LINGUIST List 6.1096

Mon Aug 14 1995

FYI: Re: 6.1094, Phonemicity of writing

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. Peter Daniels, Re: 6.1094, Qs: Phonemicity of writing

Message 1: Re: 6.1094, Qs: Phonemicity of writing

Date: Sun, 13 Aug 1995 16:28:05 Re: 6.1094, Qs: Phonemicity of writing
From: Peter Daniels <>
Subject: Re: 6.1094, Qs: Phonemicity of writing

This is stimulated by Richard Sproat's query about "phonemic" orthog-
raphy, but presents an opportunity for a bibliographical notice. To
answer the question directly, the number of languages with a "phonemic"
orthography approaches zero.

Once in a while a spelling reform is imposed (e.g. in Czech or Dutch--
though since the Dutch seem to keep doing it, they apparently don't
get it right), and for a generation or two, orthography might be as
regular as the language planners intended. But language changes,
spelling doesn't, so orthography soon diverges from pronunciation.

Very troubling is the use of the term "grapheme" as if it had a meaning
- whereas "phoneme" is apologized for! Please see my article in 18th
LACUS Forum (1991) with subsequent deiscussion in 21st LACUS Forum (1994).

A survey along the lines of what R. Sproat requests will be avbailable
toward the end of the year, when The World's Writing Systems, edited by
me and William Bright, will be published by Osxford University Press.
The focus is on how the writing systems of the world encode the phonolo-
gies of the major languages that use them.

Members of the LSA received a mailing about the book, which offered a
prepublication discount price of $100, available until 31 August. I urge
you to take advantage of it! I have known for about a week that the book
has 894 pages plus front matter and index, so the price is pretty reason-
able, as such thinkgs go. (Regular price is currently set at $125.)
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue