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A few decades ago, I was in Korea, and wanted to learn Korean. Simultaneously, several Koreans wanted to learn English. I did the best I could, but had few tools.to work with. Although my undergraduate degree was in philosophy and I had done 200 hours at an excellent university, I felt virtually unarmed. One of the biggest problems was material that was both simply written and interesting. I began to write, and my own stuff did the job. I discovered I am a poet.
Later, when I pursued a master's degree in English, I x-rayed every author I encountered to learn how they wrote so effectively. At the same time, I remembered my Korean friends. Late in my studies, this began to fuse. I discovered Basic English, which would have been helpful to the Koreans. Alexander Pope in his ESSAY ON CRITICISM said, "The sound should echo the sense." George Bernard Shaw wrote caustic essays, as well as PIGMALEON (Later made into MY FAIR LADY), wherein he dramatized the inconsistency of English spelling. Ghandi pushed Indian nationalism, and pointed out English spelling as its tragic flaw that thwarts its role as a LINGUA FRANCA. Meanwhile, in grammar classes, I was introduced to the phonetic alphabet.
Alas, I was supporting a new family, and had to quit the university for a survival wage at a factory. This was actually good, for it forced me to chat with a much simpler vocabulary. I discovered that simple English works beautifully to discuss any subject.
Factory is physically good, but mentally tedious. I began to write poems wherein the sounds echoed the sense, and phonetic spelling worked magic. I had asked, "what happens when English is consistently, phonetically spelled?" It seemed to stand Shaw and Ghandi on their heads, tux, dhoti, and all. Next, I conceived and did my book of Phonetic Spells. This uses the Basic English word list as its core, with additional words such as "television" and "diaper" (the latter obvious to a new parent). I respelled all these words in phonetics. Then, I made 43+/- sub lists, one for each phoneme. When done, I had separately listed all the words with a "t", a "b", etc.
Soon I hit a logic booby trap. That is, the word "its" is on the page with all the other words with a "t" in them. However, is the "t" the 2nd. letter from the right or from the left? Yes, it is both. Next, is the list organized by the letter to the right or to the left of the "t"? Yes to both again. Thus, while words with a "t" at either end, rhymes and alliterations, needed to be on two separate lists under this phoneme, letters wherein "t" was interior had to be listed 4 times. After my initial "EEK!" reaction to the way my task had exploded itself in complexity, I buckled down and completed the job, letter by letter.
When done, I submitted my manuscript to dictionary publishers. My most treasured rejection was a personal letter from Mr. Clarence Barnard himself. He commended me for my invention, but could not see a big enough market for it.
Short on leads on where to send it as well as money, I began extensively "test driving" my Phonetic Thesaurus myself. As a poet, when you write in phonetics, you veneer your work so nosy folks can't read over your shoulder what you're writing. At the same time, you see your work's sounds as efficiently as a German or Spanish author can. You can also start with sounds and look up similar or same-sounding words when you are supercharging your meanings with deliberate sonics.
As an English teacher, if you are helping students with a specific, knotty pronunciation problem, all the words with that sound are together. In my manuscript I also list kindred phonemes. For Germans, the two "th" sounds, as in "then" & "thin" are assembled. Orientals can profit from the assemblies of 'L" and "r" sounds.
Since poetry with musical overtones is much easier using phonetics, the ability to write clever, easily remembered stuff is simplified. My own endeavors discovered a shortcut that is concentrating on our 12 vowels and 3 diphthongs. This is directly kindred to the poetic device "Assonance". The results border on lyricism.
The above was done long before computers and software training was available to peons. I have now crunched my manuscript as well as I can onto Microsoft Excel worksheets (Attachment 1). Words are listed in alphabetical order on two sheets. The first is organized by the customary American English spellings; and, the second by phonetic spellings.
I strive for usefulness and simplicity. Whenever and wherever I can make anything more useful and/or simpler, I do so. Step 1 was to assure the phonetics fit onto an ordinary keyboard, including manual typewriters. The specifics of this are in Attachment 2. In this Book of Phonetic Spells, as much as possible, the lower case symbol was used for the more common sound. Upper case symbols are used for less common pronunciations, or where a symbol is too easy to confuse when your eyes are tired.
The preceding should get you started. I am still trying to get the computerized database to work like my original, hand-written manuscript does. For instance, how do you get the program to find rhymes? How could this be put onto a high-powered database such as Microsoft Access and made ever more useful?
This remains a live fire exercise for me. I also stuck in a bonus or two, founded on my poetry and article work. For instance, I have put in a "RHYME PROD" which lists initial consonants and consonant clusters. Going down the list helps. I also put in an example of using a "Phonetic Formatter" on a poem to look hard at its sonics.
Any feedback is quite welcome. And, tips are absolutely OK.
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URL : http://www.basic-english.org/rhyme/beph.html