Rudolf Flesch and Denise Eide say that English is 98% phonetic, more or less. They get to this number by conceding every debatable point.
But I think this blog post makes the more profound point that EVERY English word stands for sounds and is therefore phonetic.
I wrote a piece a few years back called “Is English a Phonetic Language? Of course! 100%.” (On CanadaFreePress.) I thought this was a better tactical position. If you try to be nice to the Whole Word crew, they’ll claim that English is only 20% phonetic.
I try to explain to them that a genuinely non-phonetic word would be something like QG7R pronounced “shuffleboard.” Now, THAT is a non-phonetic word.
But English doesn’t have any such words!
I just got the following comment on my blog posting ‘The English writing system’ (26/04/2014) from Bruce Price, who describes himself as an ‘writer, artist, [and] education activist:
I don’t normally promote comments to full postings but I liked the point Bruce was making so much, I thought it deserved to be more widely read. You can read Bruce’s piece here. And well worth the trouble it is too.
I laughed out loud when I read in his posting that someone had actually ‘set up a movement to teach Spanish with sight words’ and that ‘you can this minute find lists on the internet of “English-Spanish Dolch Sight Words.” By this device, kids can be made illiterate in two languages at once’! There’s also a lovely rejoinder to those who would campaign to make English spelling ‘phonetic’.
So, on St George’s Day and the day on which we commonly celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday (450, today, by the way), thank you Bruce for getting me at least off to a good start!