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I came across a webpage on “Kleer English” spelling reform the other day. A massive amount of work has been done towards this project but I was no particularly impressed by its rendering of words into a more phonetic form. In most cases SaypYu was superior when it came to creating an easily comprehended phonetic form. With SaypYu the challenge is to create a spelling that gives an accurate pronunciation while producing a written word that is still relatively easy to recognize compared to its traditional form. Such an approach will assist in the learning of English as a second language. SaypYu has been developing only a few years but great strides have already been made. As one might expect with something as complicated as the English language not everything has been perfected yet and a few points probably need refinement. SaypYu as it currently exists (Jan 2014) is a “beta version”. Most of it is there and works well but there are still a number of issues that must be addressed before it can see general usage and application. We must be bold enough to cast away previous solutions if better solutions become apparent. My comments here have an obvious bias towards English, since this is the most widely used language that is likely to benefit from SaypYu. Around a billion of the world’s population have some knowledge of English, making it second only to Chinese in number of speakers. As far as distribution goes English is probably the most widely spoken of the world’s languages, English speakers being found everywhere from the Arctic circle to the Antarctic. Getting SaypYu to work effectively in English is therefore a priority. It is in the rendering of the Long and Gliding vowels that reform is most needed in SaypYu. Firstly we have :a : aa father : faadhɘr oo : uu boot : buut ee : ii street : striit While the second two look a little unconventional they work extremely well in practice. These three vowels do not need any changes. oy : oy toy : toy ā : ey same : seym ū : yu cube : kyub These vowels also give a good rendition of the sounds they represent and do not need changing. Next we have the “I” sound sometimes rendered as “Ī”, where the letter “says its name”. ī : ay site : sayt “AY” is the digraph used in Arpabet for this sound and it is worth remembering that Arpabet is based on “General American” rather than the Received Pronunciation English that is the international standard and that SayPyu should be aiming for. Most speakers with any familiarity of English (either native or learnt) will pronounce “Ay” as an “A” sound such as in “day” or “hay”. A better rendition is to use the digraph “AI”. This is already used in a number of Traditional English words such as “thai” so is more intuitive. An added advantage is that “aɪ” is the IPA character for this sound and is already used in many dictionaries, simplifying translation of words from the dictionary into SaypYu.
Next we have a : ee care : keer This sound, rendered as “ɛər” in IPA is used in words such as “care”, “hair” and “wear” so enjoys a variety of spellings in traditional English. The current SaypYu digraph is very counterintuitive and is an exception to the SaypYu rule for double letters. Many speakers will understandably mispronounce this as a long “e” sound. It is very obviously not “Spelt as pronounced”. Since this sound is effectively the sound “air” my suggestion is to render this as the letter grouping “ayr” to give us cayr, hayr and wayr. While it is not exact, pronouncing the “ay” as in “hay” will be close enough to be understood and the difference undetectable to most listeners. Arapabet renders this sound as “EH R” which would give us “cehr”, “hehr” and “wehr”. I feel “ayr” gives a word closer to its traditional form and more easily comprehended. Next is o : ow role : rowl “ow” in English is usually one of two sounds:- an “oh” sound such as in “show” or an “ou” sound as in “cow”. The former form is used in a larger number of words so it is appropriate that “ow” is used for “oh”. Completely replacing “ow” with “oh” would not aid comprehension since most English speakers recognize this digraph correctly and it allows us to maintain a large number of SaypYu words in a form similar to their traditional form. The only reservation about this is that “No” gets spelt “Now” so “No Spitting” becomes “Now Spiting” (!). There may be a case for retaining the traditional spelling or using the “Noh” form for the word “No”. Next we come to what is probably the messiest area of current translation. ou : aw out : awt aw : oo dawn : doon o : oo door : door Many of these substitutions seem to be quite unnecessary. “Saw” and “Paw” become “Soo” and “Poo” (!!!) yet “Dawn”, “Walk” and “Lawn” become “Doon”, “Wook” and “Loon”. “Cow”, “Out”, and “Bough” become “Kaw ”, “Awt” and “Baw ”. If we leave aw : aw and use ou : ou then the vast majority of words using this can retain their traditional spelling (or close to it) while still being easy to pronounce and the meaning quicker to comprehend. This gives us Saw, Paw, Dawn, Wawk, Lawn, Kou, Out and Bou. An interesting property of English that becomes apparent is that “aw” and “oor” are very similar in pronunciation. For example we have “Daw” and “Door” and “Saw” and “Sore”. I think in the interests of easy comprehension that a good case can be made for both letter arrangements being retained and used. Generally the form that gives a more comprehensible translation should be used. The “aw” sound of “oo” often precedes an “r”, which gives us a simple and useful guideline when converting words. As a general guideline use “oo” when translating a word that uses “o”, such as “sore : soor” and “aw” in other cases. “Ootɘmatik loontsher” is a rather unwieldy spelling and the alternative of “awtɘmatik lawntsher” is far easier to quickly comprehend. Although “slam dhɘ daw” is easily understood there is no need not to use “slam dhɘ door” and this will help the transition to comprehending traditional English for those that are learning English as a second language. The last digraph I will discuss is that currently represented by a double shwaa character. This is used to represent an “uh” or “urr” sound and it is de batable that this is the long shwaa sound a double shwaa character should suggest. Arpabet represents this as “ER” and IPA considers it to be “ɜr”. In current SaypYu it is used in words such as wɘɘrdz fɘɘrst, bɘɘrd, vɘɘrjn.
i : ɘɘ first : fɘɘrst The use of “ɘɘ” seems to be quite unnecessary for any English words in SaypYu! Since this digraph represents an “uh” sound it is more logical to represent it with the letters “uh” in the true spirit of “Spelling as you pronounce”. A case for “ur” or “uur” can be made. This sound always seems to precede an “r” so the most logical course is to replace “ɘɘr” with “ur”. This gives words that are easily understood and accurately pronounced. This removes the need to learn that these characters are an exception to the SaypYu double letter rule. Another objection is that “ɘɘ” looks way too similar to “ee”, causing errors in pronunciation. If you mistake a single “ɘ” for an “e” or “a” your pronunciation will usually be close enough for this to not be significant. This is not the case with “ɘɘ”. “Bɘɘrd”, for example, is likely to be pronounced as either “beard” or “bared” rather than “bird”. The above points need consideration and discussion before SaypYu can progress further.
The SaypYu project was launched by Jaber George Jabbour in December 2012 and is intended to make pronunciation easier and foster international understanding. SaypU is not intended to replace but to compliment more complex systems such as the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). This page uses a number of reforms to SaypYu that have not yet been accepted by Mr Jabbour. It is my belief that these logical reforms make SaypYu more useful and should be adopted so I have taken the liberty of using them in this series of articles. Additional information and the rationale is given in the article above For more information and to assist in the SaypYu project visit:http://www.saypyu.com/ Using SaypYu in Three Lessons Converting into SaypYu
Philip West Jan 2014.