What is Phonetic Spelling?

Spelling is how we put words together, but what is phonetic spelling? An alternate way to create words? Well, yes!

Phonetic spelling vs. phonetic pronunciation

Phonetic spelling is the representation of vocal sounds which express pronunciations of words. It is a system of spelling in which each letter represents invariably the same spoken sound. Some schools may use phonetic pronunciations to help children learn the spelling of difficult words, for instance, WEDNESDAY = Wed Nes Day.

Phonemes vs. graphemes

Phonetic spelling constitutes an alteration of ordinary spelling that better represents the spoken language, that employs only characters of the regular alphabet, and that is used in a context of conventional spelling. A phonetic orthography is a writing system where there is a one-to-one relation between graphemes (the written form) and phonemes (the spoken form).

Examples are “Esperanto” and the “International Phonetic Alphabet,” which is used to describe pronunciations in some dictionaries, and that used by airplane pilots to communicate. The latter, for the US is: A-Alpha, B-Bravo, C-Charlie, D-Delta, E-Echo, F-Foxtrot, G-Golf, H-Hotel, I-India, J-Juliet, K-Kilo, L-Lima, M-Mike, N-November, O-Oscar, P-Papa, Q-Quebec, R-Romeo, S-Sierra, T-Tango, U-Uniform, V-Victor, W-Whisky, X-X-ray, Y-Yankee, Z-Zulu.

Spelling reform

There have been numerous attempts to launch spelling reform in English, but the last person to have any success was Noah Webster. He recommended a small number of standardized spellings which differed from the British English of the day, and many of Webster’s suggestions are still in use in American English. Creating a phonemic orthography for English would be impossible, as pronunciations differ far too much.

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