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dmoser

Characters are objectively harder, even for Chinese

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atitarev

Do we need to wake up this monster of a thread because of Spanish and English spelling? :mrgreen:

As for the English language reform it's all possible even with regional difference. I would leave letter R alone, even if it's not pronounced in British (e.g. arm, car) but I would modify burn, bird, girl, Perth to have one vowel.

Should farm be spelled farm or fam?

fam doesn't show the length or the origin of the word, I would still spell farm.

Dialects shouldn't count, IMHO but distinct standard variations could be taken into account.

The reform of the English language is hardly possible if there is no agreement between not only Anglophone countries but also a range of public societies, organisations. Otherwise, it would create contention similar to the simplified/traditional because the reform was unilateral. The language reforms in Turkey, Vietnam, Russia, Japan, Greece etc. were done within one country, thus it didn't create a lot of fuss and was gradually accepted. Languages spoken in a few countries like Spanish or Arabic could be done only when all countries speaking it agree on the reform.

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dsrguru

Agreed, although note that the "irl" sound in "girl" is not the exact same vowel sound as the others are in American English. Hence your reform wouldn't work... :D

I guess the main arguments against phoneticizing English orthography are (1) that there are so many English speaking countries with different dialects and regional subdialects that it would be virtually impossible to come to a consensus on which dialect the spelling would be based on and (2) that spelling reform would remove almost all the etymological value of our current system. If you look at a Spanish newspaper article, for example, you can probably understand the gist of what's going on just because of spelling similarities with English. If "exercise" were spelled "eksusaiz" or something similar, would the meaning of "ejercicio" be as obvious as it is currently?

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atitarev
If "exercise" were spelled "eksusaiz" or something similar, would the meaning of "ejercicio" be as obvious as it is currently?

Maybe not, not at first, at first but knowing the phonetical features of English, it could be deduced. Further borrowing would deform the original pronunciation as much, as spelling affects the pronunciation. The Spanish spelling "ejercicio" has changed "x" to "j" to reflect the pronunciation, didn't it, it made a bit harder to figure out that these words are related. It is similar to German Zentrum (centre), Zirkus (circus), where Z is used instead of C (Z is usually pronounced [ts] in German). Not changing the spelling gradually changes the original pronunciation, words chance, branch (Fr. branche) are pronounced with [sh] in French, last T is silent in "restaurant", which is used be standard in English, I can hear most Australians pronounce the final T in restaurant.

I don't see a huge problem in changing English spelling, as long as it is consistent, understood, agreed on with all the countries where English is the official language but as you know, it's a massive task. Dialectal or regional differences would be smoothed out. Some words could have more than one form: misl or misail (missile) if one version can't be agreed on. These variations happen because people sometimes just don't know, which one is right. No one will stop people using dialects or have accents but there could be just one standard (dictionary) form (perhaps with a variant), if you know what I mean.

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dsrguru

Not only would it be a massive task to implement phonetic spelling reform that all major English speaking countries would agree upon, but it would also be utterly pointless. There is currently no need for spelling "reform" since the same major English speaking countries have very high literacy rates. Additionally, since a fluent reader of any non-logographic language processes each word as a whole as opposed to sounding out the spelling, phonetic writing systems don't actually shorten the learning curve; they just let not-yet-fluent readers sound out words more accurately.

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realmayo

Just to point out: the stuff I linked to wasn't talking about a phonetic system per se so much as a tightening of the spelling rules. For example: why "friend", why not "frend"? That is: letters which no longer serve a purpose, no matter which dialect you speak.

Leads me to think of examples like through, or sew -- why not "thru", or "so". Well, in the first instance, threw (the ball) would be "thru" too which could be confusing, as would so "she wants to so so much" ... which is the familiar argument about pinyin-only script (too many homonyms).

But would it be such a big problem? "He gave a bow to the emperor / she tied her hair with a bow" aren't too tricky as it is.

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Lu
why "friend", why not "frend"?
Because then millions of people are suddenly misspelling, have to learn the new rules, don't learn them very well because they're not in school, start getting confused about the spelling of other words that they used to have no problem with, and why? So that schoolchildren have a few less letters to learn? They seem to manage just fine as it is.

I am quite happy with the thought that English will likely never be messed with as Dutch was.

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Artem

Personally, I think there's a lot of logic to English spelling. While if you pronounce words like sew and so individually, they do in fact sound the same, but in speech with natural intonation the words are emphasized quite differently. Basically, I think if you speak in a monotone voice enunciating every single word than simplified spelling would be useful, but in practicality I think it is actually counterproductive.

Also, I don't think there's such a thing as "standard English" so many different regions/countries speak very distinct pronunciations of words. While one place will pronounce two spelling the same, another will make a distinction.

Finally, spelling of the word gives a lot of insight into the origin of the word, and vice versa (if you know what language the word originated in, it's easier to spell). I.E. fiance and fiancee (originated from French ... add e after accented e at the end of the word to make it female). Taking these features away from English is like removing characters from Mandarin; the language loses a lot of its nature.

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ABCinChina

I think the Chinese can't forget how to write simple characters. I asked some Chinese people if they ever forget how to write common characters once in a while and the answer is no. This is all preposterous I tell you, preposterous!

Although sometimes when asked to recall a stroke order, there may be some difficulties with native Chinese. But that's another story.

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Don_Horhe

I've heard of a thing called 第二次文盲, second illiteracy, which means just that - forgetting how to write characters. It happens to Chinese people as well, and is caused by not writing given characters for a long time or by using a PC to write. Your hand just falls out of habit.

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Lu

ABC, you're joking right. I've personally witnessed Chinese people realize that they forgot how to write 鹽 and even 褲.

But if you don't believe it, just repeat the experiment mentioned in the OP. Ask some random people to write 噴嚏 and see what happens.

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Quest

Chinese people can and do forget how to write some characters, but that only happens on a tiny few characters they haven't had the need to write in a long long time. Big deal; societ grinds to a halt because of that.

English spelling is a mess, English grammar is objectively harder than [xx], britisth units are unhuman friendly, french le la can be done without, why not reform? because there isn't a need.

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renzhe
Ask some random people to write 噴嚏 and see what happens.

While you're at it, you could ask a random guy in the US to write "definitely" or "compatibility".

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