Friday, November 24, 2006

Truespel vs IPA part II

Mr Zurinskas says that he wants

a simple notation of the 40 USA English sounds that kids and adults can use to achieve "phonemic awareness".... They can read and write stories in first grade, and transition to tradspel is no problem as demonstrated by IBM's Writing to Read system as tested by ETS. But that system uses special symbols, not as simple as truespel.

If simplicity is what he's going for it must be noted that "truespel"'s allegiance to the alphabet makes it more complex than the IPA where representations are consistent and some dialectal variation is easily accounted for by representing phonemes instead of allophones. I take it he wants something to mimic American orthography. But he wants it to represent pronunciation consistently. I don't know much about IBM's "Writing to Read" program. It involves listening and reading stations and computer programs, using sound and feedback to direct and provide feedback on a learner's reading and writing. I don't know about the "special symbols" that it uses. I will make no claims comparing this system to "truespel."

But Zurinskas apparently has intentions beyond his attempt to debunk the current phonics curriculum. He has put together 4 books on his system and calls it his "life's work."

It integrates the dictionary...with initial teaching of reading..., and eventually translation guides to other languages. No other notation can do this.

Based on his last claim I must assume he is urging his campaign against the IPA. Of course the IPA can transcribe any language only but at the dear expense of integration with the dictionary. But I wonder how "truespel" is supposed to translate into other languages. Because the system is limited by its reliance on standard AmE orthography it can only capture AmE phonemes. How will he capture the difference between Spanish pero - but, and perro - dog? How will he transcribe a front round vowel in German flügel? How will he capture the phonemic difference between an aspirated or unaspirated stop? English does not have these.

"Truespel" cannot capture non-English phonemes unless it provides system of redundant vowels or symbols as diacritics. Will double and triple letters start creeping in? Will the dollar sign start to represent a sound? This system already uses doubled consonants to indicate phonemic stress in a word so that "attack" is transcribed "~uttak" and "implore" is transcribed "~impllor." (Mr Zurinskas has decided to use the tilde as the marker of his transcription system.) So "truespel" would represent that tasty drink, the hot toddy "~haatttaadee"? This would become the equivalent of Ptolemaic deferents and epicycles attempting to take back the astronomical model of the universe.


All quotes and examples are taken from either American Dialect Society LISTSERV postings or the website.

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