Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Eight spells what?

My daughter is learning to read, and she is reminding me how arcane English spelling is. She and I are doing a little reading each night (her idea), and as she struggles with certain words and I tell her what they actually are, she is outraged.

Just last night she was struggling with "eight" saying something like "ee-ga-hut" and I said "that spells 'ayt'" and she said "WHAT? That makes no sense!"

She also got quite mad at words like "through", "psychic" and "laughter". I hadn't thought of this for a long time, but working with her bring the silliness of English spelling all back. Although in a way it's fun to use the spelling to figure out how it used to be pronounced a thousand years ago: "threwoch" for "through" and "k-nicht" for "knight."

Which brings me to a note she wrote a year ago, before learning to read.
I wit awot sid to luc for a for leef clover.


ps i wat sicer doo dols for my nix chreet[1]
It turns out that there are still people trying to simplify spelling of the English language.
Here is Mark Twain's proposal for fixing English spelling.
For example, in Year 1 that useless letter "c" would be dropped
to be replased either by "k" or "s", and likewise "x" would no longer
be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which "c" would be retained
would be the "ch" formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2
might reform "w" spelling, so that "which" and "one" would take the
same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish "y" replasing it with
"i" and Iear 4 might fiks the "g/j" anomali wonse and for all.
Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear
with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12
or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants.
Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi
ridandant letez "c", "y" and "x" -- bai now jast a memori in the maindz
ov ould doderez -- tu riplais "ch", "sh", and "th" rispektivli.
Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud
hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.

[1] "I went outside to look for a four leaf clover. Ariel. P.S. I want snicker doodles for my next treat."

1 comment:

Jani Hartikainen said...

This is probably the most difficult part in english - as someone who isn't a native speaker I know this pretty well =)

It's pretty much the polar opposite to finnish, my native language. In finnish, every letter is always pronounced exactly the same. For example, A is always pronounced somewhat like how it's pronounced in car, no matter what the word is.

Still, english is probably better than french in that regard, from what I've heard at least =)