Notes on Venezky's English Spelling

Vivian Cook

Albrow's Systems

Note: the phonetic symbols may not appear correctly if you do not have the IPATIMES font installed.
Sources:
R.L. Venezky (1999) The American Way of Spelling, Guilford
R.L. Venezky (1970) The Structure of English Orthography, Mouton


Venezky's General Principles

1

Variation is tolerated

2

Letter distribution is capriciously limited

3

Letters represent sounds and mark graphemic, phonological and morphemic features

4

Etymology is honoured

5

Regularity is based on more than phonology

6

Visual identity of meaningful word parts takes precedence over letter-sound simplicity

7

English orthography facilitates word recognition for the initiated speaker of the language, rather than being a phonetic alphabet for the non-speaker

R.L. Venezky (1970), The Structure of English Orthography, Mouton

CONSONANT CORRESPONDENCES

(position is given as I (initial), M (Medial), F (final)

<letter>: /sound/: examples

For each letter the rules go from least inclusive to most inclusive, i.e. the defaults signalled by 'otherwise'. Note that the reference accent is American.

<b>: I, M, F (rare)
<b>: /ø/ : <bt> debt, <mb> bomb
<b>: /b/: otherwise: bet

<c>: I, M, F (mostly <ic>)
<c>: /t§/: cello, concerto
<c>: /ø/: victual, czar
<c>: /s/: before <i/y/e>: cell
<c>: /k/: otherwise: come

<ch>: I, M, F 
<ch>: /ø/: fuchsia, yacht
<ch>: /k/: before <l/n/r>: Christ; plus short list: ache, chorus, etc
<ch>: /§/ in short list: cache, moustache etc
<ch>: /t§/: otherwise: chart

<ck>: F: /k/: back

<d>: I, M, F 
<d>: /t/ after unvoiced C in -ed: looked
<d>: /ø/ between <n> and <C>: handkerchief
<d>: /dj/:  /dju:/ dune
<d>: /d/: otherwise deal

<dg>: F: /dZ/: ridge

<f>: I, M, F:
<f>: /v/: only example: of
<f>: /v/: morpheme-final before pl -s: calves
<f>: /f/: otherwise: fun

<g>: I, M, F (monosyllables)
<g>: /ø/: seraglio, intaglio
<g>: /½/: mirage etc
<g>: /g/ before <e, i, y> in short list: giddy, tiger, etc
<g>: /g/ in <-ger> eager
<g>: /d½/ otherwise before <e, i, y>: gesture 
<g>: /g/ otherwise: grammar

<gh>: I, F  
<gh>: /k/: hough    
<gh>: /f/: cough
<gh>: /g/ initial: ghost, aghast
<gh>: /g/ short list: spaghetti, sorghum
<gh>: /ø/ otherwise: thought

<h>: I, M, F (Post V) 
<h>: /ø/: heir, honest, etc
<h>: /ø/ before C and final post V: ohm, hurrah
<h>: /h/ otherwise initial: hit

<j>: I (+back V), M 
<j>: /d½/: jest etc
<j>: /Z/: bijou

<k>: I, M, F
<k>: /k/ regularly: kit
<k>: /ø/ a few words with <n>: knife, knight

<kh>: rare: /k/: khan. khaki

<l>: I, M, F
<l>: /r/: only example: colonel
<l>: /ø/: would, half, etc
<l>: /l/ otherwise: lad

<m>: I, M, F 
<m>: /n/ only example: comptroller
<m>: /ø/: <mn>: mnemonic
<m>: /m/ otherwise; time

<n>: I, M, F
<n>: /ø/: autumn, kiln (sic VC)
<n>: /N/ before /k/: sink
<n>: /n/ otherwise: nod, don, end

<ng>: F:/N/: ring

<p>: I, M, F
<p>:/ø/: corps, pneumonia etc
<p>: /p/ otherwise: super

<ph> I, M, F
<ph>: /f/ everywhere: seraph
<ph>: /v/: nephew

<pph>: M: /f/ two words: sapphire, Sappho

<q>: I, M (+<u>): /k/ queen

<r>: I, M, F
<r>: /r/: road [VC British English has /ø/ before C]

<rh>: I(+V), M, F rare: /r/ rheostat

<rrh>: rare: /r/: catarrh, diarrhea

<s>: I, M, F
<s>: /ø/: aisle, debris etc.
<s>: /s/: inflectional: fights
<s>: /z/: after voiced C and short list: leads, as, has
<s>: /s/: final and initial otherwise: son, us
<s>: /s/ in cluster: mistress
<s>
: /§/ short list: sure, sugar; voiceless medial, tissue
<s>: /½/: measure
<s>: /z/ otherwise: lose

<sch> 
<sch>: /§/: schnapps: British: schedule
<sch>: /sk/: scheme

<sh>: I, M, F: /§/: shrimp

<t>: I, M, F
<t>: /ø/: depot, mortgage, etc
<t>: /ø/: stressed -et: buffet
<
t>: /ø/: <-sten> fasten, listen
<
t>: /ø/: <-stle> bristle
<t>: /Z/: equation
<t>: /§/ t+V+V: nation          
<t>: /t/ otherwise: top

<tch> mostly F: /t§/: match, Tchaikovsky

<th> I, M, F   
<th>: /t/ short list: thyme, Thames
<th>: /ø/ short list: isthmus, asthma
<th>: // in function words: the, they etc
<th>: // medial in <-the(r)>: rather
<th>: /T/ otherwise: mouth, thank

<u>: after <q>
<u>: /ø/ in word endings: banquette
<u>: /ø/ in quay, queue etc
<u>: /w/ elsewhere: queen

<v> I, M  
<v>: /v/: vile, live, evil

<w>: I (Before V)   
<w>: /ø/: answer, two, sword, etc
<w>: /w/ otherwise: dwarf, swim

<wh> I
<wh>: /h/: who, whore, whole etc
<wh>: /hw/ 'in most American dialects': whopper [VC British English /w/ white]

<x>: I (rare), M, F
<x>: /ks/: mix
<x>: /z/: Xena, xenophobe

<y>: I (100 odd words) <y>: /j/: yes, yolk

<z> I, M, F (rare)  
<z>: /s/ in final <-tz>: Ritz
<z>: /z/ otherwise: zebra


Venezky Notes

aim: ‘to show the patterning which exists in the present orthography’ (p.11)

scope: 20,000 most frequent words of English

system: spelling-to-sound correspondences

what is a unit?
    functional spelling units, not individual graphemes
    system of markers; ‘ one or more graphemes whose primary function is to indicate the correspondence of relational units or to preserve a graphotactical or         
     morphological pattern’; <u> guest

sequence of application of rules from x to y
invariant: <f>=/f/ only exception of, almost <ck, m, y, z>
regular variants: <c>=/s/ before <e i y>, elsewhere /k/ =/k/ except before <n>
position alone <gh> initial versus final
morpheme boundaries <ph> shepherd no <h> uphill hothead
inflectional rules present tense s
markers: final <v> must have a vowel <e>
alternations: <i/y u/w> suade

Conclusions:
base form phonemic
derived from morphemic