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Have you had enough (or enuf) trouble spelling to make you want to scream (or skreem?) You are not alone. Since the 17th Century, scholars have been protesting the irregularities that occur in English spelling. Reform movements can boast such iconic English-speaking figures Samuel Johnson, Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, and Theodore Roosevelt. English is currently the most widely-spoken language on the planet, yet it is the only language among the top ten most spoken that lacks an official regulatory academy to approve spelling.

One of the problems that spellers face is the diverse origin of English words. German, Latin, French, and Greek are all common sources, and each follows a different set of rules for spelling. Even within any one of these languages, it’s impossible to guarantee internal consitency; when these systems mix together helter skelter, one ends up with English orthography.

Students of the SAT know that memorizing the Latin roots of English words is a great way to expand vocabulary, but most Latin-rooted words entered English usage from French after the Norman Conquest of the 11th Century. The British English spelling of colour and centre are vestiges of this relationship. The Normans replaced French as the language of the court, throwing Old English, a Germanic language, out of official usage for 300 years.

By the time English was again allowed at court, it was a French-infused Middle English. Geoffrey Chaucer is a great example of English spelling and pronunciation at this awkward phase. In fact, there was no set form for spelling – there are sentences in The Canterbury Tales in which the same word is spelled differently. This was no fault of Chaucer’s; he was simply following the spelling of the moment.

Our current spelling of words dates to the typical pronunciation of the 15th Century, when technology effectively froze English orthography (writing.) The use of the printing press and mass distribution of books for the first time standardized the spelling of words through repetition. Taking into account the variant spelling of Anglo-Saxon words and the French-influenced Latin, English orthography did not respond to contemporary pronunciation, but to the word’s country of origin.

Now the story gets a little tricky. Between 1450 and 1750, English pronunciation went through what linguists call the Great Vowel Shift. How English speakers spoke evolved, yet the letters used to represent the words they spoke remained static.

Some advocates of English spelling reform argue that replacing words with more phonetically accurate letter combinations will enhance literacy. However readers often experience difficulty in fluency when they first approach works written in dialect, such as Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. While the dialect rounds out the characters of the stories, the difficulty reinforces arguments against spelling reform – whose pronunciation is chosen as the “correct” pronunciation that spelling should be modeled for?

Others argue that, while it may at first be difficult, English spelling leaves plenty of keys to unlocking the history and etymology of words, helping readers understand not only the phonetic foundation but also semantic heritage of a word. What do you think? Should English try to “fix” the spelling of words?

FORECASTERS USING NEW WEB TOOL TO CALCULATE SNOW RATIOS

Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society April 1, 2005 | Anonymous Predicting exactly how much snow will fall in a given storm is a challenge for forecasters. They first must estimate how much liquid the storm will produce and then convert to snow amounts using a snow ratio, the amount of water that results from melting a certain depth of snow. Because this ratio can vary widely, from 3:1 (3 inches of snow per inch of liquid water) up to 100:1, meteorologists give a range of amounts in their forecasts. go to website debt to income ratio calculator

A better way of calculating snow ratios, however, using the Internet, is making snowfall prediction a little easier on NWS forecasters this winter. They now can go on the Web and obtain a snow ratio in minutes knowing just a few parameters.

Paul Roebber, professor of mathematical science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and one of his students, Sara Bruening, came up with the improved method of predicting snow ratios. It was peer reviewed and appeared in the April 2003 issue of Weather and Forecasting.

They first applied a statistical process involving artificial neural networks (ANN), which create computer simulations within a “brain-like” system of interconnected processing units. Although ANNs have seen only limited use in meteorology, Roebber believed the system could take into account the many variables that snow-ratio prediction involves. see here debt to income ratio calculator

“I’ve always been interested in neural networks and had wanted to try using it in a forecast project,” Roebber says. “This seemed like the perfect opportunity to try it out.” He is currently collecting cases that will verify the strengths and weaknesses of the system. In one case, John Else at the Sullivan, Wisconsin, NWS office wrote that Roebber’s method gave a 13:1 ratio for a storm on 6 January, which equated to 6 or 7 inches of snow; the actual amount that fell was 7 inches.

One downside, forecasters admit, is that the method calculates too broad a range of ratios to be truly effective. “Forecasters already know what it’s going to say,” says Jeff Waldstreicher, deputy chief of the NWS Eastern Region Scientific Services Division. “But it does help” by verifying quantitatively what forecasters are independently inferring from the models, he says.

The Web page hosting the snow ratio calculator explains to the user what to expect, and then walks through the process to obtain a snow ratio. It also tells users that it was designed as an informal collaboration between the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Grand Forks, North Dakota, office of the NWS, and remains a research “test-bed”-although it is gaining wider use among forecasters.

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230 Comments

  1. Lisa -  May 25, 2013 - 4:45 am

    The first to reply “Matthew Hayes” had such atrocious spelling it had to be a set up. It’s amusing to see Americans advocating for no change to the English language spelling. America has ripped apart the spelling of English. Nite instead of Night, inquiry instead of enquiry, almost every word containing s in it replaced by z e.g. (that means for example), customize instead of customise, center instead of centre. blond instead of blonde etc. etc.(that means etcetera which means more) and I won’t bore you with others. North America is dumbing (see the “b”) down the entire English language.

    Reply
    • Nayeli -  April 16, 2014 - 7:02 pm

      The article itself goes through how English has changed radically throughout the centuries in order to even get to the “English” of the UK, and then you go and piss on the changes it has gone through in America? It seems the point has been missed.

      Reply
  2. LEX -  April 21, 2013 - 7:21 pm

    Here’s a link to an explanation of words spelled with the trigraph ‘ugh’ — it’s not at all random. In fact, the patterns that govern using ‘ugh’ are actually quite orderly and coherent, and I find them to be captivating:

    http://linguisteducatorexchange.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/nough-said/

    Also, here are a couple of short TED-Ed videos about why English spelling isn’t random, but makes perfect sense:

    http://ed.ted.com/lessons/beyond-the-shadow-of-a-doubt-gina-cooke

    and

    http://ed.ted.com/lessons/making-sense-of-spelling-gina-cooke

    I hope you enjoy them!

    Reply
  3. Nekkocite aka Faith Kendall -  April 1, 2013 - 8:23 pm

    @Jessica: The english language is awful! It is too random, mix-macted, with rules that are either ill defined or to restrictive. Let not even mention who there are a few words that are just down right ugly and don’t do what they are trying to describe any justice.

    That said, I am all for reforming our language and possibly language in general…But we might not have to. It may already be happening as as we comment. They introduction of the internet and the information age as causing massive amounts of cultural exchange, albeit sometimes the context is lost or change (but no bother thats evolution) , that is causing the emergence of new ways of speaking and scribing.

    I, and not only I, have noticed that with txting and emoticons becoming more common place that english is developing into more of a hypermodern japonic language (as apposed to germanic) with increased use (and intuitive understanding that breaks conventional roles) of symbolism, complex noise mimicking, gesturing and regular use of metaphor and allusion to fill in for moments where we lack the proper terminology due to either ignorance, mental fogging, or cognitive rewiring (possibly a product of a chaotic and sophisticated consumer culture).

    It not difficult to foresee a decade soon where how we communicate has changed dramatically because of technology and social paradigm shifts. Imagine a complex mixture of kanji-esq + intuitive symbols and lettering (reminiscent of a video game HUD floating in augmented space) while we simultaneously use a mixture words, sound effects, text messages, photos, enhanced chemical and emotional signals thru BCI’s and highly expressive body language.

    My fav part about this evolution is that in a post-industrial and interconnected world saturated in information…if, and this is key, all of that info is managed properly and efficiently distributed to the public in real real-time…written and formal language almost becomes obsolete. What you are left with is a plethora of diverse dialects based of off location and sub-culture that are all easily and effectively inter-translatable, if not with the help of AI or Complex Computing, almost intuitively.

    Reply
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