Sam is right about the problems of a phonetic script, but I don't recall
ever having seen a full proposal for a phonetically-based orthography, and
Peter has explained that his script is phonemic. The phonemic differences
among english dialects are considerable, but not necessarily to the point of
being a serious barrier to mutual intelligibility (when written in phonemic

By way of the feedback Peter was soliciting, I'd voice some objections to
his scheme. The first is that (IMO) it is nonsensical to use
phonetically-defined symbols for phonemes. A phoneme can have a very
heterogeneous allophonic range and it can overlap with another phoneme's.
And a given phone can be an unambiguous realization of one phoneme in one
environment and of another phoneme in another environment. And different
dialects use very different realizations, so basing phonemes' symbols on
realization either privileges certain dialects (that have standard phoneme
symbols based on their realization in that accent) or turns into a quasi
phonetic orthography if different dialects get different symbols.

A second objection is that phonemic analyses are rough and ready - a given
analysis may be good enough for a certain job, e.g. for representing
pronunciations in a dictionary, but that doesn't mean it's the Best analysis
or the Right analysis. So how would Shwa go about deciding which analysis to
enshrine in the orthography?

Lastly, a morphophonologically based orthography (i.e. one that abstracts
away from phonologically-conditioned alternations and perhaps from all
allomorphy) would arguably be superior. Harder for a child to learn to read,
but a truer representation of the lexicon.

Having said all this, if you were designing one script to serve every
language, it's not easy to see how to improve on Shwa's approach. But given
that my points amount to saying that any given language would be better
served by its own script rather than Shwa, there's a sense in which the
roman alphabet's unfitness-for-purpose is actually a virtue: it forces a
degree of arbitrariness and language-specificity and so is less exposed to
the problems Shwa has.


On 20 Jul 2011 01:40, "Sam Stutter" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

The problem I've always encountered with producing phonetic English is that,
unless one drives for a dialect superiority (that is: everyone must write
with one particular accent) one results in text which may be largely
incomprehensible between dialect groups separated by only short distances.
I'm writing my English and phonetically realising it ass sumthingg lak this,
whereas someone 30 miles away will be realising sumtin laç this and (excuse
my dodgy accent) a Texan might realise it airs samthin lairk thees.

AFAIK the human mind is attuned to permitting variance in pronunciation, but
large variances in spelling severely reduces comprehension time: try reading
the homework of school kids who can't differentiate /f/ and /θ/!

The benefit of a universal spelling system, despite it's numerous
irregularities, permits communication across dialect barriers, not
necessarily just geographic ones. It transcends the differences in speech. A
universal phonetic alphabet would mean the death of individual dialects - we
would all have to speak like members of the Conservative Party or LA
millionaires :D

I'm sure the same will be true of other languages, why should a Venetian
have to think in a Roman accent?

More to the point, won't there be major differences between individuals as

Wot 'm se'n iss tha iff 'm wrai'n lak thiss, nu ma'u wa alfupe yu yooss i's
still tussen mek inupussunul komyooniceshun eni isee'u.

Fuh sek uff arkyumen mai trai sen'in ol mi fyuchu messachis list ful inn
fune'ic IPA...

Wi ol mai haf uh ko a tha? Huss wi mi?

On 20 Jul 2011, at 00:02, Larry Sulky <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Would Shwah spelling differe...