthography. Gaelic uses a neat system where 50+ phonemes are representable using unique combinations of only 18 letters. Even just using the 26 letters. Wee cood com opp with a farely reguler sistem that, wile id mite look a littel weerd (lige Dotch, akchuelly), cood mage more senz.
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raccoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-08-08 07:47 AM
Response to Reply #6
10. Regarding #2, I think the way the Beach Boys talk should be the "proper"
form of the language.
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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-24-08 10:42 PM
Response to Original message
8. If you have the patience, read The Sound Pattern of English by Chomsky and Halle
It explains how English spelling keeps the relationships among words clear: "photograph" and "photography," for example:

FO-tuh-graf and fuh-TAH-griffy, or, if you're British: "fo-TAW-griffy" or "president" and "presidential."
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SheilaT Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-25-08 10:52 PM
Response to Original message
9. What Pdxprog said.
Some changes could be useful, but we'd either wind up with dozens of different spellings of the same words to accommodate the various ways they are pronounced in different groups, or we'd have a perfectly phonetic rendition of the speech of only a small subgroup.

I'm old enough to remember when the word tomorrow had a hyphen in it (to-morrow) and a few other changes like that which occurred in the mid-twentieth century.
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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-13-08 04:27 PM
Response to Original message
12. IMO spelling reform is definitely necessary
The big thing that needs fixing the the spelling of vowels. Heck even the terminology we use for vowels is screwed up, for example, what we call a "long E" is what most places call a "long I"

I would do the spelling of English vowels this way:

The Schwa /ə/ as in about: e

Front Vowels

/i/ as in beet: ii
/ɪ/ as in bit: i
/e/ as in hate and day: ee
/ɛ/ as in bet: e
// as in bat: a


Back Vowels

/u/ as in dune and boot: uu
/ʊ/ as in foot and put: u
/o/ as in home, row and soap: oo
/ɔ/ as in caught, naught, and dawn: o
/ʌ/ as in but and cup: uh
/ɑ/ as in mom and spa: aa


diphthongs

/ɔɪ/ as in boy and toy: oi
/aɪ/ as in my, hi, and buy: ai
/aʊ/ as in house, mouse, and now: au
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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-14-09 07:43 AM
Response to Reply #12
14. Well, the vowels are problematic
For one thing, Brits and Australians (and some North Americans) pronounce "dune" as "dju:n," and Australians pronounce "day" as "dai."

There's also the famous "writer" and "rider" distinction. Some dialects of English, especially American, distinguish them by vowel length, because "t" in the middle of a word goes to "d." Brits usually keep the "t" and the vowels pretty much the same. In a few dialects, the two words sound pretty much the same.

Besides, imagine reprinting every book ever written in English and teaching not only the hundreds of millions of native speakers and perhaps 1 billion second-language speakers to write a whole different way--that didn't reflect the way they pronounce things.

Norway has reformed its spelling, but it's a small country with a relatively small amount of books written in its language, and besides, the reforms occurred in several tiny stages, starting in 1907, not all at once.

China simplified its characters in 1955, but at that time, most people were illiterate. Now simplified characters are the norm throughout China, since most literate people went to school after the reforms, but the simplified forms have not taken hold outside of mainland China.



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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-14-09 05:23 PM
Response to Reply #14
15. That is very true.
large vowel systems tend to be unstable and shift around a lot, even in a single generation. My mom's vowels are perfectly "standard" Upper-Midwestern (General American but monophthongal /e/ and /o/), but I am caught-cot and dawn-Don merged and have the start of the Northern Cities vowel shift (raising of the vowel in "cat" and fronting of the merged cot-caught vowel). my 10yo niece has that and a backing and lowering of the vowel in "putt". The NCVS is taking over around here
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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-24-09 02:23 PM
Response to Original message
13. Consider the history of England
which was conquered and colonized by wave after wave from the continent. My own theory is that whoever was being colonized hung on to the worst parts of their language out of sheer perversity until it was adopted into the blended language of conquerors and conquered.

How else can we explain the "gh" monster, something that has survived from earliest times to bedevil the poor ESL student with "caught," "through," "sleigh," "cough," "though," and a zillion others, all with their own pronunciation that is completely different from the language that gave rise to it?

My own speech is liberally sprinkled with Gaelic, so I can manage to admire the sheer spite with which linguistic anachronisms have been clung to.
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ZombieHorde Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 12:49 PM
Response to Original message
16. I would prefer a pictorial system, such as the Chinese characters. nt
Edited on Wed Aug-19-09 12:49 PM by ZombieHorde
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subcomhd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-26-09 08:08 PM
Response to Original message
17. Don't know about that but
Knowing a phonetic language can help you remember how to spell new words in any language, phonetic or not.
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Zavulon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-20-10 03:24 PM
Response to Original message
18. Let French go first.
I don't believe that we should change what millions currently use for the benefit of some who don't like it.
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whathehell Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-12-11 05:17 AM
Response to Reply #18
19. Precisely....My Russian doctor asked me why we don't modernize our spelling
I smiled and said: "At least we don't have cases".

..Something else the French do without.
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elleng Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-12-11 09:33 AM
Response to Original message
20. Dunno. Ain't seen nuttln like dat in da lunge.
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Jim__ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-18-11 01:15 PM
Response to Original message
21. Just about any suggested major change will incur animosity.
In your post, you list a couple of reasons for the animosity you question: dumbing down the language, and replacing English spelling with leet. Now, you can claim that those are not legitimate reasons; but that would imply that at least part of the animosity is due to a lack of education with respect to the proposed change.

I don't know what the intent of your alternately proposed question is:

Way iz er nəmasitiy tord madernayzin Iŋgliʃ spelin?


but if that is the an example of the proposed spelling change, then it is more than a change of spelling, it also involves some alphabetic changes. Personally, I'd be opposed to any alphabetic changes without hearing a strong case in support of them - our current alphabet seems to cover the phonemes we require.

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