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  1. Senior Member
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    #1

    Why have there been so few orthography reforms in English?

    My guess is that the English are just very conservative (look at the Royal Family). In American English, there have been a few reforms, but not too many either.
    I wonder why, has any of you dug deep enough into the topic?

    Thought, through, though, thorough are great examples of historical spelling, but there are many much more confusing examples:

    "I live where my father lives. There's a big tree with many leaves in the garden. I love the tree, so whenever a leaf falls from it, it ruins my life, in fact, it ruins both of our lives. I would leave this place because of that, but my father never leaves this place. This is too much, I'm gonna turn on the TV, my show is going live."

    Some things like read [reed] and read [red] are even worse. This is the same verb, different tenses, same spelling, different pronunciations. Why not change the spelling to "red"? Because it could be mistaken for the color red? They are different parts of speech, the context would make it much less confusing than having the present and past form of the same verb look the same.

    Why hasn't English ever adopted diacritic symbols (likę śmę f thśę)?
    And of course, let's not forget this poem.

    At least it's not Tibetan I guess...

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    #2

    Re: Why have there been so few orthography reforms in English?

    One reason is that it would be difficult to know which form of the word we would use in more logical spelling.

    For me, 'one' has the same vowel sound as 'gun', for my northern friends, it doesn't.
    My northern friends use different vowels in 'pat' and 'path'; I use the same vowel in each word.
    Americans and British people pronounce some herbs (including oregano and basil) , and hundreds of other words, differently. Which form are we going to use in writing?

    I could come up with many such problems, but I have made my point.
    Last edited by Rover_KE; 16-Apr-2019 at 14:05.

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    #3

    Re: Why have there been so few orthography reforms in English?

    English has no regulatory authority to impose spelling changes. Some spelling simplifications like plow instead of plough have taken root anyway, but it's a very slow process.
    I am not a teacher.

  4. Senior Member
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    #4

    Re: Why have there been so few orthography reforms in English?

    It sounds reasonable, Piscean. I guess the fact that the English Empire used to span over a significant portion of the world, only adds to that. I think of written Chinese, many different pronunciation for the same word, one script for all of them, people from different parts of the Empire could write to each other intelligibly, even though they couldn't talk to each other with the same amount of intelligibility.

    But then, we have a notoriously difficult to learn script, do you personally think it's worth it?

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    #5

    Re: Why have there been so few orthography reforms in English?

    Chinese and English are rather different. Speakers of, for example Shanghainese and Mandarin, don't pronounce words in different ways; they have different words in the spoken language.

  6. Senior Member
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    #6

    Re: Why have there been so few orthography reforms in English?

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    Chinese and English are rather different. Speakers of, for example Shanghainese and Mandarin, don't pronounce words in different ways; they have different words in the spoken language.
    I know, in English it's just a few patterns that change. I absolutely love this example. And I do agree with you, it would be difficult to decide as to which pronunciation the new spelling rules should be based on.

  7. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #7

    Re: Why have there been so few orthography reforms in English?

    And -gh is a form of orthography reform caused by the Norman conquest as they changed the letter yogh -ȝ- to gh.

  8. probus's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Why have there been so few orthography reforms in English?

    Quote Originally Posted by Glizdka View Post
    My guess is that the English are just very conservative (look at the Royal Family). In American English, there have been a few reforms, but not too many either.
    I wonder why, has any of you dug deep enough into the topic?
    A little while back I wrote in this Forum a brief history of the largely failed American attempt to reform orthography. About all that remains of that effort is traveler versus traveller, color versus colour and so on.
    Admittedly I did not do the work necessary to supply historical and scholarly references so my views got pretty short shrift. So be it. I am as lazy now as then.

    So much for the American side. As for the English, inventors of this wonderful language, my view is that they are as they've always been, pretty much ungovernable. English will always be irregular because controlling the English is like herding cats.
    Last edited by probus; 29-Apr-2019 at 13:12. Reason: Typo

  9. probus's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: Why have there been so few orthography reforms in English?

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    Some spelling simplifications like plow instead of plough have taken root anyway
    Good grief. Have they really? Plow? Surely you jest.
    I must make a better effort to stay awake. But in any case I will go to my grave believing it's plough

  10. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #10

    Re: Why have there been so few orthography reforms in English?

    Quote Originally Posted by probus View Post
    A little while back I wrote in this Forum a brief history of the largely failed American attempt to reform orthography. About all that remains of that effort is traveler versus traveller, color versus colour and so on.
    It succeeded in American English, and was largely the effort of one person. It didn't get other variants on board, which made the rationalisation a contributor to the mess that we already had. Our spelling is a problem, though the Roman alphabet is an efficient system of writing, but one that we're one of the worst examples of. Reforms have only added further layers of mess. It some ways, it is sad that such an efficient system is abused by the most widely spoken language that uses it.

    And plow has no roots in BrE. We still plough the fields and scatter.

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