Thursday, March 15, 2012

Could /fish/ be spelled "ghoti"

Could /fish/ be spelled "ghoti" or "-fici"?

To illustrate the weirdness of English spelling, George Bernard Shaw once said we might as well spell the word fish "ghoti." The fact of the matter is, Shaw was only partially right but 100% wrong!

True, the gh may be pronounced /f/ as in laugh.
The o may be pronounced /i/ as in women.
The ti may be pronounced /sh/ as in nation.

But there is no word in English in which the initial letters gh are ever pronounced /f/. There is no word in English ending in ti in which the ti is pronounced /sh/.

As a matter of fact the sound /fish/ is spelled fish only in words that can be reduced to a base (morpheme) of one meaningful syllable. The words fish, fishes, fished, fishing, fisherman, fishermen, fishery, and fisheries can all be reduced to "fish."

But surely we wouldn't want to spell beneficial as benefishal or official as offishal and that should be sufficient to make my point. The sound /fish/ happens to always be spelled fici in words that have a base of more than one syllable. For the phonic patterns rarely taught in schools see The Fancy Words.

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