Spelling and Reading in English

The reeder wil obzerv that the orthography of the volume iz not uniform. The reezon iz, that many of the essays hav been published before, in the common orthography, and it would hav been a laborious task to copy the whole, for the sake of changing the spelling.

In the essays ritten within the last yeer, a considerable change of spelling iz introduced by way of experiment. This liberty waz taken by the writers before the age of queen Elizabeth, and to this we are indeted for the preference of modern spelling over that of Gower and Chaucer. The man who admits that the change of housoonde, mynde, ygone, moneth into husband, mind, gone, month, iz an improovment, must acknowlege also the riting of helth, breth, rong, tung, munth, to be an improovment. There iz no alternativ. Every possible reezon that could ever be offered for altering the spelling of wurds, still exists in full force; and if a gradual reform should not be made in our language, it wil proove that we are less under the influence of reezon than our ancestors.

The above quote is from Noah Webster’s Preface to his 1790 publication, A Collection of Essays and Fugitiv [sic] Writings.  Thanks to J. Bell who pointed this one out on his Boston 1775 blog.  It caught my eye because I’d just read, a few days ago, Anushka Asthana’s piece on the problems of learning to read English as it is spelled, “English is too hard for children to read.”  Of course, this isn’t new. Check out  George Bernard Shaw’s view of the matter.  Or, for that matter, Mark Twain.

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