English

On this page I basically try to predict how English would naturally improve on its own. Overhauling language is uncomfortable. I suggest picking a couple words that you find hard to spell, and start using a spelling that you think is better. (My suggested spellings.)

Many constructed languages have been created in hopes of providing a somehow more useful alternative for international communication. The main problem is getting people to actually use them. English is the de facto international language, and takes a long time to learn because of how internally inconsistent it is. What if we created a language that was as easy to learn as possible, by being as internally consistent as possible, while also being as easy to read as possible for people who already know English? Make adoption easier, and encourage people to use pieces of it to make their English easier to understand, as they are comfortable. Possibly entirely, in places where people are particularly concerned about international accessibility, where things like Basic English, Special English, and Simplified English are used. It might also be useful for fiction which requires a futuristic language.

All of the changes I'm suggesting are changes which I believe could happen from natural regularization, given enough time. I'm not certain of any of these choices, and am interested in suggestions.

Verb (past tense) and noun (plural) regularization happens naturally over time. For example, the plural of "cow" changed from "kine" to "cows", and the past tense of "help" changed from "holpe" to "helped". There are many of these straight forward changes left to do.

Another area where substantial consistency can be added is the relationship between sounds (phonemes) and spellings (graphemes). A popular example that is at least 140 years old: If the 'gh' sound in 'enough' is pronounced 'f', and the 'o' in 'women' makes the short 'i' sound and the 'ti' in 'nation' is pronounced 'sh' then the word 'ghoti' is pronounced just like 'fish'. Those problems can be fixed with these changes:

enoughenouf
womenwimen
nationnashon

Then "fish" is pronounced like "fish".

My thoughts, so far, are:

  1. For every sound (phoneme) pick a single spelling (grapheme), preferably the one easiest to read for people who already read English, avoiding conflicting with other phonemes. For now, I want to stick to the existing 26 letter alphabet.
  2. Regularize all verbs by adding "-d" (if it ends in 'e') or "-ed" to the present tense to make the past tense.
  3. Regularize all nouns by adding "-s" or "-es" (for words ending in "s" or IPA "ch") to make their plurals.
  4. Don't change the spellings of the previous two steps for phonetics (spell the end of "cats" and "dogs" the same, even though "dogs" is pronounced like "dogz").
  5. I think it would be good to pick one standard spelling based on some kind of ideal (most popular?) pronunciation, but continue to accept regional accents differing from the pronunciation matching that spelling (apparently exactly how Turkish works, in practice). General American may be useful.

Similar things have been done. I think it's important to mention the reason for all the decisions involved, so they can be discussed, and improved on.

For concrete results, I would like to create a few web browser spell checking dictionaries for people to use:

  1. One that only adds these more consistent spellings, leaving the old ones in place, so that people can choose whichever they wish without their spell checker telling them it's wrong, and stunting the natural progress of regularization.
  2. One that adds these more consistent spellings, and removes the old spellings of maybe a dozen ideal candidates, for those who wish to actively change their habits.
  3. One that contains only these new spellings, for enthusiasts who wish to play with it.

Here are all the IPA diaphonemes, with example words on the first line, and possible graphemes on the following lines, with my preference listed first.

Vowels
æ   cat, black / trap lad bad cat
 a - don't think it's worth distinguishing from ɑ:
 ae - if it is worth distinguishing from ɑ:
ɑ is US for ɑ:? https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/not#Pronunciation
ɑ:   arm, father / palm father
 a, same as ə?
ɒ   hot, rock / lot not wasp / cloth off loss cloth long dog chocolate
 o
ɔ is US for ɔ:?
ɔ:     call,  / thought law caught all halt talk  (not using "four")
 aw   cawll  thawght law cawght awll hawlt tawk
 au   caull  thaught lau caught aull hault tauk
 ou   coull  thought lou cought oull hoult touk 
 al   call   thalght lal calght all  halt  talk 
 a    call   thaght  la  caght  all  halt  tak 
 o    coll   thoght  lo  coght  oll  holt  tok 
ə   away, cinema / comma about  
 a, same as ɑ:?
ɨ    / kit spotted
 y, same as ɪ,i   kyt spottyd  - an old spelling of this sound, problematic spelling of "year" - "yyr" 
ɪ   hit, sitting   /         sit english
 y, same as ɨ,i  hyt syttyng syt ynglysh
i   / happy city
 y, same as ɪ,ɨ  happy city
i:   see, heat / fleece see meat
 ee see  heet   fleece see meet
 ea sea  heat   fleace sea meat
eɪ   say, eight / face date day pain whey rein
 ay say   ayt  fayce dayte day payn whay rayn
 ai sai   ait  faice daite dai pain whai rain
 ei sei   eit  feice deite dei pein whei rein
 ey sey   eyt  feyce deyte dey peyn whey reyn
ɛ  / dress bed met
 e
ɜr  / nurse burn herd earth bird
 ur   nurse burn hurd urth burd
 er   nerse bern herd erth berd
 ear  nearse bearn heard earth beard
 ir   nirse birn hird irth bird
ər  / letter winner massacre
 er   letter winner massacer
ʌ   cup, luck / strut run won flood
 u  cup  luck   strut run wun flud
ʊ   put, could / foot hood
 ou  pout  coud  fout  houd  - used for u:
 oul poult could foult hould
 oo  poot  cood  foot  hood  - used for u:
u may be same as u:
u:   blue, food / goose through you threw yew 
 oo bloo  food   goose throo   yoo throo yoo
 ew blew  fewd   gewse threw   yew threw yew
 ue blue  fued   guese thrue   yue thrue yue
juː  / goose cute dew ewe
 oo - same as u:
aɪ   five, eye / price  my  wise high flight mice
 i  five  i     price  mi  wise  hi  flit  mice 
 y  fyve  y     pryce  my  wyse  hy  flyt  myce - in use for ɨ,ɪ,i (short i)
 ii fiive ii    priice mii wiise hii fliit miice
 oy foyve oy    proyce moy woyse hoy floyt moyce
 oi foive oi    proice moi woise hoi floit moice
 oe foeve oe    proece moe woese hoe floet moece
 oa foave oa    proace moa woase hoa float moace
ɔɪ   boy, join / choice boy hoist
 oi      join   choice boi hoist
 oy      joyn   choyce boy hoyst
oʊ   go, home  / goat no toe soap tow  folk soul roll cold
 ow gow howme  gowt now tow sowp toww fowk sowl rowll cowld
 oe goe hoeme  goet noe toe soep toew foek soel roell coeld
 o  go  home    got  no to  sop  tow  fok  sol  roll cold
 oa goa hoame  goat noa toa soap toaw foak soal roall coald
 ol gol holme  golt nol tol solp tolw folk soll rolll colld
 ou gou houme  gout nou tou soup touw fouk soul roull could
aʊ   now, out / mouth now trout
 ow      owt   mowth now trowt
         out   mouth nou trout
ɑr  / start arm car
 ar
ɪər / near deer here
 ear  near dear hear  
ɛər  / square mare there bear where air
 air   sqair mair thair bair
 are   sqare mare thare bare
 ere   sqere mere there bere
 ear   sqear mear thear bear
 uare  square muare thuare buare
ɔr  / north sort warm
 or   north sort worm
 ar   narth sart warm
ɔɹ may be same as ɔər https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/for#Pronunciation
ɔər  / tore boar port
 or    tor  bor  port - same as ɔr
ʊər  / cure tour moor
 oar   coar toar moar
 our   cour tour mour
 ure   cure ture mure
 oor   coor toor moor
 eur   ceur teur meur
jʊər / cure pure europe your 
 ure   cure pure ureope ure
 eur   ceur peur europe eur
 your cyour pyour yourope your

Consonants 
p   pet, map / pen spin tip
 p
b   bad, lab / but web
 b
t   tea, getting / two sting bet
 t
(d) may be same as d
d   did, lady    / do odd
 d
t͡ʃ / tʃ check church / chair nature teach 
 ch     check church   chair nachure teach
 c      ceck  curc     cair  nacure  teac - not using it alone anywhere else?
d͡ʒ / dʒ  just, large / gin joy edge language
 j       just  larje   jin joy ej   languaj
k   cat, back    / cat kill skin queen unique thick
 k  kat  bak       kat kill skin kueen unik   thik  
g   give, flag   / go get beg
 g
f   find, if / fool enough leaf off photo
 f  find  if   fool enouf  leaf of  foto
v   voice, five / voice have of
 v  voice  five   voice hav  ov
θ   think, both / thing teeth
 th same as ð
ð   this, mother / this breathe father
 th same as θ
s   sun, miss / see city pass
    sun  mis    see sity pas
z   zoo, lazy / zoo rose
 z  zoo  lazy   zoo roze
ʃ   she, crash / she sure session emotion leash
 sh she  crash   she shure seshon emoshon leash  
ʒ   pleasure, vision / pleasure beige equation seizure
 zu                    pleazure beizu equazuon seizure
 su                    pleasure beisu equasuon seisure
 ge                    pleagere beige equageon seigere
 ti                    pleatire beiti equation seitire
x   / loch (Scottish) ugh
 gh
h   how, hello 
 h
m   man, lemon / man ham
 m
n   no, ten / no tin
 n
n̩ hidden
 in hiddin
ŋ   sing, finger / ringer sing finger drink
 ng sing  finger   ringer sing finger dringk
l   leg, little / left bell
 l  leg  little   left bel
r   red, try / run very
 r
w   wet, window / we queen
 w  wet  window   we qween
j   yes, yellow 
 y  yes, yellow
 j  jes, jellow - would probably be better, y always a vowel, but looks weird
 x  xes, xellow - long term plan?
hw what
 wh

The biggest problem, in my opinion, is that "y" is used twice - once as a vowel, and once as a consonant. I would be happy to use "j" for the consonant (common in other languages), but then I'd have to figure out what to do with dʒ. I'd also be happy to stop using "y" for "i" sounds, but haven't come up with a replacement which I feel would improve the situation. Lojikl Inglish doesn't differentiate between what I'm using "i" and "y" for, so maybe I'll just use "i" for both - would be easier to read, and wouldn't cause the "year" = "yyr" problem. A long term plan may be to replace the consonant 'y' with 'x'.

Also, I noticed that IPA "ŋg" is coming out as "ngg", and I wonder what should be done about that. Leave it? Convert it to "ng"?


Dictionary built using FEWL (missing "states"), now handling noun plurals, and verb past tenses. Columns are:

  1. Old spelling
  2. New spelling
  3. IPA
  4. FEWL

I'm pretending "data", "those", and "these" are not plural. I also haven't handled be/am/is/are,was/were,been. Ew. Perhaps one (set of) exception(s) is reasonable. Be / beed?


Old dictionary built using cmudict, lacking handling of verb past tenses and noun plurals.


Be

Be/am/is/are/was/were/been may be the greatest example of how much of a mess English is. Seven distinct spellings for what is effectively a single word. This is exactly why English takes so much longer to learn to read than other languages. It's also not surprising that this word in particular is so problematic, because research has shown that more commonly used words take longer to naturally become regularized. This also provides me with a great example to use in detailing how I encourage you to use as much or as little of my spelling methods as you're comfortable with. This is going to look weird. Keep in mind that just as it now seems odd that the past tense of "help" was once "holpe" before it was naturally regularized into "helped", if English remains in use long enough, people will one day wonder what madness caused us to use seven apparently random different spellings of the same word. Also note that I'm not changing the pronunciation of the word "be", just its spelling.

Leave them alone will be I am it is you are she was they were it has been
Consistent spelling will by I am it yz you ar she wuz they wur it has byn
Reduce to three words will by I by it by you by she wuz they wuz it has byn
Full regularization will by I by it by you by she byd they byd it has byd

The language toki pona doesn't include these words at all.


I haven't handled cases where multiple words are spelled the same but pronounced different (heteronym homographs). I'd like to spell them differently. Like "read".

More extreme possibilities I can think of are a couple cases where this language could be made more like Lojban, while remaining mutually intelligible with English: 1) Lojban doesn't have verbs and nouns, it has primitives which are converted to verbs and nouns by adding suffixes. Perhaps this way we could eliminate some redundant words. 2) Lojban grammar / sentence structure? ("First they came for the verbs, and I said nothing because verbing weirds language. Then they arrival for the nouns, and I speech nothing because I no verbs.")

What else would make useful improvements? I think I've read that poets would love if "you" and "I"/"me" rhymed.

I should try typing with diacritics, maybe it's not as bad as I think, and they'd improve the number of phonemes available without using multiple letters.

I would strongly support adding new words from other languages, by mapping them to the provided phonemes.

I'd like to create a web application that makes it easy for anyone to play with selecting their own graphemes for all the phonemes, interactively displaying the resulting words' spellings.

It would probably be more important to create a web app where you can paste the IPA spelling of a word, and get it converted.

"Data", "those", "these" are plural?

Might be good to do something with she/her, he/him. I've heard young kids get these confused, and maybe they're redundant? (Always using "her", never "she", as in "Her was [doing something].") These are subject and object pronouns? Are there other similarly redundant words? What other words do small children and adults learning English tend to get "wrong"? "Us"/"we"? Subject pronouns: I, we, you, he, she, it, or they. Object pronouns: me, us, you, him, her, it, and them. Old Norse "hann" means "him" or "he", so apparently this happens elsewhere.

Make movie with this language for promotion, used similar to A Clockwork Orange, where they wanted a futuristic language?


In an ideal situation, every sound would correspond to a single letter. There are over 40 sounds in English, and 26 letters. Often people interested in this goal add more letters. I'm curious about taking away sounds, to have only 26 of them. Somebody must have tried this, but I have not yet found an example. On 2014-11-17, Allan Kiisk said that in the Estonian spelling reform, pronunciations adjusted to match new phonetic spellings.


There was a successful Turkish spelling reform. (Apparently made pronouncition more regular, but spelling less predictable.)


English language spelling reform on Wikipedia
"If you are interested in English spelling reform, you should check out the Yahoo! Saundspel group."
English spelling reform on wyrdplay.org
George F. Lahey's Inglish
Wijk's Regularized English

"'Terran' is demonym commonly associated in science fiction with humans. It is derived from terra, the Latin term for Earth." - wikipedia
"favour" -> "favor"?
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