OT: the end of cursive writing?

The notary used our passports. Some documents also required two present witnesses, whom also had to sign in presence of the notary.

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I can stand on a corner in Athens, Madrid, Moscow and Tel Aviv and, without noing the translation of a singl word, phonetically (foneticaly) rede strete sines.


No, you can’t, because it isn’t likely you know the non-Roman writing stems used in three of those cities.

As to your first point and the supposed difficulties of dealing with English’s often non-phonetic spelling system(s), answer me this. What would be the consequences? You are aware, aren’t you that all languages change over time? Also, how English is spoken in Sydney isn’t the same as the English spoken in London or New York or Bombay.

Which dialect should a “reformed” spelling system try to capture?

My suggestion would be this. Teach students the history of their language and how it has changed over time. Then they’d understand that what seems like a mismatched spelling is actually a valuable historical record that should be cherished and preserved.

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On the flip side, since it has changed in the past there is no reason why it can’t change in the future. Back in the day (cough, wheeze) I had a dictionary on my desk so I could look up word spellings. And I’m a good speller. Not necessary today, but think of all the time we spent as kids learning spelling.


Heck, the English spoken in New York isn’t the same as in Boston. And they’re both different from the English spoken in Atlanta and New Orleans and Fargo and Los Angeles. And that’s just in one country.


Well, “cherished and preserved” might be going a bit far. I’d be happy with the history of your native language being understood and appreciated.


“…since it ----meaning the pronunciation of specific words— has changed in the past there is no reason why it can’t change in the future.”


The “correct” answer is that, of course, pronunciations will change. Hence, whatever spelling system were put into place would need further changes in a generation or two. The net effect would be to obscure the past.

As things now stand, texts written in Elizabethan English are still accessible to us today without much glossing. With a bit more effort, even Chaucer’s 13th century English is accessible. That’s one of the advantages of our admittedly awkward spelling system, and one I’m not willing to give up for the sake of phonetic ease.

Also, there’s the not insignificant problem of delegating authority. To some extant, the French and Spanish tried to solve the problem by creating governing boards for their languages. The English could have done the same, but didn’t, and now it’s far too late, given that English is so widely spoken, in so many varieties.

Yeah, English spelling is a hassle. But so are other features of other languages such as elaborate case systems, or inflection systems, which English has pretty much done away with.

“Heck, the English spoken in New York isn’t the same as in Boston. And they’re both different from the English spoken in Atlanta and New Orleans and Fargo and Los Angeles. And that’s just in one country.”

That’s exactly why a “reformed” spelling system isn’t possible. Whose dialect would be chosen to be the standard?


Here’s an example of how one of our English words came to be spelled as it is.

window (n.)

c. 1200, literally “wind eye,” from Old Norse vindauga, from vindr “wind” (see wind (n.1)) + auga “eye” (from PIE root *okw- “to see”). Replaced Old English eagþyrl, literally “eye-hole,” and eagduru, literally “eye-door.” Compare Old Frisian andern “window,” literally “breath-door.”

Originally an unglazed hole in a roof. Most Germanic languages later adopted a version of Latin fenestra to describe the glass version (such as German Fenster, Swedish fönster), and English used fenester as a parallel word till mid-16c.

That last comment isn’t quite accurate. 'Fenestration" is still a viable word, as any competent architect would attest.

As is ‘defenestration’. Now that has some history.


I learned it from an early attempt at wearing contact lenses. I was having trouble, so the Dr ordered fenestrated lenses - lenses with small holes to allow more oxygen to reach the eye.


Sorry, by “it” I thought you meant spelling. As I understand it, for a long time there were no standardized spelling rules for English, so people just spelled things however they wanted. For example, no one knows how Shakespeare spelled him name. Of his six known signatures, he spelled his own name five different ways. None of those were the modern spelling that we use today. His contemporary, Sir Walter Raleigh’s name was spelled about a dozen different ways. Because there was no standardization, typesetters–like for the King James Bible for example–simply made up their own rules and sometimes arbitrarily added or deleted letters to make lines the correct length. The differences in American English spelling and British English spelling are largely due to Noah Webster who preferred his own spelling rules.

Point is, it is all arbitrary anyway. Yes, contemporary English speakers can read Elizabethan English but it isn’t particularly easy and the spelling for some words is very different. For that reason, contemporary publications of Shakespeare plays use modern spelling. So I’m not sure how much of that direct bridge to the past is really left.


Well, actually I can - while I am not fluent in Greek, Russian or Hebrew, I know the phonetic pronunciations of all three alphabets and can understand the odd words printed on street signs, restaurants and so on because of that. More importantly, in the context of the post, others can understand words that II read “out-loud” even if I don’t because the sounds of the letters are unambiguous. There is the old joke that, in English, “ghoti” can be pronounced the same as “fish”.

Sure, English has a long, convoluted path - taking right turns at Anglo-Saxon and left turns into French, but that has left the spelling a hodgepodge of a couple of millennium of mashing - leaving so many “exceptions to the rule” in the connection between the spoken language and the spelling as to be bazaar to any foreigner who sees it.

As far as which dialect/accent should be used as the basis? Well, we already deviate a bit from what is written in England and thee English spoken by the general population of India deviates even more, so I would say that a common set of rules could still be pronounced differently in different countries (thee extreme case being Chinese ideograms which are pronounced completely differently between Cantonese and Mandarin - not to mention as Japanese kanji.

Shifting to a phonetic pronunciation of English has plenty of precedents in other languages (Hindi written in Arabic script as Urdu, German written in Hebrew script as Yiddish, Turkish written in “Latin” scripts instead of Arabic script, Serbo-Croatian written in Latin script or Cyrillic script depending on which side of the border you live and so on). And, as has been pointed out, English has dramatically changed between Chaucer’s time and ours and it is time that the spelling used accommodated those changes.

I can think clearly in either the Metric or the Imperial system of measurements and find metric easier. My wife can do arithmetic in half a dozen very different languages - a feat which is akin to quantum mechanics to me - but that it is a reflection of her interesting history, it is not a justification for everyone else to do it her way.



You can’t change it too much of course, otherwise we’d all have to learn to read again. But there is lots of low hanging fruit. Most silent letters don’t serve any purpose and most double letters don’t either. Digraphs (two letters that make one sound like “ph’”) usually aren’t necessary. We don’t need soft Gs or soft Cs.

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Cursive writing is a convenient way to teach fine motor skills, and when one considers the extent to which schools are childcare, it may also be a way to pass the time…

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English is my first language. Learned French in high school and I remember “je vais a la plage” and that is it. But English is a truly fracked up language.

I went to a live concert years back. Here, “live” is pronounced with a long-i because the silent e after a single consonant. But I hope to live to at least reach 90. Short-i this time. Why? Who the frack knows, because we still have that silent e.


My first real discussion with English as second language speakers was at dental school and a few of our classmates were overseas educated. Good at English in general but pronunciation and nuance challenged. Two lads on my firm were from Hong Kong and would write down words for us to help them to hear differences. Stuff like pilot and pirate or palate and parrot (for just two examples) sounded identical and we couldn’t explain “how” to hear the difference … we just could. And those collective nouns … when to use couple vs. pair (or a brace if you’re into blasting away at birds)

Accents…I’ve lived here for over 35 years and, as easily as I can still identify regional English accents pretty precisely still…especially The Midlands … there are whole regions in the US that sound the same to me. I’ve oftentimes asked folk if I ought to know where they’re from by their accent and they’re amazed that I don’t know immediately that they’re from somewhere readily identifiable.

This is an issue which never came up until the advent of electronic communication in the 20th century (radio, tv, and to a lesser extent, film). Prior to that communities or geographies were isolated, so Boston sounded like Boston, while Charleston sounded, well, different. Brooklyn, New Orleans, all different.

Then came national broadcasts and the networks decided that “General American” would be the standard (first described in 1925). More midwestern than anything, but geographically lower than Minnesota and higher than Tulsa, and voila! Call it Iowa Nice, if you like.

The Romance languages are a good and familiar example of what happens with geographic isolation over time: Latin morphed into the quite distinct strains of Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian - and lots of sub variants within (Castilian and Traditional Spanish, for example.) Perhaps there is some lessening of the “isolation” component with the advent of national (international!) communication?

Anyway, pick “General American”, everybody is already exposed to it and very few seem to mind.