More on Spelling

Tom Zurinskas truespel at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Apr 21 00:07:51 UTC 2008

I wondered how regular English spelling is.  I cranked it through my book 4 database and found that in running text (newspapers) the consonants are spelled in their majority form 90% of the time, and vowels 50% of the time.  This does not account for positional effects (such as y at the end of a word standing for ~ee) which would increase the regularity, nor does it consider other phonics patterns.

So the letter-sound correspondence is more regular than not.  Some forms of teaching reading (whole language) prohibit teaching letter-sound correspondence to learners.  It's been said this idea is akin to malpractice.

Tom Zurinskas, USA - CT20, TN3, NJ33, FL5+
See - and the 4 truespel books plus "Occasional Poems" at

> Date: Sun, 20 Apr 2008 12:09:13 -0400
> From: djmetevia at CHARTERMI.NET
> Subject: More on Spelling
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: David Metevia
> Subject: More on Spelling
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I don't know if this will add to the discussion or add to emotion, but I
> ran across this quote today on English spelling.
> "In spelling, the [English] language was assimilating the consequences
> of having a civil service of French scribes, who paid little attention
> to the traditions of English spelling that had developed in Anglo-Saxon
> times. Not only did French qu arrive, replacing Old English cw (as in
> queen), but ch replaced c (in words such as church--Old English cirice),
> sh and sch replaced sc (as in ship--Old English scip), and much more.
> Vowels were written in a great number of ways. Much of the irregularity
> of modern English spelling derives from the forcing together of Old
> English and French systems of spelling in the Middle Ages. People
> struggled to find the best way of writing English throughout the period.
> ... Even Caxton didn't help, at times. Some of his typesetters were
> Dutch, and they introduced some of their own spelling conventions into
> their work. That is where the gh in such words as ghost comes from.
> "Any desire to standardize would also have been hindered by the ...
> Great English Vowel Shift, [which] took place in the early 1400s. Before
> the shift, a word like loud would have been pronounced 'lood'; name as
> 'nahm'; leaf as 'layf'; mice as 'mees'. ...
> "The renewed interest in classical languages and cultures, which formed
> part of the ethos of the Renaissance, had introduced a new perspective
> into spelling: etymology. Etymology is the study of the history of
> words, and there was a widespread view that words should show their
> history in the way they were spelled. These weren't classicists showing
> off. There was a genuine belief that it would help people if they could
> 'see' the original Latin in a Latin-derived English word. So someone
> added a b to the word typically spelled det, dett, or dette in Middle
> English, because the source in Latin was debitum, and it became debt,
> and caught on. Similarly, an o was added to peple, because it came from
> populum: we find both poeple and people, before the latter became the
> norm. An s was added to ile and iland, because of Latin insula, so we
> now have island. There are many more such cases. Some people nowadays
> find it hard to understand why there are so many 'silent letters' of
> this kind in English. It is because other people thought they were
> helping."
> David Crystal, The Fight for English: How language pundits ate, shot,
> and left, Oxford, 2006, pp. 26-9.
> Regards,
> Dave
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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