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Well, that's the principle of abjads : when there are few vowels (and
they're grammatical, not lexical) then they can be omitted.  But try writing
a Chinese sentence in pinyin without vowels.  It only works in English
because our spelling is not phonemic.

On Mon, Jul 25, 2011 at 2:30 PM, Gary Shannon <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> On Mon, Jul 25, 2011 at 1:42 PM, Peter Cyrus <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > The purpose of spoken language is also to convey meaning - why do we
> > differentiate vowels there?
> >
> > I think that if you try writing in, for example, broad IPA transcription,
> > you'd find that we do need vowels.
>
> For someone who speaks the language there is no need to _write out_
> all the vowels. I can look at "g•v•rnm•nt" and since I already know
> what the vowels are, I don't need to be told. Just as there are no
> vowels in purely pictographic writing, even though there are vowels in
> the speech that it represents.
>
> I don't doubt that IPA needs vowels, because the purpose of IPA is to
> capture and record the SOUNDS. The purpose of writing, however, is to
> record the meaning. If I already know the vowels in a word, and I
> already know the SOUND of the word, and if I read, as experienced
> readers do, by the visual shape of the word as a whole, then the
> written vowels can be replaced with appropriately shaped place holders
> without loss of _meaning_.
>
> In fact as long as the overall shape of the word is maintained, even
> the exact placement of the consonants is flexible in ways not related
> to the sound of the words.  The famous example is, of course:
>
> The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid: Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at
> Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a
> wrod are, t he olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer
> be in the rgh it pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll
> raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not
> raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh?
> yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!
>
> The fact that we can read that means one thing and one thing only: It
> WORKS as a way of written communication of meaning, even though each
> word is scrambled enough that it no longer reflects anything useful
> concerning the sound of the words. But we know the sounds already, so
> we don't need for writing to tell those sounds. We don't need for
> writing to tell us what we already know.
>
> --gary (Playing devil's advocate. I'm also actually a fan of English
> spelling reform :)
>