I borrowed a stack of books from the library about the history of spelling and some of English. The first I'm reading is "Righting the Mother Tongue" by David Wolman. Here's a footnoted quote:
"Before the late Middle English period, receive, for example, can be found as receve, rassaif, recyve, receyf, and in no less than forty other iterations. People can be found as peple, pepel, pepulle...... etc."
All this was complicated by the scribes, still influenced by French letters and sounds, so English words such as cwen became queen, cwic became quick, cwellan became quell, scip became ship.
What a mess! And a powerful argument for "invented spelling", even though your son isn't buying it--nearly every scribe was reinventing the spelling of a word every time he wrote it. I still haven't stumbled on why the hell people ended up spelled that way. Unfortunately for your son, English spelling, even though standardized, is still rather arbitrary, the settled spelling simply agreed upon at some point. It is a fascinating history, and one that will at least put his struggles into perspective.
Whoa! I am gonna try to get my hands on that book! Thanks for sharing :)
There are many others. This one focusses on historical attempts to correct the English language's horrific spelling. The first half, origins, is covered well by other books, but I like that this book is not bogged down with specific words, as much as I love that, too. It's a nice overview, but now we are getting to more modern attempts to overhaul spelling, I am less interested. Still, I like that he uses phrases like "not drinking that Kool-Aid" for someone like Samuel Johnson and "the Big Kahuna" for Noah Webster (or some ancient people, anyway). It strikes my funny bone because I like to be surprised by non-sequiters cleverly placed.
Anyhow, I'm eagerly reading footnotes and taking note of other authors that might flesh out the older story more.
"Let me see you stripped down to the bone. Let me hear you speaking just for me."
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