Rifaurmd Lojikl Inglish

Alan Beale
February 17, 2007

Rifaurmd Lojikl Inglish (RLI) is a modification of Rollo Reid's Lojikl Inglish (LI).  It is intended to correct some of the things in LI that I see as flaws, and to make it work as a pronunciation guide.  I am going to give a complete description of RLI here, rather than just the differences from LI.  The LI description is written in LI, making it somewhat hard for beginners to read, so I will cover it all.  I will note where the differences from LI are.  (Please note that I do not personally claim that RLI is marvelously logical.  I am simply modifying the name Rollo uses for his system.)

I want to express my appreciation to Rollo for all the effort he has put into developing Lojikl Inglish.  I note that everything on this page is my own opinion, and that Rollo should not be blamed for it, nor assumed to agree with any of it.  More information on Lojikl Inglish, in Rollo's own words, may be found here.

If you want to see further examples of RLI, you can use the Wyrdplay converter to convert passages in traditionally spelled English into RLI, as well as into Rollo's original.

I recommend pronouncing RLI as <early>.  It is undoubtedly ahead of its time.

My Critique of Lojikl Inglish

An obvious question to ask is why Rifaurmd Lojikl Inglish exists at all.  What is wrong with Lojikl Inglish as Rollo has defined it?  So I will start with my critique of Lojikl Inglish.  I am only going to cover what I see as its major flaws.  I also note that RLI does not address all these criticisms.

I should make clear that I consider Lojikl Inglish an impressive achievement.  I was attracted to it as far more readable than any other phonemic spelling system eschewing diacritics that I had seen.  This causes me to regard as flaws aspects of it that make it less phonemic.  As a phonemic system, LI is special; when it becomes non-phonemic, it loses its uniqueness and becomes part of a lackluster crowd.

  1. The biggest flaw in current LI, in my opinion, is Rollo's effort to combine the UK and US versions of LI into a common "universal" version.  Rollo does this by choosing one form or the other for words which differ in the two varieties of English.  He spells <bath> in the American way as bath, not baath, and cross in the British way, as kros, not kraus.  As a result, for a significant number of familiar words, universal LI is not phonemic.  Now, I am a fan of systems which minimize the differences between British and American English.  But the systems that do this well are not phonemic.  (For instance, my DRE spells both pronunciations of <desert> as «dezert», which no truly phonemic system could do.)  Universal LI is no longer phonemic, and in my opinion the differentness and fussiness of Lojikl Inglish cannot be justified in the absence of the counterbalancing advantage of phonemicity.  Note that this argument does not apply to UK or US LI, both of which are quite phonemic, only to trying to combine them.

  2. I have difficulties with Lojikl Inglish's system for eliding the schwa sound.  I must acknowledge that Rollo's recent changes to his system have improved the situation substantially.  In the previous version, this aspect was virtually incoherent, but now there are reasonably clear rules, and I'm unaware of contradictions or ambiguities in them.  But I believe that Rollo's rules are too complex, and in addition I reject his phonological theories that underlie them.  My evidence for the claim of complexity is simply this: when Rollo writes in Lojikl Inglish, he often violates his own rules.  There are several possibilities here, but if the rules accurately represent Rollo's intentions, it would seem that he is unable to master them.  As to the theoretical basis, it is best illustrated by an example.  Rollo spells <harangue> as hrang in Lojikl Inglish, with a twofold basis.  First, that no English word begins with hr-, which is true enough, and second, that it is impossible to make the sound of h followed by r without a vowel between them, and so no confusion can be caused by leaving out a brief schwa there.  However, in recent years, the name of the currency of the independent Ukraine has entered the English language.  It is <hryvnia>.  Now, there *is* an English word starting with hr-.  Further, it is in fact easy to pronounce this word with no separation between the h and the r.  If one accepts both these points, then the Lojikl Inglish form of <hryvnia> must be hrivnia, and we must write h'rang for <harangue>.  The point is larger than this one word.  It is that new words are entering the language all the time, and that strict assumptions about what sound combinations are possible or plausible are probably not a good idea.

  3. Rollo has as a minor tenet of Lojikl Inglish that many compound words should be broken apart.  In LI <wherever> is whair evr and <anyone> is eny wun.  Unfortunately, it is often the case that such compounds have meanings different from simply those of their parts: <wherever> is really not the same thing as <where ever>, which has no specific meaning at all except in context.   The most egregious example of the problem is Rollo's spelling of <into> and <onto> as in t and on t.  Leave aside the fact that <into> is not commonly pronounced as in t (I'll get to that in the next point).  <on to> and <onto> are not the same thing, nor are <into> and <in to>.  Compare the two sentences "The car drove on to the platform" and "The car drove onto the platform".  Only the second sentence implies that the car actually drove on the platform.  This is not to say that there aren't occasions where words are compounded needlessly.  But as a practical matter, English is moving in the direction of more, not less, use of compounding, and LI would be better off not tilting at that particular windmill, even in cases where separation does no harm.

  4. Lojikl Inglish represents certain very common words without vowels.  Logically, this is a mistake.  It is mostly harmless.  Spelling <the> as th does little harm.  This word is after all very common, and when LI takes over the world, we will all get used to it quickly enough, even if it does a poor job of representing the actual sound in "Wou!  Aar yoo reeuly th Oepra?"  However, the decision to represent <to> by t is a serious mistake.  It has the same problem with stressed usage as <the>: "Hoo aar yoo tauking t?".  But more important is the effect on the related words <into> and <onto>.  The spellings int and ont are clearly incorrect.  Rollo's solution of breaking these words into two is untenable, as discussed in the previous point.  My conclusion is that, whatever advantages may come from spelling <to> without a vowel (and I don't see them, to be honest), it causes far more trouble than it is worth.

  5. One of the biggest flaws in Lojikl Inglish is very obvious.  It is the use of the digraph eu for the schwa, as in riveut or anthreupoleujy.  The problem is that the schwa is the briefest of sounds, and representing it by two letters gives it too much weight in the total word.  Rollo rightly points out that no single vowel letter can do this job, as they are all used for distinct sounds.  Further, the replacement of eu by apostrophe, or its omission entirely, as in k'laps and bukl, certainly makes things better.  Nevertheless, it is a serious problem, one that causes some readers to reject Lojikl Inglish on sight.  The only solutions to this are radical: reusing a letter like q or x for this purpose, using an accented letter like ë, or adding a new letter like ø, all of which introduce their own problems.  (The use of u for schwa must be rejected as acceptable only to Americans.)  I propose a solution to this at the end of this page, but it is not part of RLI, as Rollo would have to denounce RLI if I included it, and one of my goals is for him to consider RLI as an acceptable variant of his creation.

  6. I have one other major complaint about Lojikl Inglish, which is simply that Rollo imagines that it is applicable to languages other than English.  Such claims are often made by reformers who are monolingual in English, and thus unaware of how different phonetically and phonemically other tongues are.  But Rollo is fluent in French and Arabic (quite unlike myself, I admit), which makes this claim harder to understand.  Even were Lojikl Inglish to be augmented to include the additional sounds of French and Arabic (and Polish and Mandarin and Zulu), it seems clear that speakers of these languages would be ill-served by an orthography designed with the quirks of English in mind.  The vowels e and ee may be closely linked in English, but not in Italian, Spanish or, indeed, most languages.  We already have a universal phonemic notation for the languages of the world: IPA.  On English spelling reform forums, one hears constant complaints about IPA's unsuitability for English: those values for i and j are just nonsense.  But the converse is just as true: a good representation for English is not going to suit most everything else.  LI's claim of universality does not limit it as an English orthography, and there is nothing that RLI can change in relationship to that claim.  All I can do is to note that I reject the claim, and I explicitly do not make it for RLI.

Forms of RLI

There are two ways to use RLI - as a pronunciation guide (PG), or for normal prose.  When you use RLI as a pronunciation guide, you spell things exactly as you pronounce them (or, if you are quoting someone else, exactly the way they pronounce them).  When you use RLI in normal prose, you spell according to a standard pronunciation, which may cause the spelling to vary a bit from what you say, depending on your dialect.  For the rest of this document I use the name PRLI to refer to RLI used as a pronunciation guide, and SRLI to refer to RLI as a spelling system.  (I recommend pronouncing them as <pearly> and <surly> respectively.)

RLI is intended to be usable for both British English (RP) and American English.  Because Brits and Yanks pronounce some words differently, such words are spelled differently in British standard RLI and American standard RLI.  But the system is set up so that it should be possible to read either standard with understanding on both sides of the pond.  An American can understand the meaning of baath or stueurdes or sheduel without difficulty, as an Englishman can understand kraus or noozpaepr or kleurk.  Even within a dialect, there are sometimes variations in pronunciation which could affect the spelling, where defining what is correct or most common is very difficult.  For this reason, RLI has the idea of an "accepted" spelling, which may not be the standard one, but represents a valid pronuciation, and is therefore not considered erroneous.  For instance, the standard spelling of <rabbit> is rabit, but many people say rabeut, so this is also accepted.  For another example, it is hard for most Americans to tell by sound whether the spelling of <parent> should by par'nt or pair'nt.  The standard spelling is pairn't, but par'nt is accepted.  Note that in the PG, most Americans would spell it per'nt, because that is how they say it.


The Consonants of RLI

The consonants of RLI are about what you would expect from regular spelling:

As in
RLI spelling

See (1) ch/sh
See (2) d/t


See (3) gh/kh
See (4) ambiguous h




See (6) nk
See (5) ng

See (7) q
See (8) non-rhotic r
See (9) s/z
See (1) ch/sh

that, think
that, think
See (10) th


See (11) wh
See (12) x
See (13) xh

See (9) s/z


  1. In words like intention, pension and financial, some people pronounce -nsh- and some pronounce -nch-.  In PRLI, you write whichever one you say, but in SRLI, the spelling -nsh- is standard: intenshn, penshn, finanshl.

  2. RLI is a phonemic spelling system.  The past tense ending is spelled the way it is pronounced.  Words like <kissed> and <laughed> are spelled kist and laft in RLI.

  3. LI makes a distinction between the sound of ch in <loch>, spelled gh, and that of <Khalid>, spelled kh.  I have been unable to find any information suggesting that these are in fact different sounds - they both appear to be represented by Sampa /x/.  For this reason, I have dropped kh from RLI.

  4. The letter h is used in digraphs like sh, th and zh to represent other sounds.  This can cause ambiguity in certain cases, as in the words mishap and kaurthous.  This is no problem in ordinary prose, where we accept a bit of ambiguity, but in PRLI, you must put a hyphen before the h: mis-hap, kaurt-hous.

  5. In prose, the sequence ng is ambiguous.  In the word sing, it represents the soft ng.  In angri, it represents the soft ng followed by a g.  In ungraetfl, it represents n followed by g.  It is usually obvious which it means.  If the second form of ng precedes the -r ending, however, the g must be doubled, that is, you must spell finggr to distinguish the pronunciation from that of singr.  When RLI is used as a PG, you must always use ngg in words like anggry, and you must use a hyphen in words like un-graetfl.  PG spellings are required to be unambiguous.

  6. In prose, the sequence nk is ambiguous.  In the word sink, it represents the soft ng followed by a k.  In the word unkiend, it represents n followed by k.  This also applies to nq, which can be as in banqit or as in unqolified.  (However, nx/nxh is always ng followed by x/xh, as in faelanx or anxh's.)  When you write in PRLI, you must use the spellings ngk, ngq, ngx or ngxh for these sounds.

  7. The letter q represents a kw sound,  It is used whether or not a qu appears in the traditional spelling.  Thus the spellings qizeen, qier and auqrd for <cuisine>, <choir> and <awkward>.  The q is not used when the k and w are in different parts of a compound word, as in bakwuudz or silkweurm.

  8. Many people, notably in Britain, are non-rhotic, meaning they do not pronounce the r as written at the ends of words, or before a consonant.  In SRLI, these r's are still written, as in traditional spelling.  In PRLI, they should be indicated in parentheses.  Thus, the words <far> and <beer> spoken in RP would be written in PRLI as faa(r) and bee(r).  In some cases, like <far>, it would be acceptable to simply write faa, but in words like <bear> and <beer>, the r actually has a schwa sound, and it would be misleading to simply leave it out.

  9. RLI is a phonemic spelling system.  The plural ending is spelled the way it pronounced.  Words like <dogs>, <cans> and <faces> are spelled daugz, kanz and faesiz in RLI.  Similarly, the posessive ending is 's or 'z depending on how it is pronounced: Jef's or Jon'z.  But in contractions, like it'z or whot'z, the z is from the implied word iz (or haz), and so is kept even though the pronunciation has changed to s.

  10. In normal writing, the th represents two different sounds - the voiced th of that, and the unvoiced th of think.  In PRLI, the two sounds must be distinguished, so thh is used for the voiceless sound, as in thhink and brethh.  It is accepted to use thh in SRLI, but you probably wouldn't except in a case where there might be confusion, as between eethr (American <either>) and eethhr (<ether>).

  11. wh is a combination that occurs often in traditional spelling, in words like <which>, <whether>, <whale> and <whoops>.  Most people pronounce the wh as a plain w, but some have it as a sound a lot like hw.  The standard spelling of these words uses wh: which, whethr, whael, whuups, but the spellings without the h are accepted: wich, wethr, wael, wuups.

  12. x represents the sound of ks.  It is never used in a plural, like shoks or paniks, and it is not used in the names of sciences, like fiziks and ekeunomiks.  It also is not used when the k and s are in different parts of a compound word, as in bakseet.  In all other words, it is used even if the word is not traditionally spelled with an x, as in axidnt or ixentrik.  Note that x is not used for the sound gz - <exact> is spelled igzakt in RLI.

  13. Since x represents the sound of ks, xh represents the sound of ksh.  Isn't that logical?  It appear mostly in suffixes, in words like kmplexhn (complexion) and obnoxh's (obnoxious).  Often, the letter x does not appear in the present spelling of xh words, like pridixhn (prediction) and junxhn (junction).  This letter combination is not used in Rollo's original version of LI.


The Vowels of RLI

Short vowels

The 5 regular short vowels are represented in the way you would expect in RLI:

As in
RLI spelling
See (2) a/eu
See (3) e/ee
See (4) ee/i/y
and (5) i/eu
See (6) o/aa
and (7) o/au

Long vowels

The 5 regular long vowels are represented as follows in RLI.  (Rollo uses the term "acute vowels" for them, but I believe the term "long vowel" to be more standard.)

As in
RLI spelling

See (3) e/ee
and (4) ee/i/y


See (8) ue/oo

Other vowels

The other vowels of English are represented as follows in RLI.

As in
RLI spelling
See (6) o/aa
See (7) o/au
See (1) eu,
(2) a/eu and
(5) i/eu

See (8) ue/oo


See (4) ee/i/y

Vowel notes

  1. eu in RLI represents the schwa, the most common vowel in the English lannguage.  Any vowel in current spelling can be a schwa, as is shown by the example words: eubout, hundreud, aleubie, preuvoek, and seupoez.  As discussed in detail later, in many words, the eu may be replaced by an apostrophe, or even eliminated, as in: b'loon,  kam'l, den'm, p'zishn, kol'm, sandl, kompitnt, raezn, knvins, and uesfl.  An eu should not be removed in PRLI, except in a final syllable.

  2. An ending eu is replaced by the letter a, as in soefa or Eumerika.  This spelling is preserved in inflections, as in koebraz or poelkad.  In PRLI, eu must be used.  A hyphen should be used after this use of a in a compound word, as in soefa-bed or poelka-dot.  I'd say it was required, but I know you'd just ignore me.

  3. In pronouns ending with ee, the ee is shortened to e, as in me, we, he and she.  This spelling is also used for the verb to be, but the second e comes back in beeing.  This convention is not allowed in the PG.

  4. One of the more subtle differences between typical American and British pronounciation occurs in words such as <happy>.  Americans tend to pronounce it as a clipped long e, while for RP speakers it is more like a short i.  RLI represents this sound with the letter y before a consonant, or i before a vowel: hapy, silynes, raedioe, studiing.  Using y as both a consonant and a vowel in this way requires this rule, so that the sounds of words like jeenyeus and teedius can be distinguished.  Note that certain words use an unstressed long i in positions where Americans may hear no difference from the -y sound, as in <series> and <whoopee>.  The standard spelling for such words uses the ee: seereez, whuupee.  However, the y spelling is accepted.  Note that using the y as both a consonant and a vowel is problematical for a pronunciation guide.  PRLI uses the digraph ey for the American -y sound, while i serves as the RP version.  Thus an American would spell hapey and raedeyo in PRLI, while a Brit would probably spell hapi and raedio.

  5. There are very many words where it is very hard to tell whether a short i or a schwa is spoken.  Is it rivit or riveut, amplifie or ampleufie, minit or mineut?  RLI accepts either spelling in words like these.  The standard spelling is i if the TS spelling is a, e, i, or y, otherwise it is eu.  Thus the standard spellings for the words above are rivit, amplifie and mineut.

  6. In RP, the normal sound of the short o, as in <bother>, is different from the sound of the a in <father>.  Americans pronounce these two words so they rhyme.  In the RLI pronunciation guide, the letter o is used for the British sound, and aa for the American sound, so that a Brit would use the spelling bothr, and a Yank baathr.  If the standard spelling was like this, there would be innumerable differences between American spelling and British spelling.  For this reason, the standard American spelling uses o when the British pronunciation is o, and aa when the British pronunciation is aa.  An American is likely to ask, rather perplexed, how he is supposed to know what pronunciation the Brits use.  The answer is that it is almost always easy to tell from the present spelling.  If the existing spelling uses o, or an a following w or qu, the o should be used in RLI.  Otherwise, the aa should be used.  Thus: faathr, bothr, draama, koma, wosp, sqod.

  7. In American English, many words spelled with o are pronounced with au, whereas they are pronounced with the British short o in RP.  Examples are <cross>, <song>, <cloth>.  The standard British RLI spelling of these words will use o: kros, song, kloth, and the standard American spelling will use au: kraus, saung, klauth.  Some Americans do not distinguish between aa and au except before r.  Since they also regard the aa and the short o to be the same, they may use the o spelling as an accepted variant.

  8. English has two different sounds which are often thought of as "long u".  One is the sound of the word <you>, in such words as <cue>, <few> and <mute>.  RLI represents this sound by ue.  (Note that the word <you> itself is an exception - it is spelled yu.)  The other is the sound of the word <ooh>, in such words as <too>, <crew> and <flute>.  RLI uses oo for this sound.  Unfortunately, there are many words which use the ue sound in RP, and the oo sound in American English.  These are spelled according to the pronunciation.  An American will spell tootauriul and noozpaepr, and an Englishman tuetauriul and nuezpaepr.  It can't be helped.  Some Americans use the British pronunciation for some words.  For instance, I pronounce <duty> as duetey.  Therefore, the British spelling is also considered acceptable for American English.

Vowels with r

Because the spellings used for vowels before r can be confusing, a separate table is provided here.

As in
RLI Spelling
See (2) er/ar/air
See (2) er/ar/air
See (3) aur/or
See (2) er/ar/air
See (4) eer/ir
See (1) eur
and (5) eur/ur
See (4) eer/ir
See (6) ier/oir/our
See (3) aur/or
See (6) ier/oir/our
See (7) oor/uur
and (8) oor/uer
See (6) ier/oir/our
See (5) eur/ur
See (8) oor/uer
See (7) oor/uur


  1. The vowel eur can be stressed or unstressed.  For some people, the stressed and the unstressed sounds are noticeably different, but it does no harm to spell them the same.  The word <perforate> (RLI peurfeuraet) contains both sounds - the first stressed, the second unstressed.  The eu in the unstressed form can often be reduced to an apostrophe, or even removed altogether, as in the words p'raed, advrtiez, bacheul'r and voetr, as described below.

  2. Most Americans pronounce the vowels in Jerry, Larry and Mary with the same vowel, a short e.  Words which sound different in RP, like <fairy> and <ferry> or <harry> and <hairy> are pronounced the same by most Americans.  This is the same problem as with aa and o.  Luckily, it is almost always the case that an American can figure out which pronunciation a Brit would use from the existing spelling.  For this reason, the British RLI spellings are standard, even for Americans.  The rule is: if the current spelling is er or err, the RLI spelling is er.  If the spelling is arr, the RLI spelling is ar.  If the spelling is air, are, ear, ere or eir, the RLI spelling is air.  Unfortunately, there is one other case.  If the spelling is ar, you have to know the word to know whether the RLI spelling is ar or air.  For <paradox>, the spelling is pareudox, but for <various>, it is vairius.  For this reason, it is "accepted" for Americans to get it wrong, and spell paireudox or varius.

  3. The existing spelling or is usually pronounced and spelled aur in RLI, as in maurtl and kaurnr.  The existing spelling orr is usually pronounced and spelled or in RP, and aur in American English, as in horid/haurid.  But there are exceptions.  The words <forest> and <orange> are spelled forist and orinj in British RLI, and <borrow> and <sorry> are spelled boroe and sory in both forms of  RLI.  (In the PG, American <borrow> would usually be spelled baaroe, not boroe.)  Because the variations in pronunciation cannot be predicted from the current spelling, the two national standards have to differ.

  4. The situation with eer and ir is quite similar to the situation with ar/air/er.  The first vowels of <mere> and <mirror> are different in RP, but the same in American English.  Standard RLI, of either sort, spells them meer and mir'r respectively.  Americans can tell which spelling to use from the current spelling.  If the sound is spelled ir, irr or yr, the RLI standard spelling is ir; if the spelling is ear, eer, ere or ier, the standard spelling is eer.  Of course, when using PRLI, Americans spell the sound they make: mir and sfir, not meer and sfeer.

  5. Some words in British English, currently spelled with urr or our, are pronounced with a short u, as for example <hurry> and <courage>.  Americans in general never say a short u followed by an r, and pronounce such words with a stressed eur.  In both standard forms of RLI, the spelling ur is used for words of the first sort: hury, curij.  The current spellings of urr and our allow Americans to figure out which words require this spelling in RLI.  It should be noted that <blurry> and <furry> are exceptions, and are spelled bleury and feury in standard RLI.

  6. RLI allows the eu in eur to be left out at the end of a word after one of the diphthongs ie, oi or ow.  <buyer>, <destroyer> and <shower> are spelled bier, distroir and shour, not bieur, distroiur and shouur.  There is no such rule in LI, but it seems quite compatible with it.  The same rule also applies before l, as in <trial>, <loyal> and <towel>: triel, loil, toul.

  7. Most words pronounced with the sound of uur in American English, such as <tourist> and <moor>, are pronounced with a different sound in RP.  A few words, notably <guru> and <courier>, are special, having the same pronunciation in both varieties.  The spelling oor is used in standard RLI for the majority of these words (toorist, moor), and uur is reserved for the few words for which this is the mutual pronunciation, as guuroo and kuuriur.  Note that when writing in PRLI, Americans use their actual pronunciation, and therefore write tuurist and muur.

  8. The spelling uer is used in standard RLI for the sound of -yoor, as in puer, fueri and sikuer.  The unvarying sound yuur is very rare, but may be found in the word <obdurate>, spelled obdyuurit in RLI.  Note that in PRLI, Americans would spell <pure>, <fury> and <secure> as pyuur, fyuurey and sikyuur, since they do not actually use the RP uer sound.

Vowel combinations

RLI uses shortened forms of various vowel combinations.  They are quite unsurprising.  Combinations not shown are spelled by simply writing each vowel in full, as in snoey or grajooaet or kieoety or graeish or kaeos.  A few words, such as hieeena and ivakueee, would contain an unpleasant triple-e sequence if this rule were followed.  In RLI, the first of the three e's in such words is replaced by an apostrophe, resulting in the more readable hi'eena and ivaku'ee.

As in
RLI spelling


See (1) i-/ee-
See (1) i-/ee-
and (2) ia/iu
See (1) i-/ee-
piety, papaya
pieuti, p'piea

See (1) i-/ee-
See (1) i-/ee-
See (1) i-/ee-
and (2) ia/iu
See (3) iye/iyee/ieyu
See (3) iye/iyee/ieyu
See (3) iye/iyee/ieyu
coalition, boa
koeulishn, boea





See (4) uo/uoe/uou
See (4) uo/uoe/uou
See (4) uo/uoe/uou


  1. The combinations ia, iae, iee, ioe and iu all begin with the same sound as the y ending.  If the initial vowel is stressed, a combination beginning with ee should be used, such as eeae, eeoe or eeu, as in leeaezon, kreeoel, and theeutr.  If the pronunciation of the initial vowel is a clipped long e, as for most Americans, these combinations are written in the RLI pronunciation guide with ey rather than with i, as in videyoe and aeleyun.

  2. The combination ia is normally as in pianoe, but is pronounced as iu at the end of a word, as in airia.  As shown in the chart, similar variations exist for other combinations, such as iea and oea.

  3. The natural spellings for <fiesta>, <medieval> and <triumph> would be fiestamedieeval and trieumpf.  But the first spelling shows a long i, the second the initial vowel combination of bieeniul, and the third the vowels of trieul.  So a y is inserted between the two vowels to avoid ambiguity.

  4. The spellings uo, uoe and uou are used in place of ooo, oooe and ooou to avoid confusing triple letter sequences.

Sight words

RLI has a few sight words, that is, very common words that are given a special shorter spelling because they are so common.  Some words are sight words not so they will have short spellings, but to allow them to be spelled the same in both American and British RLI.  The one syllable words ending in -ee, like be, me and he, have already been mentioned.  Other sight words are shown in the table below.  Their LI spellings are also shown for contrast.  Spellings marked with an asterisk, in either system, are regular, based on an unambiguous stressed pronunciation, and are therefore do not represent sight words in that system.  Note that in PRLI, all words must be spelled accurately, sight words or no.

Sight word
LI Spelling
RLI Spelling
PG spelling
in t
(also waat/wot/wut)

The different sight words in LI and RLI are the most obvious distinction between them for the casual observer.  I have no strong objections to the LI sight words, except for <to>, but decided to do my own list to concentrate on words with both strong and weak forms, looking for spellings like thi and yu that compromised between the two forms.  Originally, I also used the spelling nd for <and>, but this looked so odd that I abandoned it, even though I still like it in principle.  RLI does spell -and- as -n- in compound words, such as rok-n-roel or hit-n-run, where no confusion with the article <an> is possible.

Removing Unnecessary eu's

One of the surprising characteristics of RLI (and of LI, from which it was created) is its use of the digraph eu for the briefest sound of the English language.  This causes many English words to be longer in RLI than in current spelling.  However, for many words, RLI allows the eu to be replaced by an apostrophe, or even removed when it is obvious an eu sound must be present.  (But the full spelling should be used in PRLI, except in the last syllable of a word.)  This section gives the rules for this process.

First, I need to introduce a little phonetics terminology.  There are several different kinds of consonants.  Two kinds in which we're particularly interested are liquids (l, m, n, ng and r) and stops (b, d, g, k, p and t).  (Other kinds are fricatives: f, h, s, sh, th, v, z, and zh, affricates: ch and j, and semivowels: w and y.)

Rules for the replacement of eu by apostrophe are as follows.  As will be seen, sometimes the apostrophe can itself be removed.

  1. When an unstressed eu followed by a liquid occurs at the end of a word after a consonant, or is between two non-liquid consonants, the eu is replaced by an apostrophe.  For instance: bat'l, wuum'n, mir'r, k'mpleet, ault'rnaet.  Note that this shortening also takes place at the end of a word followed by a suffix, or part of a compound word, as in bat'lship, kom'nly, wund'rd.

  2. When an initial stop is followed by unstressed eu and another consonant, the eu is replaced by an apostrophe: p'zes, k'koon, t'moroe.  This also takes place when the word is preceded by a standard prefix, or another part of a compound word, as in: disp'zes, ink'rekt.

  3. The eu may be replaced by an apostrophe in the endings -sheus, -cheus and -jeus, as in: meulish's, riech's, kntaej's.

Rules for removal of the apostrophe are as follows:

  1. It is never allowed to remove an apostrophe between a letter and itself, in words like kan'n, maxim'm, ter'riez and p'piereus.

  2. You can remove the apostrophe before a liquid if it is neither preceded nor followed by another liquid or a vowel.  Thus, you write: batl, kmpleet, kndishn, kompitnt.  You cannot remove the apostrophe in wuum'n, silv'ry, siel'ns, p'liet or hev'nly.  Because of the use of the letter y as both vowel and consonant, you cannot remove an apostrophe which follows it: voly'm and bihaevy'r cannot be further reduced.

  3. If there are two apostrophes separated by a single letter, and the letter before the first apostrophe is not a liquid, you can remove the first apostrophe.  That is, you can write kounsl'r, rashn'l and dilivr'ns instead of kouns'l'r, rash'n'l and diliv'r'ns, but both apostrophes must be present in faur'n'r.  This is technically ambiguous as to the pronunciation, but in practice does not cause any problems.

  4. You can remove the apostrophe between two stops (so long as they are not the same), or between a stop and an m or n.  This, you write: ktastreufy, tmoroe, bnana (RP bnaana), dminy'n and tgethr, but you must keep the apostrophe in p'zishn, p'looshn, d'vizhn, t'rifik and b'soon.

Standard Suffixes in RLI

Rollo's LI document contains a long list of standard suffixes and their spellings.  It is useful to repeat the gist of this information for RLI.  This list mentions a few more suffixes than Rollo's:

  1. -cean, cian, -cion, -ssion, -tion: spelled -shn in RLI: krustaeshn, fizishn, seuspishn, seshn, sepeuraeshn.

  2. -cious, -tious: spelled -sh's in RLI: presh's, kaush's.

  3. -stian, -stion: spelled -schn in RLI: Krischn, qeschn.

  4. -sian, -sion: usually spelled -zhn in RLI: Peurzhn, invaezhn.

  5. -ction, -xion: spelled -xhn in RLI: suxhn, kmplexhn.
  6. -ctious, -xious: spelled -xh's in RLI: infexh's, noxh's.

  7. -cial, -tial: spelled -shl in RLI: speshl, paarshl.  If the adverbial ending -ly is added, an apostrophe must also be added unless the pronunciation changes, as in spesh'ly, paarsh'ly, eufish'ly.

  8. -ance, -ant, -ence, -ent: spelled -euns/-eunt in RLI (unless stressed).  Usually, the eu can be shortened.  aplieuns, releuvnt, eleuqns, siel'nt.

  9. -ment: spelled -m'nt in RLI, unless stressed: istablishm'nt, guv'rnm'nt.

  10. -age, -edge, -ege: spelled -ij in RLI, unless stressed: bondij, nolij, priveulij.

  11. -ate: spelled -it in RLI, when unstressed: kmpash'nit, dilibeurit.

  12. -able, -ible, -ability, -ibility: spelled -eubl, -eubility in RLI: lafeubl, irizisteubl, profiteubility, k'rupteubility.

  13. -ar, -er, -or: spelled -eur in RLI.  Usually, the eu can be shortened.  voetr, kil'r, mien'r, plaeur, ditektr, lier, beurgl'r.

  14. -ary, -ory: Usually spelled -airy/aury in American RLI, and -eury or just -ry in British RLI.  Sometimes it is is -eury in both.  Examples: kom'ntairy/kom'ntry, predeutaury/predeutry, intreudukteury.

  15. -ed, -es, -est: These inflections are always spelled with an i in RLI in words where the vowel is pronounced: waetid, boxiz, bigist.  In PRLI, they would be spelled -eud, -euz and -eust if pronounced that way.

  16. -ful: -ful acts as two suffixes with different meanings, an adjectival suffix in words like cheerful, and a noun suffix in words like spoonful.  In RLI, the adjectival suffix is -fl (cheerfl, thautfl), and the noun suffix is -fuul (spoonfuul, handfuul).

  17. -less, -ness: These two suffixes are spelled as -les/-nes in standard RLI: weurthles, kiendnes.  In PRLI, the spelling may be -lis or -leus, -nis or -neus, as appropriate.

  18. -ity: This suffix is spelled as -ity in standard RLI: d'vinity, huemanity.  In PRLI, the spelling may be -iti, -itey, -euti or -eutey, as appropriate.

Summary of PRLI/SRLI differences

The following table summarizes the differences between PRLI, the RLI pronunciation guide, and SRLI, the spelling system.  The spellings shown for PRLI merely represent plausible pronunciations, since the point of a pronunciation guide is that you write what you say or hear, not what some authority says you should say or hear.

SRLI Spellings
Alternate PRLI Spellings
Actual consonant spelled
which, menshn
wich, menchn
Actual vowel spelled
bothr, vairius, pareut, weerd, huri, sikuer, mineut, vivid
baathr, vereyus, pereut, wird, heurey, sikyuur, minit, viveud
Ambiguous digraphs hyphenated
mishap, ungraetfl
mis-hap, un-graetfl
eu not replaced by a at word end
soefa, maenia
soefeu, maeniu
eu only abbreviated in final syllable
prmishn, k'lekt, ter'riez
peurmishn, keulekt, tereuriez
Forms of th distinguished
this, thing, athleet
this, thhing, athhleet
ngg, ngk spelled out
angry, thankfl
anggrey, thhangkfl
No sight words
a, bin, me, on, ov, thi, whot, yu
eu, been, mee, aun, uv, theu, wut, ue
Silent r's indicated
kair, haarmeuny,wundr
kai(r), haa(r)meuni, wund(r)
Vowel y (or i in combination) replaced
hapy, enywae, maeniak
hapi (Br), eneywae,

Differences from LI

  1. LI allows eu to be replaced by a at the start of words, e.g., akaurdiun, apoez, antil.  RLI does not allow this because it is too ambiguous and affects too many words.

  2. Like RLI, LI often allows the eu vowel to be removed or replaced by an apostrophe.  The LI rules for how and when this can be done are complex and permissive.  LI allows spellings like kkoon, mirr, vnila, kvaurt, mraudr, etc.  (LI does allow an apostrophe to replace a suppressed eu, as a writer finds necessary, but only as a variant spelling - you can write mir'r if it makes you feel better, but readers still have to contend with mirr and hallooya in text written by others.)  The RLI rules are far simpler, and therefore easier to master.

  3. LI tries to have a single standard for both American and British English.  This is not entirely satisfactory.  It requires Britons to spell bath, not baath, and Americans to spell nuez, not nooz.  The concept of accepted versus standard spelling is also not present in LI, which forces writers to be constantly on their guard distinguishing i and eu.

  4. The LI description says nothing about the spelling of words like buyer and employer.  The spellings bier and imploir are probably unique to RLI.

  5. LI specifies that the suffix -man is to be spelled -man even when the vowel has become a schwa, as in <gentleman>.  RLI spells such words as pronounced.  I feel the apostrophe replacing the a is adequate to reflect the etymology: gent'lm'n.  A similar difference is the spelling of words such as <fearful> according to their pronunciation, as feerfl rather than feerfuul.

  6. The RLI vowel combinations iye and iyee are written in LI as eee and eeee respectively, which gets the stress wrong and is close to impossible to read.  Similarly, alternative sequences are used in RLI to avoid triple o's and triple e's in words like <luau> and <hyena>, which would be looou and hieeena in LI.

  7. The list of LI sight words has been rather thoroughly revised.  The latest version of LI no longer has the sight words be, he, she, me and we, which are retained by RLI.

  8. The digraph xh is not present in LI, being entirely my own perverse invention.

  9. The LI kh digraph has been removed from RLI.

  10. LI asks the writer to hyphenate or separate compound words, going so far as to divide <anyone> and <into>.  It is not clear to me whether this is a rule or a guideline, or how one is supposed to decide when this is called for.  (Are <forever> and <maybe> and <myself> and <cannot> and <outside> compound words?)  RLI makes no such demands, other than for hyphenation of compound words to avoid ambiguity, as in soefa-bed.

  11. LI does not have a pronunciation guide spelling.

  12. This document gives a number of commonsense rules for RLI which are probably also true of LI, but which are not mentioned in the LI rules, such as the need to avoid spellings like baquudz and the distinction between the vowel combinations -eeu and -iu.


The Star (H.G. Wells) (American standard)

It woz on thi feurst dae ov thi noo yeer that thi eunounsm'nt woz maed, aulmoest siem'ltaeniusly from three eubzeurveutauryz, that thi moeshn ov thi planit Neptoon, thi outrmoest ov aul thi planits that wheel eubout thi Sun, had bikum very iratik. A ritaardaeshn in its veulosity had bin seuspektid in Disembr. Then, a faent, rimoat spek ov liet woz diskuvrd in thi reejn ov thi prteurbd planit. At feurst this did not kauz eny very graet ixietm'nt. Sieuntifik peepl, houevr, found thi intelijns rimaarkeubl inuf, eevn bifaur it bikaem noen that thi noo body woz rapidly groeing laarjr and brietr, and that its moeshn woz qiet difr'nt from thi aurd'rly progres ov thi planits.

Industrial Disease (words and music by Mark Knopfler) (British standard)

Waurning liets aar flashing doun at Qolity Kntroel
Sumbeudy throo a span'r and thae throo him in thi hoel
Thair'z room'rz in thi loeding bae and anggr in thi toun
Sumbeudy bloo a whisl and thi waulz kaem doun
Thair'z a meeting in thi baurdroom, thae'r trieing tu traes thi smel
Thair'z leeking in thi woshroom, thair'z a sneek in Peurseunel
Sunwhair in thi koridaur, sumwun woz heurd tu sneez
"Guudnes me, kuud this be Industriul Dizeez?"

Thi kairtaekr woz croosified fr sleeping at hiz poest
Rifuezing tu be pasified, it'z him thae blaem thi moest
Thi wochdog got raebeez, thi faurm'n'z got thi fleez
Evrywun'z kns'rnd eubout Industriul Dizeez
Thair'z panik on thi swichbaurd, tungz aar tied in nots
Sum kum out in simpeuthy, sum kum out in spots
Sum blaem thi manijm'nt, sum thi imploieez
And evrybody noez it'z thi Industriul Dizeez

Thi weurk faurs iz disgustid, dounz toolz, wauks
Ineusns iz injrd, ixpeeriuns just tauks
Evrywun seeks damijiz, evrywun eugreez
"Theez aar klasik simptmz ov a moniteury sqeez"
On ITV and BBC thae tauk eubout thi keurs
Filoseufy iz uesles, thioleujy iz weurs
Histry boilz oevr, thair'z n ekeunomiks freez
Soeshioleujists invent weurdz that meen Industriul Dizeez

Doktr Paarkinsn diklaird "Ie'm not srpriezd tu see yu heer
Yu'v got smoekr'z kof from smoeking, broour'z droop from drinking beer
Ie doen't noe hou yu kaem tu get thi Bety Davis neez
But weurst ov aul yung man yu'v got Industriul Dizeez
He roet me a priskripshn, he sed "Yu aar diprest
Ie'm glad yu kaem tu see me tu get this of yr chest
Kum bak and see me laetr, next paeshnt pleez
Send in eunuthr viktim ov Industriul Dizeez"

Ie goe doun tu Speekr'z Kaurn'r, Ie'm thundrstruk
Thae got free speech, toorists, p'lees in truks
Too men sae thae'r Jeezeus, wun ov thm must be rong
Thae got a proetest singr, he'z singing a proetest song
He sez "Thae wont tu hav a waur soe thae kan keep us on our neez
Thae wont tu hav a waur soe thae kan keep thaer fakteuryz
Thae wont tu hav a waur tu stop us bieing Japeuneez
Thae wont tu hav a waur tu stop Industriul Dizeez
Thae'r pointing out thi eneumy tu keep yu def and bliend
Thae wont tu sap yr en'rjy, inkaarseuraet yr miend
Giv yu Rool Britanya, gasy beer, paij three
Too weeks in Espanya and Sundae strip teez"
Meenwhiel, thi feurst Jeezeus sez, "Ie'l kuer it soon
Eubolish Mundae maurning and Friedae aaftrnoon"
Thi uthr wun'z out on hunggr striek, he'z dieing bie digreez
Hou kum Jeezeus gets Industriul Dizeez?

Beyond RLI - doing away with eu

RLI is strange-looking.  The most jarring element is the eu.  In words like eubseurveutauryz and hipeupoteumeus, it seems to completely dominate.  One reason for the strangeness is that eu, except when stressed before r, is such a weak, transitory vowel.  One feels that any vowel requiring two letters ought to be substantial, like aa, oi and ue.  Even uu has more substance to it than eu.  Also, eu is almost never pronounced as a schwa in TS (<chauffeur> is an exception) - before one is fully adjusted to LI, the temptation to pronounce it as some kind of long u is almost irresistible.  RLI often allows the eu to be left out, as in kam'l and kmandoe, but there are plenty of words like those above that are not helped by such measures.  Some reformers have proposed the consistent use of the apostrophe for the schwa, but I find hip'pot'm's even less satisfactory a spelling than hipeupoteumeus.

When Rollo is challenged on this point, his defense is simply that each vowel letter already has a well-known interpretation, and that therefore none of them is suitable for representing the schwa.  Solutions involving diacritics (e.g., representing short a as ä so the unmarked a can be schwa) are ruled out (rightly or wrongly) by the practical consideration that diacritics are hard to enter on standard keyboards, and that accented letters can be difficult to distinguish for new readers and the dyslexic.

Nevertheless, there is a possible improvement here - one can use the & character as a sixth vowel, in place of the eu.  In many fonts, RLI using & in place of the unstressed eu (and the apostrophe) is completely readable.  Here is the opening of The Star in this form of RLI.

It woz on thi feurst dae ov thi noo yeer that thi &nounsm&nt woz maed, aulmoest siem&ltaeniusly from three &bzeurv&tauryz, that thi moeshn ov thi planit Neptoon, thi outrmoest ov aul thi planits that wheel &bout thi Sun, had bikum very iratik. A ritaardaeshn in its v&losity had bin s&spektid in Disembr. Then, a faent, rimoat spek ov liet woz diskuvrd in thi reejn ov thi prteurbd planit. At feurst this did not kauz eny very graet ixietm&nt. Si&ntifik peepl, houevr, found thi intelijns rimaark&bl inuf, eevn bifaur it bikaem noen that thi noo body woz rapidly groeing laarjr and brietr, and that its moeshn woz qiet difr&nt from thi aurd&rly progres ov thi planits.

I find that RLI-plus-& has a lot of appeal for me - the & relieves to a large extent the feeling of ponderousness I associate with the LI style of reformed spelling.  Rollo rejects this change on the grounds that the & is an upper-case character on the standard keyboard, but if one is capable of imagining that TS can be supplanted by something as exotic as LI, it seems timid not to also imagine that a simple keyboard reform is possible.  The grave accent character (`) is presently entirely useless - and the technical impediments to putting the ampersand in its place on our keyboards are minuscule compared to the impediments to revolutionizing English spelling.

The truly radical may even wish to consider the possibility of using the IPA turned-e character: hipəpotəməs is even more readable than hip&pot&m&s.  This is so easy on the eyes that the RLI use of the apostrophe becomes completely unnecessary.  But it must be admitted that this is a visionary solution - I'm sure that there are some readers of this page whose software is only capable of displaying rectangles or question marks in the word above, and who are therefore left wondering what in the world I'm going on about.

To comment on this page, e-mail Alan at wyrdplay.org

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