Simpler spelling makes no sense

27th January 2006 at 00:00
Masha Bell shoots herself in the foot in her shortlist of words for spelling reform ("Phonic hell...", TES, January 13):

"Said" is a regular past formation of "say"+ "d" ("i" for "y" internally); "sed" would lose the link. " "Gone" has the same past form as "done", though they don't rhyme, they are in the small but very common set of two-letter verbs "go" and "do" - who needs different spellings for these, past and present? "Yor" would lose the simple and obvious possessive formation of "you"+"r".

It is naive to suppose that spelling should simply serve the sounds, and we mislead learners in telling them so. Spelling also marks semantic and grammatical features, but Masha Bell just doesn't get it.

There are after all good reasons why "phonic" is spelt like it is: "phon" a standard form, marking the large set of words to do with sound, with "ph"

as the regular alternative to "f" in technical and cultural words and "ic"

as a regular adjectival ending.

The sounds of English, locally and worldwide, historically and actually, are unstable. Our spelling, with its particularities, is relatively stable, if not fixed - some security in a naughty world.

Keith Davidson 16 Sebright Road Hemel Hempstead, Herts

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