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In this case, the Latin root tells us that 'consensus' should have an 's' rather than a 'c' there. This belies the importance of etymology in determining spelling.

How ya figure? Is this some new meaning of "belies" with which I'm not familiar?
Re some other folks' remarks about regional variations, dialects, etc. I don't see why those could not continue. Reformed English ... anyone, it would merely be adopted by anyone choosing to do so, and should succeed or fail on its merits.

I'm the only one, as far as I can see, who made remarks about regional variation, and they had nothing to do with your points. (I do think it would be forced on people, by the way. It would be forced on schoolchildren and, sooner or later, on every single adult who wanted to be able to continue to read and write. It might start in the way you suggest. But that's not what I was talking about.)

My point was simply the difficulty of how to arrive at standardized spellings (no matter how small a target group) when pronunciations vary. Either you'll end up with people spelling the way they hear a word (and therefore having multiple spellings of many words), or you'll wind up with a single, standardized spelling that is not phonetic (1) for many people. Oh, they'd live, they're used to spellings not being phonetic now. But who gets to decide which spelling is the one to be standardized?
Anybody who is seriously looking at a spelling reform system must have thought about this question.
I didn't get any answer from A.B. Normal. I'll try again. How would you spell "cot" under that system you showed us, and how would you spell "caught"? I myself would be delighted with a system with a system that spelled them identically, but a few others around here wouldn't.

(1) "phonetic" in the sense used by the general public; don't give me any of that linguistic "phonemic" stuff.

Best wishes Donna Richoux
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... My point was simply the difficulty of how to arrive at standardized spellings (no matter how small a target group) when pronunciations vary.

I've been wondering where/how regional variations arise. Perhaps if the only way we learned new words was by hearing them, we'd all speak them the same way. IOW, the differences arise because of the limitations of (non-phonetic) spelling, i.e. we learn new words by first seeing them, and apply our own interpretation of how they should sound. Once someone in a locality has decided how to pronounce the new word, it would then spread locally by hearing, so everyone there would say it that way, and a regional variation is born.

Is the above plausible? I suspect that nowadays, most newly-coined words are spread and learned via TV and radio, rather than by reading. It would be interesting to know if such words also have regional variations in pronunciation, or has the common (sound based) source caused a common world-wide pronunciation?
I won't address the problem of how to handle current regional variations, which I have not yet considered. I don't feel I have to provide or suggest solutions to all such problems yet, since I'm at the stage of considering whether we should reform, not how .
...

John W Hall (Email Removed)
Cochrane, Alberta, Canada.
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I've been wondering where/how regional variations arise. Perhaps if the only way we learned new words was by hearing them, ... differences arise because of the limitations of (non-phonetic) spelling, i.e. we learn new words by first seeing them,

Regional accents pre-date literacy, no?

Paul
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Re some other folks' remarks about regional variations, dialects, etc. ... do so, and should succeed or fail on its merits.

I'm the only one, as far as I can see, who made remarks about regional variation, and they had nothing ... of many words), or you'll wind up with a single, standardized spelling that is not phonetic (1) for many people.

Consistent, and easily understood rules
are more important than phonetic spelling.
Oh, they'd live, they're used to spellings not being phonetic now. But who gets to decide which spelling is the one to be standardized?

For English the only way is to set up a multinational body, empowered by a treaty between the major english speaking countries Agreement must be reached beforehand that all will accept the same rules.
An 'alleingang' (is that English yet)
such as the US changing 'harbour' to 'harbor'
creates nothing but confusion.
Anybody who is seriously looking at a spelling reform system must have thought about this question.

The Netherlands and Belgium did more than look at,

Jan
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Please tell us that you have thought about - and even solved - the problem of how to handle regional ... a shame to replace a worldwide system with a regional one, creating a gulf between us and our overseas cousins.

Good points. Right off the bat, let me tell you that I'm no expert in this area. It's actually a very recent interest of mine. I've been pondering the problem off and on for years, but never gave it much serious consideration before very recently. I do believe I have some common sense, and regular people like me who aren't linguistics experts are probably the main body of English-speakers who could benefit from reforms in English spelling.
Variations in pronunciation is a big issue, obviously. I was reading on the RITE spelling website (http://www.ritespel.org ) how they handle this. Their approach sounds pretty logical to me. They compare the American and British pronunciations, based on dictionary pronunciation keys. If the two pronunciations differ they adopt the one that is nearer to the traditional spelling. If neither is nearer, they adopt the one that creates a shorter spelling. If neither is shorter, the traditional spelling remains unreformed.
I'm not sure if I totally agree with the last option. If the traditional spelling of a word doesn't reflect the way anyone pronounces it, it's no good to anyone. I say go with the one used by the majority of Engilsh-speakers worldwide if all the other tests fail. Then, at least in the worst case, we're approaching consistency for the majority of affected people.
How about "cot" and "caught"? My Random House Collegiate Dictionary uses an "o" with a carat "^" on top for "caught", but just an "o" for "cot". There is a recognized distintion, and a reformed spelling probably should reflect that. The WWERSB (World-Wide English Reformed Spelling Board, I just made that up) would have to decide on which dictionaries would be accepted into the mix and hopefully create spellings that reflect pronunciations used by large groupings of English-speakers as a basis for making these kinds of decisions. I, for one, wouldn't mind spelling "cot" as "cot" and "caught" as "caut". I don't thing the "gh" in "caught" makes sense. I also wouldn't go with "cawt" for "caught". Many of my neighbors here in Florida say it that way, but it's not considered a standard pronunciation.
OK, A.B., I'm willing to concede that your horrible 'example' was prompted by nothing worse than an excess of zeal ... anyone, it would merely be adopted by anyone choosing to do so, and should succeed or fail on its merits.

Wisdom and logic might lead us to take just the really hard spellings and change them. Dropping alot of silent letters would be an obvious place to start. Letter combinations that just don't make sense could be the main ones the "board" focuses on. "Laugh" for instance should probably be spelled "laf", and wouldn't "nife" make more sense than "knife"?
On the other hand, the crazy looking example that I used earlier is my attempt at simplifying spelling rules so that the spelling of a word becomes perfectly predictable based on it's pronunciation. A long "e" for instance could always be represented as "ee" and a short "e" just as "e". If we're going to reform, why not really reform?

I'm not a linguist or anything close to an authority on any of this, but I can see why spelling in standard English is so hard for many people to learn. I'm not sure minor, incremental reforms could ever adequately address the glaring problem of unpredictability in traditional spelling.
I'm not a linguist or anything close to an authority on any of this, but I can see why spelling ... to learn. I'm not sure minor, incremental reforms could ever adequately address the glaring problem of unpredictability in traditional spelling.

Minor incremental reforms are a disaster.
The only result is that nobody (except trained professionals) still knows what the 'correct' spelling is.
Sweeping all out reforms are unacceptable to the general public.

So there you are,
Jan
PS In Dutch (under pressure from the always francophobe Belgians) many c-s in borrowed words have been replaced by k-s, many remain, some k-s have even been changed back to c-s again in 1996. The net result is that nobody knows where to use c or k in all examples that come up, without consulting a wordlist. (or spellchecker)
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I'm not a linguist or anything close to an authority ... adequately address the glaring problem of unpredictability in traditional spelling.

Minor incremental reforms are a disaster. The only result is that nobody (except trained professionals) still knows what the 'correct' ... nobody knows where to use c or k in all examples that come up, without consulting a wordlist. (or spellchecker)

The Irish managed it - but they had a serious situation!

Paul
My Lake District walking site (updated 29th September 2003): http://paulrooney.netfirms.com
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