Is English Spelling Harming Us

Phonetic Spelling with the English Alphabet


All of us, that use written English regularly, are so used to its flaws and the necessary work-arounds that we don't even usually SEE them! One exception is when we try to teach someone that has never been able to read or spell. But our subjectivity is so ingrained that the teacher often thinks the student is the one that is illogical, rather than what we are teaching!

Not only that, but if we were shown a way to use letters in a really logical way, it would seem "wrong" if not absurd. We are so used to interpreting the sounds of the letters according to which word they appear in that a letter always having the SAME sound will seem really strange. The only way that we would be able to actually "feel" that such a logical system WAS really logical would be to objectively try sounding out each example. This would require going against our own "instincts" and responses that we've learned to work pretty much automatically with the many flaws in English spelling. So it would take some practice before it really felt "right". e.g. Where is the "L" sound in "would"? And what is the difference in the sound of "wood" and "would"?

How did we get here? (To such a fouled up system)

English, like most other languages, has evolved perhaps from caveman times. Probably in some of the "long agos" there were real efforts to organize the various languages that English is evolved from. But English has incorporated many words from many languages, often using the native spellings. And because of the extensive use of words that were already spelled illogically, and the enforced subjectivity from habit, it was very hard to form clear rules for spelling. So, not having clear rules to go by, different people that organized a language or popularized words, used different letter combinations for the same or similar sounds. Also, early writings were read mostly by scholars. Some of them likely wanted spellings to be unclear to keep the masses illiterate. There are even parents that feel that their kids should have the same problems learning reading as THEY had!

English use of the alphabet is very bad for both learning AND understanding:
Written English is hard to learn because the letters represent different sounds in different words, but English spelling is based primarily on sound.
Spoken English is hard to understand because there are words that are spelled differently and have different meanings, but sound the same.
So spelling is made to serve two masters, sound and meaning. As a result, it fails to serve either very well.

Why would it be worthwhile to know a consistant system besides our broken one?

  1. Our children and adults would be able to learn to read in much less time.
  2. When they learned to read they would automatically learn to spell correctly at the same time; any word they could pronounce!
  3. No one would have to look up a spelled word just to get the sounds right, and spelling a word would make the pronunciation clear, though they still might need a reference for the accents (Syllabic emphases).
  4. Sites like Wikipedia wouldn't have to use such a hard to read phonetic system to show word pronunciation.
  5. Learning a new language would be much easier because if the words of that language were spelled phonetically, we would know the pronunciation! All languages, not just English, could be spelled with this system.
  6. Words sounding the same would be spelled the same. Context, not spelling would give the differences in meanings.
  7. Text to speech, and speech to text programs would work much better in several important ways.
Example absurdities in English spelling:
An extreme example that has been used to show some of the silliness of spelling is spelling "fish" with the letters "ghoti". That is:
"gh" as in "rough" (for "F"),
"o" as in "women" (for "I"),
"ti" as in "station" (for "sh").

"Xylophone" should be "zoyluwfuwn";  "ax" should be "aks";   "arc", "back", and "chrome" should be "ork", "bak", and "kruwm";  "ice" should be "oys";   and "is" should be "iz".
Then there's the old rule about ' "I" before "E" except after "C" or when sounding like "a" as in neighbor and way.' Which the Mad Magazine video at: ; (Starts at 6:14) makes fun of by listing "these few exceptions: caffeine, species, science, sufficient, ancient, society, wierd, theism, protein, sovereign, foreign, feisty- deified, deity, seize, beige, neither, counterfeit, zeitgeist, sheik, conscience"

It is easier to have One letter to One sound than you might imagine

All common English sounds can be represented by our regular 26 character alphabet. But remember, it's NOT going to sound right (at first)! The enforced subjectivity of long use of illogical rules will make some of these simplifications seem ILLOGICAL!

Let's start with something that's not too hard to agree on. There are letters that are "unnecessary" in the sense that their sounds can be represented by other letters more consistantly. For example:
"C"s sounds can be represented more clearly by either "s" or "k".
"Q"s sound can be represented more clearly by "k".
"X"s sound can be represented more clearly by "ks".
Okay, now we have 3 letters that we can use for other, unique sounds.

VOWELS -- DEFINITION: Lets define vowels as single sounds that can be made continuously, without change as long as one has air in their lungs (or indefinitely if made electronicly). The short version of the vowels "a","e","i","o", and "u" will fit this definition, as well as "y".
That is:
"a" as in "apple", or "cat",
"e" as in "edit", or "pet",
"i" as in "it", or "pig".
"o" as in "option" or "knob",
"u" as in "up" or "numb",
"y" as in "ynough"(archaic), or "only" or the sound of long "e".
This is one of those things that will likely be hard to believe because of common usage. All the "y"s in the y-section of most dictionaries will have the long "e" sound, but the following letter is always accented greater than the "y" because y was thought to be a consonant. For instance, if you pronounce the names (not the sounds) of the letters "e" and "L" together and accent the "L", you will say "yell".

Other vowel sounds are l r v w oo sh th:
"L" as in "feeble". Note that the trailing "e" is not pronounced at all.
"R" as in "bird", "burden", or "fertilizer". It's really just "r". Not "ir", "ur", or "er". They added the extra vowels because they thought "r" was a consonant.
"V" and "S" as in Vladivostok, or Sssssnake.
"W" as in "wz" (ooze), "fwl" (fool), and "tw" (too).
"OO" as in "wood" (or "would"), "hood", "cook", "could". "Q" kqd (could) replace "OO".
"SH" (to be replaced by "C") as in "shy" (she), "mashr" and "flash" or "shhhhhwt" (shhhhhoot)
"TH" as in "then", "lathr" (lather) and "leyth" (lathe).

The LONG vowel sounds (also the letter's names) are:
Long "A"s sound is "ey". It is actually a diphthong instead of a vowel as defined above.
Long "E"s sound is "y".
Long "I"s sound is "oy".
Long "O"s sound is "uw".
Long "U"s sound is "yw" (just like "you").
And "Y"s name is "woy" ("wy" would be what is commonly spelled "we").

The COMPLETE Breakdown!

All letters have only ONE SINGLE SOUND. There are never any silent letters and no double letters.
"A" is always short "a" as in "at" or "as". Long "a" is really TWO sounds. and phonetically is "ey".
"B"s sound is consistant.
"C" is an "extra" letter, and always replaced by "k" or "s'. "C"s name should be spelled "sy" (pronounced like "see") and if you pronounce "s" and "y" together you get the "sh" sound. So "C" can be used to represent "sh" and "TC" will be the sound usually spelled "ch".
"D"s sound is consistant.
"E" is always short, as in "pet" or "met" or "egg". Long "e" phonetically is "y". The present tense of "read" is spelled ryd. The past: 'red".
"F" is always as in "Foot". F" in "of" is really a "v" sound.
"G" is always hard "g" as in "get" or "agate"."G" in "agile" or "genius" is replaced by "J".
"H"s sound is consistant.
"I" is always short, as in "it" or "fix". I" in "bite" is replaced by 'oy'.
"J" is always a dzy sound J" in "jalapeno" is replaced by "H".
"K" can stand alone. It doesn't need a "c" in front of it CK" or "ch" in "ache" is just "K".
"L" can be pronounced continuously (a vowel) Silent "e"s are unnecessary so "tickle" is really just "tikl'.
"M"s sound is consistant.
"N"s sound is consistant.
"O" is always short as in "Object" or "lodge" and is equivalent to "broad A" as in "olmund" (Almond) or "ol" (All). Long "O" as in "over" is replaced by "uw".
"OO" as in "wood", "cook", or "hook" or the sound in "would", or "could" can be replaced with the "extra letter" Q. Double "O" can also be used for this sound, but NOT for the sound in "noon", "fool", or "pool". These words have the sound of "W", so should be spelled: "nwn", "fwl", or "pwl".
"P" is always as in "Pet".PH" as in "PHone" or "elePHant" is replaced by "F".
"Q" is an "extra" letter, and is always replaced by "k" or "kw".
"R" can be pronounced continuously (a vowel) ER, IR, UR" and "WR" are usually just the sound of "R".
"S" is always as in "Sound" or "last" or "lots". S" as in "as" or "Judges" is replaced by "Z" ("az", "Jujiz").   The verb "USE" should be spelled "ywz". and the noun "USE" should be spelled "yws".
"T"s sound is as in "Town" or "peT." The "th" representing the phoneme in "then" can be replaced by the "extra" letter "X" and that in "thin" with "XH". Some may wish to use "TH" in the common way for now, .
"U" is as in "up, cut", or "crumb".
"V"s sound is consistant in English.
"W" can be pronounced continuously (a vowel) Replaces "UE" in blue, flue", or true (blw, flw,, or trw );  or "OO" in "school" or "fool" (skwl, fwl).
"WH" somehow came to be used backwards. "Who" should just be spelled "Hw'. If you pronounce "hw (or who)" and "eel" together, you get "hwyl"! (wheel)
"X" another 'extra' letter. Replaced by "KS" or "Z" (as in "Xylophone").
"Y" always "LONG E", as in "only", In "yell" and "young" following vowels are accented making "Y" sound like a consonant.
"Z" vocal (non-sibulant) relative of "S". Should replace "S" in "as", or "zones" or put "TZ" in place of "ZZ" in "pizza")

3rd Edition
F1001 2012