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On Sun, Jan 20, 2013 at 10:56 AM, Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> On 20 January 2013 16:37, Padraic Brown <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> Bad social engineering. English with its unreformed orthography allows
>> the engaged reader to read (though not necessarily understand) everything
>> ever written all the back to the Beginning of History when Julius Caesar
>> invaded England, thus causing the English language. The more "reformed"
>> we make an orthography, the harder it will be for anyone brought up on
>> the new version to read anything in the old version.
....
>> translation into the new orthography. If language informs culture, then I
>> as a Central Planner could determine the way future culture moves by the
>> nature of the orthographical Reform and the content of the literature
>> that gets "translated". Or at least make an attempt at the same.

> What a load of nonsense! When orthography is reformed, you don't stop
> reading old books: they just get reprinted with the new orthography! And
> any central planner has nothing to say about what does or doesn't get
> reprinted, since publishing companies are private! If there is demand for
> it, it will be reprinted.

Padraic is exaggerating for rhetorical effect -- arguably to an
excessive degree -- but I'd argue that there's a grain of truth in
what he says.  I don't think orthography reform by itself it would
lead to deliberate political censorship such as he describes, but it
would reduce the number of old books that are easily accessible to
readers educated with the new orthography.  The more radical the
orthography reform, the more labor-intensive the transcription into
the new orthography becomes, and as costs of reprinting old books
rise, publishers will be more selective about which titles to reprint,
and reprint fewer of them.  Not through political considerations, as
Padraic argues (unless some completely unrelated political
developments are going on at the same time, which is possible, but not
to be blamed on the orthography reform) but for purely commercial and
pragmatic reasons.  You might not have publishers like Dover, for
instance, doing so many low-cost facsimile editions of old books if
most readers under 30 were unable to read the old orthography.  Such
publishers and such facsimile editions would still exist, but because
they would be aiming at a smaller market, they would have to print
fewer copies of each book and charge higher prices. And the more
complex the reform, and the more dialectical variation there is in the
language, the more subjective judgment is involved in transcribing
from an old chronolect into some modern dialect: so new transcriptions
would be copyrighted, for the most part, and each publisher that wants
to do a new edition of a public-domain book might do their own
transcription, or else pay a license fee to another publisher for the
right to reprint their transcription.

And libraries, at least local non-university libraries, would probably
over the course of a generation or less get rid of all or nearly all
of their old books printed in the old orthography and replace them
with books (re)printed in the new.  That would put a strain on their
budgets, and libraries already tend to be underfunded.  Some books for
which there's no new-orthography edition would thus be unavailable to
low-income readers, when without the orthography reform they might
have been.  University libraries would be more conservative about
keeping old books in the old orthography, but they don't have
unlimited space and would have to make some hard triage decisions.

Of course, you would probably get people like Project Gutenberg doing
crowdsourced public domain transcriptions into the new orthography,
but because such transcription would be far more labor-intensive and
error-prone and above all more subjective than the current work
process at Distributed Proofreaders[*], it would be a botleneck and PG
would produce far fewer books per year than they produce now.


[*] -- In general (there are exceptions for particular books), one
person scans all the pages of the book and uploads the images.  Then
each page is proofread by three different people, then formatted by
one person, then the formatting is double-checked by a second person.
Then a post-processor stitches all the pages together and converts
from the internal DP formatting markup to HTML, ePub, plain text, etc.
 I expect if we had a radical orthography reform, there would be added
two or three transcription rounds in between the proofreading rounds
and the formatting rounds; one person transcribes it, then one or two
people double-check the transcription for errors.  And because such
transcription is sometimes uncertain and subjective (involving
research and guesswork about how specific words were pronounced in a
particular author's dialect, for instance, or questions of whether to
transcribe things based on the way they were pronounced 300 years ago
or the way they're pronounced now in Britain or the way they're
pronounced now in the U.S. or....) there would be a lot of arguing
about transcription judgment calls in the fora.  If such transcription
rounds were to add less than 50% to the average time it takes to
produce a book, I'd be pleasantly surprised.

-- 
Jim Henry
http://www.pobox.com/~jimhenry/
http://www.jimhenrymedicaltrust.org