H.L. Mencken > The American Language > Subject Index > Page 243
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H.L. Mencken (1880–1956).  The American Language.  1921.

Page 243
 
5. Simplified Spelling
 
  The current movement toward a general reform of English-American spelling is of American origin, and its chief supporters are Americans today. Its actual father was Webster, for it was the long controversy over his simplified spellings that brought the dons of the American Philological Association to a serious investigation of the subject. In 1875 they appointed a committee to inquire into the possibility of reform, and in 1876 this committe reported favorably. During the same year there was an International Convention for the Amendment of English Orthography at Philadelphia, with several delegates from England present, and out of it grew the Spelling Reform Association. 35 In 1878 a committee of American philologists began preparing a list of proposed new spellings, and two years later the Philological Society of England joined in the work. In 1883 a joint manifesto was issued, recommending various general simplifications. Among those enlisted in the movement were Charles Darwin, Lord Tennyson, Sir John Lubbock and Sir J. A. H. Murray. In 1886 the American Philological Association issued independently a list of recommendations affecting about 3,500 words, and falling under ten headings. Practically all of the changes proposed had been put forward 80 years before by Webster, and some of them had entered into unquestioned American usage in the meantime, e. g., the deletion of the u from the -our words, the substitution of er for re at the end of words, and the reduction of traveller to traveler.
  The trouble with the others was that they were either too uncouth
Note 35.  Accounts of earlier proposals of reform in English spelling are to be found in Sayce’s Introduction to the Science of Language, vol. i, p. 330 et seq., and White’s Everyday English, p. 152 et seq. The best general treatment of the subject is in Lounsbury’s English Spelling and Spelling Reform; New York, 1909. A radical innovation, involving the complete abandonment of the present alphabet and the substitution of a series of symbols with vowel points, is proposed in Peetickay, by Wilfrid Perrett; Cambridge (England), 1920. Mr. Perrett’s book is written in a lively style, and includes much curious matter. He criticises the current schemes of spelling reform very acutely. Nearly all of them, he says, suffer from the defect of seeking to represent all the sounds of English by the present alphabet. This he calls“one more reshuffle of a prehistoric pack, one more attempt to deal out 26 cards to some 40 players.” [back]

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