46
   

Let pupils abandon spelling rules, says academic

 
 
joefromchicago
 
  2  
Reply Wed 10 Sep, 2008 11:50 am
@Robert Gentel,
Robert Gentel wrote:
This is a false dilemma for phonetic spelling because the great variance is itself partly due to the lack of a phonetic standard and because having regional spelling to go along with the regional pronunciations isn't a problem.

Well, first of all, your reference to a "lack of a phonetic standard" doesn't make much sense, unless you're advocating that everyone speak the same. Secondly, if having multiple regional spellings isn't a problem, then having one uniform, albeit non-phonetic, spelling shouldn't be a problem either. After all, if I want to read a book published in the UK or Australia or South Africa, I don't have to learn different spellings for common words. Non-phonetic spelling is a problem if you're learning how to spell, but it's actually an advantage if you're trying to communicate with someone outside of your dialect region. What you're suggesting, then, is merely to substitute one problem (inconsistent phonetic spelling) for another (non-phonetic spelling).

It should also be remembered that, back when English spelling was first being formalized in the sixteenth century, the spelling more or less was phonetic. "One," for instance, was originally pronounced the way it is spelled: like "own." Preferring phonetic spelling makes sense as long as everybody talks the same and pronunciation never changes.

Robert Gentel wrote:
So I'd choose American English as it is closest to what I use.

Which American English?
OmSigDAVID
 
  0  
Reply Wed 10 Sep, 2008 12:14 pm
The worldwide standard shoud be English
as spoken by Tom Brokaw





David
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Sep, 2008 12:25 pm
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:
Well, first of all, your reference to a "lack of a phonetic standard" doesn't make much sense, unless you're advocating that everyone speak the same.


Or, as is the case here, if you don't understand the advantages of a phonetic alphabet well. The primary purpose of writing is to map spoken sounds to written words, not to map meaning to letters. The phonetic standard I advocate is a mapping of the sounds used in English to specific letters or combinations. If that standard is consistent it doesn't matter if I say 'tomato' and you say 'tomahto' because we both can instinctively spell any of the sounds we use and if you want to say it that differently you should just write it differently as well. If you want to write with the same letters you should speak with the same sounds.

I would have no problem with regional spellings to accompany regional pronunciation or having pronunciation itself standardize. These problems you raise are non-issues for people already using phonetic languages. They are problems created by the nonsensical evolution of the English language and it's failure to establish an early phonetic standard.

So sure, converting an idiotic system to one that makes sense is going to pose compatibility issues, but those compatibility issues arose from the lacking phonetic standard in the first place .
patiodog
 
  5  
Reply Wed 10 Sep, 2008 12:58 pm
Here's a passage from Bill Bryson's uncharacteristically uncomical "The Mother Tongue."

Quote:
What cimplified spelling systems gain in terms of consistency they often throw away in terms of clarity. Eight may be a peculiar way of speclling the number that follows seven, but it certainly helps to distinguish it from the past tense of eat. Similarly, the syllable seed can be spelled a variety of ways in English -- seed, secede, proceed, supersede -- but if in our quest for consistency we were to fix on the single spelling of, say, seed, we wouldn't be able to distinguish between reseed and recede. Fissure would become fisher; sew and sow would be so; There would be no way to distinguish between seas and seize, flees and fleas, aloud and allowed, chance and chants, air and heir, wrest and rest, flue, flue, and flew, weather, whether, and wether, and countless others. Perplexity and ambiguity would reign (or rain or rein).

And who would decide which pronunciations would be supreme? Would we write eether or eyther? As we have already seen, pronunciations often bear even less relation to spellings than we appreciate. In spoken English, many millions of people -- perhaps the majority -- say medal for metal, hambag for handbag, frunnal for frontal, tolly for totally, forn for foreign, and nookular for nuclear. Shall our spellings reflect these? The fact is, especially when looked at globally, most of our spellings cater to a wide variation of pronunciations. If we insisted on strictly phonetic renderings, girl would be gurl in most of America (though perhaps goil in New York), gel in London and Sydney, gull in Ireland, gill in South Africa, gairull in Scotland. Written communications between nations, and even parts of nations, would become practically impossible. And that... is a problem enough already.


I don't necessarily agree with everything there, but it points up what has already been mentioned as a drawback for the introduction of phonetic spelling.

I would add that changing English spelling at this point would cause difficulties in international communications between non-English-speaking nations. Most scientific articles are published in English, regardless of country of origin. Many of them are written (and, more often and more to the point, read) by people who have a much greater familiarity with written English than with spoken English. English also is often the language of business communication between businesses in different countries. All of these folks would, I suspect, encounter considerable difficulty if the writeen English they were familiar with was suddenly upended and they had to rely on an often limited grasp of the spoken language (and certainly of its many different accents and dialects) to suss out the new version.
Region Philbis
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Sep, 2008 01:06 pm
@OmSigDAVID,
Quote:

The worldwide standard shoud be English
as spoken by Tom Brokaw
the guy with the speech impediment??
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Sep, 2008 01:28 pm
@patiodog,
patiodog wrote:
All of these folks would, I suspect, encounter considerable difficulty if the writeen English they were familiar with was suddenly upended and they had to rely on an often limited grasp of the spoken language (and certainly of its many different accents and dialects) to suss out the new version.


When the world was discovered to be round everyone had to update their maps. It would have been easier to just keep the world flat.

When a bad system has gotten this much use, there is always a switching cost to a good system. The switching cost doesn't say much about the inherent merits of the different systems, just the practical cost of making any change.

I don't think any of the solutions I'd like to see will happen in my lifetime because there is no body with enough authority to force the change and get everyone past the switching cost within a generation or two. But that doesn't mean that the current system makes sense. The linguistic and academic benefits of a phonetic alphabet are huge. Learning by rote takes up tremendous school time that could be better spent learning to think or even just learning something more valuable by rote.

Just as Japanese people should abandon (and are slowly abandoning) their nonsensical alphabet, the English alphabet should gain a standard to do it's main job (represent sounds as letters) with more consistency to eliminate the huge amount of time spent learning (and then defending) the nonsensical system.

All the practical benefits of not switching to a system that makes sense are rooted in the switching cost of doing after generations of doing it the stupid way and not any inherent benefits of the arbitrary and nonsensical system.
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Sep, 2008 02:08 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Robert Gentel wrote:
Or, as is the case here, if you don't understand the advantages of a phonetic alphabet well. The primary purpose of writing is to map spoken sounds to written words, not to map meaning to letters

Actually, it's both.

Robert Gentel wrote:
The phonetic standard I advocate is a mapping of the sounds used in English to specific letters or combinations. If that standard is consistent it doesn't matter if I say 'tomato' and you say 'tomahto' because we both can instinctively spell any of the sounds we use and if you want to say it that differently you should just write it differently as well. If you want to write with the same letters you should speak with the same sounds.

We can do that right now. I think it should be pretty clear that any attention-seeking dunce can come up with his own phonetic spelling system. If I say "tomahto," then I can write "tomahto." Nothing would stop me except my own good sense. You're not advocating the adoption of a different standard, then, you're advocating the adoption of no standard.

Robert Gentel wrote:
I would have no problem with regional spellings to accompany regional pronunciation or having pronunciation itself standardize. These problems you raise are non-issues for people already using phonetic languages.

Really? To which phonetic languages are you referring?
patiodog
 
  2  
Reply Wed 10 Sep, 2008 02:08 pm
And I'd argue that the cost of a radical change is likely to be considerably greater than the benefits.
0 Replies
 
George
 
  3  
Reply Wed 10 Sep, 2008 02:18 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(so priketh hem nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of engelond to caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.


English has changed a lot since Chaucer wrote that. The changes were not
mandated by legislature or academy. As popular usage changes, the
codifiers fume and fulminate, but eventually accept the language as its
writers write it. And then amemd the rules.

When enough people start writing phonetically, the rules will change.
0 Replies
 
babsatamelia
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Sep, 2008 03:01 pm
@Robert Gentel,
There is some truth to the fact that the English language contains more bizarre abnormalities than any other language. ( Not that I am any kind of language expert, mind you)
I see it as enormously tough to learn every one of the subtle little idiosyncracies. Bear (an animal) sounds just like bare (naked) which sounds just like bear (to put up with) and I'm sure I could come up with quite a few of the unusual kinds of perplexities involved in learning English if I worked at it. For me, after spending a lifetime of reading & hence learning all the endearing intricacies of our language, I wouldn't have it any other way. But on the other hand, on behalf of my 12 year old grandson, I DO wish (for his sake) that our language was somehow more simple in the future.
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  2  
Reply Wed 10 Sep, 2008 03:56 pm
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:
We can do that right now. I think it should be pretty clear that any attention-seeking dunce can come up with his own phonetic spelling system.


Sure, but the point isn't to get any system but a standard one. It's not widely useful unless it's a standard that makes sense. English is the product of any dunce (some didn't even speak English) coming up with their own system.

Quote:
If I say "tomahto," then I can write "tomahto." Nothing would stop me except my own good sense. You're not advocating the adoption of a different standard, then, you're advocating the adoption of no standard.


Nonsense. I advocate a phonetic alphabet as a standard and have been clear about it.

Quote:
Robert Gentel wrote:
These problems you raise are non-issues for people already using phonetic languages.

Really? To which phonetic languages are you referring?


Spanish. It strikes a good balance between whole language advocates and phonetic advocates. The alphabet itself is simple phonetics and once you learn all the sounds mapped to their letters you can write any word you hear.

They also have great regional differences in pronunciation and dialects but can still interchange text just as well as English countries currently do. Some countries even use different sounds for different letters but each of them is still logically consistent to a very high degree internally.

What you fail to realize is that the problems you pose are always going to exist as long as there are any differences between regional use, and I'm not proposing that all people follow the same standard but that the regional standards themselves be consistent.

The problem isn't that someone can say tomato and another tomahto. The problem is that even disconsidering those differences there are internal inconsistencies that preclude the ability to learn the language systemically.

It makes no sense that a case can be made to spell "fish" as "ghoti" (gh pronounced as in laugh, o as in women, and ti as in nation) regardless of what regional differences there are.

Right now English already has regional spelling, regional pronunciation, and regional vocabulary. Those aren't the real problems with English spelling. The problem is that there is no internal consistency in the spelling even when you disconsider regional differences and none of the regional variants provide you a way to systematically learn to write.

If you want transnational compatibility that's a wholly separate concern about the comparative network effect of the language and not how much sense it should make fundamentally.
patiodog
 
  4  
Reply Wed 10 Sep, 2008 05:01 pm
I just don't see what's so urgent about changing. Is there a horrible lack of internal consistency in spelling? Sure. Do a lot of people have trouble with spelling? Sure. Does it hinder the utility of English as a spoken or a written language?

I dunno. Seems to me that a whole hell of a lot of people speak, read, and write English. Even those who do it poorly generally make themselves understood. When spelling was codified in various languages, the majority of the speakers of the language were illiterate. That's no longer the case, and to change would require that millions upon millions of people be complicit in the change. Perhaps this is why the numerous advocates of a spelling revolution in the past couple of centuries -- folks like Webster and Shaw -- have not made any headway whatsoever.

And how many generations would it be before only scholars would be able to read anything written under the current system? It's no big deal to us not to be able to read Chaucer -- there just isn't much that's survived -- but to not be able to read anything from Shakespeare to the present... what a bummer.
hawkeye10
 
  0  
Reply Wed 10 Sep, 2008 05:12 pm
standardization is for the benefit of the reader, and I am all for it. There was a time, about 30 years ago, when the rules were taken too seriously, but we have gone far the other way since that time.
OmSigDAVID
 
  0  
Reply Wed 10 Sep, 2008 07:01 pm
@hawkeye10,
Quote:
There was a time, about 30 years ago, when the rules were taken too seriously,
but we have gone far the other way since that time.

In 1978, the rules were taken too seriously ?

I 'm trying to remember what happened in 1978. . . .
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  3  
Reply Wed 10 Sep, 2008 07:02 pm
@patiodog,
Adopting a phonetics based language is finally giving up to the cretins. I see us like the Characters in the "Moat of the Gods".
Shakespeare, hell, we will have trouble with the literary style of Steinbeck and MAiler. Joyce will be totally lost even with his own unique language contributions. I say that much of necessary technical jargon will be lost due to the dumming down.

For some reason, I dont see the problem with reasonably intelligent people adopting English as a second language. The atyle of sentence structure and verb use are straitforward and clear. Id hate to see us become another Germanic language where , true to our roots, any new techy word would become an agglomeration of "wordlets".
Dont fix what aint broke.

The guy is a squirrel
0 Replies
 
OmSigDAVID
 
  -1  
Reply Wed 10 Sep, 2008 07:10 pm
It makes NO SENSE whatsoever to put Ls into woud, coud or shoud.
It is an offense against logic and efficiency to spell the word enuf as " enough. "
The error of having done this in the past does not justify perpetuating the error in the future
by poisoning the minds of future generations with bad information and bad advice.
The Spanish and Italians shoud not have a MONOPOLY on ez and logical spelling.





David
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  3  
Reply Wed 10 Sep, 2008 07:16 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Robert Gentel wrote:

joefromchicago wrote:
We can do that right now. I think it should be pretty clear that any attention-seeking dunce can come up with his own phonetic spelling system.


Sure, but the point isn't to get any system but a standard one. It's not widely useful unless it's a standard that makes sense. English is the product of any dunce (some didn't even speak English) coming up with their own system.

No, you're not advocating a standard. You've said that anyone can write phonetically as long as what they write reflects the way they speak. As you said: "If that standard is consistent it doesn't matter if I say 'tomato' and you say 'tomahto' because we both can instinctively spell any of the sounds we use and if you want to say it that differently you should just write it differently as well. If you want to write with the same letters you should speak with the same sounds." But that only imposes a standard upon each individual, not upon spelling in general. And a standard that binds only one person is no standard at all.

Robert Gentel wrote:
Quote:
If I say "tomahto," then I can write "tomahto." Nothing would stop me except my own good sense. You're not advocating the adoption of a different standard, then, you're advocating the adoption of no standard.


Nonsense. I advocate a phonetic alphabet as a standard and have been clear about it.

Nope. You don't advocate a phonetic alphabet, you advocate many phonetic alphabets -- as many as there are literate English speakers.

Robert Gentel wrote:
Spanish. It strikes a good balance between whole language advocates and phonetic advocates. The alphabet itself is simple phonetics and once you learn all the sounds mapped to their letters you can write any word you hear.

Really you must be joking. Although Spanish spelling is more regular than English, it still has its exceptions. A Castilian, for instance, will pronounce a soft "c" or a "z" like a "th." Thus, "cerveza" comes out sounding like "thervetha" in Madrid but "servesa" in Mexico City. Likewise, in certain parts of Latin America, the "ll" sounds more like a "j," so "caballo" sounds more like "cabajo than the standard "cabayo." But despite regional differences, "cerveza" and "caballo" are spelled consistently.

Robert Gentel wrote:
They also have great regional differences in pronunciation and dialects but can still interchange text just as well as English countries currently do.

Precisely! And that's because they don't change the spelling of words to match the regional pronunciations.

Robert Gentel wrote:
What you fail to realize is that the problems you pose are always going to exist as long as there are any differences between regional use, and I'm not proposing that all people follow the same standard but that the regional standards themselves be consistent.

I don't pronounce words the same as my neighbors. How are we supposed to arrive at a consistent regional spelling?

Robert Gentel wrote:
The problem isn't that someone can say tomato and another tomahto. The problem is that even disconsidering those differences there are internal inconsistencies that preclude the ability to learn the language systemically.

Rubbish. English is the world's most widely used second language. Clearly people are learning it despite its idiosyncratic orthography.

Robert Gentel wrote:
It makes no sense that a case can be made to spell "fish" as "ghoti" (gh pronounced as in laugh, o as in women, and ti as in nation) regardless of what regional differences there are.

Actually, with all due apologies to George Bernard Shaw, no good case can be made to spell "fish" "ghoti." No English word that begins with "gh" pronounces that combination as an "f." Likewise, the only time "ti" is pronounced like "sh" is in combination with "on" or "ous." It's a cute example, but no one would ever make the mistake of reading "ghoti" and pronouncing it as "fish."

In truth, most English words are either phonetic or else follow some pretty easy-to-learn rules. In that respect, it is little different from French, which has an equally challenging orthography. There are a number of exceptions to the rules, but that has not proven to be an insurmountable hurdle to the millions who have learned English as a second language, not to mention the millions who have learned it as a first language. Anyway, it's probably easier to learn irregular spellings than to learn irregular verbs -- of which English has relatively few.
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Sep, 2008 10:43 pm
@patiodog,
patiodog wrote:
I just don't see what's so urgent about changing. Is there a horrible lack of internal consistency in spelling? Sure. Do a lot of people have trouble with spelling? Sure. Does it hinder the utility of English as a spoken or a written language?


I don't think there's a great sense of urgency. It takes a lot of time that could be better spent learning useful things is all. There are a lot more useful changes to language than fixing English spelling.

Quote:
When spelling was codified in various languages, the majority of the speakers of the language were illiterate. That's no longer the case, and to change would require that millions upon millions of people be complicit in the change. Perhaps this is why the numerous advocates of a spelling revolution in the past couple of centuries -- folks like Webster and Shaw -- have not made any headway whatsoever.


I agree. There is little advantage for already literate people to change, and they aren't willing to relearn for the sake of the future generations.

Quote:
And how many generations would it be before only scholars would be able to read anything written under the current system? It's no big deal to us not to be able to read Chaucer -- there just isn't much that's survived -- but to not be able to read anything from Shakespeare to the present... what a bummer.


I don't think a phonetic alphabet means we lose the ability to preserve the literature for future generations. But I agree that it is a switching cost.
0 Replies
 
Endymion
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Sep, 2008 11:02 pm
i am the worlds worse speller (which is why i've had to write everything in 'Word' and check it all a dozen times) - paying for my lack of education now, of course,
but I feel proud of making the effort i have to overcome that problem.
So i see it from both sides. I mean maybe there is a genius writer out there somewhere - a writer capable of lifting humanity up onto a higher plain, but he/she writes nothing but shopping lists because they haven't the confidence to express themselves due to fear of being ridiculed.
Wouldn't that be a shame?
I understand people wanting to protect the English language. But maybe a great writer will NEVER be lost EVER no matter how he/she has written down what they have to say and no matter how humanity might change.

In British prisons at the moment, Shakespeare is literally changing the lives of some of the meanest sons-of-bitches you'd ever meet.
I heard this guy on the radio say that Shakespeare has given him a REASON to live and to change his life for the better!

And i know for sure that he and Shakespeare don't have that much in common as far as how they speak goes.

I think what i'm trying to say is CONTENT IS EVERYTHING
And if you have something to write about which touches people - it won't matter how it is written (as long as its not rammed down their throat... a fault of mine i'm trying to work on).

All we're really talking about is communication, isn't it?
If i were deaf and neither of us could read or write - we'd find another way, wouldn't we?

I just hate the thought that there are kids out there who cannot join in with the joy of writing. Maybe instead of wishing to change everything - we should look at accommodating, instead. Let people write however they choose to, without prejudice or snobbery and (a bit like this site) you can choose to ignore their words if you wish to.

Hell - i dunno Wink

fun talking about it though


0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  4  
Reply Wed 10 Sep, 2008 11:37 pm
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:

No, you're not advocating a standard.


Just because you can't comprehend it doesn't mean I'm not advocating it.

Quote:
You've said that anyone can write phonetically as long as what they write reflects the way they speak. As you said: "If that standard is consistent it doesn't matter if I say 'tomato' and you say 'tomahto' because we both can instinctively spell any of the sounds we use and if you want to say it that differently you should just write it differently as well. If you want to write with the same letters you should speak with the same sounds." But that only imposes a standard upon each individual, not upon spelling in general. And a standard that binds only one person is no standard at all.


You just don't understand the difference between advocating a standard phonetic alphabet and a standard way to spell all words. I am advocating a standard phonetic alphabet Joe. That has nothing at all to do with whether the words are spelled the same across dialects.

It doesn't tell you that "fish" is spelled F-I-S-H. It does things like establish a standard for the sound "f" in fish so that there isn't both "ph" and "f" for the same sound. It does things like eliminate useless "oughs" that were inserted by printers just to make words longer and that aren't being used in any regional dialect of English at all in most of the words that have them.

Quote:
Nope. You don't advocate a phonetic alphabet, you advocate many phonetic alphabets -- as many as there are literate English speakers.


Nonsense. Just because you don't understand it doesn't mean you get to make up your version of what I am saying. There are only so many sounds in use in all English dialects. There aren't enough letters to represent them so letter combination are needed. This would establish only what combination represent what sounds. It doesn't establish that everyone spells and pronounces the word "tomato" the same.

It does not seek to establish how words are spelled. It establishes how sounds are spelled.

Quote:
Really you must be joking. Although Spanish spelling is more regular than English, it still has its exceptions. A Castilian, for instance, will pronounce a soft "c" or a "z" like a "th." Thus, "cerveza" comes out sounding like "thervetha" in Madrid but "servesa" in Mexico City. Likewise, in certain parts of Latin America, the "ll" sounds more like a "j," so "caballo" sounds more like "cabajo than the standard "cabayo." But despite regional differences, "cerveza" and "caballo" are spelled consistently.


Once again. I am not talking about a standard of how to spell words I am talking about a standard on how sounds are mapped to letters. In Spanish despite these regional differences the language is phonetic. As long as the divergence always occurs on the same kinds of sounds it doesn't really matter and becomes more of an issue of an accent than phonetics. It becomes a small exception where if you learn those few differences you already know all you need to know to map the sounds where they need to go.

I don't mind if between region to region "ah" is pronnounced a bit differently. I mind that without taking any regional difference into account we have nonsense like "ough" and multiple ways to say the same sound, and multiple sounds for the same letters within one dialect.

Quote:
Precisely! And that's because they don't change the spelling of words to match the regional pronunciations.


The problem with English spelling is not that one dialect says "tomato" and the other "tomahto" it's that all of them use stuff like "ough" that doesn't have any legitimate phonetic sound because they weren't inserted to represent sounds, they were inserted by Dutch who didn't speak English and were paid by the letter. They added letters for things like line justification and this kind of nonsense simply didn't happen in Spanish.

The bottom line is that despite the regional differences they all do just fine with a phonetic alphabet and there is no reason that English could not use a phonetic alphabet. I'm fine with people spelling the words differently, spelling them the same but having consistent differences in key sounds, or even speaking the same. None of that has any bearing on whether or not the alphabet can be phonetic.

Quote:
I don't pronounce words the same as my neighbors. How are we supposed to arrive at a consistent regional spelling?


It does not seek to establish how words are spelled. It establishes how sounds are spelled.

Quote:
Robert Gentel wrote:
The problem isn't that someone can say tomato and another tomahto. The problem is that even disconsidering those differences there are internal inconsistencies that preclude the ability to learn the language systemically.

Rubbish. English is the world's most widely used second language. Clearly people are learning it despite its idiosyncratic orthography.


Nowhere did I claim that people aren't learning the language Joe. Hell I taught English as second language for years. I said they can't learn the spelling systemically. They are, of course, learning it. But they learn the spelling by rote and it takes a lot longer than it would if the alphabet were phonetic.

Quote:
Robert Gentel wrote:
It makes no sense that a case can be made to spell "fish" as "ghoti" (gh pronounced as in laugh, o as in women, and ti as in nation) regardless of what regional differences there are.

Actually, with all due apologies to George Bernard Shaw, no good case can be made to spell "fish" "ghoti." No English word that begins with "gh" pronounces that combination as an "f." Likewise, the only time "ti" is pronounced like "sh" is in combination with "on" or "ous." It's a cute example, but no one would ever make the mistake of reading "ghoti" and pronouncing it as "fish."


It's absurd by intention. Nobody would make the mistake of pronnouncing it as "fish" but everyone can recognize that those very letter cominations do add up to those sounds in other words.

Incidentally, Shaw was a spelling reform advocate but he never said anything about ghoti. That is just a famous misattribution.

Quote:
In truth, most English words are either phonetic or else follow some pretty easy-to-learn rules. In that respect, it is little different from French, which has an equally challenging orthography. There are a number of exceptions to the rules, but that has not proven to be an insurmountable hurdle to the millions who have learned English as a second language, not to mention the millions who have learned it as a first language. Anyway, it's probably easier to learn irregular spellings than to learn irregular verbs -- of which English has relatively few.


Wrong. French does not have equally challenging orthography. There are over 1000 ways to spell about 44 sounds in the English language and French does not come close to this (largely because a lot of it was already incorporated into English while English went on to aquire more of the idiocy from other languages). Sure there are other non-phonetic alphabets but English is the absolute worst of them all in this reagard and a lot of the most common words have the most nonsensical spelling. It works, and is the greatest language of all languages by more important metrics (vocabulary, literature) but the dead last when it comes to making sense of spelling.
 

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