Episode 236: Spelling Reform

Sometimes English spelling doesn’t make much sense.

But even though many influential people have tried to reform our wacky orthography, the anomalies persist. Will English spelling reform ever work?

Linguist Daniel Midgley spells it out on this episode of Talk the Talk.


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Promo with Scott Quigg


Show notes

Facebook Reactions, the Totally Redesigned Like Button, Is Here
http://www.wired.com/2016/02/facebook-reactions-totally-redesigned-like-button/

Facebook: Emojis to beat words with ‘Reactions’ icons
http://www.deccanchronicle.com/technology/in-other-news/260216/on-facebook-emojis-beat-words.html

Mark Zuckerberg Asks Racist Facebook Employees to Stop Crossing Out Black Lives Matter Slogans
http://gizmodo.com/mark-zuckerberg-asks-racist-facebook-employees-to-stop-1761272768

Mark Zuckerberg Chastises Employees Who Crossed Out ‘Black Lives Matter’ on Facebook’s Signature Wall
https://www.good.is/articles/zuck-stands-up-for-black-lives-matter

Wikipedia: German orthography reform of 1996
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_orthography_reform_of_1996

English Spelling Society: What is wrong with English spelling?
http://www.spellingsociety.org

Stan Carey: A brief history of English spelling reform
http://www.historytoday.com/stan-carey/brief-history-english-spelling-reform

History of Spelling Reform
http://www.barnsdle.demon.co.uk/spell/histsp.html

RationalWiki: English spelling reform
http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/English_spelling_reform

Wikipedia: English-language spelling reform
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English-language_spelling_reform#Spelling_reform_proposals

26 of Noah Webster’s Spelling Changes That Didn’t Catch On
http://mentalfloss.com/article/53723/26-noah-webster’s-spelling-changes-didn’t-catch

Cut Spelling (CS)
http://grammar.about.com/od/c/g/cutspellingterm.htm

NPR: Changes To French Spelling Make Us Wonder: Why Is English So Weird?
http://www.npr.org/2016/02/24/467218639/new-changes-to-french-beg-the-question-why-are-english-spellings-so-weird

Failed Attempts to Reform English Spelling: 8 Spelling Suggestions That Didn’t Stick
http://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/spelling-suggestions-that-didnt-stick/kist-instead-of-kissed

What is the origin of the silent ‘b’ at the end of English words such as lamb, comb, crumb and bomb?
“The b-sound was lost by about 1300.”
http://www.theguardian.com/notesandqueries/query/0,,-1417,00.html

Etymonline: limb
“The parasitic -b began to appear late 1500s for no etymological reason”
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=limb&allowed_in_frame=0

Etymonline: indict
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=indict

Oxford: 11 spelling changes that would make English easier
http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2015/06/spellings-changes-that-would-make-english-easier/

Trying to change English’s complex spelling is a waste of time
https://theconversation.com/trying-to-change-englishs-complex-spelling-is-a-waste-of-time-38027

Oxford Owl: What is synthetic phonics?
http://www.oxfordowl.co.uk/home/reading-owl/expert-help/what-is-synthetic-phonics

Panicum v panic
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=Panic

Pellie: Steve Price under fire as Tim Minchin rejects George Pell’s sick note
http://www.9news.com.au/national/2016/02/17/06/24/steve-price-takes-on-tim-minchin-as-cardinal-george-pell-faces-visit-from-survivors

Australian Christian Lobby condemns Sydney school’s ‘rainbow politics’ for allowing male students to wear female uniforms
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-23/australian-christian-lobby-condemns-sydney-school-uniform-policy/7191908

SBS Backburner: Safe Schools Course Teaches Shorten To Stand Up To Bully
http://www.sbs.com.au/comedy/article/2016/02/24/safe-schools-course-teaches-shorten-stand-bully

As it happened: Unicorns, pixies and politicians hurling abuse over claims of homophobia
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-24/federal-politics-live-coverage-feb-24/7194712

A Rainbow Marriage: How did the rainbow become a symbol of gay pride?
http://www.slate.com/articles/life/explainer/2012/06/rainbows_and_gay_pride_how_the_rainbow_became_a_symbol_of_the_glbt_movement_.html

Malcolm Turnbull Issues Language Warning to MPs Over Safe Schools Debate
https://www.pedestrian.tv/news/arts-and-culture/malcolm-turnbull-issues-language-warning-to-mps-ov/9840567e-adaf-4a36-a499-52ac2135afd1.htm

Support the Safe Schools Coalition
http://campaigns.greens.org.au/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1792&ea.campaign.id=48027&ea.tracking.id=fb&en_chan=fb&en_ref=17768456

Myths debunked: Sadly, Theodore Roosevelt never rode a moose
https://blogs.harvard.edu/houghton/2013/09/20/myths-debunked-sadly-theodore-roosevelt-never-rode-a-moose/

Gizmodo: That Famous Photo of Teddy Roosevelt Riding a Moose Is Fake
http://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/that-famous-photo-of-teddy-roosevelt-riding-a-moose-is-1355349896


Show tunes

Find the tracks we play on the RTRFM webpage for this episode.

 

1 Comment

  1. I have a suggestion on how to reform the spelling of the English language in a way that may look intuitive: I have this dictionary, The Grosset Webster Dictionary, published by Grosset & Dunlap, from New York City, that a feature called, “Pronunciations-at-a-Glance”, which is a way to spell out the pronunciation of difficult word without phonetic symbols; that would be a good starting point on how the new spelling should look like. While most of single-word entries have a transcription, many don’t, so if the spelled pronunciation would not affect all of the words. However I don’t think that a spelling reform should be systematic, and usual words, that most people know how to spell should be untouched, as the goal of the orthography, in my opinion, is that people should not depend on the dictionary to know how to pronounce new words that they encounter.
    In the dictionary I mentioned, by example, “blood” is transcribed as /bluhd/, “blossom,” as /blos-‘m/, “blouse,” as either /blows/ or /blowz/, and “blow,” as /bloh/, whereas words like “bloom,” “blot,” and “blotch” are not transcribed. However, since “blow” and “blood” are too common a words, their spelling should never change.
    That’s is my proposal.

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