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Wrote up a long blog post (don't say you weren't warned if you go to click it!) with my ideas about spelling reform for English 😆: jayeless.net/2021/11/spelling-

@jayeless I love it. I often write English with a pen in shorthand so as not have to worry about your language’s wonky orthography. Sweden was lucky to time its huge spelling reform 1906 (more widely adopted 1912) at the very cusp of modernity. Probably the best time ever to do it. Second best would’ve been 90s. “If you can’t do it modern era, do it modem era.”

@jayeless

Here is “by the side of a road in a country a long way off” in Melin shorthand (a shorthand originally developed for pre-reform Swedish)

@Sandra That's neat! I have no real experience with shorthand, but I know my grandpa was very keen on it. Even as a kid I was really good at spelling (in English… when I was studying French, that was another story) but it was still obvious how unnecessarily difficult it was. I wished we'd had a sweeping spelling reform. If you can get away with writing it a different way, why wouldn't you!

@jayeless If I understand it correctly, most English forms of shorthand use lines for consonants and knots for vowels, the exact opposite of this Melin style shorthand I use. (Melin is probably worse [for English] than them in many ways but sunk costs and all that ♥.)

@jayeless less formal settings, like chat rooms, are more forgiving with typos and homophones. If change is going to happen, it's going to happen there first
One could pick just a couple of those mentioned in your post, start using them and see if they catch on. I've already seen "smol" and "tol" gaining popularity over "small" and "tall" in some internet bubbles, so one might start there

@coopdot I think you're right, if spelling reform is going to happen anywhere, informal online communities are the perfect place. I'm not exactly convinced they'd go very far, though! I hadn't seen "tol" as a counterpart to "smol" before, that's cute, haha

@jayeless I found your post very interesting. I'm not sure a spelling change will get anywhere if the spelling adds new characters that aren't currently used in English. I'd lean more towards using letter combo's and doubling to make consistent sounds. Maybe something like:
cute -> kyoot
cot -> kot
cat -> kat
cart -> kaart

Does that make any sense? 😛

Very long reply with more thoughts on phonetics and spelling; I hope you don't mind 😅 

@JayT Thanks! I did consider that approach too, and I don't think a bad one or anything 😛 The reason I went with what I did is that it made the vowels more consistent with their IPA values and what they mean in other languages. For example:

  • cute – [kjuːt] – better to spell that sound with a variant of U
  • free – [friː] – better to spell it with a variant of I

You could use double U or double I, if you preferred! The only "long vowel" I'd be hesitant to do that with is the "long O" [ɔː] in "thought" or "law", because I do think it'd be confusing to have a letter combination mean something different from real/modern English.

A different approach I considered was using a double consonant to indicate the previous vowel was short (because short ones can't go at the ends of words anyway). So like:

  • sleep – [sliːp] – slip
  • slip – [slɪp] – slipp

I ended up not doing that because English turns out to have so many short vowels, and it was resulting in a really high number of double consonants 😛 Also as you can see from the slip/sleep example, it sometimes involves "swapping" things from the current spellings. But it could still work, if we decided it was better than using accents, and at least it'd give double consonants a reason to exist.

Another really difficult problem was schwa. It's OK when it appears as a reduced form of a stronger vowel (like in appear it's a reduced [æ], in r*e*flect it's a reduced [ɛ]) because you can spell it with that letter. But when it's really always a schwa it's hard to know what to do 🤔 I'd definitely have liked to eliminate that extra letter but having it seemed like the least-worst option at the time.

Of course, all these problems are much more solvable if you decide you just want to regularise English spelling (making it consistent, at least) and aren't so worried about conveying the exact pronunciation 😊 It'd be a huge improvement on our current system for sure, anyway, it's just I was trying to go a little further. You're right that a system like you started outlining is probably more likely to get public acceptance.

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Toot.Cat

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