Regularized Inglish: theory

I see I promised to post on Regularized Inglish (RI) back in 2005, but never got around to it. Here's a brief explanation.

Axel Wijk's Regularized Inglish is a massive multi-decade job (completed in the 1950s, so there's nothing available online about it) of analyzing practically every word in the language, figuring out what the complicated rules behind the spelling system really are, and identifying all the truly irregular words and proposing properly rule-governed spellings for them. English, e.g. is truly irregular in its first vowel only, and so it becomes Inglish.

The underlying principle of RI is that every spelling shall correspond to at most a few sounds, preferably only one; multiple spellings for a single sound, however, are tolerated. Thus -ough is kept for bough, but not for rough, through, plough, hiccough, hough, or borough. Why choose bough? In order to consistently apply the RI rule that says "gh has no effect on the pronunciation of any word".

In my opinion, Wijk goes a bit far in a few places: for example, he introduces dh for the sound of th in father in other than initial positions (the, not dhe) for very little gain; he sorts out long "a" into a as in fat and "aa" as in father; he changes s to z when pronounced that way, except in the plural of nouns (not nounz)and the third-person singular ending of verbs. I wouldn't bother with any of these changes, which have little impact on being able to pronounce words at sight.

But as reformed (not revolutionized) spellings go, RI is a Great Thing.


Lars Marius Garshol said...

English is definitely a language in need of a spelling reform, and I find this Regularized Inglish (which I've never heard of before) very interesting, even if it will never catch on.

What I find particularly interesting is that, judging from the wordlists in the next post, RI has reverted English from its messed-up vowel sounds to the standard vowel sounds used in nearly all other languages based on Latin characters.

That alone, IMHO, would make the changeover worth it. I think it would be much easier for native English speakers to learn another language if they didn't always feel that the pronunciation of these other languages were "weird". Of course, it's English that's weird, but if that's what you learned first...

John Cowan said...

Glad to hear from you, Lars Marius.

No, Regularized Inglish does not revise vowels to the Continental standard: cheese is still spelled cheese, not chiz or chiiz or whatever. The principle is that whichever is the most common sound for a given spelling is adopted, and all uses of that spelling that represent different sounds are changed. (Vowels still have short and long values). So the English long o can still be written using o with or without final e, or oe, or ow, or ou, or ough.