In a letter to the Editor (January-February 2009), Morton Nadler suggests that a revised spelling system for English would have to favor just one particular dialect. In his response, Howard Wainer agrees: ". . . a choice would have to be made." They are wrong.
It would be perfectly possible to devise a far more rational spelling system than the one we have now, but that would preserve dialect-neutrality. The systematic correspondences between English dialects ("accents") allow the same letters to be read in different ways by speakers with different pronunciations. No one would need to change her or his pronunciation in any way whatsoever. A dialect-neutral spelling would, to be sure, require some orthographic compromises, and it would not be quite perfect for anyone. It could still be vastly better for every child than the mess we have now. With a better spelling system, British and American children would have more
time for more important things than memorizing the chaotic order of our letters. They might even be able to compete on more equal terms with Finnish and Korean children who learn to read and write so much more easily than our own children do, and, as a result, score higher in their other subjects.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
posted by Catherine Clabby
January 9, 2009 @ 5:52 PM
About once a month at Sigma Xi headquarters, we liven up the lunch hour with an American Scientist Pizza Lunch talk. In these informal lectures, scientists describe new research to nonscientists. The series is light on jargon but heavy on solid science. Each Pizza Lunch offers an in-depth look at its subject, whether it's bedbugs or the smart grid. Click below to read about and download these talks -- and to subscribe!
JSTOR, the online academic archive, now contains complete back issues of American Scientist from its inception in 1913 (as Sigma Xi Quarterly) through 2005.
The table of contents for each issue is freely available to all users; those with institutional access can read each complete issue.
View the full collection here.