General Question

Zen's avatar

English is such an idiomatic, and phonetic language. Why hasn't there been a (successful) attempt to "fix it" - i.e. cough, although, knight et al?

Asked by Zen (7743points) March 25th, 2009
Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

24 Answers

c_gunningham's avatar

I thought the Americans tried – “color” / “colour” is one example. I don’t know how you judge if it is successful or not.

Zen's avatar

Well, that’s one good example – but there is still such a mess what with different voewl sounds for the same letters, silent letters – etc.

btko's avatar

Languages evolve overtime, there is no ultimate perfection it could attain. Words change as culture changes and vice verse.

Darwin's avatar

Why “fix” it? It doesn’t seem to be broken really, and variety is the spice of life.

Besides how could we snub others for spelling errors if English were easy to spell?

aprilsimnel's avatar

Ben Franklin and Daniel Webster tried, but aside from dropping the u in words like honour and colour, and replacing the s with z (zed) in words like organize, there hasn’t been much change. For whatever reason, such reforms didn’t take. Actually, American English has kept many of the older British forms, pronunciations and idiomatic phrases that the English people (and the Irish and Scots as well) no longer use.

hug_of_war's avatar

1. English has no organization to mantain it like many other languages, and the fact English is a majority or major language in several countries makes it difficult because people are not going to want to change their variety of English just because some organization tells them to.

2. Why should English be phonetic? Very few languages are completely phonetic. There is a history to those words. I’d hate to lose all that history.

tinyfaery's avatar

Ketchup used to be catsup. It does happen.

Michale's avatar

Google is now a verb in the dictionary. Language as a whole is fluid, but English reacts faster than most. Take a look at any language 200 years ago and compare it to the language today. You will find differences.

btko's avatar

I will never accept Google as a verb! NEVER! :p

lercio's avatar

have a look at this page it was linked on BoingBoing.net a while ago.

.

fireside's avatar

Read The Meaning of Everything

It’s all abut how the Oxford English dictionary was compiled by people all over the globe writing down words they saw used in print and sending them to a central location for compilation. Really interesting.

Jack79's avatar

if you really wanted to change the spelling of “colour” successfully, then it should be “kala”. I don’t think anyone pronounces is “color” (ie “call hoar”).

Actually the spelling has changed a lot over the centuries, eg when “haus” was pronounced “ho-oo-se” people started spelling it as “house”. Then they changed the pronunciation back into “haus”, but not the spelling. The Germans had a successful revolution about a century ago. I guess it may be our turn this century.

But then what fun would it be?

Zen's avatar

Ketchup isn’t a great example. What is the “t” for, if “ch” will suffice?

Darwin's avatar

@Jack79 – I fear that “kala” does not work if you speak American or Canadian. And in some parts of the Eastern US and Canada they still call it a “ho-oose” or even just a “hoose.”

I fear that hug_of_war is correct – too many disparate countries speak what each calls “English” for any one solution to work.

Zen's avatar

@Jack79 Agreed – and I agree with your agreeing with hug.

Jack79's avatar

I don’t think anyone has to “force” the language (if ever there was such a decision). For example, Yugoslavia gave up the Cyrillic alphabet, but the Soviet Union didn’t. And Turkey had its own revolution during Kemal times, using the Latin alphabet instead of the Arabic one. Nobody else followed their lead either.

But perhaps if the US simplified their version of English, Canada and Ireland at least (and perhaps even Australia or S.Africa) might eventually accept the simplified versions (though I for one would vehemently abhor such a desecration and would remain standing on the last resisting bastions of Buckinghamshire screaming “nae” at the top of my lungs).

Jack79's avatar

isn’t that how you spell it? ;)

Darwin's avatar

If you are Australian it comes out as Noi, but it is still spelled No.

Why do the Americans have to simplify first? Why can’t someone else be the leader for once?

Zen's avatar

@Jack79 Ah, you be clever, mon. I like it.

Jack79's avatar

@Darwin because you guys are too lazy to write the U in colour :P

I think the fact that America started off later, with all the energy of being “the New World” as well as the “cultural melting pot” of all those immigrants, allows for all sorts of innovation, revolution, fresh ideas. Not necessarily good ones, but new ones. Europe is by definition more conservative, stuck to tradition and things such as “roots”. In Europe History is always written with a capital H and has far too much weight attached to it. And Language is Holy. You don’t mess with Language. I remember when the Greeks decided to get rid of the various stresses which had actually been imposed by the Romans. As you probably know, Greek was originally all caps. When the government tried to enforce the monotonic system in 1981 (lower case letters but with only one stress to show where the voice goes up, not all the other symbols of how a Roman had to pronounce the word 2000 years ago), there were demonstrations, people refusing to use the new system, all sorts of complaints and interviews with scholars crying over the “Death of Our Language”.

I cannot see myself leaving out the U in colour either, so don’t expect me to start any revolution soon. My eyes hurt even when I see txtspk.

Zen's avatar

@Jack79 I’ll write colour, even neighbour… if you’ll meet me (halfway) at midnite.

:-)

Jack79's avatar

ok m8 :)

Zen's avatar

@Jack79 That was funny.

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