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wie inglish iz hard too spel and alfabets arnt eezee August 25, 2015

Posted by P, J, or J in Uncategorized.

aɪv ʤʌst biːn ɪksˈplɔːrɪŋ ə saɪt ðæt trænsˈkraɪbz ˈɪŋglɪʃ ˈɪntuː ði ˌɪntə(ː)ˈnæʃənl fəʊˈnɛtɪk ˈælfəbɪt

…and for the benefit of those who don’t read using the International Phonetic Alphabet that says, “I’ve just been exploring a site that transcribes English into the international phonetic alphabet”
For those interested the site was http://lingorado.com/ipa/

Wikipedia tells me that IPA currently has 107 letters, 52 diacritics, and four prosodic marks (I’d have to follow the wikipedia link to know what a prosodic mark was). Each of these symbols represents a different sound and each language uses different sets of sounds which need to be written down somehow. As with most things to do with languages this can be rather complicated. The website scriptsource.org documents many of the worlds different writing systems.

Although he has no problems reading our ten year old doesn’t like the fact that our 26 letters are used to express the 44 sounds (phonemes) in English using 120 graphemes (ways of writing those sounds).

Anyone who learns English either as a first or a second language struggles with a language where ‘ghoti‘ can be 'ghoti' pronouced 'fish'pronounced fish and ‘ghoughpteighbteau‘ can be pronounced ‘potato’ or ‘forty-two’

Some of our weird spellings stem from the fact that we borrowed lots of words from other languages and the different ways of writing the sounds got carried over too. Useful for anyone wanting to trace where words come from but not always helpful to people just trying to read and write.

Another factor is that lots of things were written by lots of people before there were standard spellings.

One the things I know about my home town of Uttoxeter (pronounced either “you-tox-it-er” or “utch-i-ta”) is that it’s where the famous lexicographer Dr Johnson stood in the rain without a hat. (see artists impression at pbs ). Some people wish he’d done it earlier and not produced his dictionary, but however imperfect we may think our writing system is it continues to mean that important truths and less important trivia can be communicated, and that lives can be enriched through knowledge, arts and relationship.

Various people have attempted spelling reforms over the years and the Americans seem to have largely got away with it.

In the modern technological world it’s even possible to automatically correct or substitute different ways of spelling or even completely different alphabets. Not surprisingly this isn’t simple.

Of the 7000 languages in the world less than half have been written down and only a fraction of those are in wide use on the web. Some languages will never be used widely in written form but thanks to the work of Wycliffe, SIL, and other organisations working in language development, communities are at least getting greater choice in how and if they use their own languages in written form.

It’s a privilege to work alongside so many friends and colleagues

  • that help get languages written down (sometimes for the first time)
  • that help communities make their own decisions about what writing systems to adopt and adapt
  • that help people put their words into print both in book and on the web
  • that develop new technological solutions to the challenges of non standard scripts
  • that help people build and publish dictionaries
  • that help get God’s word into written form (as well as audio, and video)

Thanks to those of you that support us, and other colleagues in this work.



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