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    Re: Mid XIX century? Nav
    From: Frank Reed CT
    Date: 2005 Nov 22, 01:08 EST

    Bruce you wrote:
    "As a poor speller I've  always felt that our alphabet is a poor fit to our
    language. It doesn't seem to  fit Japanese, Chinese, or Hawaiian any better. "
    In defense of the  western alphabet ( it's a tough job --somebody's gotta
    do it!), the  alphabet used to write down English and other western European
    languages is  beautifully suited to writing down Japanese, Chinese, and a
    surprisingly large  collection of other languages. And in fact, "spelling" these
    languages in the  western alphabet, once you've learned a small handful of
    rules, is completely  trivial --literally child's play. In a great many languages,
    the verb "to spell"  does not exist, and a "spelling bee" would seem like a
    The English  language is relatively unique in that it is composed of archaic,
    fossilized  spellings that once upon a time represented the real
    pronunciation. Consider the  word "eight". Centuries ago, it was pronounced more or less
    the way it's spelled  today (with the rule that "gh" represented something like
    the sound in German  "acht"). Over time, the pronunciation evolved, but the
    writing did not. A large  number of the weird "silent letters" that we deal
    with in English originate this  way. Also, English has a rich sound structure
    with lots of sounds that are  represented by pairs of letter or not represented
    at all in spelling. By  contrast, some languages have very sparse sound
    systems. Japanese and Finnish  are good examples of this. To write English
    effectively, we really ought to have  about fifteen to twenty more letters (I say this
    only in principle --it would  never happen). But you can write down Japanese
    and Finnish with fewer letters  than the usual 26 in our alphabet, and nearly
    every word is pronounced exactly  the way it's written.
    42.0N 87.7W, or 41.4N  72.1W.

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