Scott's English Language Page

Scott's English Page

English is a reader's language. This is a surprising statement in view of the difficulty of learning to read English. The learner encounters many letters that represent more than one sound, as well as sounds that can be spelled more than one way.

Once the words and their spellings have been learned, though, the reader of English has a powerful way to deal with some of the ambiguities of the spoken language. If a speaker says the word "pear," a listener must rely on context to know that the word is not "pare" or "pair" -- or possibly "payor" or the French word for "father." A reader with a dictionary can tell what is meant, even without prior knowledge of the word used.

The writer has the same "spelling" tool, so why not call English a writer's language? For the writer, the system has more hazards than opportunities. In most other languages, a spelling mistake is unlikely to suggest a wrong meaning. Spell-checking software for English is useful but presents its own danger: the program celebrates the correct spelling of the wrong word.

The writer of English has all the responsibility of using a system that no longer closely refelects pronunciation. A speaker has many more chances to correct mistakes than has the writer. First impressions are important, and the writer gets only one chance.

I offer help with translations and copy editing. Have a look at the links to the right, and mail me here.

Common Mistakes
Whose language is it? -- my background
"Ksenos," the Language Page
The Uses of Writing