English Orthography Reform

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MoonRightRomantic
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by MoonRightRomantic » Tue 20 Sep 2016, 17:09

qwed117 wrote:I took a gander at your sources. You are blatantly misrepresenting them, or denying any fault in them. The one talking about the reconcilation of various dialects admits that it's virtually impossible to create a standard and not go into some faulty racist/oppressive arguments. I don't think that you get how expansive English dialects are. Not many native speakers realize how they speak it.
It was wrong of my to use the word "trivial," since accent variation is one of the few non-trivial arguments against reform, but you are still under a number of mistaken impressions. For refresher, there are two articles discussing dialect: http://jbr.me.uk/ortho.html#eleven http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/wells/ac ... reform.htm Nether of them support your assertion that accents make reform impossible, only that no reform could account for accents with perfect accuracy and any attempt would still be vastly superior to the current orthography.

You're confusing dialect (different vocabulary and grammar) with accent (different phones), which are not synonymous. All dialects of English are mutually intelligible and share the same meta-phonemes. Every time English speakers with different accents speak to one another they mentally bridge the gap between the differing accents, and some talented speakers can code-switch. If all English speakers can understand one another in speech, then why not in writing?

In terms of cost/benefit analysis, a spelling reform that satisfies most accents most of the time is superior to the current system which satisfies no accents all of the time. Even a reform as conservative as Cut Spelling, which only removes silent letters that serve no morphemic or phonemic purpose in any dialect, would satisfy all dialects.

Would you explain to me why Cut Spelling in particular would not satisfy all dialects?
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by Sumelic » Tue 20 Sep 2016, 18:20

MoonRightRomantic wrote:
qwed117 wrote:I took a gander at your sources. You are blatantly misrepresenting them, or denying any fault in them. The one talking about the reconcilation of various dialects admits that it's virtually impossible to create a standard and not go into some faulty racist/oppressive arguments. I don't think that you get how expansive English dialects are. Not many native speakers realize how they speak it.
It was wrong of my to use the word "trivial," since accent variation is one of the few non-trivial arguments against reform, but you are still under a number of mistaken impressions. For refresher, there are two articles discussing dialect: http://jbr.me.uk/ortho.html#eleven http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/wells/ac ... reform.htm Nether of them support your assertion that accents make reform impossible, only that no reform could account for accents with perfect accuracy and any attempt would still be vastly superior to the current orthography.

You're confusing dialect (different vocabulary and grammar) with accent (different phones), which are not synonymous. All dialects of English are mutually intelligible and share the same meta-phonemes. Every time English speakers with different accents speak to one another they mentally bridge the gap between the differing accents, and some talented speakers can code-switch. If all English speakers can understand one another in speech, then why not in writing?

In terms of cost/benefit analysis, a spelling reform that satisfies most accents most of the time is superior to the current system which satisfies no accents all of the time. Even a reform as conservative as Cut Spelling, which only removes silent letters that serve no morphemic or phonemic purpose in any dialect, would satisfy all dialects.

Would you explain to me why Cut Spelling in particular would not satisfy all dialects?
Cut Spelling looks reasonable, but there are a few issues I can see related to accents or new ambiguities.

Accents:
  • as the Wikipedia pagenotes, the spelling of words like "military" and "necessary" seems like it would differ based on accent: according to the rules, British speakers could drop the "a" but Americans couldn't. This is not a big deal, but it is a complication.
New ambiguities:
  • pal/pall and gal/gall. Not a big deal.
  • ferries/Ferris (aside from the capitalization). Seems somewhat likely to cause confusion for some readers in at least some cases.
  • The cut spelling "ther" (in place of "there") is still irregular, as it looks like it should rhyme with "her." True, this is just replacing one ambiguity with another. It looks like this concern has been addressed somehow in later editions (I found the intro to the second edition which mentions "er" = "err", "heir" as an issue that it would be advantageous to avoid).
Incidentally, I didn't understand one part of that intro: what is "cormnmt" supposed to stand for?
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by Dormouse559 » Wed 21 Sep 2016, 16:03

MoonRightromantic wrote:You're confusing dialect (different vocabulary and grammar) with accent (different phones), which are not synonymous.
I'd just like to point out that the definition of dialect is broader than you think. "Dialect" includes the distinctive aspects of vocabulary, grammar and phonology. That makes "accent" a subset of "dialect". Additionally, different dialects, and by extension accents, can have different phonemes, not just phones.
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by clawgrip » Wed 21 Sep 2016, 16:10

cormenamet...cormenmat, cormnamet, cormunnmutt. I really have no idea. It's like the Arabic version of English.
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by Sumelic » Wed 21 Sep 2016, 16:36

I wonder if it's a typo and the author intended to write something else, like "cormrnt" for "cormorant."
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by MoonRightRomantic » Wed 21 Sep 2016, 17:34

Sumelic wrote:Cut Spelling looks reasonable, but there are a few issues I can see related to accents or new ambiguities.

Accents:
  • as the Wikipedia pagenotes, the spelling of words like "military" and "necessary" seems like it would differ based on accent: according to the rules, British speakers could drop the "a" but Americans couldn't. This is not a big deal, but it is a complication.
New ambiguities:
  • pal/pall and gal/gall. Not a big deal.
  • ferries/Ferris (aside from the capitalization). Seems somewhat likely to cause confusion for some readers in at least some cases.
  • The cut spelling "ther" (in place of "there") is still irregular, as it looks like it should rhyme with "her." True, this is just replacing one ambiguity with another. It looks like this concern has been addressed somehow in later editions (I found the intro to the second edition which mentions "er" = "err", "heir" as an issue that it would be advantageous to avoid).
Incidentally, I didn't understand one part of that intro: what is "cormnmt" supposed to stand for?
Cut spelling doesn't indicate a following schwa and doesn't differentiate between syllabic consonants /r̩, l̩, m̩, n̩, ŋ̍/ and those consonants preceded by a schwa. The words excellent, government and continent become "exlnt, govrnmnt, contnnt" under cut spelling. Since that word isn't anywhere else in the complete book, it must have been replaced from previous editions.
Dormouse559 wrote:I'd just like to point out that the definition of dialect is broader than you think. "Dialect" includes the distinctive aspects of vocabulary, grammar and phonology. That makes "accent" a subset of "dialect". Additionally, different dialects, and by extension accents, can have different phonemes, not just phones.
Correction acknowledged. GA has less phonemes than AE and RP, which hugely affects rhyming in poetry. It's fascinating how speakers are capable of understanding one another despite this. I blame English's extremely permissive syllable constraints that make rhyming so difficult in any dialect.
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by Ebon » Wed 21 Sep 2016, 18:04

MoonRightRomantic wrote:Cut spelling doesn't indicate a following schwa and doesn't differentiate between syllabic consonants /r̩, l̩, m̩, n̩, ŋ̍/ and those consonants preceded by a schwa. The words excellent, government and continent become "exlnt, govrnmnt, contnnt" under cut spelling. Since that word isn't anywhere else in the complete book, it must have been replaced from previous editions.
As someone who isn't a native English speaker (whom you seem to be very concerned about), I really don't understand how this is supposed to be an improvement.
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by MoonRightRomantic » Wed 21 Sep 2016, 19:59

Ebon wrote:
MoonRightRomantic wrote:Cut spelling doesn't indicate a following schwa and doesn't differentiate between syllabic consonants /r̩, l̩, m̩, n̩, ŋ̍/ and those consonants preceded by a schwa. The words excellent, government and continent become "exlnt, govrnmnt, contnnt" under cut spelling. Since that word isn't anywhere else in the complete book, it must have been replaced from previous editions.
As someone who isn't a native English speaker (whom you seem to be very concerned about), I really don't understand how this is supposed to be an improvement.
I share your concerns and I would prefer an easy way of indicating syllable breaks in this situation. Those words are very poor examples of cut spelling since they are already spelled fairly closely to their phonemic value. The reasoning for removing schwa is to reduce spelling errors because it has no standard spelling.

Better examples would be: peace → pece, except → exept, plaque → plaq, blood → blod, pitch → pich; innate → inate, necessary → necesary, spell → spel.

You can find a complete copy of the cut spelling handbook @ http://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/wp-content/ ... ndbook.pdf
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by OTʜᴇB » Wed 21 Sep 2016, 20:10

MoonRightRomantic wrote:Better examples would be: peace → pece, except → exept, plaque → plaq, blood → blod, pitch → pich; innate → inate, necessary → necesary, spell → spel.
Blood > Blod seems rather bad though as one would want to pronounce that with an /o/ sound instead of an /ʌ/ sound. Maybe it would be less vague if it were spelled "Blud".
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by Ebon » Wed 21 Sep 2016, 20:30

MoonRightRomantic wrote:
Ebon wrote:
MoonRightRomantic wrote:Cut spelling doesn't indicate a following schwa and doesn't differentiate between syllabic consonants /r̩, l̩, m̩, n̩, ŋ̍/ and those consonants preceded by a schwa. The words excellent, government and continent become "exlnt, govrnmnt, contnnt" under cut spelling. Since that word isn't anywhere else in the complete book, it must have been replaced from previous editions.
As someone who isn't a native English speaker (whom you seem to be very concerned about), I really don't understand how this is supposed to be an improvement.
I share your concerns and I would prefer an easy way of indicating syllable breaks in this situation. Those words are very poor examples of cut spelling since they are already spelled fairly closely to their phonemic value. The reasoning for removing schwa is to reduce spelling errors because it has no standard spelling.

Better examples would be: peace → pece, except → exept, plaque → plaq, blood → blod, pitch → pich; innate → inate, necessary → necesary, spell → spel.

You can find a complete copy of the cut spelling handbook @ http://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/wp-content/ ... ndbook.pdf
Except that inate would then look like it's pronounced like irate, which I believe it is not. I also believe that exemption and except use a different sound, so that's misleading as well. And is blood pronounced like pod?
(YMMV, obviously, but that's how I learned it., Apologies if this is addressed in the handbook, but I don't have the time to dig through hundreds of pages right now.)

It may remove spelling errors to cut out schwas, but it'd make learning pronunciation a nightmare for anyone trying to learn English. How do you know it's excellent and not, say, excelnet if all you have is exclnt and you've never encountered the word before? There's no reason why it couldn't be excelnet- it'd be a valid English word if it existed.
There's also the fact that English students don't necessarily schwa when native speakers schwa (or can distinguish schwas from other sounds, or even know what a schwa is in the first place), so then you're left with memorising spelling even more than now.
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by MoonRightRomantic » Thu 22 Sep 2016, 14:54

OTʜᴇB wrote:
MoonRightRomantic wrote:Better examples would be: peace → pece, except → exept, plaque → plaq, blood → blod, pitch → pich; innate → inate, necessary → necesary, spell → spel.
Blood > Blod seems rather bad though as one would want to pronounce that with an /o/ sound instead of an /ʌ/ sound. Maybe it would be less vague if it were spelled "Blud".
Cut spelling doesn't switch the vowel graphemes used, and it wouldn't be dialect neutral in that case. Many common English words use <o> for /ʌ/: some, come, won, one.
Ebon wrote:Except that inate would then look like it's pronounced like irate, which I believe it is not. I also believe that exemption and except use a different sound, so that's misleading as well. And is blood pronounced like pod?
(YMMV, obviously, but that's how I learned it., Apologies if this is addressed in the handbook, but I don't have the time to dig through hundreds of pages right now.)
According to Google <innate> <irate> <blood> are pronounced /iˈnāt/ /īˈrāt/ /bləd/ in General American. There's no distinction between stressed and unstressed schwa and the vowels with macrons indicate long vowels affected by the Great Vowel Shift: <ā> <ī> are pronounced [ei] [ai].
It may remove spelling errors to cut out schwas, but it'd make learning pronunciation a nightmare for anyone trying to learn English. How do you know it's excellent and not, say, excelnet if all you have is exclnt and you've never encountered the word before? There's no reason why it couldn't be excelnet- it'd be a valid English word if it existed.
There's also the fact that English students don't necessarily schwa when native speakers schwa (or can distinguish schwas from other sounds, or even know what a schwa is in the first place), so then you're left with memorising spelling even more than now.
That's why I think syllabic consonants should be indicated as such. Ideally <exlnt, govrnmnt, contnnt> should be indicated <exl̩n̩t, govr̩nmn̩t, contn̩n̩t>.
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by Ebon » Thu 22 Sep 2016, 17:55

MoonRightRomantic wrote:
Ebon wrote:Except that inate would then look like it's pronounced like irate, which I believe it is not. I also believe that exemption and except use a different sound, so that's misleading as well. And is blood pronounced like pod?
(YMMV, obviously, but that's how I learned it., Apologies if this is addressed in the handbook, but I don't have the time to dig through hundreds of pages right now.)
According to Google <innate> <irate> <blood> are pronounced /iˈnāt/ /īˈrāt/ /bləd/ in General American. There's no distinction between stressed and unstressed schwa and the vowels with macrons indicate long vowels affected by the Great Vowel Shift: <ā> <ī> are pronounced [ei] [ai].
Well... yes. That was my point. Innate and irate are pronounced differently. Spelling them the same way hinders text to speech, since you can't tell which is which from spelling, and it hinders speech to text since it's counterintuitive to spell different sounds the same.

Not that English orthography is great when it comes to this, but it's also not a spelling reform that's supposed to make things easier.
MoonRightRomantic wrote:
It may remove spelling errors to cut out schwas, but it'd make learning pronunciation a nightmare for anyone trying to learn English. How do you know it's excellent and not, say, excelnet if all you have is exclnt and you've never encountered the word before? There's no reason why it couldn't be excelnet- it'd be a valid English word if it existed.
There's also the fact that English students don't necessarily schwa when native speakers schwa (or can distinguish schwas from other sounds, or even know what a schwa is in the first place), so then you're left with memorising spelling even more than now.
That's why I think syllabic consonants should be indicated as such. Ideally <exlnt, govrnmnt, contnnt> should be indicated <exl̩n̩t, govr̩nmn̩t, contn̩n̩t>.
Which addresses a single issue I showed, and it also means I'd have to switch to an English keyboard configuration every time I want to type English, because that's not on mine. Inconvenient. I'm aware that it's impossible for a single configuration to cover every language, but it strikes me as silly to require a reconfiguration for a lingua franca that's this closely related to German.

Speaking of reconfiguration, in the hypothetical situation that this spelling reform becomes a thing, who's going to pay to replace literally every single English textbook? There was a spelling reform in German before I entered school, and when I finished I was still using textbooks with the old spellings. I doubt they've replaced them since, too. Schools, at least German ones, quite simply don't have the money to throw out and replace this many textbooks at once.

What about the other issues? You seem to be under the assumption that a) English students always schwa when native speakers schwa (I don't, and I'm not exactly learning English anymore), b) they can distinguish schwas from other sounds, c) they know what a schwa is.

You can teach them what it is, yes. But if I picked a recording of, say, excellent and asked if all Es are pronounced the same, I'm very certain that most of them would say yes. Once again, it would require rote memorisation of when not to spell vowels. From a German speaker's perspective, it would also be quite difficult to get used to vowels being spelled in this way. This does not make learning English easier in the slightest.
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by Sumelic » Sat 24 Sep 2016, 05:40

Relevant (I think) paper that was recently linked to in "Faculty of Language": English orthography is not “close to optimal"
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by Xonen » Sat 24 Sep 2016, 19:24

Ebon wrote:
MoonRightRomantic wrote:That's why I think syllabic consonants should be indicated as such. Ideally <exlnt, govrnmnt, contnnt> should be indicated <exl̩n̩t, govr̩nmn̩t, contn̩n̩t>.
Which addresses a single issue I showed, and it also means I'd have to switch to an English keyboard configuration every time I want to type English, because that's not on mine. Inconvenient. I'm aware that it's impossible for a single configuration to cover every language, but it strikes me as silly to require a reconfiguration for a lingua franca that's this closely related to German.
I don't see why being closely related would have anything to do with it; there are plenty of cases around the world where closely related languages are written with completely different scripts. Also, instead of switching layouts every time you want to type English, the obvious solution would be to update your main layout to include the underdot. For instance, I can type English just fine on my Finnish QWERTY layout, despite the fact that Finnish orthography doesn't use <q>, <w>, or several other characters included on it.
Speaking of reconfiguration, in the hypothetical situation that this spelling reform becomes a thing, who's going to pay to replace literally every single English textbook?
This applies to all reform ideas out there, and I'm fairly sure it's already been discussed a couple of times in this thread. Yes, stuff like this is one of the main reasons why I, for one, doubt any of the reform proposals discussed in this thread, or anywhere on the internet, has much of a chance of actually happening in the real world. It can still be fun and educational to examine and discuss hypotheticals from a purely linguistic point of view, though.

Also, what Justin Rye says.
What about the other issues? You seem to be under the assumption that a) English students always schwa when native speakers schwa (I don't, and I'm not exactly learning English anymore)
Well, then you're just pronouncing it wrong. [¬.¬] A spelling that would make it easier for a non-native speaker to tell how to approximate a native-like pronunciation would only be an improvement, surely?
b) they can distinguish schwas from other sounds, c) they know what a schwa is.
Obviously enough, you wouldn't need to call it a "schwa". For German speakers, you could just call it "like the <e> in Sonne" or whatever. For languages that don't have a schwa, you need something more creative, but it's no different from how languages are usually taught. In any case, the only way to really learn the proper pronunciation of a foreign language is to actually listen to it spoken, and practise.
You can teach them what it is, yes. But if I picked a recording of, say, excellent and asked if all Es are pronounced the same, I'm very certain that most of them would say yes. Once again, it would require rote memorisation of when not to spell vowels. From a German speaker's perspective, it would also be quite difficult to get used to vowels being spelled in this way. This does not make learning English easier in the slightest.
This strikes me as highly subjective and rather speculative, but... In my experience, even the, ahem, less linguistically-aware among us tend to be able to hear the difference between a stressed and an unstressed vowel, so if the rule is simply that unstressed vowels are not spelled, then it shouldn't pose that much of a problem. And I'm not sure why it would be that much more difficult to get used to than, say <i> for /aɪ/.

All of that being said, though, I'm not a fan of CutSpel. There is the fact that it's at least occasionally impossible to predict where the schwas should be placed from the spelling, and marking syllabic consonants would solve that problem only partially. Also, adding special extra symbols does kind of undermine the point of simplifying the spelling. And finally, not all native speakers use a schwa in every position that it seems to assume a schwa: continent is [kʰɑˑntʰᵻnənt], not [kʰɑˑntʰn̩n̩t]. (In fact, I'm not sure if it's even possible to pronounce two consecutive syllabic /n/'s without inserting at least a very short schwa between them, or without the whole thing becoming a single [n̩:] - which I'm fairly sure nobody actually says. But I guess that's beside the point.)
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by Znex » Sat 24 Sep 2016, 23:45

Xonen wrote:All of that being said, though, I'm not a fan of CutSpel. There is the fact that it's at least occasionally impossible to predict where the schwas should be placed from the spelling, and marking syllabic consonants would solve that problem only partially. Also, adding special extra symbols does kind of undermine the point of simplifying the spelling. And finally, not all native speakers use a schwa in every position that it seems to assume a schwa: continent is [kʰɑˑntʰᵻnənt], not [kʰɑˑntʰn̩n̩t]. (In fact, I'm not sure if it's even possible to pronounce two consecutive syllabic /n/'s without inserting at least a very short schwa between them, or without the whole thing becoming a single [n̩:] - which I'm fairly sure nobody actually says. But I guess that's beside the point.)
If anything, I feel like a simple apostrophe would be more obvious and easy to use.

eg. In my idiolect, continent => kontən'nt
Or in something approximating RP, continent => kontin'nt/kontïn'nt
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by qwed117 » Sun 25 Sep 2016, 00:26

Still misrepresenting sources...
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by clawgrip » Mon 26 Sep 2016, 15:36

Continent is something along the lines of [kʰɑˑnɁn̩ənt̚] for me.

I agree though that if you have multiple syllabic consonants and schwas interacting, you need to mark where the schwas are. Still, as has been said, the question of where the schwas are varies among speakers.
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by MoonRightRomantic » Mon 26 Sep 2016, 15:58

Znex wrote:
Xonen wrote:All of that being said, though, I'm not a fan of CutSpel. There is the fact that it's at least occasionally impossible to predict where the schwas should be placed from the spelling, and marking syllabic consonants would solve that problem only partially. Also, adding special extra symbols does kind of undermine the point of simplifying the spelling. And finally, not all native speakers use a schwa in every position that it seems to assume a schwa: continent is [kʰɑˑntʰᵻnənt], not [kʰɑˑntʰn̩n̩t]. (In fact, I'm not sure if it's even possible to pronounce two consecutive syllabic /n/'s without inserting at least a very short schwa between them, or without the whole thing becoming a single [n̩:] - which I'm fairly sure nobody actually says. But I guess that's beside the point.)
If anything, I feel like a simple apostrophe would be more obvious and easy to use.

eg. In my idiolect, continent => kontən'nt
Or in something approximating RP, continent => kontin'nt/kontïn'nt
Yeah, an apostrophe to indicate schwas/syllabic consonants is what I meant. I don't know why I used IPA diacritics there. But then there would be the problem of distinguishing reduced vowels/syllabic consonants from elisions.

E.g. the words excellent, government and continent become "ex'l'nt, gov'rnm'nt, cont'n'nt" under this spelling. On second thought it might be easier to indicate syllable breaks rather than individual phonemes.
clawgrip wrote:Continent is something along the lines of [kʰɑˑnɁn̩ənt̚] for me.

I agree though that if you have multiple syllabic consonants and schwas interacting, you need to mark where the schwas are. Still, as has been said, the question of where the schwas are varies among speakers.
I don't notice any difference between a syllabic consonant and that consonant preceded by a reduced vowel. There isn't a phonemic distinction in English that I'm aware of.
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by clawgrip » Mon 26 Sep 2016, 16:28

If you're referring to me changing [n̩n̩] to [n̩ən], it's because [n̩n̩] is not clear. This could realistically be [n̩ː], [n̩Ɂn̩], or [n̩ən].

Also relevant is this:
Ebon wrote:It may remove spelling errors to cut out schwas, but it'd make learning pronunciation a nightmare for anyone trying to learn English. How do you know it's excellent and not, say, excelnet if all you have is exclnt and you've never encountered the word before? There's no reason why it couldn't be excelnet- it'd be a valid English word if it existed.
As I hinted at before, it's taking the most learner-unfriendly aspect of Arabic and applying it to English.
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Re: English Orthography Reform

Post by MoonRightRomantic » Mon 26 Sep 2016, 16:59

clawgrip wrote:If you're referring to me changing [n̩n̩] to [n̩ən], it's because [n̩n̩] is not clear. This could realistically be [n̩ː], [n̩Ɂn̩], or [n̩ən].

Also relevant is this:
Ebon wrote:It may remove spelling errors to cut out schwas, but it'd make learning pronunciation a nightmare for anyone trying to learn English. How do you know it's excellent and not, say, excelnet if all you have is exclnt and you've never encountered the word before? There's no reason why it couldn't be excelnet- it'd be a valid English word if it existed.
As I hinted at before, it's taking the most learner-unfriendly aspect of Arabic and applying it to English.
This misrepresents cut spelling. Cut spelling only removes schwas that occur before lateral, rhotic and nasal consonants (i.e. r, l, n, m, and engma) because those are sonorants. Since excellent is spelled <exlnt> under cut spelling, then if you know the spelling rules it may be inferred that there may be schwas preceding only the <l> or the <n> and never following them. This means it may be mispronounced /eksəlnt/ or /ekslənt/ but never /eksəlnət/.

Yes, there should be a standard spelling for schwa. Do apostrophes not work? Cut spelling can't fix a problem it wasn't trying to solve.
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