A Brief History of the Code – Part 2: The First Millennium Bug

Though readiness and readiness differentiated instruction reduce the difficulty, working through the code’s confusing letter-sound relationships is what most challenges the brains of most struggling readers. There is a direct and causal relationship between the confusion in the code and the ‘stutters’ heard in the voice of a struggling reader. Obviously, understanding this confusion is critical to understanding the challenges involved in learning to read. As importantly, understanding how the code became so confused is critical to reframing the experience of struggling readers. The more we understand the accidents and negligence that led to the confusion in the English code the more it becomes obvious that it is absurdly negligent to blame and shame children for their struggle with it.

– Latin Roots – The clergy begin to write English using the letters/sounds of Latin
– French Rules – French displaces English as the official language of England
– The King’s English – Henry V resurrects English writing
– The Chancery Scribes – The King’s scribes forge the roots of modern English
– The Roots of Confusion – How written English became such a mess.
 The Great Vowel Shift – Major shifts in pronunciation add further confusion
 Casting Spells – The printing press standardizes the unstable writing system

…In Greek, or Latin, for example, once you could view the letters, you could read… there was almost a perfect match… Dr. Guy Deutscher, Author: The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind’s Greatest Invention

…[in English] “we have fifty some sounds and only twenty-six letters. So we have to adopt a whole variety of mechanisms to close the gap.” – Dr. Richard Venezky, Author: The American Way of Spelling: The Structure and Origins of American English Orthography

“We are always compromised in certain areas by having to represent sounds with symbols that weren’t designed to suit those sounds.” – Dr. Johanna Drucker, Author: The Alphabetic Labyrinth

“it’s easy to forget that the system we have learned is a system that is based on a series of accidents that result in layers of complexity”- Dr. Thomas Cable, Co-author: A History of the English Language

…”the accident of the printing press, which in England served to freeze spelling in the fifteenth century so you have these bizarre spellings” – Dr. Malcolm Richardson, Chair, Department of English, LSU

See also: Dr. Louisa Moats on the Confusion in English

See Also:  The First Millennium Bug – The fall of phoneticism and rise of confusion