English spelling reform

Opening Statement

Almost everyone agrees that the English spelling system is extremely difficult and illogical.  (If you doubt this statement, see the following.)  It is possible to take this extremely seriously, and most spelling reformers do.  Most discussions of the subject are filled with gloomy statistics on the costs of illiteracy and the horrors of dyslexia.  The last thing I want to do is deny the fact that there are indeed costs to the present orthography, but I'm a hobbyist, not a reformer.  I believe it is possible to have fun trying to sensibly rationalize English spelling, and that's why I do it, and why I follow the efforts of others to do the same.  If it happens to improve the world, I don't object, but that's not my point.

Look at it this way.  Perhaps, like me, when you were young, you were interested in secret codes.  The idea of scrambled yet meaningful text, of writing "Meapolu emtearn etthygd" instead of "Meet me at the playground", yet still being understood by those in on the secret, has a strong appeal, never mind the practical applications.  Spelling reform is the opposite of secret codes.  It's trying to find a better way to encode our language so it will be easier, not harder, for everyone to understand.  Sometimes, the results are strange - in one of my own spelling systems, "You should eat more cheese" is written as "Yu xood eet mor ceez."  The strangeness can be part of the fun, just as with secret codes.

The name of my site, wyrdplay.org, is a reflection of my desire to, first and foremost, have fun.  It's fun to play with words, and, yes, sometimes the results can be wyrd indeed.  My primary goal is that vistors here should enjoy themselves.  Any education or other personal improvement that results is entirely secondary.

Where the Reformers Gather

If you are interested in English spelling reform, you should check out the Yahoo! Saundspel group.  This is an informal forum on all aspects of English spelling reform.  Newcomers are welcome.  Lurkers are welcome too, so feel free to drop by and just listen - if you have nothing to say for a while, no one will pressure you to say it.

Here is a brief description of the discussions in Saundspel by one of the "regulars", Robert McGehee:

I think if you look at the kinds of subjects that most people in this group post about you will see that they fall into a few basic categories:  There are articles dealing with the impact of traditional orthography on literacy, there are commentaries on various linguistic issues relating to pronunciation, and then the balance of the postings are devoted to people either critiquing or defending the merits of a particular proposed regularised orthography.  If you follow the postings in this group for a month or so you will begin to see that a lot of the same issues keep getting rehashed again and again.  I don't think that we are merely going in circles, since a lot of us are learning new things that we had not known before, but at the same time there is a certain amount of redundancy in these postings, as is normal for the postings in most groups on the web.

One of the advantages of belonging to the Saundspel group is access to the Saundspel Files collection.  This collection includes text in and about a large number of reformed orthographies; devotees of spelling reform can find information here that I've seen nowhere else.  The problem is that the Saundspel Files collection is extremely cluttered and disorganized.  It's often hard to find what you're looking for.  Also, because files have been contributed at different stages of the development of a spelling system, you will sometimes find documents on the same system which contradict each other, and no obvious way to tell which one to believe.

One of the reasons I set up wyrdplay.org was to provide a better organized and maintained file collection than Saundspel, and one which could be accessed without having to "join" anything.  I hope to include in my collection the most interesting of the Saundspel files, subject to getting permission from their authors.

Writing in Reformed Spelling

Spelling reform "believers" may be wondering why this page is written in illogical traditional spelling (tradspell or TS) instead of something sensible.  This is a reasonable question.  My response is that, first, this site is addressed to newcomers to the subject of spelling reform as well as to the old hands.  Let's face it - many of the most interesting spelling systems are not instantly accessible.  Additionally, once you start to use a reformed spelling, you discover that people have a wide variety of opinions about them.  One man's ideal system is another man's gibberish.  (Or possibly, ".wun manz YdIL sistM iz 3nuDR manz jibRiX".)  This site offers a variety of texts transcribed in a number of systems, and I certainly hope that visitors will have a look at some of them, but they're more likely to get that far if I don't tax their patience at the start.

Individual Spelling Systems

For information on a proposed classification of spelling systems, with examples, see this page.
For information on a variety of reformed spelling systems, please go here.

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

Go to wyrdplay.org home page
Go to wyrdplay.org spelling system roster