Steve Bett wrote:
> Please comment on these generalizations.
> Does everyone agree with them or are there some that you take issue with.
> They were written by Prof. Chris Upward (Aston U., UK). Upward was a major
> contributor to The Oxford Companion to the English Language (Tom McArthur, editor).

"Barry" has been nagging me all day to comment on these
"generalizations" that are beneath notice. "Barry" is apparently unable
to divine their inadequacies by himself.

> I have added my initialed comments in this reposting. Feel free to do the same.
> source page:
> Ten Axioms on English Spelling
> Edited and expanded by Chris Upward
> 1. Alphabets provide the simplest way to write most languages.

Define "alphabet" and "simple."

> SB: syllabaries are strong contenders when there are less than 5 vowels.
> ref:, keyword: syllabary
> 2. The alphabet works by the principle that letters represent speech sounds.

Define "speech sound."

> SB: Most writing systems contain more than just sound signs.
> They also include a few meaning signs (semagrams, word-signs, logograms).
> 3. Literacy is easily acquired if the spelling tells readers the pronunciation, and the pronunciation tells writers the spelling.

Evidence? And, is the purpose of an orthography ease in learning?

> SB: Literacy is more easily acquired under these conditions. In fact illiterates can learn highly phonemic writing systems in 3 months or less. Laubach (1960) said that 3 months was the average for 95% of the 300 languages his organization developed literacy materials for. Swadesh and Pike (1939) claimed to have taught illiterate Indians in rural Mexico how to read and write their own language and Spanish in two months.
> 4. Pronunciation changes through time, undermining the match between spelling and sound.


> SB: See Webster quote
> 5. Spelling systems need modernizing periodically to restore the sound-spelling match.

False. The English morphophonemics-spelling match is far more useful
than a sound-spelling match would be; moreover, English spelling works
equally well for all dialects of English (since the worldwide diversity
of English dialects began in earnest shortly _after_ the sound-based
standardization, so that each major modern variety of English differs
_in a systematic way_ from each other and from the orthography.

> SB: One of the arguments that Samuel Johnson gave for not matching spelling to speech was that speech changed to quickly. Had Johnson provided a dictionary pronunciation key it would be easy to see how much English has changed since 1755.
> 6. By not systematically modernizing over nearly 1,000 years, English spelling has lost touch with the alphabetic principle of spelling matching sound.

1000 years?? 1755 is 300 years (and American spelling settled down a
couple of generations after that).

> 7. Neglect of the alphabetic principle makes English spelling exceptionally difficult.

The writer of this generalization has little or no experience with most
written languages.

> 8. The difficulty of English spelling wastes time and produces unacceptably low levels of literacy in English-speaking countries.


> 9. To improve literacy, English needs to modernise its spelling, as other languages do.


> 10 There are no quick or easy solutions. As a first step, the idea of "managing" English spelling, i.e. controlling it rather than letting it continue on its own arbitrary way, should be adopted.


> stbett@...

I wonder how much of the above "Barry" will understand.

Note that "Barry" didn't himself bother to comment on the
Peter T. Daniels grammatim@...