A Few More Words

January 31st, 2012

Of course I anticipated lots of debate over my Wired piece on spelling. And it’s fun to read the differing views. I enjoy hearing comments and debating issues.

It is, I admit,  less fun–though also expected–to have my ideas oversimplified.  I do not argue we should “jettison spelling” or that we should spell “any word any way we want.”

What do I argue, then? If you want a thesis statement, I’ll pull out this one from the article: “We need a new set of tools that recognize more variations instead of rigidly enforcing outdated dogma.”

And example: if, after textisms take hold (and I argue they will, more and more), and a critical mass of people start using them and a larger group gets used to reading them, then writing “l8r” instead of later will not impede clarity or impede communication. Thus, we should be flexible about accepting this variation rather than decry laziness, stupidly, etc.

 

 

 

comments

  1. Marc Brody replied on February 6th, 2012.

    I read the Wired article and found myself replacing the word “french language” into “english language”. I am a french tutor helping high school students struggle with the arbitrary, arcane rules of written french that most native speakers of french don’t understand or know. As a French American, I love my native language. I also know it suffers from overprotection, rigid rules that make no sense and can and should be reformed. Most people don’t know that in the 1830′s french was simplified to make it standardized and easy to read.

    Oops…. back to English. My point is that as a tutor I am constantly struggling to explain to native speakers of english why their native language contains words that are spelled one way and pronounced another. Or, why “neighbor” and “labor” sound the same but must be memorized. I try to explain languages evolve and change with time and that logic is not always applicable to spelling. The written codified form of language we read is there to ensure we all have a reference point to agree on a word/definition format.

    Then, I try to explain how and where the same spelling variations occur in french. I try to explain why in French the last sounds of a word are only there because it makes them appear more “latin” than germanic or even worse “provinical”. Or, why an accent that indicates a sound no longer is pronounced must be included in a word. Try that one! If you find a way to explain it, contact me.

    Yes, a written language(s) can (and maybe even should) be simplified over time without loss to meaning. But for some, it can strike to the heart of one’s identity and even a culture. After reading the article, I realized much of the same problems and debate surrounding spelling is not unique to English.

    Be safe out there. Its a brave new written world.
    Marc Brody
    California

  2. English spelling “causes” dyslexia, was the opinion of Keith Stanovich who found twice as many dyslexic learners of English as Italian, a language with a more phonetically consistent spelling.

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