Idea and Motivation

The idea: Spelling should be fun, not a burden. The traditional English spelling system is afflicted with exceptions and conflicting rules, making writing and reading texts unnecessarily hard.

Lytspel is a proposal for reforming the English spelling in order to make it strictly follow the alphabetic principle. The alphabetic principle means that there is a predictable relationship between written letters and spoken sounds. When you see a written word, you know how to pronounce it (even if you don’t know the word itself), and vice versa.

Traditional English spelling (tradspell) deviates from the alphabetic principle in many ways. The mapping between written and spoken words is very complex and riddled with irregularities and exceptions. Lytspel (for «lytwait speling» or ‹lightweight spelling›) is a proposal to change this, while keeping as much visual similarity to tradspell as reasonably possible.

Lytspel not only creates an unambiguous mapping between the sounds used in English and their written representations, it also indicates which syllable in each word is the stressed one.

In addition to the reform proposal, there is a comprehensive dictionary and a converter that translates traditional spelling into Lytspel.

Here are two example paragraphs written in Lytspel. The first is The North Wind and the Sun, one of Aesop’s fables that’s frequently used as an example in phonetics, while the second is made up of two nonsense sentences that contain most of the sounds of English.

Dhe North Wind and dhe Sun wur di’spiuting wich wos dhe strongger, wen a traveler caim a’long rapd in a worm cloak. Dhay a’greed dhat dhe won hu furst su’xeeded in maiking dhe traveler taik his cloak of shood bee con’siderd strongger dhan dhe udher. Dhen dhe North Wind blu as hard as hi cood, but dhe mor hi blu dhe mor cloassli did dhe traveler foald his cloak e’round him; and at last dhe North Wind gaiv up dhe a’tempt. Dhen dhe Sun shynd out wormli, and i’meediatli dhe traveler took of his cloak. And so dhe North Wind wos o’blyjd tu con’fess dhat dhe Sun wos dhe strongger ov dhe tuu.

Dhat quik baizh fox jumpd in dhe air oaver eech thin dog under a caam autum muun. Look out, y shout, for hi’s foild iu yet a’gen, cri’aiting cayoss.

Here are the same paragraphs written in tradspell. Lytspel might look a bit unusual at first, but should be easy to get used too. Just try reading it out aloud and you’ll soon get the hang of it.

The North Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger, when a traveler came along wrapped in a warm cloak. They agreed that the one who first succeeded in making the traveler take his cloak off should be considered stronger than the other. Then the North Wind blew as hard as he could, but the more he blew the more closely did the traveler fold his cloak around him; and at last the North Wind gave up the attempt. Then the Sun shined out warmly, and immediately the traveler took off his cloak. And so the North Wind was obliged to confess that the Sun was the stronger of the two.

That quick beige fox jumped in the air over each thin dog under a calm autumn moon. Look out, I shout, for he’s foiled you yet again, creating chaos.