These are the thoughts that have occupied my mind when sleep is far away. The thoughts of a late night thinker. The thoughts that occupy my mind as I wait for sleep to come. I spend a lot of time waiting for sleep and thinking about many things. My mind ranges a variety of topics, needing something to help the time to pass. Sometimes they help to attract sleep, sometimes not. At least sitting at the computer typing fills the darkest, mid-night hours and keeps my mind from worry.
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Against Phonetic Spelling
Many people have proposed that words be spelt phonetically, that is, how they sound. Mostly phonetic spelling is suggested because, it is claimed, it would be easier to read and would take away some of the odd spellings of English words. This, it is again claimed, would make it easier for children to learn to spell.
However, it seems to me, that those people who want phonetic spelling have not thought through all the problems that would be created by it. The problem is that different people pronounce some words differently and so would spell them differently phonetically. Amongst people who speak English there are many different types of accents and thus pronunciations.
For instance, many words are pronounced differently in the north of England from the south. Similarly in the United States. Some countries have few variations due to different accent, such as Australia, but there are still a few differences: For instance the way people in some states pronounce ‘film’ and ‘school’.
These differences of accent and pronunciation would mean that the speaker would want to spell the words differently. Thus, different countries, and even different areas of some countries, would develop different spellings. English would then become fragmented and English speakers in different countries would have difficulties communicating with each other. At least with one standard written English the various English writers can communicate in writing if not in speech. Phonetic spelling would only work if everyone spoke with the same accent and pronunciation.
For example, consider the word ‘path’. Some people pronounce it with a short ‘a’ as in can: They would spell it in the current way, that is, ‘path’. Some people pronounce ‘path’ with a ‘long a’ as in cart: They would spell it phonetically as ‘parth’. Yet others pronounce ‘path’ with a ‘short e’ type sound as in bet: They would spell in phonetically as something like ‘peth’.
These examples show that using phonetic spelling the English language would soon diverge into many difference forms which would make it difficult for people from different backgrounds to communicate with each other in writing as now sometimes happens in their speaking with different pronunciations.
Next consider words that are pronounced the same but spelt differently, such as ‘sail’ and ‘sale’. Presumably they would both be spelt phonetically as ‘sayl’ or something similar. If the captain of a ship were to see a sign saying “Sayl on!” he would be confused. He wouldn’t know whether he should up-anchor and start his voyage or rush out and buy a bargain. Such phonetic spelling will only result in confusion for everyone.
Thus spelling words phonetically would fragment the English language and create difficulties and confusion in communication between people. Communication between different people in different countries is difficult enough as it is without making it harder. Making communications between peoples more difficult is a step backwards. We should be aiming to promote communications and understanding between different peoples in different countries not make it more difficult.
I doubt that phonetic spelling would help children learn to spell. They would want to spell words the way they say them. If this did not happen to be the accepted pronunciation then their writing would become illegible to other readers who say the words differently.