English Orthography Reform

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GrandPiano
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by GrandPiano » Thu 16 Mar 2017, 20:30

OTʜᴇB wrote:
GrandPiano wrote:
OTʜᴇB wrote:English Orthography has these phonetic hints (1 up over Hanzi), semantic hints (2 up over Hanzi), and letters which are silent in most dialects.
Hanzi actually does have phonetic and semantic hints, though. In fact, the most common method of character formation is to use two pre-existing characters as components, one hinting at the meanung and one hinting at the pronunciation. For example, the character 指 zhǐ "finger; to point" is made up of 手 shǒu "hand" (reduced to 扌), and 旨 zhǐ "purpose; decree; excellent". 扌 hints at the meaning, while 旨 hints at the pronunciation. Sometimes these hints are somewhat obscured by sound change and semantic shift, but phonetic and semantic hints are still definitely very prevalent in hanzi.
Interesting, but only 26 symbols are needed for the hints in English, where there are far more in Hanzi, meaning that—while the hint may be better—you only get the hint once you're good enough to have less use with the hint.
I'm not saying that hanzi's phonetic and semantic clues are superior (or inferior) to those of the English orthography, just that it's not at all true that hanzi has no phonetic or semantic clues.

Unless I'm mistaken, your argument actually only applies to phonetic hints. Hanzi's semantic hints are arguably easier to make use of in that respect that English's, because, unlike English, hanzi has several extremely common semantic components that each occur in a very large number of characters.
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Sumelic
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by Sumelic » Thu 16 Mar 2017, 20:41

OTʜᴇB wrote:while reform on the consonants could work a bit, reform on vowels is simply impossible without cheesing off half the dialects - and if there must be reform, it cannot split up dialects anymore than they are already, what with English being such a global language.
It's not possible to have perfect representation of the vowels in all accents, but it is possible to reform current spelling of vowels some in a dialect-neutral fashion. I wrote an essay a while back on the "Anglish moot" site (kind of a random place for it) that discusses this: http://anglish.wikia.com/wiki/Clearest_ ... h_Spelling Basically, "oa" in place of "long o," "ew" in place of "long u", and "ie" as in "thief" in place of "ee" as in "feet" are all unnecessary variant spellings of vowels and don't have any siginficance as far as I can tell in any dialect. (Some dialects with variable yod-dropping may accidentally distinguish some words that have "u" vs. "ew," like "flue" vs. "flew," but I think that's never a consistent pattern.) Probably someone who actually studies this a lot could come up with more examples.
GrandPiano wrote:
OTʜᴇB wrote:
GrandPiano wrote:
OTʜᴇB wrote:English Orthography has these phonetic hints (1 up over Hanzi), semantic hints (2 up over Hanzi), and letters which are silent in most dialects.
Hanzi actually does have phonetic and semantic hints, though. In fact, the most common method of character formation is to use two pre-existing characters as components, one hinting at the meanung and one hinting at the pronunciation. For example, the character 指 zhǐ "finger; to point" is made up of 手 shǒu "hand" (reduced to 扌), and 旨 zhǐ "purpose; decree; excellent". 扌 hints at the meaning, while 旨 hints at the pronunciation. Sometimes these hints are somewhat obscured by sound change and semantic shift, but phonetic and semantic hints are still definitely very prevalent in hanzi.
Interesting, but only 26 symbols are needed for the hints in English, where there are far more in Hanzi, meaning that—while the hint may be better—you only get the hint once you're good enough to have less use with the hint.
I'm not saying that hanzi's phonetic and semantic clues are superior (or inferior) to those of the English orthography, just that it's not at all true that hanzi has no phonetic or semantic clues.

Unless I'm mistaken, your argument actually only applies to phonetic hints. Hanzi's semantic hints are arguably easier to make use of in that respect that English's, because, unlike English, hanzi has several extremely common semantic components that each occur in a very large number of characters.
Exactly. As I said earlier, I don't think it makes sense to say that English has any semantic hints at all, if we're using "semantic hints" to mean the same type of thing that hanzi semantic components and Egyptian determinatives are. Those things are graphemes whose only function is to convey semantic information--they are completely unrelated to the phonology of the word. English spelling is almost always related to some kind of phonology (often historical rather than current, and often related in an overly-complicated way) or morphology, or in some cases the lexical stratum of the word (e.g. Greek, French, Latin origin). The semantic associations of graphemes are either due to parallel semantic associations in the phonology, or they are morphological, or for some minor patterns they are due to false etymologies or analogy. Stuff like "sc" for cutting words (like "scythe" and "scissors") is barely useful as a semantic hint, and it's only possible anyway for these words because they start with the sound /s/ (we don't have any words with spellings like "sctrimmers" /trɪmərz/, where the semantics-related part of the spelling is completely unrelated to the phonology-related part).
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by GamerGeek » Sun 28 May 2017, 22:47

I know there has been a lot of discussion, but I'm not reading 37 pages. I kinda skimmed over the last two pages.
The best way to reform english is to minimize irregularity, not to change how it looks. We wont be "cacεŋ" balls anytime soon.
How do we do this? Simplify our digrafs like this, and it's pretty eesy to reed, even if it looks a litle derpy. I think this is the most likely speling reform, wat do yoo think?
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by Sumelic » Sun 28 May 2017, 23:13

GamerGeek wrote:I know there has been a lot of discussion, but I'm not reading 37 pages. I kinda skimmed over the last two pages.
The best way to reform english is to minimize irregularity, not to change how it looks. We wont be "cacεŋ" balls anytime soon.
How do we do this? Simplify our digrafs like this, and it's pretty eesy to reed, even if it looks a litle derpy. I think this is the most likely speling reform, wat do yoo think?
Certainly that is the easiest course of action, and if you're interested in using or promoting practical spelling reforms it makes sense to do that (Jack Windsor Lewis uses some simplified spellings on his blog). But it seems that very few people are motivated to do this. I know that I just think of English spelling reform as an interesting puzzle, and something that I am broadly sympathetic to, not something that I actually care about. Furthermore, even if I did care, the way I write will have essentially no effect on society. It's like the paradox of voting. I'd join an organization or something like that if I wanted to effectively accomplish societal change.

On my level of engagement (as I said, interested in the "puzzle" elements of spelling reform) the issue with changes like "digraf" is that they're too obvious to be very interesting to discuss. Everyone on this board already knows that English uses "ph" to represent the sound /f/, and that this is pretty much unnecessary. Making things less complicated by using "f" instead works fine, with no particular complications that I know of that might need to be circumvented in interesting, unexpected ways. Furthermore, it isn't particularly important either: I haven't checked but I'd imagine that a very small percentage of spelling errors involve writing "f" for "ph" or vice versa, and a very small amount of the difficultly of learning English spelling is tied up with this convention. So besides being obvious (and therefore, kind of boring to me) it's not one of the areas where a "fix" is obviously needed. And last, like you said, it looks a bit derpy. All else equal, I'm biased toward spelling reforms that appeal to my sense of aesthetics.

(There are some differences between the examples in your post, of course. I talked about "ph" > "f" in the preceding paragraph; "ea" > "ee" is similarly "obvious" but seems much more useful, so I like it more, even though it does look a bit weird; "ll" > "l" in "spelling" is actually a problematic decision because it implies re-working the whole system of doubling consonants and replacing it with something else that works better as a system, which is a bit tricky if we're sticking with the idea of not making drastic changes. So "ll" > "l" is potentially interesting, but what I really want to see is a description of the general principles/system for changing spelling like this, and arguments for why it would be better than the current system.)
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by Hominid » Tue 30 May 2017, 14:57

I don't really like these moderate hero spelling reforms that take away the interesting parts of English without actually making it easier to spell or pronounce.

Ajd ræðë rid sämpþíŋ lajk ðís than sumthing liek this.
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by alynnidalar » Tue 30 May 2017, 18:06

Hominid wrote:Ajd ræðë rid sämpþíŋ lajk ðís
Certainly "interesting"; not sure I'd characterize it as "easier to spell or pronounce", though.
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by OTʜᴇB » Tue 30 May 2017, 18:08

alynnidalar wrote:
Hominid wrote:Ajd ræðë rid sämpþíŋ lajk ðís
Certainly "interesting"; not sure I'd characterize it as "easier to spell or pronounce", though.
I don't think that's the point. I think Hominid is more interested in the artistic potential of orthography reform, rather than the practical.
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Hominid
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by Hominid » Tue 30 May 2017, 20:32

alynnidalar wrote:
Hominid wrote:Ajd ræðë rid sämpþíŋ lajk ðís
Certainly "interesting"; not sure I'd characterize it as "easier to spell or pronounce", though.
The point is that it would be easier to learn, for non-native speakers. These spelling reforms that only get rid of some obvious problems while keeping others seem counterproductive to me.

That said, I am indeed not really interested in any kind of orthography reforms for English.
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How deranged is the English spelling system?

Post by Ahtaitay » Fri 17 Nov 2017, 23:24

I am a second learner of English, a pretty good one at that, and the English spelling system is the kinda thing that make me wanna rip my eyes out. It seems not only foreign learners are frustrated with this spelling system, but also native speakers. In the couple of past weeks, I researched this topic, with quite some depth, and I wrote an article about it. It seems that the English spelling system has far-reaching (negative) implications that go beyond the individual learner. Find the original article [http://ahtaitay.blogspot.com/2017/11/th ... -deep.html]. Please, suggest any additions that might be added to this article, and point out any corrections. I would love this to turn into a profitable multinational debate.

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Re: How deranged is the English spelling system?

Post by Axiem » Sat 18 Nov 2017, 01:06

The English spelling system is perfectly fine. Strange, yes, but perfectly fine.

I really like the property that English has where a person whose dialect I wouldn't be able to understand in speech can still write a letter that I can understand, and vice-versa. Any reform to English spelling that at all tried to make it closer to modern pronunciations would invariably break this property.
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Re: How deranged is the English spelling system?

Post by Xonen » Sat 18 Nov 2017, 02:33

Merged the new thread with the existing one.

Axiem wrote:
Sat 18 Nov 2017, 01:06
The English spelling system is perfectly fine. Strange, yes, but perfectly fine.
Well, I'd say "perfectly fine" is stretching it. It's not as bad as its detractors tend to make it out to be, but it is quite objectively harder to learn than it would strictly need to be, and largely for fairly stupid reasons.
I really like the property that English has where a person whose dialect I wouldn't be able to understand in speech can still write a letter that I can understand, and vice-versa. Any reform to English spelling that at all tried to make it closer to modern pronunciations would invariably break this property.
/aɪm fɛərli ʃɜːr juː kæn ʌndərstænd ðɪs dʒʌst faɪn/, and so could anyone whose native language is English, if that's what they were taught in schools and whatnot. After all, teaching a system closer to modern pronunciation could hardly be harder than the current one! But obviously, the real problem is that the hundreds of millions of speakers already used to the current system would effectively have to learn to read all over again, and that's just never gonna fly.

In any case, the main problem with English spelling isn't that it's too far from modern pronunciation - it's not - but that it's irregular. Even a fairly minor spelling reform could fix a lot of the irregularity - but as we've seen with fairly recent examples from, say, German and French, even fairly minor spelling reforms can be really difficult to implement.
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by qwed117 » Sat 18 Nov 2017, 02:45

To quote Sean Paul /bɪɾəbɑ̃ŋgbɑ̃ŋg/
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by Sumelic » Sat 18 Nov 2017, 02:53

Axiem wrote:
Sat 18 Nov 2017, 01:06
The English spelling system is perfectly fine. Strange, yes, but perfectly fine.
As Xonen says, that's true if you define "perfectly fine" as something like "not entirely unusable", but there are all sorts of fairly obvious ways the spelling of English words could be improved (if we ignore the costs of changing things, of course). Just because the system is not actually composed of ghotis and ghoughphtheightteeaus doesn't mean it's perfect.
I really like the property that English has where a person whose dialect I wouldn't be able to understand in speech can still write a letter that I can understand, and vice-versa. Any reform to English spelling that at all tried to make it closer to modern pronunciations would invariably break this property.
The last sentence of this is false, and even a weakened version of this argument is not very good (see e.g. the counter-arguments given by Justin B Rye). It is well known that some words, such as "debt", "doubt", "receipt", "isle", have consonant letters that don't correspond to any sound in anyone's pronunciation. In words like "island", "aisle", "redoubt", "scythe", "scent", "ache", "ptarmigan", the silent consonant letters don't even serve as guides to the etymology of the words: they actually suggest false etymologies. We could easily do without them, just as present-day French does without "ç" in the word "savoir" (formerly often spelled "sçavoir").

Vowels are more tricky, but in this area also there are words with spellings that are misleading for pretty much everyone, like "heart", "hearth", "hearken", "English", "England", "double", "trouble", "friend", "tongue", "busy", "shoe".

A reform that fixed only the words listed in this post would in fact qualify as "any reform to English spelling that at all tried to make it closer to modern pronunciations" and it would do nothing significant to break the property you are attached to. Present-day English spelling is not actually some kind of perfect diaphonemic/morphological spelling system.
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