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From:  "Angus B. Grieve-Smith"
Date:  Wed Jun 28, 2000  9:14 pm
Subject:  Re: standardized spellings


On Wed, 28 Jun 2000, Bill Reese wrote:

> I'm surprised to hear you say that Angus. Especially after describing
> what "exactly" to do when using Ghostscript, etc.

Oh, I didn't tell people exactly what to do. :-) I told them
what kinds of things would make the computer do what they wanted, which is
very different. Society is much more complicated than a computer.

> We need standardized spellings on words that have already been
> established. While we do make some changes to some words, like
> "phone" instead of "telephone", most of the words we use have
> stabilized into a standard form since the advent of dictionaries
> (i.e., Webster). It's this very standardization that allows
> communication to happen in an efficient manner. I worry that a single
> mispelled word in what I say could throw off someone trying to
> translate into his/her language.

I disagree that it happens in an efficient manner to begin with,
and that any efficiency that might be there has much to do with
standardization. And you don't have to misspell to throw someone off.

> I don't think standard spellings would discriminate against
> "non-standard." I believe it would evolve into more of a dialect or
> even synonym.

> Alternate spellings are also give for English language words. That's
> why we have British and American "versions." So I wouldn't worry too
> much.

We have British and American versions of English spellings, but we
don't have New England versions (pahk the cah), Western Pennsylvania
versions (warsh), etc. That's because only two groups, one English and
one American, had enough power to establish their own standards.

> Besides, we already have ASL dictionaries, just in pictoral format
> instead of SW.

I'm all for ASL dictionaries, as long as people don't point to a
dictionary and tell a native signer that their sign is "wrong."
Dictionaries can be a tremendous help to learners, but when they start
being arbiters of language that's where I get off.

-Angus B. Grieve-Smith
Linguistics Department
University of New Mexico

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