Ken Whistler kenwhistler at
Tue Sep 20 09:37:30 CDT 2016

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.


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