[Spellyans] Shall we vote on diacritics just now?

Michael Everson everson at evertype.com
Tue Feb 1 20:24:02 GMT 2011

On 1 Feb 2011, at 19:58, Craig Weatherhill wrote:

> Diacritical marks are essential to KS in order to show anomalous pronunciations, etc.

Yes, and so we specify that the correct spelling of KS is to use them. 

We also specify that the correct spelling of [ð] is "dh" and the correct spelling of [θ] is "th". This is no different from saying that the correct spelling of the word pronounced [bræːz]~[brɒːz] depending on dialect is "brâs". And no different from saying that the correct spelling of [ˈreːzən] is "rêson" (because "reson" is [ˈrɛzən]).

> On the other hand, no one will ever be able to enforce their use.  Individuals will write what they please.  Some will use the diacritics; others (most people, I suspect) won't in their everyday writings.  As we can't dictate their use, what can KS do?

KS says:

These diacritical marks are important and should be learned as a proper part of the words which have them. If you write them regularly, they will help you to pronounce words more correctly, and they will help others to read what you write more easily.
> The only way forward, as I see it, is to use diacritics in dictionaries and learning materials, much as Nance did. Users will come to learn how each word is pronounced as the language becomes increasingly familiar, just as most people did with UC.

But they didn't. We have KK precisely because people did not pronounce vowel length correctly *because Nance's recommendation removed the visual support people needed to reinforce it*. 

> What those pronunciations are is another question because speakers do pronounce differently.  Many pronounce a stressed long A as the "a" of "hat" prolonged.  Others (like me) pronounce it to rhyme with the "ai" of "fair".

That's not an issue. Both [æː] and [ɛː] are allophones of the same phoneme. That's just normal variation. 

> In words like clav, bras, gwav (but NOT hav), some (me again) will speak it as something like "aw".

And we write clâv, brâs, gwâv (and hâv; Neil found a poem in which they rhyme) to indicate this.

If we were to make this means of indication "optional" we would be going right back to where we started: an orthography that doesn't support good pronunciation. The last time we were there, it gave rise to KK. 

> Some round a final -ow as in "blow"; others will pronounce it somewhere between "au" and "ah" (or the US way of pronouncing "thought").

Again, this is normal pronunciation variation, and in fact we describe the variety of ways in which the plural -ow can be pronounced. 

Because we're linguists. :-)

> That still leaves (at least) one problem:  the bys/bes words.  If we derogate from the SWF with regard to those words, and revert to the -ei- of KS1, then that's solved as well (beas might be another possibility).

For my part, I think we need to stick with the decision we made: not to change SWF wordshapes where not necessary. The diaeresis solves this problem with just two tiny dots. 

Moreover, words like the past participle of gwakhe would end up gwakheis, and I don't believe -heis is attested (this was not identified in KS1). 

> Other observers may have ideas that differ from mine, and I look forward to reading them.  There has to be a solution somewhere among those views and, what's more, we must find it.  We can only do this by constructive debate, not point-of-view, I'm-not-shifting, table-thumping, and I'm seeing far less of that kind of debate which we had (quite brilliantly) to begin with, and got us KS1 in a remarkably short time.
> Thinking caps on.

These issues were put to bed in 2008, though. We did not hear them raised again and again as each of our books was published. Nobody said "Jowal Lethesow -- great book, apart from those diaereses". 

We had a general election called today. I am taking the night off for a few jars in my local. 

Michael Everson * http://www.evertype.com/

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