Latin alphabet orthographic reforms for English

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Inky Scrolls
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Latin alphabet orthographic reforms for English

Postby Inky Scrolls » 2017-02-11, 20:45

Hi all,

For years an interest of mine has been designing possible replacements for the orthography currently in use for writing English. While it has its benefits, notably its historical aspects and preservation of links to etymology, I cannot but help feeling that it has drifted far from the alphabetic principle. After all, it comes nowhere close to having a 1:1 phoneme:grapheme correspondence.

So, here's my suggestion: write out a short paragraph in regular English orthography, and then again in a new version of your own design. Preferably in the Latin alphabet, but all contributions are welcome! To start this off, I shall transliterate my opening paragraph from above.

For jírz an intrest ov main haz bín dizaining posibl ripleisments for đi orŧografi kërentli in jús for raiting Ingliš. Wail it haz its benefits, noutabli its historikl aspekts and prezërveišon ov links tu etimolodži, ai kanot bët help fíling đat it haz driftid far from đi alfabetik prinsipl. After ól, it këmz nouwér klous tu having a 1:1 founím:grafím korespondens.

Hav fën, and let mi nou wot ju ŧink! :)

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Re: Latin alphabet orthographic reforms for English

Postby linguoboy » 2017-02-12, 6:33

Since the greatest variance between English dialects is in the vowels, I think English should adopt an abjad in order not to make any one variety primary. It would still retain r even for non-rhotic dialects in order to prevent widespread homophony.

Sns ð grytst vyryns btwyn 'nglsh dylkts 's 'n ð vwlz, y þnk 'nglsh shd adpt 'n 'bjd 'n 'rdr nt t myk 'ny wn vryty prymyry. 't wd stl rytyn r yvn fr nn-rwtik dylkts 'n 'rdr t pryvnt wydsprd hmfny.
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Re: Latin alphabet orthographic reforms for English

Postby Inky Scrolls » 2017-02-12, 9:55

Hmm, interesting idea. It sort of works, as I was able to understand your paragraph fine. But wouldn't that make words like bet, bat, bit, bot, but, butt, bate, bite, bout, boat, boot, Betty, bitty, batty, etc. all be written as 'bt'? That may make things rather confusing.

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Re: Latin alphabet orthographic reforms for English

Postby linguoboy » 2017-02-12, 15:07

Inky Scrolls wrote:But wouldn't that make words like bet, bat, bit, bot, but, butt, bate, bite, bout, boat, boot, Betty, bitty, batty, etc. all be written as 'bt'?

No.

Try rydng ðt prgrf 'gyn.
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Re: Latin alphabet orthographic reforms for English

Postby Inky Scrolls » 2017-02-12, 18:09

linguoboy wrote:
Inky Scrolls wrote:But wouldn't that make words like bet, bat, bit, bot, but, butt, bate, bite, bout, boat, boot, Betty, bitty, batty, etc. all be written as 'bt'?

No.

Try rydng ðt prgrf 'gyn.


Hang on. I'm still confused by some of the symbols. Why are some vowels represented by ', some by y, and some by w?

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Re: Latin alphabet orthographic reforms for English

Postby linguoboy » 2017-02-12, 19:38

Nw try rydng ð lnk y gyv yw.
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Re: Latin alphabet orthographic reforms for English

Postby Inky Scrolls » 2017-02-12, 20:15

Yes, I understand how an abjad works. And it seems that you have used w for /uː/, /aʊ/ and /oʊ/, and y for /iː/, /eɪ/, /aɪ/ and /ɔɪ/. But my point is: why? What about accents in which that makes little sense? For example, in Yorkshire English, most of the diphthongs become monophthongs, and thus indicating the 'colouring' of the vowel with the appropriate consonant is pointless. If you're wishing to facilitate understanding by removing all vowels, then I'm afraid it doesn't really work.

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Re: Latin alphabet orthographic reforms for English

Postby linguoboy » 2017-02-13, 2:46

Inky Scrolls wrote:Yes, I understand how an abjad works. And it seems that you have used w for /uː/, /aʊ/ and /oʊ/, and y for /iː/, /eɪ/, /aɪ/ and /ɔɪ/. But my point is: why? What about accents in which that makes little sense? For example, in Yorkshire English, most of the diphthongs become monophthongs

Are they long monophthongs?
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Re: Latin alphabet orthographic reforms for English

Postby Inky Scrolls » 2017-02-13, 8:12

linguoboy wrote:Are they long monophthongs?


Ah, now I understand! Yes, they are. I see what you're doing now. But it still doesn't quite fit - the vowels in words like 'make' and 'take' usually become /mɛk/ and /tɛk/ - short monophthongs.

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Re: Latin alphabet orthographic reforms for English

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-02-13, 13:16

Inky Scrolls wrote:But it still doesn't quite fit - the vowels in words like 'make' and 'take' usually become /mɛk/ and /tɛk/ - short monophthongs.

This is exactly how [ɛ] is always represented in Urdu orthography.

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Re: Latin alphabet orthographic reforms for English

Postby IpseDixit » 2017-02-14, 11:33

Inky Scrolls wrote:For jírz an intrest ov main haz bín dizaining posibl ripleisments for đi orŧografi kërentli in jús for raiting Ingliš. Wail it haz its benefits, noutabli its historikl aspekts and prezërveišon ov links tu etimolodži, ai kanot bët help fíling đat it haz driftid far from đi alfabetik prinsipl. After ól, it këmz nouwér klous tu having a 1:1 founím:grafím korespondens.

Hav fën, and let mi nou wot ju ŧink! :)


I suppose the <ë> in prezërveišon is a typo since in all other instances, you used it to represent [ʌ]. Moreover, if it's posibl, historikl, prinsipl, shouldn't it also be prezerveišn?

benefits


Shouldn't it be "benifits"?

---

To me it seems quite weird that you tried to come up with a very regular phonetic alphabet but at the same time you didn't bother to create a letter for [ə], nor two distinct letters for [æ] and [ɑ]. It also looks pretty odd that you used <ë> to represent [ʌ], why not <u> for [ʌ] and <ü> for [ʊ]? It would seem slightly more intuitive IMHO.

Plus, I don't see why you would use <š> when, historically, English has <sh> to represent that sound; same goes for <dž>, English usually represents that phoneme with <j>, so I wouldn't change that and I would still use <y> for [j] (so, for example, it would be yús instead of jús).

---

Anyway, personally I don't think English really needs such a complete spelling reform, I think it should suffice to do away with the most inconsistent spellings. So, for example, here are a few things I'd change (please keep in mind that I haven't really thought this through, so I'm not giving a fully exhaustive proposal at all):

- Eliminate silent letters: so, for example, it would become anser, sord, shoud, woud, tak, wak, forein, paradime, asma, thru, tho instead of answer, sword, should, would, talk, walk, foreign, paradigm, asthma, through, though. I would keep silent letters only if there are confusing homographs.

- Eliminate double consonants: since English doesn't have geminate consonants, double consonants seem pretty useless and a bit confusing, therefore I would write ofense, speling, embarasing, necesary, buter and so on.

- Replace -ight with -ite, or, at most, also in this case, just keep -ight if there are confusing homographs.

- Just use <f> to represent [f], so no more <ph> and <gh>.

- Change the most inconsistent ways in which vowels are represented; for instance, we don't need an <a> in "beautiful", a <u> in "laugh", an <i> in "friend", an <e> in weird, or an <o> in "double". This is probably the part in which more work is needed, but I'm sure we could achieve a more regular (which doesn't necessarily mean 100% regular) way to represent vowels by using the characters (and combinations thereof) already in use, without resorting to outlandish diacritics. In order to be clearer, what I mean here, is that, for instance, probably we don't need <ea> to represent [i] since there's already <ee>, so words like least, mean, clean, lean would change into leest, meen, cleen, leen (perhaps I would retain <ea> only in homophones such as pea/pee and leak/leek). This is the kind of vowel regularization I'm thinking about.

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Re: Latin alphabet orthographic reforms for English

Postby Inky Scrolls » 2017-02-15, 8:20

IpseDixit wrote:I suppose the <ë> in prezërveišon is a typo since in all other instances, you used it to represent [ʌ]. Moreover, if it's posibl, historikl, prinsipl, shouldn't it also be prezerveišn?


The schwa is a marginal phoneme in English, occurring only in unstressed syllables. So I decided to use the letter <ë> to represent it, as /ʌ/ is the most similar phonemic vowel in English. You're right about the <o> in 'prezërveišn', that shouldn't've been there. The same with 'benifits'; that was also a typo.

IpseDixit wrote:To me it seems quite weird that you tried to come up with a very regular phonetic alphabet but at the same time you didn't bother to create... two distinct letters for [æ] and [ɑ]. It also looks pretty odd that you used <ë> to represent [ʌ], why not <u> for [ʌ] and <ü> for [ʊ]? It would seem slightly more intuitive IMHO.


How d'you know I didn't create to distinct letters for [a] and [ɑː] (as they are pronounced in my own accent). [ɑː] doesn't appear anywhere in the example paragraph. For the record though, I would've written 'farther' as 'farđër', and 'father' as 'fáđër'.

IpseDixit wrote:Plus, I don't see why you would use <š> when, historically, English has <sh> to represent that sound; same goes for <dž>, English usually represents that phoneme with <j>, so I wouldn't change that and I would still use <y> for [j] (so, for example, it would be yús instead of jús).


I used <š> and <dž> because I wanted to. There doesn't need to be a historical precedent in English to make my reform valid. Ай кыд ивн райт ин Сирилик иф ай ўонт ту. I merely headed the thread "Latin alphabet orthographic reforms", not "change a few things but don't forget history reforms".

IpseDixit wrote:Anyway, personally I don't think English really needs such a complete spelling reform, I think it should suffice to do away with the most inconsistent spellings[...]

- Eliminate silent letters: so, for example, it would become anser, sord, shoud, woud, tak, wak, forein, paradime, asma, thru, tho instead of answer, sword, should, would, talk, walk, foreign, paradigm, asthma, through, though. I would keep silent letters only if there are confusing homographs.

- Eliminate double consonants: since English doesn't have geminate consonants, double consonants seem pretty useless and a bit confusing, therefore I would write ofence, speling, embarasing, necesary, buter and so on.

- Replace -ight with -ite, or, at most, also in this case, just keep -ight if there are confusing homographs.

- Just use <f> to represent [f], so no more <ph> and <gh>.

- Change the most inconsistent ways in which vowels are represented[...]


That's all very nice, and is a lower level of reform than that which I was suggesting. Less alphabetic, but far more achievable. What I would take issue with, however, is the removal of double consonants. A word like 'butter', for instance, is obvious in its pronunciation. But change the spelling to <buter>, and you'll get people thinking it's pronounced /'bjuːtə/. Another issue is changing 'talk' and 'walk' to 'tak' and 'wak'. As there is now nothing to indicate the pronunciation of the <a> as /ɔː/, it is little less confusing than retaining the silent <l>, especially as people are familiar with <al> being pronounced /ɔː/ (think 'almanac', 'falcon', 'all', 'wherewithal', etc.)

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Re: Latin alphabet orthographic reforms for English

Postby IpseDixit » 2017-02-16, 12:48

Inky Scrolls wrote:[ɑː] doesn't appear anywhere in the example paragraph


"ai kanot bët help fíling đat it haz driftid far from đi alfabetik prinsipl"

Inky Scrolls wrote:The schwa is a marginal phoneme in English, occurring only in unstressed syllables.


"In English, schwa is the most common vowel sound."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schwa#Description

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Re: Latin alphabet orthographic reforms for English

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-02-16, 13:30

IpseDixit wrote:
Inky Scrolls wrote:The schwa is a marginal phoneme in English, occurring only in unstressed syllables.


"In English, schwa is the most common vowel sound."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schwa#Description

The thing about this is that considering schwa the most common vowel sound in English basically requires you to believe that syllabic consonants don't exist in English (and possibly that barred i and schwa are the same thing as far as English is concerned). To my knowledge, there are some linguists who seem to not believe that syllabic consonants exist in English and others who do believe they exist.

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Re: Latin alphabet orthographic reforms for English

Postby Inky Scrolls » 2017-02-16, 23:07

IpseDixit wrote:
Inky Scrolls wrote:[ɑː] doesn't appear anywhere in the example paragraph


"ai kanot bët help fíling đat it haz driftid far from đi alfabetik prinsipl"


My bad, I missed that one.

IpseDixit wrote:"In English, schwa is the most common vowel sound."


Just because it is the most common doesn't make it not marginal. It has been debated whether it is even a phoneme, as it can only occur in unstressed syllables and is replaced with a variety of other vowels in 'careful' speech.

vijayjohn wrote:The thing about this is that considering schwa the most common vowel sound in English basically requires you to believe that syllabic consonants don't exist in English (and possibly that barred i and schwa are the same thing as far as English is concerned). To my knowledge, there are some linguists who seem to not believe that syllabic consonants exist in English and others who do believe they exist.


I personally would argue that syllabic consonants are phonemic.


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