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Acented Rading Alpħbet

2004.02.26 — Culture | Language | Spelling | by Roland Grant

The Accented Reading Alphabet (ARA) allows new students of English to see the appropriate pronunciation of words in the text itself, without changing the spelling of the words or using extra pronunciation guides in the margin or elsewhere. This is accomplished by adding accent marks to the letters to indicate their pronunciations.

For example, the letter A is pronounced several different ways in different words, and many words contain silent letters which may trip up inexperienced readers. Consistent use of the ARA system can help readers pronounce the words correctly—without significantly impairing the ability of experienced readers to read the material.

Since the traditional spelling of words is retained, experienced readers do not need to know how to "decipher" ARA to read the material; they can just ignore the extra markings. This means that parents can read along with their children, even if they haven't learned the system themselves.

ARA uses accented letters available in the Latin-1 and Latin Extended-A sets of Unicode character encoding, available on all Windows computers in Times New Roman, Arial, Lucida Sans Unicode and certain other fonts. In Microsoft Word, many of the characters can be typed using the CTRL key, but some are accessible only by choosing Insert > Symbol... from the menu.

Note: If you don't see all the letters below, your browsers isn't set up to support Unicode. You may be able to change the font display to a Unicode font; otherwise... upgrade your browser. What century do you live in?

Update 2007.05.25

I've made some small corrections and updated the scheme to improve and simplify it slightly.

  • The [th] sounds (this and thin) are now both represented by "ŧh" because there are no cases where it makes a difference in meaning (words spelled the same but one pronounced with the hard [th] and other with the soft TH).
  • I've changed the symbold for S when it makes the [sh] sound to "š" because it matches the Z as [zh] and the previous symbol (ŝ) is used only in Esperanto and is not available in many fonts.
  • Same for C as [ch].
  • I've switched the meanings of "ş" and "ś" to make a stronger connection between the way the marks are used between S, C, T, and Z.
  • I've marked the and a as ŧhë and á in all cases and schwa A (about, extra) as "ä" as being closer to the pronunciation of slow, deliberate new readers.

Hoŵ t śe ARA

Spell wördś nórmällÿ, but ûśe ŧhë acçented letterś tô indicáte ŧhë soûndś. Úśe gráy letterś fór sílent letterś. Úśe smäller letterś in pärenŧhesëś tô indicáte exträ soûndś not reprëśented in ŧhe trädiţiønäl spelling (søme(w)øne). Søme wørdś (sučh aś øf, coiffüre, íron, war, ćhateau) must rëmáin "memórÿ wördś" bëcãuśe ŧhéir letterś dón't confórm tô ŧhéir prónunçïáţiønś at äll; fór ŧhëśe, híghght ŧhe "wrõng" letterś in red and próvíde an appróprïate veršiøn in sqûáre brackets ŧhe first tíme ŧhe wörd appëarś. Ŧhe ġeneräl rûle iś tô ûśe ŧhe system tô spell ŧhe wörd aś it iś ënunçïáted by new readers; not aś it iś cašûällÿ spóken.

When ŧhe stûdents have mastered rëading ûśing ARA, intródûçe ŧhem tô rëading matërïäl wiŧh nó gráy letterś ór insert letterś, ŧhen wiŧhoût (ór wiŧh fêwer) acçented cháracterś. Ŧhéy will recogníze ŧhe wördś bý ŧhéir ûšûäl spellingś and kw hoŵ tô prónoûnçe ŧhem wiŧhoût nëëding ŧhë acçent märks.

Stáge 1: Füll acçented letterś, gráy sílent letterś, insert letterś, and red wrõng letterś

Stáge 2: Voŵelś acçented and red wrõng letterś

Stáge 3: Trädiţiønäl spelling wiŧh füll ARA fór nêŵ ór unûšûäl wördś

Stáge 3: Trädiţiønäl spelling

ARA can älsó bë ûsefül fór ânÿ mätërïälś in whičh unûšûäl ór fóreign wördś ór námeś äre ûśed.

Ŧhis system iś sugġested fór ŧhë Ġeneräl Ämérican díälect and acçent. Ŧhë system wöüld nëëd älteráţiøn tô bë appróprïate fór Britişh Rëçëïved Prónunçïáţiøn ór øŧher Ämérican díälects.

Älsó, ŧhére iś nó distincţiøn bëtwëën ŧhë U øf cute and ŧhë U øf true. Ŧhë obscûre voŵel (şćhwä) rémáinś á smäll problem. Ŧhére iś nó próvišiøn fór śhówing proper stress.

ARA Voŵel K

plin

acte

d-dot

flex

tilde

strke

a cat

py

blh

mn

sw

 

e bet

ŧhy

rrun

nw

 

 

i fit

bte

antque

 

 

 

o hot

bne

wman

mve

bught

mnth

u cut

pt

frit

 

 

y symbol

tr

sill

 

 

 

w west

 

 

ŵ coŵl

 

 

Letter Key

  1. a as in apple, cat, anchór, paŧh, grass
  2. á as in stáble, áprøn, cápe
  3. ä as in cär, fäŧher, bäll and wäś, äbøve, górillä
  4. ã as in ãwfül, sãw, cãuśe
  5. â as in ânÿ, mânÿ, sâid, sâyś
  6. b as in bäll, cáble, cab
  7. c as in cat, uncle, äccoûnt, anchör, lack
  8. ç as in áçe, pólïçe, acçept, exçept
  9. č as in mučh, hatčh, čhuck
  10. ć as in technićiän, páräćhûte
  11. d as is dõg, bad, ladder
  12. e as in bet, fed, festiväl, feaŧher
  13. é as in béar, ŧhére, whére
  14. ë as in fëar, pëër, rërun
  15. ê as in nêw, ŧhrêw, skêwer
  16. f as in fast, left, staff; and øf (only word in which F sounds like V)
  17. g as in get, dõg, buggÿ
  18. ġ as in villâġe, colleġe, messâġe
  19. ĝ as in miräĝe, cólläĝe, massäĝe
  20. ģ as in lauģh, enouģh, rouģh
  21. h as in hill, yähôô
  22. i as in bit, if, still
  23. í as in bíte, pí, chóír
  24. ï as in pólïçe, maćhïne, cantïne, cóïn, cárrïed
  25. j as in jõg, májór
  26. ĵ as in biĵoû, mähäräĵä, mähĵõng
  27. k as in kept, luckÿ, bärk
  28. l as in lip, milkÿ, will
  29. m as in monster, number, gram
  30. n as in not, handle, pan
  31. ng as in sõng, singer (versus ng as in finger, linger)
  32. o as in hot, obstäcle; and aboût, boûgh
  33. ó as in bóat, rópe, gó, dóór
  34. ö as in wöman, wööd, cöuld
  35. ô as in bôôt, prôve
  36. ø as in øŧher, mønŧh, brøŧher, løve
  37. õ as in ŧhõught, cõuģh, frõg, clõŧh, lõng
  38. p as in pass, slept, cap
  39. pħ as in pħónÿ, telepħóne, telegrapħ
  40. q as in qûiz, mosquïtó, mosque
  41. r as in rack, mórtäl, flávór
  42. s as in sand, ask, grass, misheard
  43. ş as in şhiver, fişşure, meşh, mişşiøn
  44. š as in višiøn, deçišiøn, meašüre
  45. ś as in dõgś, ráiśe, berśerk, bräśśïëre
  46. t as in táke, gift, letter
  47. ŧh as in boŧher, ŧhis and ŧhin, maŧhematics.
  48. ţ as in náţiøn
  49. ť as in náťure, advenťure
  50. u as in until, gutter
  51. ü as in püt, füll, püll, âubürn
  52. û as in frûit, stûdent, flûte, äboût; and ûnit, acûte, ûśe
  53. v as in vallëy, river, cáve
  54. w as in will, wäter
  55. ŵ as in voŵ, coŵl, voŵel
  56. x as in exträ; and example
  57. y as in symbol, typicäl, cymbäl
  58. ÿ as in fondlÿ, taffÿ, and tóÿ (for many non-US speakers, same as plain y)
  59. ý as in flý, buý, eýe, týpe
  60. z as in zëró, käzôô, rázór, jazz
  61. ź as in čhintź, glitź, pï(t)źźa, klutź, pretźel
  62. ž as in cróžier, brážier, Frážier

 

Example Difficult Wrdś

fuet

trtlla

Wedneśdy

n(w)ne

p(t)źźa

crps

lietenant

chtźph

ägin

ruģh

bogh

ŧhrugh

lauģh

ärcholġ

Example Memr Wrdś

lawyer [lyer]

abbtoir [abbtwr]

f [v]

coiffre [cwffre]

iron [iern]

war [wr]

quart [quórt]

ćhateau [ćhat]

clonel [cronel ]

jnt [hnt]

halleljh [hallelyh]

fjrd [fyrd]

 

Sinjin and ŧhe Merčhânt

Sinjin wäś á young man in ŧhë toŵn øf [øv] Pär whô wänted tô léave hóme and máke hiś wáy in ŧhë wörld. But hiś familÿ had little mønëÿ. Hë left hiś hóme wiŧh ónlÿ á fêw cóïnś in hiś poûčh and hiś fäŧher and møŧher'ś gööd wişheś.

Béfóre lõng, hë cáme upõn á merčhânt wiŧh á wagøn, cárrÿing gööds frøm toŵn tô toŵn. Hiś wagøn had clõŧh and tôôlś and mânÿ øŧher ŧhingś píled in it. Hé wóre fíne clóŧheś, wiŧh şhôeś ŧhat cürled up at ŧhe tóeś.

Sinjin sâid tô ŧhë merčhânt, "Í am Sinjin øf Pär. Í am lööking fór wörk. Dô yôu nëëd help tákingur gôôdś frøm toŵn tô toŵn?"

Ŧhë merčhânt lööked at Sinjin and sãw ŧhat hë lööked líke á fíne young man. "Í am Smëë øf Vënä," hë sâid. "Í bring mânÿ ŧhingś frøm toŵn tô toŵn, but mý hórse iś äll ŧhë help ŧhat Í nëëd. Í am sorrÿ, Sinjin."

"ŧhank yôu," sâid Sinjin. And hë wäś äboût tô gó õn, but Smëë cälled tô him ägâin.

"Wáit," sâid Smëë. "I have á job yôu can dô if yôu äre vérÿ bráve. Í will giveu ŧhrëë silver cóïnś if yôu will dô it."

Sinjin ŧhõught ŧhat hë wäś vérÿ bráve, só hë sâid, "Whät iś it ŧhat yôu wänt? Í will dô á gööd job."

Smëë tóld Sinjin ŧhat ŧhére wäś ä man in ŧhe hillś nëarbý whô líked tô buý gööds frøm him. But ŧhe man wäś vérÿ big, and hë and scáred Smëë wiŧh hiś dëëp, bôôming vóïçe and hiś wíld black háir and bëard. If Sinjin wöuld táke søme göödś tô ŧhë man and sëë if ŧhë man wöuld buý ŧhem, Sinjin cöuld earn ŧhrëë silver cóïnś. "Í will dô á gööd job," Sinjin sâid wiŧh á smíle.

Só Sinjin töök søme leaŧher hídeś and şhëëpskinś and søme tôôlś in á heavÿ sack and cárrïed ŧhem up in ŧhe hillś, ŧhrôugh ŧhe wöödś, tô ŧhë pláçe ŧhat Smëë tóld him äboût. And hë shoûted, "Helló! Í have göödś tô tráde! Iś ânÿ(w)øne ŧhére?"

In á móment, ŧhrôugh ŧhë trëëś, ŧhére cáme á hûġe man, nëarlÿ twíçe aś täll aś Sinjin, wiŧh gréat big handś and ŧhick ärmś and legś. Hë wäś á ġíant! Hiś háir and hiś béard were ŧhick and wíld. "Helló, little man. Whô äreu, and whý äreu hëre?" Hiś vóïçe şhöök ŧhe lëaveś õn ŧhë trëëś äroûnd him.

Sinjin swällówed härd and tríed tô bë bráve. "Í am Sinjin øf Pär. Í have been sent bý Smëë ŧhë merčhânt tô õffer yôu göödś. Í have leaŧher and şhëëpskin and tôôlś." Hë shówed ŧhe ġíant ŧhë göödś.

"Ŧhëśe äre fíne göödś, Sinjin. Í am Händim." Händim bõught severäl ŧhingś and páid Sinjin wiŧh fóur silver cóïnś øf gréat síze, líke dinner plátes.

 

(Ŧhe ġíant giveś him sømeŧhing else interesting (şhëëp skinś). Ŧhë cóïnś have á hóle in ŧhë middle øf ŧhem, but ŧhéy äre still vérÿ heavÿ; Sinjin dragś ŧhem pärt-wáy back. Hë mëëts søme(w)øne else whô wänts ŧhë şhëëp skinś and trádeś him fór á pónÿ and sømeŧhing else. Hë haś trøuble wiŧh ŧhat tôô, until hë mëëts søme(w)øne else whô trádeś him fór á lärġe, fançÿ box. Sinjin laşheś ŧhë pønÿ tô ŧhë box, püts lengŧhs øf wööd ŧhrôugh ŧhë hóleś øf ŧhë cóïnś, and faşhiønś á wagøn oût øf hiś treašüreś. Hë rídeś back tô Smëë in stýle and iś promptlÿ máde intô Smëë's pärtner.)

Spelling tips pem

Bëwáre øf [øv] heard, á dreadfül wörd
Ŧhat lööks líkeard and soûndś líke bird.
And dead—it's sâid líke bed, not bëad.
Fór göödness sáke, dón't cäll it dëëd!
Wätčh oût fór mëat and gréat and ŧhreat.
Ŧhéy rhýme wiŧh sûïte and stráight and debt.

Á mõŧh iś not á mõŧh in møŧher,
Nór bóŧh in boŧher, brõŧh in brøŧher,
And hëre iś not á matčh fór ŧhére,
Nór dëar and fëar fór péar and béar.
And ŧhen ŧhére'ś dóse and róśe and lôśe
Just löök ŧhem up—and gôôse and chôôśe.
And córk and wörk and cärd and ward [wórd].
And font and frønt and wörd and swórd.
And dô and gó, ŧhen ŧhwart [ŧhwórt] and cärt.
Cøme, cøme Í've härdlÿ máde á stärt.

Update

Far from being a wholly novel idea, ARA turns out to be similar to certain other schemes to teach spelling. Hasselquist's English uses formatting (bold, italics, etc.), and Gattegno's Words in Color uses color to indicate sound value.

I think ARA is superior to both of these in that diacritics (accent marks) are easier to manage (Ctrl+Shift+colon then A makes ä) and can be added to an existing children's book, for example, by a parent with a pen. Diacritics seem to me to be a better indicator of sound than color, especially, and are much easier to reproduce in handwriting (on a chalkboard, for example) than boldface, italics, or numerous colors. After all, these are the reasons accent marks are used in other languages instead of complex formatting and colors in the first place.

 

Hasselquist's English example

Dan's few light and quick beigeo foxes were jumping long in the áir over each thin litt'le dog, but not with colOssal róom. Go lóok hëre nów at me, thankful when I shóut ënOugh, for they, the sly critters, jóyouslý fóiled yóu agaIn.

ARA comparison

Dan'ś fêŵ líght and quick béiĝe zôô foxeś were jumping lõng in ŧhë air óver ëach ŧhin little dõg, but not wiŧh cólossäl rôôm. Gó löök hëre noŵ at më, thankfül when Í shoût enøuģh, for théy, ŧhë slý critterś, joÿøuslÿ fóïled yôû ägâin.

 

f e e d b a c k

Robert Boden writes [sic verbatim]:

Phondot

Robert Boden's Phondot system.

I was very much interested in your Accented Reading Alphabet, having developed several similar proposals over the years.

My most recent proposal Phondot-r has some characteristics which I think are superior to those you describe in the Tysto article. I am especial impressed with the ability to key in all the requiired symbology using just the International keyboard. Phondot-r is consideralbly more complete in its representation of sounds than ARA.

Perhaps we could have a little correspondence regarding our approaches to the accomplishment of the objectives you so well state (and which I agree with).

My most important system is Phondot, which is unique in that it makes no use of traditional diacritics, yet shows the correct pronunciation of 99ş of TS without requiring that it be respelled. It does not use color.

Roland Grant replies:

I'm impressed with the way Phondot avoids traditional accent marks, which English-speakers may be prejudiced against and which can confuse non-English-speakers who might use the accents for different sounds than ARA does. The use of dots or strokes situated around the characters requires new fonts, however, and so it can't be used on an ordinary computer, which makes it less practical, especially for my purposes.

Phondot-r (which does use traditional accent marks, as well as formatting) is similar to Hasselquist's English, with similar advantages (accuracy in marking sounds) and disadvantages (difficulty reproducing it outside the computer).

I think we're all in agreement that an approach of this sort could be very useful in teaching English to new readers, regardless of the exact method.

 

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