Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, May 2011
Towards a More Accurate English Alphabet and Orthography
By Hassan El-Najjar
May 7, 2011
The purpose of this article is to propose a number of suggestions aiming at making the English alphabet and orthography clearer, more accurate, and better in internal consistency as well as in interaction with other main world alphabets, as English has become the most widely used language around the world (Mandarin is the most widely spoken but it is limited to China).
The author draws on his knowledge of Arabic and English, his sociological and anthropological background, and his interest in linguistics in general. He encourages interested readers to submit their contributions on the subject, to be added to this article, or as independent articles. Thus, this article is an alive document and a work in-progress.
I. Necessary changes to the current English alphabet
1. Unnecessary Consonants:
a) Deletion of C, as it duplicates two other English
consonants, K and S.
2. Necessary Consonants Missing from the English Alphabet:Ë (theta), Ð (dheta), Ô (sh),
3. Unnecessary letters in current English orthography, borrowed from German, Greek, Roman, and other languages:
a) Deletion of the unpronounced consonants such as b and gh, in such words as debt, daughter, though, although, and through.
b) Replacement of gh with f, in such words as enough, cough, and rough.
c) Replacement of ph with f, in such words as phase, philosophy, and photo.
d) Replacement of the written but silent consonants with the intended sound, such as replacing ts with z in Tsar and dropping c in Czar.
e) Adding the pronounced but missing consonant, such as f in lieutenant.
f) Replacing ch with k, in such words as character and chronic.
g) Replacement of ch with tsh, in such words as chair and church.
II. Accommodating sounds from other languages
1. Arabic consonants, which have no equivalence in the current English alphabet:
Ë ¡ Í ¡ Î ¡ Ð ¡ Ô ¡ Õ ¡ Ö ¡ Ø ¡ Ù ¡ Ú ¡ Û ¡ Þ
Some Arabic letters and sounds have no counterparts in the English alphabet and the English orthography. There are nine Arabic sounds which have no equivalence in the English alphabet. These are ( Í Î Õ Ö Ø Ù Ú Û Þ ). Some translators underline the closest English letters to these Arabic sounds (and letters at the same time), in order to tell readers that these are pronounced differently in Arabic. The closest English letters expressing the Arabic sounds (and letters) in parentheses, from right to left, are ( h, kh, s, dh, t, tdh, a, gh, q ). However, underlining them as ( h, kh, s, dh, t, tdh, a, gh, q ) conveys the message that these are different from the English sounds expressed by the letters of the English alphabet.
The two Arabic letters and sounds of Tha ( Ë ) and Dhal ( Ð ), expressed by the two English letters "th" at the beginning of the English words "three" and "that," are transliterated as / th / and / th /, respectively.
This author uses this same method of underlining these letters, with the exception of the two Arabic letters expressed by the / h / and / a / sounds. Instead of underlining them, he adds an apostrophe before the letter to become / 'h / and / 'a / respectively. Using an apostrophe instead of underling a letter is for practical reasons only. First, these two letters are more frequently used than the other letters in the list. Second, it is easier to use the apostrophe on keyboards than adding underlining after writing.
As an example, an apostrophe is used before the English letter / a / to express the eighteenth letter of the Arabic alphabet / 'ayn /, as in the case of transliterating the common Arabic name, 'Abdullah.
An apostrophe is also used before the English letter / h / to express the sixth letter of the Arabic alphabet / 'ha /, as in the case of translating the common Arabic name 'Halima.
III. Readers' Contributions Containing More Suggestions About English and Other Languages
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