Curious Kids: Why does English have so many different spelling rules?



File 20180624 152140 112kqg9.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
More spelling problems came in when French scribes introduced new spelling conventions — their own of course, and not always helpful.
Shutterstock, CC BY

Kate Burridge, Monash University

This is an article from Curious Kids, a series for children. The Conversation is asking kids to send in questions they’d like an expert to answer. All questions are welcome – serious, weird or wacky! You might also like the podcast Imagine This, a co-production between ABC KIDS listen and The Conversation, based on Curious Kids.


Why does English have so many different spelling rules? – Melania P, age 12, Strathfield.


English spelling has been evolving for over a thousand years and the muddle we’re in today is the fall-out of many different events that have taken place over this time.




Read more:
Curious Kids: Why do Aussies have a different accent to Canadians, Americans, British people and New Zealanders?


A bad start

It was a rocky beginning for English spelling. Quite simply, the 23-letter Roman alphabet has never been adequate — even Old English (spoken 450-1150) had 35 or so sounds, and our sound system is now even bigger.

More spelling problems came in when French scribes introduced new spelling conventions — their own of course, and not always helpful. Using “c” instead of “s” for words like city was messy because “c” also represented the “k” sound in words like cat.

William Caxton set up the first printing presses.
Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

And then printing arrived in the 15th century — and with it more mess. William Caxton (who set up the presses in the first place) liked Dutch spellings and so established the “gh” in ghost and ghastly. Some printers were European and they introduced favourite spellings too from their own languages. Not terribly helpful either!

Those pesky silent letters

One of the biggest problems for English spelling has always been changes in pronunciation. Printing helped to stablise the spelling of words, but then some sounds changed their shape, and others even disappeared altogether. Think of those silent letters in words such as walk, through, write, right, sword, know, gnat — these were once pronounced.

If only the printer Caxton had been born a couple of centuries later, or if these sound changes had occurred a couple of centuries earlier, our spelling would be much truer to pronunciation.

And now comes another little wrinkle in this story – there’s a bunch of silent letters that were never actually pronounced. They appeared because of linguistic busybodies who wanted to make the language look more respectable. This caused some serious mess.

Take how we spell the word rhyme. When we swiped the word from French, it had a much more sensible look — rime. But this was changed to rhyme to give it a more classy classical look (like rhythm) – an interesting idea, but hardly helpful for someone trying to spell the word!

The 16th and 17th centuries saw many extra letters introduced in this way. Think of the “b” added to debt to make a link to Latin debitum. Now, the “b” might be justified in the word debit that we stole directly from Latin, but it was the French who gave us dette.

The “b” consonant was a mistake, and now we accuse poor old debt of having lost it through sloppy pronunciation!

Let’s make spelling more sensible

And so it is from this haphazard evolution that we end up with the spelling system we have.

But you know, there are in fact over 80% of words spelled according to regular patterns. So wholesale change is not what we want. However simple improvements could certainly be made without any major upheaval.

We could iron out inconsistencies such as humOUr versus humOrous. To introduce uniform -or spellings would be a painless reform (well, perhaps not painless, since many people are quite attached to the -our in words like humour)

We could also restore earlier spellings like rime and dette, and while we’re at it give psychology and philosophy a sensible look by spelling them sykology and filosofy.

So now, you can see the problem. No matter how silly spellings are, people get attached to them, and new spellings – even sensible ones – never seem to get a foot in the door.




Read more:
Curious Kids: Who made the alphabet song?


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Kate Burridge, Professor of Linguistics, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Article: Traditional Books Vs Digital Books


The link below is to an article that takes another look at the traditional book versus digital book argument, from a somewhat different perspective to what is usual.

For more visit:
http://www.teleread.com/ebooks/paper-books-vs-e-books-and-the-clash-of-bookstore-cultures/

Website: NovelPoster – Literary and Twitter Posters


Here’s a site that may be of interest to bibliophiles who are interested in having artwork that’s a bit different, yet reflects their own unique reading character and personality.

For more visit:
http://www.novelposter.com/

Book Review: The Bourne Identity, by Robert Ludlum


I am a big fan of the Jason Bourne movies (the first three anyway). I don’t know what the fourth one (The Bourne Legacy) will be like without Matt Damon, but I’m still keen to see it. So it was having watched the movies that I decided to read the books. Wow, what a massive difference between the movie and the book. There are obvious similarities, but they are quite different from each other just the same.

The Bourne Identity‘The Bourne Identity’ is action all the way and is a great read. It is a book that is always on the go and suspense carries you foward through the book. You want to read on and see what happens to Jason Bourne next. Will
he be able to rise to the next challenge that is thrown in his way, especially given that he is trying to figure it all out as he goes along, as well as trying to figure out just who he himself is – while also seeking to protect a woman he has picked up along the way.

This is the spy book of spy books. It is an action read at the top of its game. Jason Bourne is the master spy relearning his craft as the memory of who he is and what he is returns to him with each thrilling piece of the jig saw that is ‘The Bourne Identity.’ Once you start, you want to keep on reading and as the pace quickens you find yourself seemingly reading with an increased tempo, as you’re right there with Jason Bourne every step of the way.

An excellent first read in the Jason Bourne series. I am very much looking forward to the next volume with great expectancy. I highly recommend this book.

Buy this book at Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Bourne-Identity-A-Novel/dp/0553593544/

Book Review: Phantoms on the Bookshelves, by Jacques Bonnet


‘Phantoms on the Bookshelves,’ by Jacques Bonnet was translated from the French original by Sian Reynolds and has an introduction by James Salter. The copy I have is a Kindle edition. It was first published in Great Britain in 2010 by MacLehose Press. It is a relatively short book at 123 pages in length, so it won’t take too much to get through it.

Phantoms on the Bookshelves, by Jacques BonnetThe introduction to the book by James Salter is a good, brief read concerning the author of the book and his book collecting ways. It could easily describe me, though I have nowhere near as many books as Bonnet, even though I have thousands myself in traditional form and/or digital format. I see similarities between the description given of Bonnet by Salter and myself, with my far fewer volumes. I too struggle now to find room for them all, with my virtual bookshelves requiring expansion in the near future to accomodate my book collecting ways into the current century and digital age. Traditional books have long run out of room in this house, as I suspect they have in Bonnet’s apartment.

Bonnet is a man who loves books and his thoughts on what is normal in a home, the presence of many books, is something I can relate to. I also find myself in wonder when I see homes with no books, particularly in some of the circles in which I move or have moved. How can they get by without books? Mind you it is probably not as easy a situation to read (no pun intended – truly not) these days, with books now being able to be stored by the thousands on a home computer and/or on an external hard drive or two. Still, I have wondered this for many years and I think Bonnet would probably agree with me. Relating to others is made easier when discussing books for Bonnet and I find this an agreeable thing also. It is the way of Bibliophiles, whether we use that term or not (perhaps for some Bibliomaniac is a better term).

I did not find Bonnet’s chapter on cataloguing and organisation helpful at all, though I expect it would help some. This is probably because I have developed my own system which closely resembles that of the Dewey to almost certainly be called a Dewey system. The Bonnet decsription horrified me and I thought it would become far too confusing and disorienting for me. He is certainly right about the Internet making a major impact on libraries and the need to have as many books as he has in his collection. It is not only the storing of works on the World Wide Web, in the cloud and on other digital storage systems like computers, external drives, etc, where libraries are changing and/or have changed, but also in the cataloguing and organisation of books. I have a large number of books stored on digital devices and by digital means, but I also have access to far more over the Internet from vast libraries that I can access online. But I also have both offline and online digital methods for assisting me in cataloguing and organising my books, which I use as best I can and with great relief for being able to do so. Yet it boils down to individual choice and comfortableness, being able to manage these resources in a way that allows the individual to harness them to the greatest effect, which is indeed something of an indiviual matter and process.

The Bonnet method of reading will not be everyones cup of tea, but that’s OK too, because that is also a very individualistic thing. Bonnet likes lying down to read, I prefer sitting at a desk. Bonnet likes to underline and write in his books as he reads, I prefer to highlight and collate quotes via other media. There is no one rule for all, but many different rules for many different people. The thing is to retain what one reads in some way, that I think is the key to reading. It is certainly not a requirement to read each and every book from cover to cover, but to take a dip in each one to some extent and to achieve some purpose when doing so is required if you wish to say that you read your books and they aren’t just display items.

The manner in which Bonnet has collected his books is almost baffling to someone who has not done so in the same manner. He seems almost obsessed with completing lists and collections of books, of following every author/book line that comes up in what he reads or experiences. It seems any book mentioned must be obtained for his library. This is the way of a Bibliomaniac, that is for sure. His obsession with collecting ‘picture’ books is another seemingly crazed hobby which almost seems to be a driving force for him. I too collect books, but this insight into how another book lover and lover of reading goes about collecting his books is one that is beyond my experience. It is a fascinating world of book hunting and gathering if ever there was one. Something about one book leads to another which leads to another, or some conversation leads to a book which leads to another, etc.

Bonnet’s reflections upon his books shows someone who truly absorbs what he reads and imbibes the being of those written about. He seems to feel them, to know them, far better than any creator of them. Authors of books, whether fictional pieces or biographical/autobiographical works fade with the passing of time, if indeed a true reflection of them is left in the pages of the books they write or in the annals of history. However, those created and placed within the realms of literature remain the same and can be known almost completely. There are places to visit, whether real or ethereal, people to meet and to greet. Books bring a whole world to one’s home and experience, and even beyond that one travels into the realm of fictional lands and peoples. A plethora of experience that is only exaggerated when the library is swollen by multimedia resources. What an amazing world the library can become – is.

Buy this book at Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Phantoms-Bookshelves-Jacques-Bonnet/dp/1590207599/

Reading: The Bourne Identity


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Bourne IdentityToday had been quite unpleasant outside. It has been pouring with rain at times, then not. When it hasn’t been it has been blowing a gale and it is also quite cold. It’s bucketing down yet again. So very little has been able to be accomplished outside today. No great outdoors for me on this wet and miserable day.

I have been spending a bit of time, as a consequence of the weather, reading ‘The Bourne Identity,’ by Robert Ludlum. I haven’t read the Bourne series of books before, but have seen the movies many times. I’m a big fan of the Jason Bourne movies. However, having seen the movies it has been difficult to some degree reading the book. The book is very different to the movie, more so than what ‘The Hunt for Red October’ was to the film version. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still enjoying the…

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Article: Being A Librarian


The link below is to an article that looks at what it is like to be a librarian. The reality may sound a bit different to your perception.

For more visit:
http://www.buzzfeed.com/buzzfeedshift/career-confidential-a-librarian-deals-with-creeps

Book Review: A God Entranced Vision of All Things – The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards


I have started reading ‘A God Entranced Vision of All Things – The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards,’ with John Piper and Justin Taylor as the general editors of the book. It was published in 2004 by Crossway Books and has 275 pages.

This book is a collection of studies on Jonathan Edwards – his life, ministry and legacy. Each chapter investigates some facet of Edwards and each chapter is penned by a different author. The authors of these studies include John Piper, J. I. Packer, Paul Helm and Sam Storms, names widely recognized in reformed circles. The studies are expansions of messages delivered at a Desiring God Ministries conference in October 2003, celebrating 300 years since the birth of Jonathan Edwards.

In my journey through this book, I have thus far reached the end of chapter 2. What I can say is that this book is very easy to read, but difficult to put down. It has the readability that many books associated with Desiring God Ministries have, yet the weightiness of the subject matter does not allow one to just move through the book without serious reflection.

The book doesn’t leave you contemplating the past and Jonathan Edwards in particular, but the God of Jonathan Edwards and leads the reader to a serious contemplation of the glorious God who is all. Edwards life was about God and his enjoyment of Him, and this is the subject of chapter 1, ‘A God-Entranced Vision of All Things: Why We Need Jonathan Edwards 300 Years Later,’ by John Piper. Chapter 2 gives an overview of the life and legacy of Jonathan Edwards in ‘Jonathan Edwards: His Life and Legacy,’ by Stephen J. Nichols. With chapter 3, ‘Sarah Edwards: Jonathan’s Home and Haven,’ by Noel Piper, the subject matters of the first section of the book is dealt with brilliantly, ‘Part 1 – The Life and Legacy of Edards.’ Certainly I can speak to the first two chapters as having achieved that and I have little doubt the third will compliment the first 2.

The treatment of the guiding principles of Edwards’ life and the brief overview of it, leads the reader to the God of Jonathan Edwards and this would surely be the legacy that Edwards would have hoped for.

Article: Some More Bookshelf Ideas


The link below is to an article featuring some ‘different’ bookshelves – perhaps an idea or two for you? What do you think?

For more visit:
http://lifeofthearty.blogspot.com.au/2010/06/creative-shelf-designs.html