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FAQ About AKSES and
objekshunz doo pēpul hav too AKSES?
- Isn't AKSES just a new name for an old idea that
failed to work when tried before?
seems the same as i.t.a.(initial teaching alphabet). Are
there any differences?
- Isn't phoneme
another term for sounds in spoken words?
- Is AKSES
a kind of spelling reform?
- Do you
visualize standardized spelling for the AKSES Writing System?
- Some English
words sound the same but are spelled differently. Does AKSES
show these differences?
writing looks weird. Doesn't that make it hard to
- Which English speech pattern [dialect] is AKSES
designed to represent?
- How do
children who learn AKSES gain access to all past written
suggests that the brains of at least 20% of humanity are
"wired" in a manner that interferes with the translation of printed
words into phonemes. Does AKSES deal with this?
- Spelling is
said to support "visual representation of meaning", an
example of the "semantic demand upon the spelling system."
Does AKSES have a comparable quality?
- Children are
said to respond well from K-4 to reading "phonetically
regular" text. Doesn't that provide the same literacy as AKSES
without resorting to a different orthography?
- Doesn't the
public oppose AKSES in the same way it has rejected most other
changes in spelling?
- Won't AKSES
create chaos in English as linguists and literary experts predict?
librarian asks: Must we throw away all our lovely old books or
will we keep 2 sets, "regular" ones for educated people and new
ones for those who learn "natural writing"? (The implication: AKSES-trained
people will have inferior education.)
- Why use 2
or more letters to represent some phonemic characters?
bē serprīzd bī sum uv ŧhu anserz.
Responses to Questions
- Never before
(to my knowledge) have the several concepts that comprise the AKSES writing
system been assembled into a single viable proposal with experimental
validation of its major components. The key concept, that written
words be represented by psychological word elements (phonemic content),
is fairly modern (ca.1879, Kruszewski and De Courtenay).
Traditional orthography represents written words as a conventional
arrangement of letters (spelling) in accordance with literary authorities.
AKSES represents the word-elements (phonemes) of oral English as a conventional
set of written symbols (phonemic characters). Spellings are
randomly related to the elements of spoken words, so conventional writing
is not "natural" and is therefore difficult to learn.
Phonemic writing is directly related to the elements of spoken words, so AKSES
"feels" natural to children and is easy to learn. Back to Questions.
- AKSES is fundamentally different
from i.t.a. It is NOT a temporary teaching tool. It
IS a complete writing system that (like i.t.a.) is easy for
children to master but (unlike i.t.a.) takes the place of spelling to give
them access to written language throughout their lives. Back to Questions.
- Phonemes are NOT sounds, but are the
word-elements speech sounds convey. Phonemes are located in the
brain. Speech sounds carry information through the air from speaker
to audience. A speaker translates phonemic word-elements into nerve
signals that cause the speech organs to generate sequences of sounds, the
spoken words. A listener hears the sounds and translates the
auditory nerve signals back into word-elements, recognizing them as
remembered words. In short, phonemes enable the transmission
of word-thoughts from one person's mind into other people's minds. Back to Questions.
is NOT Reformed Spelling in any
sense of the term. It is a writing system based on
"phonemic" principles (relating to word elements). It
functions differently from conventional spelling which is based on the
"alphabetic principle." Words written in AKSES
are "hard copies" of spoken words; conventional writing
translates words into “spellingese.” Back to
does not need a "spelling system" in the same sense as
"conventional" spelling. Spelling is based on an "alphabetic
principle" - the sequence of letters in words according to written
usage by authorities, established by a lexicographer, and published in
a dictionary. Phonemic
writing is based on the "phonemic principle" - the sequence
of phonemic characters according to word elements as exhibited in standard
American speech, established by a lexicographer, and published in a
dictionary. Back to Questions.
- Two words
sound the same if they have the same phonemic content. Such words
are written identically in AKSES. Critics believe readers and
writers will find this behavior a serious problem. In fact, oral
miscommunication from this source is rare. A comparable criticism of
spelling is that some words are spelled the same, but are pronounced
differently. Such words are differentiated in AKSES but not
in spelling. A more pervasive "non-problem" for both
spelling and AKSES are the tens of thousands of English words
with multiple meanings. Logic tells us that each meaning is actually
represented by a different word even though pronounced and spelled
the same. Both writers and speakers handle this very common
problem by supplying contextual clues to a word's specific meaning. Back to Questions.
- Of course, phonemic written text looks
different because it is different. A spelling-trained
reader cannot at first glance find familiar word shapes to aid
quick "reading" by scanning the page. In fact, only about
1 in 6 words in running text is written in AKSES exactly the same
as it is spelled in TO. But more careful inspection reveals that
every phonemic word is easily decoded into a spoken word, demonstrating
the systematic nature of phonemic characters. When a reader gains
more experience reading phonemic text, the strangeness disappears as the
new forms of words become familiar sight words. Children who begin
reading with AKSES have no confusing spellings to dispel from their
minds. For this reason, they recognize and understand written forms
immediately on learning the corresponding oral words. Back to Questions.
characters of AKSES do not represent sounds; they represent
phonemic elements (see Answer 3.) Each person's speech habits cause
him or her to pronounce words a little differently. The differences,
usually small, are referred to as an
group of people in close and frequent communication develop speech
patterns having similarities. These
characteristics constitute a dialect. Differences among
dialects are often noticeable, but in only extreme cases do they cause
miscommunication. Listeners identify a speaker's idiolect and
dialect, filter them out as extraneous "noise," and
"hear" the phonemic components of the speaker's words.
extreme differences between dialects have nearly disappeared. Still,
some remaining differences suggest that speakers from different regions intend
to convey different phonemes in certain words. Much of this kind of
misunderstanding is caused by "inexpert" listening. For
example, people from southern states find that listeners from other
regions have difficulty distinguishing between certain words they speak
such as "pin" and "pen" although those who share their
dialect "hear" the appropriate word-elements. This is a
problem of spoken English, not written English. Both words happen to be
written in AKSES exactly the same as they are spelled. There
are a few words in some dialectics that contain elements (usually vowels)
that are different from standard
American usage. A lexicographer includes the alternative phonemic
patterns as "second choice" entry words if a significant
fraction of the population uses them. In TO dictionaries, similar
accommodations are made for words having more than one conventional
spelling. Back to Questions.
- Prominent literary and academic figures
always argue strenuously against proposed changes in written English.
The main objection, no matter how beneficial the proposal may seem, is
that future readers will not have access to materials written before the
change. Historically, great unplanned changes have taken place, yet
English prospers and continues to evolve. When children are taught
phonemic writing, publishers will reprint (in phonemic text) any existing
literary or informational materials for which demand develops.
Although the English language Chaucer used to write his 15th century poems
and Canterbury Tales is nearly indecipherable to the average reader
today, Chaucer's works are still assigned reading for college English
majors and are widely available in modern translations. Back
researchers postulate that language develops by neural connections
established in accordance with patterns and timetables preordained by an
individual's biological inheritance. An attractive extension of that
theory suggests that "the genes" create potential pathways that
provide individuals with a large but finite number of possible alternative
behaviors. An individual learns to speak by reinforcing and
combining available behaviors most "successful" in oral
communication. They become a person's "speech habits" (encoding
words to speech sounds and decoding other's speech to words.)
Learning spoken communication is "natural" because critical
aspects are spontaneous, self-directed adaptations of universally shared
human neural connections. AKSES permits an individual to develop
similar reading and writing habits, but in this case they link the
phonemic content of words to visual instead of aural sensory input and
hand coordination instead of vocal output. Learning phonemic writing
is as "natural" as speaking because it uses the types of neural
pathways already developed for speaking. "Mis-wired" brain
connections observed in dyslexic individuals are striking examples of
counterproductive reading and writing "habits" resulting from
unsuccessful attempts to teach the "alphabetic principle"
and “spellingese” Back to Questions.
- A favorite
defense of spelling is that it preserves the meanings of
words. In 1755, Samuel Johnson stated the basis for the spellings of
words in his dictionary: "...it was proper to inquire the true
orthography, which I have always considered as depending on derivation,
and have therefore referred to them in their original languages...."
Modern dictionaries follow his lead. Obviously, such references are
meaningless today except to scholars who are familiar with the meanings of
words at the time they were adopted for English use. (Note
that modern American dictionaries give authoritative etymological
information, something ordinary readers cannot surmise from
spellings.) A second defense is that spelling is necessary for
proper teaching of grammar. The forms of some parts of speech can
be derived by applying spelling rules to more "primitive" word
forms. However, like other English "rules", these are not
helpful to beginning readers and writers. Generic irregularities and
specific exceptions occur in such profusion that how and whether
a specific rule applies to a specific word in a specific situation must
always be known beforehand. Back to Questions.
spelling is phonetic. That is to say, the letters of our alphabet
stand for certain sounds...." The author of that dictionary
introduction was surely smiling broadly at his little joke.
According to the same dictionary, a (first letter in the alphabet)
"stands for" 7 of the total of 43 phonemic
"sounds." In some words, as many as 4 letters are needed
to spell one sound. In others, a letter makes no sound at all.
One K-4 teaching method avoids much of spelling's complexity by starting
reading instruction with words which involve only 70 of the estimated 251
"common" phonemic spellings. This "controlled-vocabulary"
text is relatively easier for children to read than text that randomly
includes oral vocabulary appropriate to grade level. Students so taught are
able to read carefully selected materials above traditional grade
levels. If the i.t.a. experience is any guide, much of the apparent
improvement disappears a few years later as students encounter the other
180 phonemic spellings they eventually must master to read material with
uncontrolled spelling content. AKSES permits children to read
and write all words in their oral vocabularies immediately after learning
the phonemic elements and the characters that represent them. If
Americans adopt AKSES as their writing system, children will learn
to read any word they see and write any word they can pronounce before
leaving 1st grade. From that time on, language instruction can
concentrate on developing vocabulary, reading comprehension, and
writing exposition, not on spelling. Back to
- The "public" is not aware that
writing systems exist that will eliminate the major cause of illiteracy in
Ideas that might have produced a phonemic writing system were discussed
about the time spelling was adopted, but phonemes were (incorrectly)
thought to be "speech sounds" and the proposals were labeled spelling
reform rather than written speech. Literary critics and
authors have always told the public that, without spelling, English would
degenerate into chaos. As difficult as spelling was for them to
learn as children, adults were unwilling to change from the spelling they
already knew to another kind that appeared equally difficult to
learn. The benefits touted for spelling reform - efficiency in
business communication, the savings of few pen strokes in writing, or
fewer pages for printed books and magazines - did not outweigh the
terrifying threat that everyone would have to relearn a different kind
of spelling. Today's public must be convinced that the AKSES
system of writing will actually permit every child to learn to read and
write in the first few months of schooling, no matter how incredible that
may seem. No one who adopts AKSES will have to
"spell" another word - EVER. They will simply know how to read and
write all words they master for speech.
Before they leave first grade, children will, in effect, learn
the relatively easy skill of "speaking" words on paper, and
"hearing" printed words with their eyes. If given these
facts, the American public predictably will endure a few minor short-term
inconveniences in order to give all future Americans access to literacy. Back to Questions.
language critics and intellectual figures proclaim that only conventional
spelling maintains the spirit and ultimate significance of English (in
Samuel Johnson's words "the genius of the language").
Common sense provides a different wisdom. The "purity" of
the language is promoted by speakers or authors who carefully choose
commonly understood words to convey their thoughts and who help people
better understand the proper meaning of words by skillful and grammatical
use of them. As long as a speaker's pronunciation or writer's
spelling succeeds in conveying exactly which words are intended,
personal idiosyncrasies should not be criticized. However, common
sense also admonishes us to teach children to recognize and use
standard American speech and orthography. Recognition of the
AKSES writing system is the key to a radical improvement in both
speech and writing for all segments of American society. With
phonemic writing, properly written words guide every reader toward
standard speech, and properly pronounced words guide every speaker
and listener toward standard writing. Back to
will continue to do what they always have done, order and shelve new books
while caring for and providing access to old books to serve the needs of
their clients. At first, Junior Departments will be most affected as
parents and children demand new books printed in AKSES or old favorites transliterated and republished in AKSES. Eventually,
conventionally printed books that no longer circulate will be eliminated
to make room for books printed in the new orthography. As children
grow older and adults become familiar with phonemic writing, this renewal
process gradually will spread throughout the library. Librarians
will continue to discard unused conventionally printed books to make room
for those that will be used. (However, libraries that maintain important
"antiquarian" volumes for archival and research purposes will
continue to do so.) We must understand that information printed in AKSES is word-for-word the same as in traditionally-printed
books. Back to Questions.
- It is
reasonable to expect that children will have no difficulty identifying a
di-graph or tri-graph with a word-element. For example, if the
character "ch" is not referred to as /cee/ /aich/ but instead is
called /ch/ (as pronounced in "child") the concept is easier for
a child to comprehend than that "w" is the letter we call
/dubul/ /yoo/. Similarly, the character "ow" (called /ow/
as in "cow") is much more easily grasped than the spelled
equivalent /oh/ /dubul/ /yoo/. Children will learn the proposed
characters and their phonemic names as easily (or perhaps a bit more
easily) than they now learn the 26 letters of the alphabet and their names
in alphabetic order. The AKSES script and character
set were selected to simplify traditional-to-phonemic transition for
adept traditional readers. They are
compatible with current printing technology as explained elsewhere. Back to Questions.
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Published 3-09-99. (Last worked on 10-13-07) - James H. Kanzelmeyer