Thank you cursus
for telling us about how standard Catalan
and standard Dutch
• the correct/standard spelling of a language
(from Greek orthos
Spelling reforms are quite desirable — a serious spelling reform is long overdue for English
. (For example, consider "birch", "church", "perch", "search" — we have to learn how to spell each of those words, knowing the sound is not enough to be able to write them correctly. The problem is in the other direction with "bough", "cough", "enough", "through" and "although" — knowing the spelling is not enough, we have to learn how to pronounce each of those words.)
I will now take a brief look at orthographic reforms that have applied to several languages, with a few comments on the changes, and resulting acceptance or resistance.
We now know that Dutch
adopted serious spelling reforms four times in the post 100 years: 1934, 1947, 1996, 2006. Stewie1980
has indicated that his pre-1996 schooling has him still using pre-1996 spellings.
underwent serious spelling reform in 1901; a reform attempt in 1944 failed; the next reform was in 1996 (put into effect in 1998), becoming obligatory in 2006:
Eventually, in 1996, the set of German spelling rules was officially reformed. This lead to numerous protests and to Germany splitting into three big factions: Those who welcomed the reform, those who declined it, and others who wanted it to be modified. Moreover, there were many media and publishing houses beginning to use the grammatical rules they liked best instead of complying with the new standards. Finally, German spelling was a complete chaos, also because other German speaking countries, like Switzerland and Austria, had their own opinions and practices.
In the end, it took eight years of quarrels and modifications until the new German spelling became accepted and obligatory on August 1st, 2006.
gradually underwent various ad hoc
orthographic reforms from 1708, until major reforms were introduced in 1917 by the Assembly for Considering Simplification of the Orthography. Changes included unifying several adjectival and pronominal inflections, and replacing the letter ѣ
(yat) with е
, the letter ѳ
(fita) with ф
, and the letters і
(i) and ѵ
(ižica) with и
From the first edition (1694) of the Dictionnaire de l'Académie française
, new editions have been instrumental in introducing French
spelling reforms. The third (1740) and fourth (1762) editions were particularly important, changing the spelling of around half the lexicon. Many mute/silent consonants were omitted: this was when the change estre
occurred. The letters 'j' and 'v' were introduced to replace 'i' and 'u' where these served as consonants (as in classical Latin).
More recent changes were rather minor, until 1990 when some general rules and a list of modified words were promulgated. For example, hyphens are now added to numerals: trois cent vingt et un
(321). Also the tréma
) indicating when the u is not silent in gu + vowel combinations is now placed on the u instead of on the following vowel: aiguë
[ɛɡy] – acute (f)
Simplified Chinese (SC) and Traditional Chinese (TC)
简体中文 — 繁體中文
Jiǎntǐ zhōngwén — Fántǐ zhōngwén
Simplified Chinese — Traditional Chinese
In 1949 a set of Simplified Chinese
(SC) characters was introduced, with perceived advantages over Traditional Chinese
(TC). Subsequently choice between the two character sets has become entwined with political alignments. SC is used in PRC = People's Republic of China, TC is used in Taiwan [ROC = Republic of China].
A footnote on English spelling reform
Janet Yang wrote:Today this (SC) set of Chinese characters is used in mainland China and by people of Chinese origin in Singapore. A relatively modern form of text, Simplified Chinese (SC) was created as a way to encourage literacy and was made official with the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The characters have fewer strokes than Traditional Chinese (TC).
Although SC is simple, it continues to evolve. Even as recently as 2013, the Chinese government released an official List of Commonly Used Standardized Characters. This list contained 45 newly recognized standard characters (previously considered variant forms) and 226 characters simplified by analogy (most of which already were widely used).
In a 2010 opinion piece entitled Spelling Reform Efforts
Richard Norquist wrote:The term spelling reform refers to any organized effort to simplify the system of English orthography.
Over the years, organizations such as the English Spelling Society have encouraged efforts to reform or "modernize" the conventions of English spelling, generally without success.
Examples and Observations
"[Noah] Webster proposed the removal of all silent letters and regularization of certain other common sounds. So, give would be giv, built would be bilt, speak would be speek, and key would be kee. Though these suggestions obviously didn't take hold, many of Webster's American English spellings did: colour → color, honour → honor, defence → defense, draught → draft, and plough → plow, to name a few."
(Kristin Denham and Anne Lobeck, Linguistics for Everyone: An Introduction. Wadsworth, 2010)
Norquist's article goes on to discuss the Shavian alphabet
(advocated by George Bernard Shaw as a phonetic script for English
) and some observations on why spelling reform efforts for English
fail. Interested viewers will enjoy the rest of that piece.