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Sarah Marie Parker-Allen:
> Erm, it doesn't cost everyone a few years.  I was tested at age 22months
> with a third grade reading level.  Yeah, okay, so my mom didn't have a
> full time job during that period (she taught music, helped out at my dad's
> store, and taught me to read and do math and stuff), but still.  It isn't
> like there's a hard "oh, you can't possibly figure this out until you're 3
> (4, 5, 6, 7) years old" rule.

That you had the good fortune to be talented is hardly a reason to
desist from trying to improve the lot of the merely average.

I note that you are 18 &, I presume without intending offense, childless.
Until my son began to learn to read I had not considered spelling reform
particularly socially desirable & regarded criticism of English
orthography as motivated solely by a naive failure to appreciate
its merits and a naive assumption that rigidly phonemic spelling is
always ideal. But now resent it that our children are denied extra
years of reading and are forced to spend time in the classroom learning
the unnecessary arcana of English orthography when they could be
playing or learning something more useful.

> Anyway, we can't all have alphabets as perfect as the Mongolians (or
> whoever it is that has the most phonetic alphabet), and some sacrifices
> have to be made unless we only want to have 26 sounds

The question is, though, whether if we were to design an orthography
for English from scratch, we'd be able to do substantially better than
the current system. Not all proposed systems are an improvement, IMO,
but some are, including the ones John & I have described.

> I, BTW, don't mind the way we do things in English.  Once you get used to a
> system and are comfortable with it, it doesn't matter all that much, in
> terms of what kind of eccentricities it has, because you're used to them
> and are comfortable with them.

This is one of the main reasons why we don't get spelling reform. The
adults who would have to institute the reforms have already been
through the pain of learning, come out the other side, and forgotten
what it was like, and don't want the bother of learning a new system.
Each new generation of children pays the price for the laziness of
its elders.

> The Dvorak keyboard is supposedly many times more efficient than Qwerty,
> but that doesn't prevent me from typing 90-some words per minute, nor
> does it change the fact that if I switched, my typing speed would go way
> back down.

After a while it would probably go back up again to a higher level, once
your brain had reprogrammed itself. I would have switched to Dvorak
long ago, were it not so difficult to ensure that all the keyboards I
type on were Dvorak. Even though I don't notice my typing protracting
my composition (tho it probably nonetheless does), it irks me to make
such intensive use of so illdesigned a system.

> Modifying the way we spell things isn't any more of a solution to
> illiteracy than switching which side of the road everyone drives on,
> is a solution to problems of speeding and people violating traffic rules.

AFAIK, it is no easier to drive on the left than on the right. But it
is demonstrably harder to learn an irregular system than a regular one,
and to learn English orthography than, say, Italian. Modifying the
way we spell things would not solve illiteracy at a stroke, but it
would be a big help, since it would reduce the difficulty of what
must be learnt.

> You have to memorize one system or another and
> deal with its peculiarities no matter what, which means the burden of proof
> that the new way is better, is *way* on the side that wants the change.

Of course, but there is a big periacademic industry devoted to the
study of this sort of thing. We know, for example, that the average
child will learn English spelling more easily if it is taught as if
it were a phonologically-based system, and we know that children
learn the more regular orthographies of other languages much more
quickly.

> Not to mention that the difficulties in implementing such a change are
> incredible, especially with a population the size of the entire English
> speaking world (esp. if you count all the ESL types who already know a
> first language).

The change would have to be implemented by the education system of one
country. If it proved successful (e.g. by significantly improving the
overall academic performance of students by age 16), it would probably
spread. Technology would ease translation between orthographies, and
people would soon pick up the new orthography without deliberate effort.

> Just getting all the computers to accept new spelling rules
> would be a nightmare -- remember Y2K?  All that involved was finding
> all the instances of one very specific sort of data field and changing
> its parameters slightly.  I don't want to think about rewriting UNIX,
> and neither does anyone else

Any software that can't readily be translated into a different language,
let alone merely a different orthography, probably deserves to be
junked.

--And.