posted by Ken Wear, May 8, 2004, from
an essay by Ken in Integra Sept. 1990

The single most meaningful reform that can be imagined would be to make our American English the official language of these United States since there is perhaps no element more unifying than a common language. Note that, if the American Indians had used a common language, they would have been much more difficult to subdue; without a common language tribes had difficulty cooperating with each other. I have proposed a constitutional amendment for that purpose; click here.

All languages, of course, have peculiarities. Some lend to ease and clarity in communication while some peculiarities cause ambiguities that it takes ingenuity to overcome. Our English language, both the American and United Kingdom versions, can be improved in the sense that ideas may be presented more clearly, effectively, compactly and with greater certainty of being correctly understood.

Reform #1: Likely the most glaring weakness in forthright presentation is our placement of modifiers before the subject being modified. Sometimes there is a seemingly endless string of adjectives (or phrases) before the noun being described is stated. In the Spanish language the noun is stated first, and that makes for quicker and clearer presentation of a thought. It would be much more meaningful in English to name the noun first and then pile up whatever adjectives and phrases are wanted.

Reform #2: In ordinary conversation it is commonly not a problem, but often in literary works an indirect object is not clearly identified so we must reread to determine the proper sense of a sentence. It would help immeasurably in understanding clearly if we adopted a single-syllable word or a prefix to identify an indirect object, perhaps the word 'id.'

Reform #3: In dealing with our physical senses, one must frequently reflect on the content of a sentence to realize which physical sense is being exercised. A set of prefixes to verbs, reflecting the sense being exercised, would assist greatly in reader understanding. I have suggested, possibly,

Physical sense exercised ------ Prefix
Extra-sensory es
Visual vi
Auditory au
Olfactory ol
Taste tas
Tactile (pressure) tac
Tactile (heat) tem
Mental cra
As: 'I see' could be 'I vi-see,' 'I cra-see,' or 'I es-see,' depending . . .
A dash separating prefix and verb clearly has advantage in a dictionary.

Of course many verbs cannot be identified with one of our senses, as in 'bleed,' so the prefix would be superfluous, or the activity is clearly enough identified by the verb, as in 'walk,' so a prefix would be redundant. Again, unless 'hear' is associated with the ears, as "au-hear," it could be gossip. Should we undertake prefixes such as these, their use would, of course, be voluntary -- at least until general practice proves their value to the extent they become widely used.

Reform #4: I have often puzzled over the manner of presentation of relative sizes or magnitudes and have been forced to reflect on context in order to assign meaning. A series of prefixes (and someone may devise a more appropriate set) should be adopted to reflect magnitudes:
Relative size or magnitude ---- Prefix
huge or almost beyond comprehension in
extremely large ex
many (or few) sum
somewhat more than one or greater than unity fu
true or real size or value; unity tru
somewhat less than one or smaller than unity sma
appreciably less than unity les
minute min
virtually nil or vanishingly small nul

A hastily devised set of prefixes is shown; surely better ones can be suggested; but the utility of such prefixes would be enormous.

Should you wish offer an opinion or seek further comment, you may send an e-mail that will pass my spam filter if you use as Subject -- I read your post about English reform -- exactly as you see it here. Click here for the e-mail form.

You may have an interest in a proposed phonetic alphabet. For that click here.
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