Monday, February 9, 2009

how phonetic is English? Thoughts.
The figure of 85% regular is often quoted as if it were based on solid research [Crystal, 1999]. The original research was done by Dewey in the 1940's and repeated by Paul Hanna in the 1960's. Hanna noted that you can guess with 75% accuracy the dictionary spelling for each phoneme with 4 guesses (see]. Predicting phoneme spelling is not the same as predicting syllable spelling [see chart]. When people, such as Flesch [1956, 1983], say that English has a highly regular orthography or is 97% phonemic, they have something else in mind other than predictability. Spaulding (1964] uses 70+ phonograms and 26 exception rules to arrive at her high estimate for English regularity. With around 200 sequentially applied exception rules and two spellings per sound, traditionally spelled words can be shown to have a high degree of predictability. Memorizing 200 rules, however, might prove to be more difficult for humans than memorizing the dictionary

D: I am reminded of the claims about the # of rules needed for grammar.
English: 1000(s).
Optimal IAL: about 2 dozen. I imagine a score is doable.

We notice a parallel in the # of rules needed to spell correctly.
English spelling is more erratic than many other natural language spelling conventions.
Spanish is known to be highly regular. This is in part due to historical conscious reforms. Important, since this shows that a con-lang (of sorts) can be successful and achieve a desirable and desired goal. If it can work for a con-lang - maybe an aux-lang too?

How Phonemic depends on the unit of analysis

75% regular50% regular40% regular

Thus, the current edition of How we spell!, [1] formally English Heterography, identifies in a single [72,000 word], abridged dictionary 530 spellings of 41 sounds, employing 273 different symbols, that is 12.9 graphemes per phoneme, 1.9 phonemes per grapheme.

D: about 13 ways to show each sound, and about 2 sounds per letter.
Many folks speak of learning failures, when students with particular hardships encounter difficulty. I speak of teaching failures, in the sense that the subject matter is unnecessarily far too complex to meet its goal. Call me naive, but the goal of a language should be successful communication.

Aside: I had an insight yesterday. Fraternities and sports teams have historically used hazing rituals. Social psychology suggests members would then value their membership more due to the effort required to obtain them. Nobody wants to admit that one did (following humiliating behavior) for an insignificant goal!
Similarly, I have noticed a trend with the literati of English, as well as all the classics majors I know. The amount of effort required for an English speaker to acquire functional Latin in adulthood is prodigious. Their mental endowments are indeed impressive. My friend "M" is adamantly against designed or reformed languages. She is a fluent Latin speaker. I wonder how much she may be annoyed that one could learn all the benefits of a (not yet born new) language in a tiny fraction of the time required to obtain a presently dead one. In the case of English-lovers, the present living de facto standard one.

"Thus, Laubach, [8] whose extraordinary achievements, "Each one teach one," in promoting literacy in over 300 languages thruout the world are well-known, employs for English a notation of 96 symbols [9] - actually, counting 4 recent additions and 18 doubled consonants, 118 symbols - several of them involving a diacritic, the macron; and describes as "regular" all spellings within the compass of that notation. "

D: there are sometimes multiple physical ways to make the same sound. Alternatively, sounds that we consider indistinguishable may be be considered meaningful in other languages.
I have pondered this with Hioxian.
Update: I don't need to show HIOX's tongue position nearly as much as I once thought.
Along the top of the HIOX symbols, the various vertical and diagonal bar segments stand for
1) lip
2) teeth
3) velar ridge
4) hard palate
5) soft palate.
I realized the appropriate tongue part adjacent to the above parts automatically is used. I do not need to show tongue tip/mid/rear positions. It is redundant.
However, such features as lip rounding and tongue narrowing may still matter.
I suspect the diacritic will be used for various instructions for forming a sound not obvious in a 2D cross-section, only apparent from the front. As well, I suspect amount of air flow and type, as well as duration (gemination) will be indicated on the diacritic.
I am not sure yet, but I hope the diacritic will remain optional in typical daily use.
So far, the consonant top/right/vertical bar is reserved for nasal, the bottom/right for voiced.
Voiced is important enough that I do not wish to assign it to a diacritic.
The visual appearnance and theme of characters is important.
For example, my Decimese proposed CVCVCV...(nasal consonant) will have the following format
1) first character, overt indication of voiced versus voiceless (or v.v.)
2) a middle-word consonant, the opposite
3) vocabularly item word termination, nasal consonant, top/right/vertical bar segment.
Combined with the 2 horizontal in-line diacritic bar segments indicating duration, there is a clear and obvious set of instruction for forming the word.
I know it is not strictly true, but indicating syllable stress via duration is workable. It is not true of many langauges, however, such as French.
English: FIVE, TEN, FIFteen, TWENty.
French words would have the same duration per syllable, as would New Zealand dialect English.

Another indication HIOXian should portray is the difference between a adjacent vowels and diphthongs. The HIOX vowel system if fairly straightforward. See the vowel chart in IPA. Hybrid 'mid' position vowels can be indicated via both adjacent location bar segments.
For that matter, I still have access to additional unused bar segments.
I would very much like to avoid using the vowel diacritic vertical and diagonal bar segments initially. This gives me the option to portray tones.

Aside: I took literacy tutor training this weekend for the local reading group.
We learned about various brain differences that affect written language acquisition.
An example of visual processing problems was portrayed as a chaotic mess of letters in a written note. The lines were not in line, and the class was stumped by what it meant.
We were further stymied by various letters being inverted or otherwise rotated.
Technically, HIOX will be vulnerable to this. I must assume that at least a few characters will still be intelligible when flipped horizonatally, vertically or diagonally.
I believe that the ideographic nature of the HIOX character will prevent this. However, dyslexia has left-right directionality issues. At first, the standard left-facing articulation diagram might not be clearly remembered.
Ygyde did a good job of addressing this.

English quirk of the day:

Ways to make various vowel sounds.
Why does the English language have so many words that are difficult to spell? The main reason is that English has 1,100 different ways to spell its 44 separate sounds, more than any other language.

Ways to spell Long 'U' shoe, grew, through. do, doom, flue, two, who, brute, duty
Ways to spell Long 'O' go, show, though, sew, beau, float, bone,
Ways to spell Long 'A' may, weigh, late, pain, rein, great
Ways to spell Long 'E' free, bean, magazine, gene, mete, be, mien, receive, believe
Ways to spell Long 'I' fine, rhyme, fight, align, isometric, bayou

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