Wednesday, July 28, 2010

English Orthography

English orthography presents a number of inconsistencies. It is not nearly as phonetic as the orthographies of languages such as German and Spanish. Though many grammarians have called for a more phonetic spelling system, traditionalists prefer to maintain the current one.

The "f" sound can be represented with more than one spelling. Besides the "f" as in "fish," this sound can also be represented with the "gh" of "laugh", the "ff" of "cliff" and the "ph" of "phone."

The "sh" sound can be represented not only by the "sh" of "shower" but also the "ss" of "pressure and the "ti" of "nation."

The "ee" sound of "feet" can also be represented by the "ie" of "believe," the "ea" of "wheat," the "ei" of "receive," and the "y" of "city."

The "u" sound of "up" can also be represented by the "o" of "government," the "ou" of "rough" and the "au" of "because." The word "because" is subject to dialectal variation and not pronounced with this vowel in all dialects.

The "k" sound of "key" can be represented in various ways. They include the "ck" of "luck", the "q" of "queen" and the "c" of "car."

Finally, the ,vowel known as the schwa has a number of possible spellings. They include the "a" in "ago," the first "o" in "potato" (some speakers pronounce the final "o" as a schwa), the "i" in "turnip," the "e" in "wooden" and the "o" in "question." It is clear that the schwa has many possible spellings.

English orthography is relatively unphonetic. This is particularly true in comparison to the orthographies of many other languages. However, many people are opposed to a spelling reform and as a result, the current orthography is likely to remain.

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