I propose to classify spelling systems into one of four categories, based on the way they approach the relationship between pronunciation, traditional spelling and reformed spelling.
The typology above is not the only way of classifying spelling systems. There are two other valuable ways in which spelling systems can be differentiated, as illustrated in the examples below.
One is simply whether the standard 26 letter alphabet is used, or whether the alphabet is extended with extra symbols or diacritics. Proponents of diacritics claim that they allow reformed spellings to be closer to existing spellings (rádìó instead of raedeeoe, for instance) and that they allow variant pronunciations to have similar spellings (as, for instance, with American mínòrity versus British minörity). Opponents of diacritics counter that they are hard to read, especially for dyslexics (can you see the differences between finish and fínít?), and that they introduce many problems in E-mail due to lack of support from English-language keyboards and software.
Another important distinguishing feature of spelling systems has to do with how they handle the differences between varieties of English, notably American and British English. Some systems are aimed exclusively at one variety, some allow for variant spellings for difficult words (such as misel versus misiel for "missile"), and others attempt to make compromises between the varieties (for example, using an spelling of secretery based on the American pronunciation, but basing misiel on the British pronunciation). Note that, because there are significant differences in British and American pronunciation, a phonemic orthography simply cannot always use the same spelling for both dialects.
Here are some examples of spelling systems of each of these kinds. I provide a transcription of the text below in each system as an example.
a system of my
own, is a strictly phonemic
system. It extends the Latin alphabet by treating the
and upper-case letters as different. I find it useful for
spelling words in a way that exactly indicates their pronunciation,
without resorting to IPA, which relies on characters not found on
keyboards, or SAMPA, which some find difficult to interpret.
is the example in MCM:
MCM is for American English only.
Unifon is an augmented alphabet developed by John Malone for writing English phonemically. Because of the similarity of the new Unifon letters to existing Latin letters, Unifon is easy to read with just a little practice. Here is the example in Unifon:
Unifon was designed for American English.
Other strictly phonemic systems you might find of interest are ENgliS and NQaLF.
system developed by Rollo Reid, is phonemic, but not strictly
phonemic. It uses digraphs (two-letter combinations) to
some sounds, and in a few cases allows the spelling of sounds to vary
according to position in the word. Lojikl Inglish is somewhat
unusual in having both a British and an
American version, as
well as a "universal" version that compromises between the two. Here is the example
American Lojikl Inglish:
The system SREA2, invented by Bruce Mills, is another example of a phonemic system. Unlike Lojikl Inglish, it uses diacritics and unusual letters. It represents a compromise between American and British English, but is closer to British. Here is the example in SREA2:
Gus Hasselquist's system Inglish2 is an unusual system which resembles traditional spelling to a greater extent than most phonemic systems. But despite the use of "magic e" and other features not often found in such systems, I classify it as phonemic because it is not necessary to know the traditional spelling of a word to determine its Inglish2 spelling. Here is the example in Inglish2:
Inglish2 was developed for American English.
Other phonemic systems you may find interesting are Portul and Bobdot.
My system WMM
hybrid system. Though most sounds
are written predictably, unstressed short vowels are spelled as they
are in traditional spelling, which gives the results a more familiar
look than most of the systems above. WMM is unusual because
uses both vowel digraphs (combinations of two letters) and
diacritics. Here is the example in WMM:
WMM is compatible with both British and
American English, with some words spelled
SoundSpel is another hybrid system, championed by the
American Literacy Council. As with WMM, the schwa sound (the
ending vowel of "circus" or "rivet") is spelled the same as in
traditional spelling. Here is the example in SoundSpel:
SoundSpel was designed for use with American English.
Other hybrid systems you may find interesting are Folksrite and Arbdash.
The system WRE
(Wijk's Regularized English), invented by
Axel Wijk, is an example of a respelling system. This very
system attempts to correct the most illogical and inconsistent aspects
of traditional spelling, while changing as few words as
possible. Regularized English was designed with
both British and American English in mind, giving some words more than
one accepted spelling. Here is the
Another respelling system is SRS, invented by
Boden. SRS uses diacritics to indicate how vowels are
pronounced. This allows it to avoid respelling many words
indicating pronunciation more precisely than WRE. SRS was
designed for use with American English. Here is the
example in SRS:
Other respelling systems you may find interesting are DRE and RITE.
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e-mail Alan at wyrdplay.org