In the last unit you saw how English spelling has developed over hundreds of years. There have been many attempts to simplify our spelling system, but only one has really succeeded: the changes made by Noah Webster, whose 'American Dictionary of the English Language' was published in 1828. He wanted to make the point that, now America was no longer ruled by Britain, its language should also be independent.
Most of the changes involved shortening words or changing odd-looking spellings. The main groups are summarised here:
|our endings change to or||colour||color|
|re endings change to||theatre||theater|
|ogue endings change to og||catalogue||catalog|
|l endings do not double||travelling||traveling|
|ae and oe words change to e||encyclopaedia||encyclopedia|
|ise endings change to ize||apologise||apologize|
In a few cases, the changes are more complicated, for example:
|some -ce endings change to -se:||licence > license|
|some -se endings change to -ce:||practise > practice|
Often British spellings are accepted in the USA and American spellings in the UK and other English speaking countries. However some people still get very upset if the wrong spelling is used. For example, there were several letters to the press about a move to use sulfur instead of sulphur in a school science exam.
The English language is continuously evolving and as communication brings us closer together it will be interesting to see what happens. We advise learning the differences and continue to use the accepted spelling in your country.
This unit will show more examples of the differences above and will test you in British and American spellings.
|Go to the next page: more examples of differences|
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