Education

Wut’s In A Wurd?

July 05, 2006 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

English is not an easy language to learn. Linguists say there are more than 40 distinct sounds in English that can be spelled out in 400 different ways. It’s no wonder that shorthand spellings like “thru,” “U” and “thanx” are becoming standard in e-mails and text messages. And that kind of spontaneous language degeneration is why a small but persistent group of simplified-spelling advocates wants to create a new, mostly phonetic, system of written English. They argue that both children learning English as their native tongue and second-language learners would have fewer linguistic headaches and could master the language more quickly if we got rid of the maddening unreliabilities that, for example, make “tomb,” “bomb” and “comb” all sound different. The idea isn’t new. One hundred years ago, President Teddy Roosevelt used simplified spellings in his presidential correspondence, and Andrew Carnegie created the Simplified Spelling Board to encourage more logical spelling. The Chicago Tribune even used some phonetic spellings in its published articles for 40 years. But experts like education professor Donald Bear argue that phonetic spelling strips words of their roots, and therefore much of their historical meaning. “Students come to understand how meaning is preserved in the way words are spelled,” he said. And aside from meaning, the public just doesn’t seem to like strange-looking phonetic spellings. “I think that the average person simply did not see this as a needed change,” one librarian said. Stoodents, bak to thoez speling bookz.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.

Events

School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.
Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
Supporting 21st Century Skills with a Whole-Child Focus
What skills do students need to succeed in the 21st century? Explore the latest strategies to best prepare students for college, career, and life.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: June 15, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: June 8, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: June 1, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: May 11, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read