Spelling snobs stop progress of reading

11th November 2005 at 00:00
For some reason opponents of spelling reform such as KP Byfield ("Logical spelling is reely unkool", TES, October 28 ) almost invariably have difficulty distinguishing between a language and its spelling.

When Turkey stopped using Arabic letters and switched to Latin ones in 1929, the Turkish language did not change; neither did English as a result of the many spelling changes that occurred between 1400 and 1700.

People did not begin to pronounce "erly", "erth", "hed" differently after those words were needlessly lumbered with a surplus "a"; the change just made learning to read and write more difficult.

Removing some inconsistencies from English spelling would enable more people to read and write than currently do and thereby make our nation intellectually richer, rather than poorer, as KP Byfield suggests.

Nor would this change greatly reduce scope for linguistic fun. Much of that derives from the many heteronyms with a single spelling as in "A lawyer who was recently called to the bar is now behind bars"; "fork handles" would still be as confusable with the more sensibly spelt "for (sic) candles" as with the sillier "four candles".

Are opponents of spelling reform simply proud of their superior spelling skills? Do they wish to continue to look down on lesser mortals? Reformers would like to give more people the chance to become better educated and enjoy the treasures of English writing.

Lena Carter The Warren Skelton, Nr Penrith Cumbria

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