Anyone Can Read Now
The extent and seriousness of English functional illiteracy exceeds your worst NIGHTMARE,
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12. Twelve Serious Linguistic Problems With English SpellingThis is a brief summary of the reason that English spelling is so inconsistent, illogical, and chaotic. A more complete explanation and source information can be found on page 5. English Spelling Confuses Everyone. Prior to the mid 1700s, English was a conglomeration of words from eight languages — the languages of every conquering nation that had occupied England. In most cases the spelling of the words was that of the language of origin. The early publishers in England employed foreign typesetters because there were few English-speaking typesetters. The foreign typesetters usually knew little about the proper spelling of English words and were relatively unrestrained in how they chose to spell the words. They often added letters to words to complete the fully justified lines. In 1755 Dr. Samuel Johnson's well-received dictionary froze the spelling of the words rather than freezing the spelling of the phonemes (the smallest sound in a language or dialect used to distinguish between syllables or words) as an alphabetic languages is logically designed to do. Since that time, according to Henry Hitchings book, The Secret Life of Words, words have been added to the English language from 350 other languages. In most cases, the spelling used is that of the language of origin. In addition, the pronunciation of many words has changed since 1755, so the frozen spelling no longer represents the correct pronunciation.
1. For Reading (What sounds the letters you see represent):
there are at least 26 single letters, 184 two-letter graphemes (a grapheme is a letter or combination of letters representing a sound), 131 three-letter graphemes, 22 four-letter graphemes, and 4 five-letter graphemes, for a total of at least 367 graphemes when only 38 graphemes are needed. Only five single letters (B, K, P, R, and V) and 212 of the multiple letter graphemes (5+212=217 total graphemes) represent only one phoneme (a phoneme is the smallest sound in a language or dialect used to distinguish between syllables or words). The other 150 graphemes (367 minus 217) represent from two to eight phonemes each. When all of the different phonemes that these 367 graphemes represent are totaled, these 367 graphemes represent an average of 2.1 phonemes each. Note that even B, K, P, R, and V have two pronunciations if you consider being silent a pronunciation.
2. For Spelling (How to spell the sounds you want to represent):
There are at least 1680 spellings of the 38 phonemes, for an average of at least 44 spellings each (1680 divided by 38). This is based upon extensive research by Professor Julius Nyikos. See Julius Nyikos, "A Linguistic Perspective of Functional Illiteracy," The Fourteenth LACUS Forum 1987 (Lake Bluff, Illinois: Linguistic Association of Canada and the United States, 1988), pp. 146-163.
3. Silent Letters:
All 26 letters of the alphabet are silent in some words with no reliable way of knowing whether a letter is silent or not in a word. One example for each letter (many more are possible): reAd, deBt, sCent, velDt, havE, halFpenny, siGn, rHyme, busIness, mariJuana, Knot, taLk, Mnemonic, autumN, sophOmore, rasPberry, lacQuer, suRprise, aiSle, depoT, bUilt, savVy, Write, fauX pas, maYor, and rendeZvous.
4. Doubled Letters:
All but H, Q, U, W, X, and Y are doubled in some words and not in others, with no reliable way of knowing whether a letter is doubled or not.
5. Unrepresented Phonemes:
Some phonemes are not spelled in some words. For example, you cannot be sure you are pronouncing the word "spasm" correctly without know which vowel should be between the S and the M.
6. Graphemes Not in Order of Pronunciation:
The phonemes are not spelled in the correct order in some words. For example, if the E in the word "little" is properly to represent the phoneme U (as in the word nut), it should be between the T and the L.
7. No Reliable Spelling Rules:
No one can realistically be expected to learn to read by using English spelling rules. Every spelling rule has exceptions, and some of the exceptions even have exceptions! A computer programmed with 203 English spelling rules was able correctly to spell only 49% of a list of 17,000 common English words. Few, if any, humans can do better.
8. Lack of Logic in Spelling:
Page 78 of Dr. Diane McGuinness' book, "Why Our Children Can't Read," lists the sixteen syllable patterns of vowel and consonant phonemes that each syllable can have. This is greatly complicated by the fact that each vowel or consonant phoneme can be represented by graphemes of as many as five letters. On pages 156 to 159 of Dr. McGuinness' book, she explains that the lack of logic in English spelling is a serious problem for students. (See "The Complex Logic Our Spelling System Requires" Section on page 5 of this website, English Spelling Confuses Everyone.)
9. Increasing Your Reading Vocabulary:
It does not take a rocket scientist to know that it is much easier to learn the spelling of 38 phonemes with only ONE spelling and how to blend them into words than it is to remember the spelling of at least the 20,000 or more words required to become fluent readers. Although many people have speaking vocabularies of more than 70,000 words, very few people have reading vocabularies that large. With a perfectly phonemic language, if you know how to pronounce a word you also know how to spell it, and your reading and speaking vocabularies are identical. With a perfectly phonemic language, you do not have to spend inordinate amounts of time and waste the space in your brain with ridiculous spellings that could be used for learning and storing much more valuable information in your memory banks. Also, with a perfectly phonemic language, you do not have the problem that people frequently have at present: forgetting the spelling of a word that you have not used for a long time -- which often happens when you need the word the most.
10. The ONLY Way to Learn Present Spelling:
The most devastating fact about present English reading: The only way to learn to read English is to add each new word to your reading vocabulary one-at-a-time by rote memory or repeated use. In this way, English is more like Chinese writing than alphabetic languages. In the same way that certain strokes in certain positions represent a Chinese word, certain letters in a certain order represent words in English.
11. Resisting Change:
Because of the great difficulty in learning to read imposed upon all but the most brilliant students, and especially upon the many immigrants in our midst, no one should proudly resist an attack upon the written version of "our mother tongue." Although it is not common knowledge, all reasonable objections to spelling reform have been thoroughly disproven. (See the last chapter of English Spelling and Spelling Reform, by Thomas Lounsbury, LL.D., L.H.D., which is available for free download here. See page 11 of this website, All Reasonable Objections to Spelling Reform Have Been Debunked. . Although spelling reform has never been attempted in English, more than 32 nations larger and smaller than the U.S. and both advanced and developing nations have successfully implemented spelling reform. See Valerie Yule's website here.
12. Child Abuse and Brain Damage:
Present English spelling is so bad, in fact, that at least two educational psychologists claim that teaching children to read present English spelling damages the brain and amounts to child abuse! See these shocking articles here
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