Valerie Yules Letters

March 26, 2015

Reforming spelling but keeping 38 common irregular words – why?

Filed under: literacy, spelling, spelling reform — Tags: , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 2:41 am

The spelling of frequently used words evolves at a much slower pace than less common words. These words often retain old spellings longer because they are used more often than less familiar words, and so the old forms are very familiar. The greater familiarity of their appearance causes people to be disturbed by any disruption of them in the name of ‘reform’.

This explains the failure of most English spelling reform attempts – because they try to change the most common words first. This is intuitive, but it is wrong.

Changing the less familiar words gets less opposition, because they are less familiar and so when their forms don’t fit the words’ pronunciation any more, we change them more readily.

That is why I recommend  keeping  the spelling of the 38 most common irregular words.  They are more familiar and they make 12% of what we read –  all almost always among as come some could should would half know of off one only once other pull push put they their two as was what want who word why, and word-endings -ion/-tion/-sion/zion. People learn them quickly because they are faced with them all the time, and research has shown that 40 words are within most people’s capacity to learn as word-signs by heart.

Then in time we will be ready to change them too.

((the list above may not actually be 38)

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