A Sample of Self-Definers—Writing & Writing Systems—The SpecGram Book Elves™ SpecGram Vol CLXXVI, No 2 Contents Controvertible Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know—Madalena Cruz-Ferreira

The Campaign for Phonemic Equality

We like to claim that all phonemes are equal, but does this stand up to scrutiny? Sadly, even in modern English, many phonemes find themselves increasingly marginalised. Consider the following:

/ŋ/ is restricted to codas, and cannot syllabify like its fellow sonorants. It’s often replaced by /n/, and some people deny that it’s a phoneme at all. In some places it still has to be accompanied by a stop at all times.

/ə/ can’t take stress, and is constantly finding itself replaced by /ʊ/, /ʌ/, /ɪ/ and even syllabic consonants.

/ð/ is restricted to medial positions, apart from a few function words. It has to share its grapheme (a digraph at that!) with /θ/, and hasn’t appeared in a new word for centuries. It lives in fear that it may one day suffer the same fate as /ʍ/.

/ʒ/ doesn’t even have a grapheme to call its own. It’s restricted to medial positions, and gets called hurtful names like “yod-coalescence”.

/h/ is restricted to onsets, and even there is frequently ignored. Its grapheme is constantly being taken for use in digraphs.

/x/ is generally thought of as “foreign” and can only find work in loanwords. Even then it is constantly being replaced by /k/, /h/ and even /t͡ʃ/.

Join the Campaign for Phonemic Equality, and help us fight for justice for these phonemes, as well as all those unstressed vowels that find themselves in reduced circumstances.

A Sample of Self-DefinersWriting & Writing SystemsThe SpecGram Book Elves™
Controvertible Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t KnowMadalena Cruz-Ferreira
SpecGram Vol CLXXVI, No 2 Contents