Other Linguistic Models of English Spelling

Attempts to make English spelling behave phonetically have given rise to various campaigns for spelling reform; none have been generally accepted. Opponents of simplified spellings point to the impossibility of phonetic spelling for a language with many diverse accents and dialects. Several distinguished scholars, however, have thoroughly disproven all reasonable objections to spelling reform, including this objection. See, for example, Dictionary of Simplified American Spelling. Thomas Lounsbury, LL.D., L.H.D., emeritus professor of English, Yale University, presented a devastating rebuttal to all reasonable objections to spelling reform in his book English Spelling and Spelling Reform as far back as 1909, particularly the last chapter, pages 331 to 341.

Linguists documenting the sounds of speech use various special symbols, of which the International Phonetic Alphabet is the most widely known. Linguistics makes a distinction between a phone and phoneme, and between phonology and phonetics. The study of words and their structure is morphology, and the smallest units of meaning are morphemes. The study of the relationship between words present in the language at one time is synchronic etymology, part of descriptive linguistics, and the study of word origins and evolution is diachronic etymology, part of historical linguistics.

English orthography gives priority first to morphology, then to etymology, and lastly to phonetics. Thus the spelling of a word is dependent principally upon its structure, its relationship to other words, and its language or origin. It is usually necessary to know the meaning of a word in order to spell it correctly, and its meaning will be indicated by the similarity to words of the same meaning and family.

English uses a 26 letter Latin alphabet, but the number of graphemes is expanded by several digraphs, trigraphs, and tetragraphs, while the letter "q" is not used as a grapheme by itself, only in the digraph "qu".

Each grapheme may represent a limited number of phonemes depending on etymology and location in the word. Likewise each phoneme may be represented by a limited number of graphemes. Some letters are not part of any grapheme, but function as etymological markers. Graphemes do not cross morpheme boundaries.

Morphemes are spelt consistently, following rules inflection and word-formation, and allow readers and writers to understand and produce words they have not previously encountered.

Examples of strict linguistic teaching methods include the Real Spelling approach.