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Author Topic: Simplification of the english language
Member # 5213

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I recently saw a piece on Breakfast TV here in the UK about simplifying the English language, and thought how ridiculous it was. Some woman was going on about how much time the kids here spend on learning how to write and spell because its so complicated.

She said words that sound the same, should be spelled the same. Eg: Berry and Very = verry. Also with words such as Receive and Believe = beleive. And that all words that sound as though they have double letters in them should have them if they do or not. Controlled and paroled - parolled.

She also said that compliment and complement should be spelled the same - even though they have two very differnt meanings. How can you tell which is the right word in a sentance if it isn't clear?

Also: There, Their and They're, she said should have the same spelling.

She gave the example that in the US the word practise is spelled the same for both meaning, where we have two spelling for it: Practise and Practice.

To be honest, if that is her one and only example, I don't think she has a very strong argument. Anyhow, my oppinion is, she's a bit nuts, but maybe other's feel the same as she.

[I don't remember the name of the person who proposed this, else I would say.]

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Member # 4831

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I never had much problem learning the language. But maybe her kids are stupid. So let's spend our energy blaming their stupidity on the language instead of spending time educating her children.

*But I've been working for twelve hours now, so others may have a kinder opinion.

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Member # 5456

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Apparently I've turned my calendar too far forward... we're still in 1984.

Have a doubleplusgood day!

Jayson Merryfield

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Robert Nowall
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People right here can't tell the difference between them when they're typing them out...if you ask me, there are usually subtle differences in their pronunciation, that are glossed over by conventional phonetic spelling methods. They're no good, and it's no good changing things.
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Matt Lust
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its not that I can't tell a difference its that I unfortunately am not gifted in writing the english language, reading and speaking it, yes but writing it, no. I always failed grammar but never failed literature.

I am 25 years old and have not diagrammed a sentence since i was 8 years old.

I could care about writing according the right rule and I do care. However, i OnLy cArE in the sense that it makes me look like a oafish dolt but as to the "beauty" of the english language well, bah. Language is only as beautiful as the people perceiving it.

After all who here can actually read Chaucer in his original script? Dollars to donuts no one here can read middle English, so all this bellyaching about language changing is well nothing new.

[This message has been edited by Matt Lust (edited August 19, 2007).]

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Member # 5638

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She's nuts.

The idea isn't new. I remember trying to persuade my English teacher years ago that we shouldn't need to learn synonyms, arguing that if they all meant the same thing, why not stick with one and drop the rest? I lost the argument, and learned much later in life that the variety of English (and presumably any language) is what leads to richness, nuance, subtlty, and in some cases accuracy of communication.

I lived in America for several years, and I don't think American English is any easier than English English. Although some of the spellings have become more logical, like practise and humor, inconsistencies still abound; the 'ough' words for example are still tough if you want to learn them thoroughly, says he as he coughs and boughs. Sorry, bows. I suspect it's because English adopted words from many other languages.

The idea is a truly old one. She's looking for Esperanto.

Here's a delicious description from the Guardian:

"The German academic Detlev Blanke describes Esperanto as "lexically predominantly Romanic, morphologically intensively agglutinant and to a certain degree isolating in character". In plainer English, it is an artificial, amalgamated language of five vowels and 23 consonants based on the western Indo-European languages. Its grammatical rules are logical, its verb endings regular, its spelling phonetic. It is Franglais and Spanglish for grown-ups."

More at

including this delightful leading para:

'I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse," said Charles V, King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor. Had the 16th-century polyglot been born 300 years later he could have said more succinctly (albeit less entertainingly), "Mi parolas Esperanton al ciuj" or "I speak Esperanto to everyone."


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Rommel Fenrir Wolf II
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well god invented a 30/06 for a reason.

to rid the world of retarted Hippies such as her.

in my opinian, the english languedge is simple already. although i failed almost every english class i have ever been in for i just did not cair to learn what i already know how to speek and will continue to speek untill the day the world ends.


Rommel Fenrir Wolf II

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Member # 3432

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I took a course on Chaucer in college, and we read him in his original language. Do I get dollars, or doughnuts? (I shall refuse if you offer "donuts", that gross phonetic oversimplification that manages both to eradicate the etymological arc from "knots of dough" and to cause Yet Another Exception to our hallowed rules of pronunciation -- as written, it should be pronounced "DON-utz", where "don" is pronounced as in "don your clothes". Yes, I'm kidding.)

I think the original Chaucer is richer than the various Modern English translations I've read, but I think that's more an issue of translation, which is inherently "lossy" (analogous to ripping a CD to MP3), than anything else.

Ironically, Chaucer used the spelling "verry" for "very" in his work. So she's asking for an official prescriptivist reversion to an earlier form of the language -- which, being less prescriptivist, migrated _away_ from that verry form. If it had been so important to keep the spellings consistent, why didn't Chaucer's successors do so?

The answer, in part, is that we've never been so prescriptivist as we are now. And I think it's reasonable that we are. There are didactic benefits, political benefits (people from more nations can more easily translate UN pronouncements if the language is somehow simplified and standardized), and some things, like machine translation, would be easier if English had fewer exceptions.

But one of the great things about English is that it's so easy to make an exception to the "standard" form and have people "get it". We verb nouns, coin new phrases, generate intellectual and emotional resonance from a few polyglot syllables. We love both our Latinate roots and our Germanic ones: although having both adds apparent redundancy and makes it harder for newbies to know what we're saying, it adds depth that we would miss.

And that depth will ensure that people won't adopt "proper" conventions except in the strictest of situations. As Robert points out, even we language folk don't keep these things straight, because they're not helpful to us in casual use. If the restrictions of the prescriptivist mindset won't help us enough to make us change our behavior, they simply won't be adopted. And that upsets me not one whit.


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I can't find an attribution to give the original writer credit, but I love this joke.
Having chosen English as the preferred language in the EEC (now officially the European Union, or EU), the European Parliament has commissioned a feasibility study in ways of improving efficiency in communications between Government departments.

European officials have often pointed out that English spelling is unnecessary difficult; for example: cough, plough, rough, through and thorough. What is clearly needed is a phased programme of changes to iron out these anomalies. The programme would, of course, be administered by a committee staff at top level by participating nations.

In the first year, for example, the committee would suggest using 's' instead of the soft 'c'. Sertainly, sivil servants in all sities would resieve this news with joy. Then the hard 'c' could be replaced by 'k' sinse both letters are pronounsed alike. Not only would this klear up konfusion in the minds of klerikal workers, but typewriters kould be made with one less letter.

There would be growing enthusiasm when in the sekond year, it was anounsed that the troublesome 'ph' would henseforth be written 'f'. This would make words like 'fotograf' twenty persent shorter in print.

In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments would enkourage the removal of double letters which have always been a deterent to akurate speling.

We would al agre that the horible mes of silent 'e's in the languag is disgrasful. Therefor we kould drop thes and kontinu to read and writ as though nothing had hapend. By this tim it would be four years sins the skem began and peopl would be reseptive to steps sutsh as replasing 'th' by 'z'. Perhaps zen ze funktion of 'w' kould be taken on by 'v', vitsh is, after al, half a 'w'. Shortly after zis, ze unesesary 'o' kould be dropd from words kontaining 'ou'. Similar arguments vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.

Kontinuing zis proses yer after yer, ve vud eventuli hav a reli sensibl riten styl. After tventi yers zer vud be no mor trubls, difikultis and evrivun vud fin it ezi tu understand ech ozer. Ze drems of the guvermnt vud finali hav kum tru.

Zen ve vill rul ze vorld!

[This message has been edited by oliverhouse (edited August 21, 2007).]

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The english language is a tool and like anything else it needs to be used with care. If we go and try and simplify it, we'll lose alot of meaning and subtlty. As far as students go, they do not know how much they need proper english training. I was doing some editing for my friends on their senior papers and it was horrific. These kids used what would end up being this simplified english and it's terribly boring, like want to rip your eyeballs out boring.

Basically, we should not succomb to the demands of parents who are controlled by their whiney teenagers and teachers who have not been properly trained.

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Member # 2878

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I wouldn't worry about it. She's not going to change the English language. What does change language and usage is when people start changing it themselves in mass over time. Things like slang that become a normal part of the language, or when the meaning of a word changes. For example, "gay" used to mean happy, but if you were said to be "gay" today, how many people would think of that meaning?

There is something going on today that might well be unique though, and really cause a big change. That's text messaging. For the life of me, I can't figure out how people can stand it, as you have to figure out half of what's being written from the context, but it works. If it sticks around and remains popular enough, sooner or later, some of it no doubt will become a part of standard use in printed fiction.

To a lesser degree, the long-time use of email has caused some changes too. One of them is the use of writing all caps for emphasis, instead of the standard use of italics. While it's not quite standard now, I wouldn't be surprised to find it acceptable and common in the near future.

Change is inevitable, but that doesn't mean it's always good. Without consistency and rules, there's only chaos, so I hope that whatever becomes standard, makes sense.

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Member # 3233

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If you want to spell things phonetically, why not go to the dictionary phonetics with the backward e and all the symbols above the letter (forgot the word for them) and then there will be no question on how something is pronounced.
Of course, many words we recieved in one pronunciation, and then changed how it was to be said. right used to be pronounced richt. but time changed it.

in my writing, If I am unsure of how it is spelled and the dictionary in my word processor cannot find it, or if I am unsure of the proper usage or actual definition (yes, they are different), I won't use the word. My writing is very simple with a limited vocabulary.

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Member # 5682

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There is a terrific humorous SF short story in the current (or last) issue of Asimov's, Teachers' Lounge, in which alien invaders give up their invasion of Earth because the English language is too difficult to learn. Food for thought....
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Member # 3619

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This topic makes me think of beginners to golf who think it should have fewer rules, while instead pros and veterans alike enjoy the many rules and use them to their respective advantages.

Nobody who has "mastered" the english language would want to destroy most of it.

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Pyre Dynasty
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Oliver when I got it that joke had just one more line

"Zen ve vill rule ze vorld!"

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Member # 3233

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I heard in the 1980s, where Ugoslovia leadership was afraid of losing their language to English, so they declared that publications could not use ANY english words in their work.
One columnest was quoted to have said something on the lines of he no longer had the words to say what he wanted.

One problem of having a language that will steal from other languages to express new concepts, is that it takes the baggage of spelling with it. When pronunciations change, spelling, which is codified, does not change.

That breakfast TV babe must not had an undestanding of different connotations that go with words.
Murder, Assassination, Exicution, all mean that someone loses their life, but the connotation gives different meanings to the words by who is killed and how they are done it. The sentances these are used in would sound a lot different if one simply used the word killed.
The crazy man killed the young woman.
The spy killed the forign leader
the government killed the murder
It loses something in the translation.

scrawny, slim, svelt, thin, long, ghaunt, skinny, bean pole, all are words to show someone is taller than they should be for their weight. The connotations involved with each word is so much different. scrawny and ghaunt could be insults, while slim and svelt might be compliments.

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Member # 3432

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Pyre Dynasty, I like that so much that I'm changing the post!
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This topic makes me think of beginners to golf who think it should have fewer rules, while instead pros and veterans alike enjoy the many rules and use them to their respective advantages.
Nobody who has "mastered" the english language would want to destroy most of it.

Zero, that's a perfect reply. Write on!

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Member # 2442

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Well, good luck with going phonetic in the UK. All I know is that we can't even get Americans to switch to the metric system, even though nearly the entire rest of the world uses it, and the fact that we don't cost us a pretty expensive Mars space probe.

I cannot fathom Americans budging from their traditional "I was raised this way and I refuse to change" philosophy when it comes to spelling.

Although, if we wait long enough, the younger generation -- who are being raised on text messaging -- will chng it 4 u B4 u knw it.

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franc li
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Did you ever notice that "prince" and "prints" sound exactly the same?

The Chinese tried to simplify their writing system, and now if you learn Chinese you have to learn two writint systems. It totally stinks.

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Actually, I pronounce them differently.
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