English Spelling Reform

English Spelling Reform

For hundreds of years, many groups and individuals have advocated spelling reform for English. Spelling reformers seek to make English spelling more consistent and more phonetic, so that spellings match pronunciations better and follow the alphabetic principle.

Common motives for spelling reform include making the language easier to learn, making it more useful for international communication, or saving time, money and effort.

Spelling reform proposals can be divided into two main groups: those that use the traditional English alphabet, and those that would extend or replace it. The former are more conservative and do not introduce any new letters or symbols. The latter may involve adding letters and symbols from other alphabets or creating an entirely new one. Some reformers favor an immediate and total reform, while others would prefer a gradual change implemented in stages.

Some spelling reform proposals have been adopted partially or temporarily. Many of the reforms proposed by Noah Webster have become standard in the United States but have not been adopted elsewhere (see American and British English spelling differences). Harry Lindgren’s proposal, SR1, was popular in Australia for a number of years and was temporarily adopted by the Australian Government.

Spelling reform has rarely attracted widespread public support, sometimes due to organized resistance and sometimes due to lack of interest. There are a number of linguistic arguments against reform; for example that the origins of words may be obscured. There are also many obstacles to reform: this includes the effort and money that may be needed to implement a wholesale change, the lack of an English language authority or regulator, and the challenge of getting people to accept spellings to which they are unaccustomed.

Read more about English Spelling Reform:  History, Arguments For Reform, Obstacles and Criticisms, Spelling Reform Proposals, Historical Advocates of Reform

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