'Kompromis speling': a fonetic compromise for the simpler spelling of English.

To index of simpler spelt pages.
To home page.

Mark Twain, humorist and spelling reformer.


The double bluff of 'Euro-English'.

English spelling causes many millions of people much trouble. Pages on this site's second index get simpler spelling than the same pages, in more traditional spelling, linked to my 'Democracy Science' home page. Some readers may wish to compare a web page, in the two different spelling versions.
On the simpler spelt pages, longer quotations, names of people and places, are usually in their original spelling.

The simpler rules, of 'Kompromis Speling', are not as radical as my ESP alfabet. In 1999, I suggested, on that page, that the European Commission regularise the fonetics of the Roman alfabet. In 2002, a hoax went round the web that so-called Euro-English spelling has been regularised with the agreement of the British government. The sting, to the joke, was that, as well as sensible spelling reforms, 'accent reforms' would make English spoken with a stage-German accent.

Some British people have been taken-in by 'Euro-English' reforms. As people realise they have been fooled, they will think there is no such thing as Euro-English. In that case, they will fall for a double bluff. ( This was the expression of a friend, when I told her this amusing story. )

'Euro-English' is an ironic name given to the simplifying of English grammar and spelling, by the multi-lingual membership of the European Union. ( My ESP alfabet page includes a proposal for English in the past tense without needing irregular verbs. ) Euro-English has become an object of academic study. A similar assimilation of English happened in the cultural melting pot of immigration to the United States. Way back in Anglo-Saxon England, a like process created early English.

It doesnt matter too much that English vowels are not spelt much in line with speech. Vowels are less definite sounds than consonants, and they shift anyway. Britain has a north-south speech divide, resulting from a vowel shift from traditional speech.

Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion, made into the musical My Fair Lady, has Cockney 'draggle-tailed gutter-snipe' Eliza Doolittle unfairly talk her way into high society, after she has taken elocution lessons from the fonetician Henry Higgins. He asks her to say: 'The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.' Ignoring the play's comic exaggeration of her accent, Eliza's Cockney does repeat the 'ai' dipthong in the words, as they are spelt. She is fonetically correct. Then the 'fonetician' Higgins 'corrects' her by making her use the 'ei' dipthong instead.
I tend to follow Eliza in this matter.
Cockneys or Australians have a drawl that may pronounce a word like 'rain' as its dipthong ai is spelt. So, there is no point in re-spelling 'rain' tho its more standard pronunciation is 'rein'. Also, 'rein', spelt as it sounds, already is the conventional spelling for another word.

The word 'quantum', for instance, is usually pronounced by English speakers with an o-sound. But it sounds more like its 'a' spelling, from some Americans who drawl their speech.

The 'Kompromis speling' reforms do not transcribe standard English. It used to be thought of as BBC English but is now some sort of American English, if it exists at all. Spoken English is now just so many over-lapping dialects. No one can claim pre-eminence: certainly not the BBC, which now sensibly cultivates accents from all over the United Kingdom.

The point is that English is spoken all over the world under any number of vowel variations. The consonants are the main anchor of speech. Originally, only consonants were used to write down speech. Making the spelling of English consonants consistent is fairly sraight-forward, tho quite a program of reforms is involved.

A bigger problem is reducing the spelling of English dipthongs from chaos to a limited number of reasonably fonetic digrafs, that conform, as much as possible to conventional English spelling.

This still leaves alternatives for spelling the same dipthong. The remaining confusion, this can cause, is off-set by the possibility of distinguishing two words that sound the same but have different meanings. An example is 'two' and 'too'. Their simplified spellings could be rendered 'tw' and 'tu' respectively.

There is a meaningful choice between dipthong endings -i and -y, as in 'mayd' for 'made', rather than spelling 'maid', which already means something else.
Likewise, -u or -w endings allows spelling 'rowt' for 'wrote', instead of spelling 'rout', which already means something else.

It is fair to say conventional English spelling also uses many more confusing, alternative spellings to mean different things for words which sound the same.
Tho I often follow semantic spelling distinctions, I dont believe they should be prescribed, to further burden the memory. The context of the word in the sentence is often enough to make obvious which meaning applies.

On breaking my own rules.

To top.

Trying too rigidly to standardise vowel and especially dipthong spellings, on fonetic principles, is like building a house on sand. Vowel and especially dipthong pronunciations shift wildly over time and place. So, I some-times refrain from giving common words a more fonetic spelling, because it might look too unfamiliar to the reader.

For example, one may knock the e off 'rule' for 'rul', rather than spell 'rwl', which is more strictly accurate in my system...
Knocking the 'e' off words like 'derive' or 'provide' to make 'deriv' or 'provid', relates to their pronunciation in other parts of speech, such as 'derivative' and 'provident'.

Conventional spelling often does not distinguish dipthongs from vowels in words of more than one syllable: for instance, 'save' becomes 'saving', dropping the e that marks-out a dipthong from a vowel.
The Kompromis spelling versions are 'saiv' and 'saving'.
Shortening to 'wav' for 'wave', does not confuse with 'waive' ( re-spelt 'waiv' ).
Other reductions, of a dipthong to a vowel, include spelling ( after a Glasgow accent ) 'thot' for 'thought', 'sot' for 'sought', 'bot' for 'bought'...

Following northern English dialect shortens 'make' to 'mak' and 'take' to 'tak'. Also thinking of this dialect, one need not change the spelling of 'by' or 'my', as not rhyming with 'I', but said as 'be' and 'me' are usually pronounced.
Not re-spelt are words like 'be' and 'me' because they do not go out-side the rules for representing the English fonemes fonetically-- even tho they use the wrong rule, fonetically speaking. The word 'bee', pronounced the same way as 'be', does break the rules: there is no such English foneme as 'ee'. So 'bee' re-spells according to my system, as 'by', despite a possible confusion of meaning, which cannot always be avoided.

Trying to avoid great confusions has let in small confusions, unfortunately. To get rid of the use of 'ee', I'v substituted 'y'. Hence, a word like 'free', which rhymes with 'glory', in the Elgar march ( used as the English anthem in the 2002 Commonwealth games ) is re-spelt 'fry'.
But conventional spelling already has a word 'fry' -- rhyming with 'I' -- which is re-spelt 'frI'.

Vowel spellings are changed as little as possible. But a word like: 'lane' is re-spelt 'lein' rather than 'lain', which already has a meaning. The word 'raise' shortens to 'rais', so 'race' is rendered 'reis', tho 'racing' might simply be re-spelt 'rasing'.
Less essential, perhaps, 'hate' may be spelt 'heit' instead of 'hait', which sounds like 'hight'; 'later' re-spels as 'leiter' and 'latter' re-spels as 'later'.

Words like: share, fare, spare, rare, care,.. are re-spelt in more fonetic form: sher, fer, sper, rer, ker,..Simply knocking-off the e would have confused with other ( reasonably fonetically spelt ) words, like: far, spar, car,..
This is not done in every instance: the e is knocked off 'compare', for 'kompar', bearing in mind words like 'par' and 'comparison'.

In short, I have often found it prudent to break my own vowel and dipthong spelling rules, hopefully in fairly minor ways, that are justified, on the whole, by a much simpler English spelling system.
I have tried to make my re-spellings as consistent, as such a compromise with conventional spelling can hope to be. I dont want to change my mind about Kompromis Speling too much too soon. But some of my re-spellings, like some just given, are not comfortable compromises. Other people may make more acceptable changes and more progress. Usually, I am caught between the most reasonable spelling, in terms of my simplified system, and the best compromise with conventional spelling.
Lastly, like every other writer of English, I make spelling mistakes, on my ( fairly ) conventionally spelt web pages, to say nothing of the pages in reformed spelling!
To conventional spellers of English, a spelling mistake is a disgrace. The New British Library 'blushed with shame' for spelling 'heritage' with three e's! That attitude belongs to an unquestioning age of authority. The purpose, here, is to approach a more sensible spelling to make English literacy available to all. That is why I've explained my spelling reforms on this page ( as well as discussed the possibility of an ESP alfabet on an other web page ).
Alternative pages in simpler spelling, on the world wide web, may promote wider understanding.

Awkward words for reformers of spelling:

A few examples may show the snags to reforming English spelling. Take the word 'area'. The 'ea' is not pronounced as a dipthong but two separate vowels. A fonetic rendering, like 'eria', would be baffling. Whereas, the spelling, 'area' is not too far from how the word is spoken. So, I have not changed 'area'.

Similarly, with the word 'reality'. But 'real' is not pronounced as the Spanish say 'Real Madrid'. So, I've changed 'real' to 'ryl'. 'Realise' is made 'rylIs'.

The word 'idea' is treated like 'area', because a more fonetic spelling would make it too unfamiliar. In fact the 'ea' in 'idea' is usually pronounced as a dipthong. Standard English does not have an 'ea' dipthong, so the 'ea' digraf is one of several, tabled below, for abolition from English speling.
The dipthong that makes the word 'ear' is rendered 'ir', as distinct from 'er' for 'err'. But 'fear', for example, is re-spelt 'fyr' to avoid confusion with 'fir'.

Kompromis Speling abolishes the oa digraf, except in a word like 'boa', which is 2 fonetik vowels, rather than 1 unfonetik dipthong.

Now and again, a regularised word defies any semblance to its conventional spelling. Take the harmless-looking little word 'phase'. Digraf 'ph' is replaced by 'f'. The 'e' works like an accent meaning that 'a' does not stand for the vowel 'a' itself but a dipthong, whose fonetik value is 'ei'. If you are a Cockney or Aussie you might be forgiven for pronouncing the dipthong as 'ai'. And 'fais' is closer to the conventional speling than 'feis'.
There is a further problem. We have not distinguished the fonetic spelling of 'phase' from that for 'face'. Strictly speaking, 'phase' is pronounced 'feiz'. I had to resort to this proper fonetic speling because there was nothing, or too little, regularity in the conventional spelling to guide the reader as to the word meant. In this case, I departed from the more typical English practise of spelling 's' for the 'z' sound.

Summary of spelling reforms.

To top.

Extra letter I and extra purpose of w and y.

Letter 'w' literally is 'double-u'.

Letter w replaces the oo digraf. So, 'room' spells as 'rwm', distinct from 'rum'.
There are exceptions: 'stood' becomes 'stud' ( which already has different meanings, not to be confused ), 'foot' becomes 'fut', 'good' becomes 'gud'.

The e is generally removed from the ew and ue digrafs: 'new' to 'nw', 'few' to 'fw', and 'dew' to 'dw', 'due' to 'du', 'true' to 'tru'.
Traditional English usually pronounces both ew and ue like the yu or yw sound. That is like the words 'you' and 'yew', which dont need their middle letters. American pronunciation usually drops the y ( or i ) sound, obscuring the difference between 'do' and 'due'.
Notice: yus ( use ) as distinct from 'us'. And 'byuty' ( beauty ) as distinct from 'bwty' ( booty ). I may spell the English pronunciation for such semantic distinctions.

Letter 'y' as 'double-i'

Letter 'y' as 'double-i', analgously to 'double-u', generally replaces 'ee' or 'ea'. So, 'meet' or 'meat' spells as 'myt', distinct from 'met'. Note: 'ysy' for 'easy', 'ych' for 'each' ( but 'yer' for 'year' avoids 'yyr', and some people do say: 'yer' ).

Words, such as 'brief', 'chief', are re-spelt with y: 'bryf', 'chyf'. Note: 'yild' for 'yield' ( to avoid 'yyld' ). The ie digraf is abolished, including its use to replas the y ending of words in their plural form. Thus, 'stories' becomes 'storys'.

New leter 'I' as in 'I, myself'.

'I' spels the dipthong that signifies the personal pronoun. So, 'ride' spels as 'rId', distinkt from 'rid'.
This reform also holds for just about all one-syllable words spelt with an i modified by an e on the end, such as: bIk ( bike ), lIk ( like ), lI ( lie ).
This also holds for otherwise one-syllable words when in a part of speech, or with a prefix, that makes them of more than one syllable, such as: lIking, sufIs ( suffice ), desId ( decide ).

Nout: fonts such as Arial ( used on this and my other pages in conventional spelling ) don't distinguish between letter 'l' and capital-i or 'I', tho you can see the difference by looking at the web page's source.
A quicker alternative is to use the number one, '1', which avoids the need for the key shift to capital-i.

One-syllable words ending in y are pronounced as in aisle or I. This means that spelling 'flies' as 'flys' confuses with 'fleas' or 'flees'. For clarity 'flies' could be rendered 'flIs'.
This exceptional pronunciation also appears in two-syllable words that are essentially one-syllable words plus a prefix, for example: deny ( de-ny ), rely ( re-ly ), bely -- or belie -- ( be-ly ), defy ( de-fy ). Such spellings may also be carried into three-syllable words, such as from 'defy' to 'defying' -- re-spelt 'defI' and 'defIing'.

The suffix '-fy', pronounced '-fI', as in 'modify', 'sanctify', does not need to be changed to a '-fI' spelling, on such three-syllable words, because the words meant are clear enough.

Redundant letters omited:

No repeated letters, with the inessential exception of 'off', as distinct from 'of'. 'Off' can be spelt like 'of' without confusion when hyphened to a verb, as in 'ward-of'.
Occasionally a repeated letter is merited by a repeated sound, as in 'kontinuum' ( continuum ), kontinuus ( continuous ).

Silent letters are left out, notably gh: 'weigh' becomes 'wei'; the h is removed if just that letter is silent: 'ghost' re-spells as 'gost'.
The word 'who' is now 'hw'.
Past tense ending ed is now 'd when the e is not sounded: rained now rain'd.

Consonants made more consistent:

No change in the spelling of the following consonants: b, d, f, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, z.

No removing, at this stage, the letter q which replaces k before u ; 'queue' can be spelt 'qu' ( or 'kw' ). Words ending in -ique can be spelt -yk instead: 'technique' now 'teknyk'.
No removing, yet, the letter x, which stands for ks.

Letter g never spelt for j sounds ( German, how-ever, does pronounce, for example, 'general' with a g sound. )

Letter c is never spelt for k, as in 'come', or s, as in 'civil'. But c retained in words like 'social' or 'ocean'. That is c = sh. But the sh digraf not replaced by c yet.
The odd word 'sure' is re-spelt 'shur'; 'machine' is re-spelt 'macyn'.

The ch digraf equals tc but not replaced, at this stage. Eventually, words such as 'church' could be spelt 'tcurtc' and words such as 'hitch' spelt 'hitc'.
Digraf ch is replaced by k when that is how it is pronounced: 'mechanic' is re-spelt 'mekanik'.

Digraf th not changed yet.

The following digrafs are replaced or removed: dg for j : 'judge' now 'juj'.

Letter f replaces ph or gh : 'photograph' is now 'fotograf'; 'rough' now 'ruf'.

Digraf wh is replaced by w : 'which' now 'wich'.

Removing the most unfonetic rules for English dipthongs:

This reform removes all the spellings that stick an e on the end of a word, to aksent the word's preceding vowel as a dipthong. ( This was the make-shift William Caxton had to employ for the first English printing press. ) Other vowel-letter combinations that dont match the standard English dipthongs, such as oa and ea also have the second letter removed, or are re-spelled to avoid confusion with existing words ( See the two vowel tables below ).
The ew dipthong has the first letter removed.

Tabl 1: Replacing Caxton's and other unfonetic vowel digrafs in English.
e accent for
Example: Suggested
Example: Suggested
a e ate ait
e e free fry ea eat yt
i e fry
site / sight
o e toe tou ( distinct
from tow )
oa load lowd ( distinct
from 'loud' )
u e due du oo

Tabl 2: Fonetic English digrafs that are also conventional English spellings, which may not be understood fonetically.
-i / -y
-u / -w
ai / ay / I Australian / Cockney:
rain Spain mainly plain
may play
spIn ( spine ), mIn ( mine )
au / aw tau, aural
ei / ey vein / fey
double-i = y story / storey
relyv = relieve
yu / yw yu = you
yw = yew
oi / oy toil / toy o / ou / ow so / soul
/ sow
wi wi' / with double-u = w
instead of ew
or oo
two / too = tw / tu
thrw = threw /
thru = through

The dipthongs, with second vowel unstressed, tradition spells with an r, where it may no longer be sounded, in some dialects: ar ( are ), er ( air, there ), ir ( ear ), or ( or ), ur ( sure ).

Richard Lung.

To top.

To index of simpler spelt pages.
To home page.