SPELLING, orthography, the formation of words by means of letters or alphabetic sym bols. In certain languages like Spanish, for instance, the system of representing the sounds of the language by alphabetic symbols is prae tically perfect. In other words it is phonetic. In English, on the contrary, the muhiplicity of vowel sounds and the composite character of i the language itself have, in the course of several centuries of growth and continuous imitations, made of the alphabet a curious com plex and complicated patchwork which is the despair of foreigners who attempt to learn the language. A technically perfect alphabet should have an alphabetic symbol to represent each sound in the language and no symbol should represent more than one sound. Were this the case all the difficulty in spelling would at once disappear. In Spanish schools spelling is not taught because of the regularity of the Span ish alphabet. In Italian also there is very little necessity for the teaching of spelling, for the same reason. But the irregularity of the Eng lish alphabet has placed a heavy burden upon the shoulders of elementary pupils and of foreigners learning the language. Years of study and practice are necessary to acquire a command of English spelling.
The modern English alphabet illustrates vividly the various changes through which the English tongue has passed since the days when the Germanic tribes first began to overrun the British islands. Saxon, Dane, Northman, Norman French, Celt and Latin have con tributed to make it what it is to-day by giving it vowel and consonantal sounds and modifying those it primitively possessed when Saxon and Celt first met on English soil. The English alphabet has grown up without any attention be ing paid to its development or any effort being made to direct its development or to shape its ends. The result is that English has acquired a great many more alphabetic sounds than it possesses symbols with which to represent them. This, in itself, is bad enough, but the confusion is made all the greater by the fact that sometimes there are two or more symbols to represent the same sound, and that quite frequently compound letters are used to repre sent simple sounds. How complex, confused
and confusing is English orthography may be illustrated by presenting the different garbs under which the sound c or k, as in cat or kit presents itself. It is represented by cc as in account ; cch. in Bacchus; ck, as in back; cq, as in acquaint; cu as in biscuit; lk, as in talk, chalk; lke, as in Folkestone; q, as in queen; qu, as in liquor; que, as in barque, antique; quh, as in Urquhart; sc, as in viscount; ugh, as in hough; and .r, as in excise, except ; and finally by three combinations of the k symbol, k, as in kite; ke, as in Burke; kh, as in khan, making, in all, 19 letters and combinations of letters to represent the same sound. As if these various modes of representing the same simple sounds were not confusing enough, some of the combinations are used to repre sent other sounds. Thus ugh, in cough, repre sents f; ch, in schism is mute, while in schist it is sounded as h. X, in anxious has the force of ksh, and ks, in box. In Kale, Kaiser and words of Greek origin, k has the sound usually attributed to its name, and office which betrays its Greek origin (though it came into English from Latin. where it was also used almost alto gether in the spelling of Greek words). Such irregularities as the foregoing are abundant in English spelling. The original cause of these irregularities, was prolific of a good crop of changes from the original Saxon forms of the English tongue. These were multiplied by the constant modifications produced by these vari ous language sources acting and reacting upon one another, by the obscuring of full sounds and by the neglecting of others. These changes seem to have been many and to have taken place rapidly between the time of Chaucer and Shakespeare. The evidence of the cause of many of these changes is still to be seen in England and the Lowlands of Scotland to-day in the various rural dialects which sharply dif ferentiate localities.