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Subject: Re: FW: The English Language
From: Rodger Whitlock <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:[log in to unmask]
Date:Thu, 6 Mar 2008 16:56:30 -0800
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On 6 Mar 08, at 15:50, Burke, Edward wrote:

> Let's face it - English is a crazy language.

I know that's meant jokingly, but unfortunately while it's provoking 
a smile, it's also perpetuating an urban myth.

Jeanne Chall in her book "Learning to Read" offers a couple of 
tantalizing references to the regularity of English spelling, for 
example.

Hay & Wingo, 1954, asserted that 85% of English words are spelled 
regularly; John B. Carroll, 1964, estimates that 95% of English words 
have a regular relationship between spelling and pronunciation.

N.B. *regularity* in spelling is not the same as strictly *phonetic* 
spelling.


As for the variations in pronunciation, wound/wound, and so on, these 
too are largely regular.

One single effect makes English spelling less phonetic than many 
other languages: printing, thanks to Caxton (and others) stabilized 
the spelling not very long at all before there was a major shift in 
pronunciation. But as said, a less than phonetic spelling doesn't 
mean spelling is an arbitrary hodge-podge of irregularities. Quite 
the contrary.


-- 
Rodger Whitlock
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Maritime Zone 8, a cool Mediterranean climate

on beautiful Vancouver Island

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