1973. Illiteracy- and a problem we refuse to face. Three articles in The Melbourne Age. June 16, August 14 and 21. Over 250 responses came from the public ‘spelling as you would like to spell’ Possibly the first public experiment in spelling reform.
How would the ansers be like today? Try it as an online experiment.
Adults and children spelled the story of the Beautiful Princess as they would like, and then 90 children in Year 5 taking dictation that they could spell, ‘how they would like to spell it if they were the master of spelling’
Plus Guy, aged 5
My first spelling research began in 1973 when over 250 readers of a newspaper sent in ‘how they would like to spell’ a short story of 102 words. Its findings have been replicated many times since, although the research itself is somewhere in the garage, following many moves.
The composite spelling reproduced below is made of the most common preferences of 250 entries to a newspaper request for ‘the spelling you would like’ – although the spread of alternatives was wide.
Words and spelling conventions which were not respelled by more than half of the respondents (in italics) are left as they are – and show how common words can be blindly accepted.
Words in in capitals are compatible with Speling-No-Traps apart from diacritic acsents. Quite a lot.
Wuns apon a TIM the BUTIFUL dorter of a GRAT majishon WONTED MOR PERLS TO poot AMUNG her treshers. ‘Look THRU the SENTER of the moon when it is bloo,’ SED her MUTHER in ANSER to her KWESTION. ‘Yoo MIT find yor HART’S DEZIRE.’ The PRINSESS lafed BECOS shee DOUTED thees WERDS. INSTED, shee yoozed her imajinashun and MUVED intoo the FOTOGRAFY BIZNES and tuk pikchers of the LOONER SFERE in CULOR. ‘I perseev most SERTANLY that it almost always APEERS HOLEY WITE,’ shee thort. Shee also found that shee cud MAK ENUF MUNY in eit MUNTHS to bie herself two ENORMUS hug new jooels too.’
This compares quite well with a collage made up of the most popular spellings for the story when two classes of children aged 9-12 took down dictation ‘spelled as they would like to spell it’
“Wuns UPON A TIM the BUTIFUL DAUTER of a GRATE magishan WONTED MOR PERLS to PUUT amung her tresers. “Luk THRU THE SENTER OF THE MOON WEN IT IS blue”, SED her MUTHER in ANSER to her QESTION. “Yu MITE find yor hart’s desier.” The PRINSESS laft becos she DOUTED thees werds. INSTED she yoused her imaginashin and mooved intoo the fotograffy BIZNES and TUK pichers of the loona sfear in culur. “I PERSEVE most SERTENLY that it ALLMOST ALL ways apeers HOLY WITE,” she thort. She allso found that sheCUUD make ENUF MONY in ate MUNTHS to by herself too ENORMUS HUG NU jewls TOO.”
Both sets of the paragraf still leave punctuation, tho possessives are a problem. The children, still with lots of spelling lessons, are closer to conventional spellling, not seeing it may be silly. Children use the morfemic ‘s’ for plurals and tenses, but are stil fonetic when it comes to participls -d/-t.
I still have the entry of Guy, aged 5, to compare with the ‘preferred spelling’ of more experienced writers:
“Oens a pon a time the byootiFul dort of a grat mjishan wotid mor guls (graphic reversal of p and g. vy) to put umung her treshas. Look throo the sent of the moon wen it is blue sed her mother in asr to her cwesjan. Yoo mit find your hrts disia. The prinses laft becos she dawtid thes wrs. Insded she yoes her imajinashon moovd in to the ftografee bisnes and tooc picchrs of the loonar sfiar in colar. She thort she cod pseever cwit sutlee it Alwas Apiad whit. She arlsoo Fawd lat she Wos Abil to bi her self too inoormas huj ne eyols to.”
Guy also uses the morfemic ‘s’ for plurals and tenses. He is notably economical, and also still hears some speech sounds slightly difrently from older children and adults.