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 a system of spelling in which each letter represents one spoken sound. In English, some words are pronounced exactly as they look. But many others follow rules that aren’t obvious at first glance. When T is used to spell tiger, it is assigned one sound. Simple, right? Well, we all know English is not that simple. Pairing T with H creates a new sound: th-. The T takes on a new pronunciation. Further, there is a difference in how the th- sound is pronounced, as in this and thin. The one spelling does not correlate to only one pronunciation.

phonetic pronunciation is the pronunciation of a word based on how it sounds not how it looks. For example, graduating students are often asked to write the phonetic pronunciation of their names, so they can be pronounced correctly at a commencement ceremony.

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 phonemic orthography is a writing system where there is a one-to-one relation between graphemes (the written form) and phonemes (the spoken form).

Esperanto is one example of a true phonemic orthography. Its creator followed the principle of “one letter, one sound.”

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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