Re: graphemes

From: Ken Whistler <>
Date: Tue, 20 Sep 2016 07:37:30 -0700

On 9/20/2016 12:30 AM, Julian Bradfield wrote:

>> are all legal spellings of the same word in a writing system, a useful linguistic definition of grapheme should ensure that all three variants have the same number of graphemes.
> Such a bizarre definition, which would also entail "color/colour",
> "fulfill/fulfil", "sulfur/sulphur" having the same number of
> graphemes, would break the first three of your rules of thumb:

I agree with Julian here. Consider also similar common alternations as
night/nite, light/lite which are widespread *within* American English
spelling conventions and don't even raise questions of locale
differences. Or you/u, your/ur, which vary on another dimension. If
every variation in spelling is taken to constitute a distinct writing
system, simply to preserve the concept of a "grapheme", we would be led
to conclude that American English has millions of writing systems,
because of the combinatorics involved.

And the caveat that it is a "legal" spelling is a hinky dodge,
particularly in the case of English. There isn't any recognized legal
framework for English spelling. English, she is spelled how people
decide to spell her -- or perhaps mostly how 2nd grade English teachers
decide she is spelled.

Even where legal or academic frameworks exist to formally control the
spelling rules of a language, one should be leery that such rules
somehow instantiate the identity of graphemes, which are unlikely to be
the principal matter of concern for those trying to establish the
spelling rules in the first place.

Received on Tue Sep 20 2016 - 09:38:14 CDT

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