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lessons for conlang orthography Re: English notation

From:Tom Tadfor Little <tom@...>
Date:Friday, June 29, 2001, 21:19
Nice post, Ray.

>IMHO the only successful way for a wholesale reform of English (rather than >regularizing present spelling) is to adopt a _phonemic_ approach which >accommodates all mainstream varieties of English.
A good summary. The problem with Christian's suggestion (and my variation of it) is that it aspires to be something like a phonetic transcription, which is counterproductive overkill if the object is to make English spelling more consistent and easily learned. A phonemic approach would still spark some debates, but would fare much better. When I learned to read as a child, there was a basic series of easy ideas: long and short vowels, vowel diphthongs, consonant digraphs. A spelling system that focused on those basics, so that a young child using the rules to "sound out" a written word would always get something unambiguously close to the correct spoken word in the local dialect, would surely hit the mark, although it would not be perfect by any abstract criteria. A lot could be done just by marking long and short vowels in ambiguous situations, and eliminating silent e. To steer this back to conlanging, here are some thoughts arising from Ray's post: * There's probably some degree of "imperialism" at work when any language is standardized, in spelling, pronunciation, or other aspect. The issue I see here for conlangers (especially those who work the conculture dimension too) is that unless your language is completely unstandardized, there is probably some "back story" about how it became regularized. Political power? Cultural/literary elitism? Academic reform? * In my conlangs, I confess that I usually dismiss accents with some rapid hand-waving. Sure, each phoneme has a range of allophones. Now forget about it and move on... ;) But as this thread indicates, the situation in real languages can be quite complex. In particular, speakers of different dialects may actually disagree on where the phoneme boundaries lie, not just how each is sounded. And orthography can influence people's perception of the language's phoneme structure. Perhaps the discussion can inspire some of us to strive for more realism in this area. * If you are not using a strictly phonetic orthography for you conlang, think about how its speakers might make phonetic transcriptions of their own language. What would a dictionary with pronunciation guides look like? Cheers, Tom ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Tom Tadfor Little Santa Fe, New Mexico (USA) Telperion Productions ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


John Cowan <jcowan@...>
Tom Tadfor Little <tom@...>