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English Language & Linguistics
Problems, issues and solutions
Spelling describes the way in which the symbols or letters of the alphabet are arranged in a conventional way to represent the words of a language. Dictionaries are the usual arbiters on what is acceptable spelling and one effect of Dr Samuel Johnson's great dictionary of 1755 was that soon most writers conformed to a standard spelling. In consequence spelling has changed very little since the eighteenth century.
English spelling seems irregular because words have been affected by a variety of different influences over the centuries.
UK v USA
US spelling is based on the English taken by the earlier settlers to the New World - which was 17th century century English. As a colony of England it remained faithful to its roots in some ways, but had constantly to adapt to the conditions of a new environment, new customs, local languages ....
In the course of time and under the influence of an independent spirit, its own dictionary, recognising the truth of the phrase coined in later years: "two countries divided by a common language" was written by Noah Webster and incorporated modifications and simplifications by Webster, bringing us
color, honor, center, theater, check (for UK cheque), defense, thru, sox ....
The increasing influence of US culture and attitudes extends to spelling too, though it is not always obvious. The two main computer operating systems come from the US and the word "quit" rather than UK "leave" or "close" joins "program" (not "programme") as a broadly understood term. Microsoft Explorer's "Favorites" would be a natural next word to change.
Attitudes and Social Acceptability
A correspondent to The Guardian wrote:
Do you agree that this seems a rational and thoughtful view of the importance of spelling.?
Read the following passage.
Aoccdrnig to rseearch at an Elingsh
uinervtisy, it deosn't
Does this mean spelling is a significant factor in communication?
Answer the following challenging questions:
How far do you think
people do think less of you and how far do you think they should
think less of you if you cannot spell correctly?
° Write a letter from a Headmaster to parents explaining the importance of accurate spelling in the school.
Read the following
information and write
See also "Non-standard
spelling forms in advertising"
David Crystal quotes
the figure that English is about 75% regular. The 400 or so irregular
spellings are "among the most frequently used".
George Bernard Shaw created the word "Ghoti" which he suggested was pronounced like the English word "fish" if some of the precedents of English spelling were used. He pointed out that the "gh" was pronounced like "f" as in "enough", the "o" as in "women" and the "ti" as "nation."
Some common irregular words