The American Way of Spelling: The Structure and Origins of American English Orthography

The American Way of Spelling: The Structure and Origins of American English Orthography

The American Way of Spelling: The Structure and Origins of American English Orthography

The American Way of Spelling: The Structure and Origins of American English Orthography

Synopsis

Can ghoti really be pronounced as fish? Why is "o" short in glove and love, but long in rove and cove? Why do English words carry such extra baggage as the silent "b" in doubt, the silent "k" in knee, and the silent "n" in autumn? And why do names like Phabulous Phoods and Hi-Ener-G stand out? Addressing these and many other questions about letters and the sounds they make, this engaging volume provides a comprehensive analysis of American English spelling and pronunciation. Venezky illuminates the fully functional system underlying what can at times be a bewildering array of exceptions, focusing on the basic units that serve to signal word form or pronunciation, where these units can occur within words, and how they relate to sound. Also examined are how our current spelling system has developed, efforts to reform it, and ways that spelling rules or patterns are violated in commercial usage. From one of the world's foremost orthographic authorities, the book affords new insight into the teaching of reading and the acquisition and processing of spelling sound relationships.

Excerpt

… everyone … has to admit that of all
languages of culture English has the most
antiquated, inconsistent, and illogical spelling.

—ROBERT E. ZACHRISSON (1930), 10

Can ghoti be pronounced as fish? Why is short in glove, love, and dove (noun) but long in rove, cove, and dove (verb)? Why do names like Phabulous Phoods, Starzz, Science Fare (a cafeteria), and Hi-Ener-G stand out? And why do English words carry such extra baggage as the silent ’s in debt, doubt, and subtle, the silent ’s in knee and know, and the silent ’s in damn and autumn?

Answers to these and many other questions about the ways in which English words are pronounced and spelled are the concerns of this book. My primary audience consists of linguists, lexicographers, educators, and psychologists who study reading and reading acquisition. But I also write for those who are just curious about our spelling system—who are not specialists in phonology or perception, but want to know how the current system works and perhaps a little about its history.

Educators, philologists, and spelling reformers have from the darkest periods of the Middle Ages joined in the assault on the “antiquated,” “inconsistent,” and . . .

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