Principles of English spelling formation
Citation:RYAN, DES, Principles of English spelling formation, Trinity College Dublin.School of Linguistic Speech & Comm Sci, 2018
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Studies of English spelling have primarily focussed on correspondences between spelling and sound among core, standard spellings. Segmental-level correspondences have been examined in detail (Venezky 1970, Cummings 1988, Carney 1994, Rollings 2004), while recent work shows that English spellings also encode supra-segmental information (Evertz and Primus 2013, Evertz 2014). An outstanding problem is the degree to which morphemic spelling is applied across the system (c.f. Venezky 1970: 120; Carney 1994: 18). Berg et al. (2014) observe that the spelling of affixes is more stable than the spelling of bases, hence <profane> alternates with <profanity>, not *<profanety> or *<profaneity>. Yet none of these theories address in detail why certain spellings are chosen over others. This thesis examines how English spellings are formed, particularly where compromises are made in the representation of both morphological and phonological information. The primary focus is on the spelling of inflections, but also derivations, names and non-standard spellings. The study also examines how we know if a spelling is a good phonographic match for a word. Five principles of spelling formation are proposed. 1. Any-Spelling principle: All words must have some spelling. 2. Distinctiveness principle (DSTNCT): Different words should have different spellings. 3. Identity Preservation principle (IdP): Related words should have related spellings. Hence complex words take their spelling from the spellings of their subcomponents. 4. Phonographic Matching principle (PhM): A word?s spelling should represent its phonological form. 5. Invariance principle (INVRNC): Established spellings cannot be changed. The principles are manifested differently according to the category of word being spelt. Compound words adhere strongly to IdP. Regular inflections follow IdP by default, <jump, jumped, jumping>, but may involve PhM amendments, hence <dope, doped, doping> not <dope, *dopeed, *dopeing>. Affixed derivatives show similar patterns, <mode, modal>, regardless of stress-shifting, <origin, original>, while etymological influences complicate the picture, <possible, probable>. DSTNCT sometimes differentiates lexical homophones. <flour>, <flower>, but it is common among certain names, <Webb>, <Blu Tac>, <OutKast>. Non-standard spellings violate INVRNC by definition, and the conditions for spelling variation arise in part due to phonological changes. Abbreviations frequently obey IdP, e.g. <a.k.a.>, but clippings may not, <telly>, <fridge>. Etymological spelling is deemed to be an example of IdP, either among unchanged base forms, <macchiato>, or adapted polymorphemic words, <philosophy>. This re-assessment helps to solve the long-standing problem of how to integrate etymological spelling into synchronic theories of spelling. A flexible unit of spelling, the complex pleremic unit, is identified and it accounts for IdP?s various manifestations. Native, monomorphemic base forms are not examined in detail as the priority is how new and complex words are spelt. This method is taken from word-formation studies (Marchand 1969, Bauer 1983, Plag 2003). The initial model of spelling formation assumes that polymorphemic words obey IdP by default, but that PhM amendments can be made, where necessary, if possible. The second iteration builds on Evertz?s (2014) graphematic hierarchy to show how unsatisfactory spellings can be identified by comparing spelling and phonology at all hierarchical levels, including phonemes, syllables, and feet. The third iteration shows how Optimality Theory can be used to explain how one imperfect spelling, e.g. <doped>, can be chosen over an even less perfect spelling, *<dopeed>. Two further applications arise from the model: the pronunciation of many polysyllabic words can be predicted from the spelling with greater accuracy; and a path is provided by which spelling pronunciation can be predicted from potential ambiguities in decoding.
Irish Research Council (IRC)
Author: RYAN, DES
Publisher:Trinity College Dublin. School of Linguistic Speech & Comm Sci. C.L.C.S.
Type of material:Thesis
Availability:Full text available