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SoundSpel is an English-language spelling reform proposal. Its origins date back to 1910.[1]

SoundSpel has been endorsed by the American Literacy Council[2] because English speakers can easily read it.[3]



Phonemes are represented as follows, with nearest possible International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) equivalent.[4]

Notation IPA Example
a /æ/ sat
e /ɛ/ set
i /ɪ/ did
o /ɒ/ dot
u /ʌ/ cut
Notation IPA Example
ae /eɪ/ sundae
ee /iː/ see
ie /aɪ/ die
oe /oʊ/ toe
ue /juː/ cue
Notation IPA Example
ar /ɑːr/ bar
er /ɜːr, ər/ merger
or /ɔːr/ for
Notation IPA Example
arr /ær/ marry
err /ɛr/ cherry
orr /ɒr/ sorry
Notation IPA Example
air /ɛər/ air
aa /ɑː/ alm
eer /iːr/ beer
oo /uː/ moon
uu /ʊ/ guud
oi /ɔɪ/ coin
ou/ow /aʊ/ out
au/aw /ɔː/ saw
ur /ʊər/ tour
uer /jʊər/ cure
Notation IPA Example
b /b/ bat
c/k /k/ cat, kit
ch /tʃ/ chat
d /d/ did
f /f/ fat
g /ɡ/ gag
h /h/ hat
j /dʒ/ jet
l /l/ let
m /m/ met
n /n/ net
ng /ŋ/ singing
nk /ŋk/ ink
p /p/ pep
q /kw/ quake
r /ɹ/ red
s /s/ set
sh /ʃ/ shed
t /t/ tot
th /θ/ thin
th /ð/ this
v /v/ van
w /w/ war
wh /ʍ/ why
x /ks/ box
y /j/ yes
z /z/ zoo
zh /ʒ/ azure

Exceptions and other differences[edit]

U, meaning "you", is capitalized.
Common words
There is no change in the words was, as, of, the, he, she, me, we, be, do, to, and off. Words derived from these (such as being, together, and thruout) also remain unchanged. Words ending in -ful remain unchanged.
Word-final S
There is no change in the plural suffix -s (as in jobs), the possessive suffix -'s (as in man's), and in the third person present singular verb suffix -s (as in he runs), even though in all these cases the s is sometimes pronounced [z].
"Th" digraph
There is no change in the digraph th, even though it can be pronounced as voiced [ð] or unvoiced [θ]. Similarly the letter x is retained for both voiced [gz] and unvoiced [ks]. The reason may be that unvoiced occurrences outnumber the voiced 5 to 1,[citation needed] and words normally calling for a voiced x are understood even if pronounced unvoiced.
There are usually no changes in the spelling of short (schwa) vowels in the unstressed syllables of words like organ, novel, pencil, and lemon, unless the spelling would otherwise indicate an overpronunciation of the word (as in mountain).
Depending on its position in the word or root, the unstressed "half ee" (as in between, detect, reform, champion, editorial, hapyer, and fifty) continues to be spelled as e, i, or y.
Double "rr"
As in traditional orthography, indicates that the preceding vowel is short (as in carry, merry, and sorry).
Double ll
Indicates that the preceding a is pronounced /ɔː/, as in fall, tall, and call.
Word-final O and I
The long o or long i sound at the end of a word may be written with a single letter, as in banjo, go, so, alibi, hi, fli, mi (but banjoes, alibieing, flies, etc., since the vowel is no longer at the end of the word).
Ambiguous syllable breaks
A hyphen following a vowel unambiguously separates a long vowel from another vowel following, as in re-enter and co-operate.
False diphthongs
If two vowels—such as ea—do not match a digraph on the SoundSpel chart, then the syllable ends with the first vowel: react (ea is not a digraph), jeenius, memorial, creaetiv. In cases of more than two vowels the syllable ends with the first digraph: flooid (oo, being the first digraph, ends the syllable—it is not flo-oid), hieest, freeing, inueendo, power, continueing, paeabl, evalueaet.[5]


The Star by Herbert George Wells[edit]

It was on the ferst dae of the nue yeer the anounsment was maed, allmoest siemultaeniusly frum three obzervatorys, that the moeshun of the planet Neptune, the outermoest of all planets that wheel about the Sun, had becum verry erratic. A retardaeshun in its velosity had bin suspected in Desember. Then a faent, remoet spek of liet was discuverd in the reejon of the perterbd planet. At ferst this did not cauz eny verry graet exsietment. Sieentific peepl, however, found the intelijens remarkabl enuf, eeven befor it becaem noen that the nue body was rapidly groeing larjer and brieter, and that its moeshun was qiet different frum the orderly progres of the planets.

Britten when yung by Frank Kermode[edit]

We mae nowadaes be chairy about uezing the werd "jeenius", but we stil hav a guud iedeea whut is ment bi it. For exampl, thair ar graet numbers of verry gifted muezishans hoo ar admierd but not calld jeeniuses. But thair ar uthers, manifestly prodijus, performing offen at extraordinerrily erly aejes, a varieety of feets so complex that the muezical laeman cuud hardly imajin, eeven with the moest desperet laebor, accomplishing eny of them, whiel eeven muezishans ar astonisht and we then reech for the guud, handy, vaeg Enlietenment werd and call them jeeniuses. The list incloods Mozart and Mendelssohn; and, despiet all the limiting jujments, it incloods Benjamin Britten. [6]

Oed to a Nietingael by John Keats[edit]

Mie hart aeks, and a drouzy numnes paens
Mie sens, as tho of hemlok I had drunk,
Or empteed sum dul oepiaet to the draens
Wun minit past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not thru envy of thi hapy lot,
But beeing too hapy in thien hapynes,
That thow, liet-winged Dryad of the trees,
In sum meloedius plot
Of beechen green, and shadoes numberles
Singest of sumer in fuul-throeted eez.


In 1910 philologist Alexander John Ellis played a major role in developing a system now known as "Classic New Spelling". Walter Ripman and William Archer wrote the first dictionary of the system, "New Spelling" (NuSpelling), which was republished in 1941 by the Simplified Spelling Society.[2]

In 1969 Godfrey Dewey improved upon Ripman's and Archer's work, producing "World English Spelling". Dewey and Edward Rondthaler, a prominent typesetter, CEO of International Typeface Corporation, corresponded from 1971.

In 1986 the book "Dictionary of Simplified American Spelling" written by Rondthaler and Edward Lias was published by the American Language Academy. Its full title was "Dictionary of American spelling: A simplified alternative spelling for the English language : written as it sounds, pronounced as it's written". This called for improvements to spelling, with clearer rules and better grapheme/ phoneme correspondence. It was slightly less strict than Classic New Spelling, allowing "the" rather than "dhe", for example.

The system was further reformed from 1987 on and became SoundSpel.

Advantages and disadvantages[edit]


Compared to other proposals
  • Does not introduce any new symbols, thus making it compatible with the current (QWERTY) keyboard.
  • Relies upon familiar digraphs.
  • Does not assign unusual notations for sounds (ex. using q for the ng sound), except for 'uu' and 'zh'.
  • Does not introduce diacritical marks (such as accents), which are generally not favored in English-speaking countries.[7][8]
  • Does not dramatically change the appearance of existing words.
  • Is easier to learn, and especially easier to read, for those who are familiar with traditional English spelling, than other systems, such as those mentioned above.
Shared with other proposals
  • Improves consistency of writing. This would reduce learning time and reading difficulties, compared to those of traditional English spelling.
  • Also promotes more precise pronunciation in speech.[9]
  • Generally decreases text length by about 4%.[10]


  • SoundSpel is only one of many English spelling reform proposals. There is no agreement on what proposal, if any, should be adopted.
  • Those already familiar with traditional spelling would need to learn a new system if it became the standard.
  • A large proportion of words have their spellings altered, even those whose current spellings seem regular enough; such as words in which vowel lengthening is identified by a silent e, they are respelled using SoundSpel's digraphs ending in ⟨e⟩ so that the silent e appears to switch place with the preceding consonant (e.g. remote becomes remoet, name becomes naem, and hope become hoep).
  • Compromises and rule exceptions*above make SoundSpel more difficult to learn than it would be if it were a purely phonetic system. Learning to write it directly would especially require effort, unless computer software is used as an aid.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rondthaler,Edward, "Personal View 8" (Background of the Notation) Archived 2007-01-07 at the Wayback Machine,, accessed May 16, 2008.
  2. ^ a b Rondthaler,Edward, "A Brief History of Efforts to Simplify English Spelling",, accessed May 16, 2008.
  3. ^ a b Rondthaler,Edward, "Personal View 8" (Answers to Specific Questions) Archived 2007-01-07 at the Wayback Machine #10,, accessed May 29, 2008.
  4. ^ Rondthaler, Edward, "Personal View 8" (The SoundSpel (TM) Notation System) Archived 2007-01-07 at the Wayback Machine,, accessed May 16, 2008.
  5. ^ Rondthaler,Edward, "Personal View 8" (Answers to Specific Questions) Archived 2007-01-07 at the Wayback Machine #5, 6 & 7,, accessed May 16, 2008.
  6. ^ Frank Kermode Britten When Young
  7. ^ Horne, Scott, "Accents and other diacritical marks in English",, accessed June 7, 2008.
  8. ^ Bear, Jacci Howard, "Accent Marks Using Diacriticals in Desktop Publishing",, accessed June 7, 2008.
  9. ^ Rondthaler,Edward, "Personal View 8" (Answers to Specific Questions) Archived 2007-01-07 at the Wayback Machine #4,, accessed May 16, 2008.
  10. ^ Rondthaler,Edward, "Personal View 8" (Answers to Specific Questions) Archived 2007-01-07 at the Wayback Machine #9,, accessed May 16, 2008.

External links[edit]