building a phon'emic alphabet for the english language:
outline of a methodology, using yur26 as the benchmark

by ken goodwin


this paper outlines a method of ev'olving an alphabet which resp'ects the current sounds used in pronunci'ation and refl'ects those sounds, unamb'iguously, in spelling words cont'aining them.. the aim is to be able to accurately spell any word, based only on the pronunci'ation there'of, and vice versa.. this outl'ine is a broad descr'iption of issues to be overc'ome and sugg'ested means of doing so, rather than a full method'ology.. it is int'ended to guide a reader, ie a would-be ref'ormer, in his/her thinking, rather than prov'ide a compl'ete descr'iption of all the detail requ'ired to dev'elop a system from scratch

as the method'ology progr'esses, it is ex'emplified by reference to a phon'emic spelling system called yurabet26, or yur26 for short.. yur26 claims to be able to squeeze the sounds, inh'erent in the english language, into the ex'isting 26 letters of the alphabet (symbols) on a 1sound/1symbol basis.. to ach'ieve this, only core sounds (phonemes) are used and regional dialects which have ad'apted these core sounds to local cultures are disc'arded.. to do otherwise would be to att'empt to displ'ay all sounds within a single alphabet, which would have made the exercise impr'actical and the alphabet too cumbersome.. thus, the system used is phon'emic, rather than phon'etic.. yur26 focuses, as one would exp'ect, on core dialects, ie mainstream am'erican and mainstream british english; it doesn't favour either

the system is appl'icable to other europ'ean languages, but the present paper limits explan'ation to its english applic'ation.. occ'asional references to other europ'ean languages are made in the context of relevance to english, to supp'ort or slarify a part'icular issue.. suff'ice it to state that yur26 doubles up as a europ'ean phon'emic alphabet (yurop'iyan fon'emik alphabet - yfa), with minimum language-spec'ific adapt'ation, being:

  1. the def'ault or regular loc'ation of the stressed vowel and
  2. faithful refl'ection of the mainstream phon'ology in each language

yur26 was dev'eloped on a trial and error basis, over many years.. on refl'exion, and knowing the final result of yur26, i am able to go back to square 1 and set out a logical means of dev'eloping a phon'emic spelling system, requ'iring a fraction of the time that i took to dev'elop yur26.. the combin'ation of 1sound/1symbol and the 26 letter alphabet can be summarized as 1-1-26.. this combin'ation is fundam'ental to the method'ology of des'igning a phon'emic spelling system, as descr'ibed in the following passages.. the method'ology is, therefore, only appl'icable to any aim of a would-be ref'ormer which satisfies the preset 1-1-26 cond'ition.. i re'iterate that the use of yur26 is to conv'eniently ex'emplify features of 1-1-26; a would-be ref'ormer would need to take his/her own dec'isions on the format of these features, as the dev'elopment of his/her method'ology ev'olves and progr'esses

about the author

i am not a prof'essional linguist, but have had years of exp'osure to a number of europ'ean languages.. i was motivated to look into the phon'etic an'omalies of english, part'icularly when comp'ared to other europ'ean languages which use the same alphabet and enj'oy other lingu'istic simil'arities, incl'uding many common sound/symbol matches .. my focus has been on simpl'icity and phon'emic logic (matching sound with symbol on a 1-for-1 basis).. i hope my exp'erience will be useful to those who asp'ire to ref'orm english spelling for the benefit of future gener'ations

features used in this paper, which are commonly av'ailable to ts transcriptions and spelling ref'orm system:

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