09:life/time to change the spelling........................................................................................tim sunderman2009
 
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Time to Change the Spelling
By Tim Sunderman
July 2009
 
"As the world becomes wired with electronic communication, there will be natural adaptations toward commonality. Clearly, this will come with its own expense — the loss of a certain diversity and perhaps uniqueness of certain cultural customs..."
Language is primarily, by nature, spoken. And written language arises from speech. But because so much of our brain's language capabilities are also visual, and written language is such a large part of our communication, in fact, nearly our entire understanding of history, it is important to make communication as accurate and efficient as it can be. To that end, it may finally be time to bring written English more into alignment with its phonetic origins.
 
English is the most broadly spoken language on the planet. It has, by far, the most number of words with the Oxford dictionary adding approximately five thousand words each year (about fifteen a day). English also has incredibly diverse word origins. All these factors make English a very complex language. And yet it is one of the only languages that has not updated its spelling for the past five hundred years.
 
The greatest proportion of English words are of Germanic origin, secondarily Latin, with many words of French, Greek, even Sanskrit derivation, among others. This is where a great deal of the phonetic and written inconsistencies of English emerge.
 
Some of these inconsistencies were a deliberate attempt to divide between high English (typically words of Latin derivation), and low English (mostly words of Germanic origin). Latin words have relatively simple vowel-consonant combinations and are spelled in mostly a reasonable manner. German word pronunciations significantly changed as they were adapted into English and carried with them what would ultimately become nonsensical combinations of letters. Words like night and laugh. We accept Latin-derived words like intercourse and feces as academic and suitable for formal communication. But their German counterparts (you know the ones) are judged to be profane and debased and are not to be uttered in public. And yet the older English of Germanic origin has always been the language of the common people.
 
I would also contend that the continuing resistance to update the written language is equally elitist. The quaint origins of English reflected in the absurdities of its spelling are no longer simply quaint. They are a barrier to learning and an obstacle to opportunity.
 
 
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Tim Sunderman is an illustrator who is also a fulltime college graphic design instructor in the San Francisco Bay Area. Never content in a single medium, he has experimented broadly with photography, video, writing, and even marble sculpture. But graphic design still pays the bills.

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With the great increase in people for whom English is a second language, or children raised in families without academic language skills, there is a stacking of the deck against their inclusion into the higher ranks of society, particularly in business. The illogic of English spelling creates an exclusionary arena, not based upon skills like reason, but upon the arbitrary circumstance of being born into an environment whose immersion into that written language is essentially the only way to master it — repetitive rote memorization.
 
Human communication is difficult enough without the added pejorative judgements that accompany misspelled words.
 
We need a simple phonetic re-spelling of the language. The main argument against it is that a word's spelling reveals its linguistic origins, and by understanding them, we arrive at a better understanding of the message being written. And though there is merit to that line of reasoning, it is far outweighed by the need for efficiency and clarity in communication.
 
Another argument is that the ambiguity of homonyms like "their" and "there" are clarified by their spelling. But that doesn't stand to reason, because in speech the words have no differentiation and yet they are clearly understood by their context.
 
This parugraf iz an exampol uv a radiklee reeviezd foenetik verzhun uv ritten Inglish. Roolz woud haf too be ugreed upon too udopt kunsistensee, and it woud sertenlee not need too be this extreem, but its efektivness woud be imeedeeit.
 
As the world becomes wired with electronic communication, there will be natural adaptations toward commonality. Clearly, this will come with its own expense — the loss of a certain diversity and perhaps uniqueness of certain cultural customs. But we are living in a quickly evolving phase of history, and all of nature tells us that adaptation is survival.
 
The phonetization of written English may well be an inevitable (and welcome) evolution. It iz tiem too say "Enuf!" too old Inglish, and embrays tha fyoocher.