Calwrite and Soundwrite

Akos Szoboszlay
mid 1990s

What is Calwrite?

Calwrite uses Soundwrite. Soundwrite is a method of writing that represents the phonetics of the English language. Soundwrite is efficient, phonetically written, English in the dialect of the writer.

Calwrite is a standardized written form of the English language that ignores dialect variations. It is used where pronunciation information does not need to be transmitted. It is based on the California dialect.

Soundwrite and Calwrite are typewriter compatible and computer friendly.

Why phonetic English?

The English language, the most universal in the world, has millions of people learning it as a second language. Many countries have English as an official second language. This includes the world's second most populous country, India. To quote Rajeev Srinivasan in India Currents Magazine: "English is the international language of business and science and the primary cultural vehicle as well. English is a fabulous link language."

The English language has a vocabulary about twice as large as most other languages. In is unequaled in transmitting technical and business information.

For all its advantages, English has a major shortcoming. Its written form is the least phonetic of any language using the Roman alphabet.

Phonetic English will save a tremendous amount of time. For most, learning to spell traditional English takes approximately 1000 hours of time, equivalent to a half year of work. Much of it is memorization.

How many hours are wasted in a year? To calculate, first ask how many people per year learn start to learn English. Of the five billion world population, probably over 10% speak English to some extent. If expectancy is 50 years. This means that 5e9 time 10% times 1/50 times 1000 hours, or 10 billion hours of time are wasted annually.

One will have to look up words to obtain the correct spelling through the course of a lifetime. Sometimes, one is unable to even look up a word in the dictionary, if there is an unphonetic spelling toward the front of the word.

Phonetic English will also advance the learning ability of children who are native English speakers. By the end of the second grade, most would be able to read and pronounce every word in the English language (but not necessarily with comprehension). However, any spoken word that they understand would be understood in the written form. They would be able to write any spoken word, understood or not. Furthermore, learning a word by reading would automatically enable them to pronounce the word. The direct link between sound and script would re-enforce each other, enhancing the learning process. Soundwrite could be taught for native English speakers as an addition to traditional English spelling. Only after many years can traditional English spelling be eliminated as a subject in school.

There is no phonetic English at present, and people now attempt to learn how to pronounce English words from the non-phonetic English spelling. This leads to classic mispronunciations of English by non-native speakers. Phonetic English would be a tremendous help for English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) students.

Many fiction and non-fiction authors transfer pronunciation information, and not just meaning. A classic example is Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. xxExpand. All English dialects can be reproduced using Soundwrite. English spoken with foreign accents can also reproduced to some degree.

Finally, Soundwrite is easy to learn. For adult native English speakers, it takes only a few hours to learn Soundwrite.

Why Calwrite?

A person's reading speed is contingent on rapidly recognizing the characters of a word as representing the word. Rapid recognition comes with practice, so there is a great advantage in formalizing spelling for cases where pronunciation is of no interest. A further advantage results from improved comprehension between people of quite different English dialects.

English has, like most languages, a range of dialects. This includes not only dialects in the United States, but even more very distinctive dialects from Scotland and India. This would seem to bring up the question of which dialect to call the standard, in order to standardize the spelling. Yet, there is one dialect that is understood world-wide by English speakers, far beyond it's predominate usage, for two reasons. This is Calspeak, spoken by native California English speakers.

First, the movie and television industry, in terms of world-wide distribution, is primarily located in and around Hollywood, California. Some foreigners learn English from watching English-language TV. Therefore, the English dialect for the standardized spelling should be the California dialect (or sub-dialect). Furthermore, this sub-dialect is almost identical to that of a vast region comprising the Western USA and English speakers of Canada; in total xx million speakers.

Second, the English of California and western Canada is most easily understood, in terms of hearing the sounds. Sounds are more distinctively pronounced. They are the less likely to be slurred, run together, clipped off or exaggerated than for many other dialects of English.

Calwrite is also more compact than traditional English in that it takes less space, on average.

One may ask, why not use the phonetics found in dictionaries? There are two reasons why not.

First, most characters used for the vowels are not reproducible by typewriters nor present in even extensive character sets of modern computers. This is true for both the various pronunciation keys found in American English dictionaries, and for the International Phonetic Alphabet. Some sounds are of the former are two characters long and topped by a common horizontal or drooping line.

Second, the dialects of English reproduced in American dictionaries are various East Coast dialects, depending on the dictionary. For example, the American Heritage Dictionary [AHD].states that the o in horrid should sound like the o in pot. In most of the USA and Canada, the o in horrid is pronounced as in toe. In Soundwrite, the letter o represents this sound, as it does in other languages using the Roman script. The Oxford American Dictionary does not pronounce the ending r of most words, like fire, sour or fair. This is certainly at odds with most of the USA and Canada.

The two examples given above (the word horrid and -r ending words) were excerpted from the "pronunciation key" page in the front of the dictionary. Such discrepancies in pronunciation keys, when they had to be relied on, would result in major confusion for Soundwrite writers, just trying to match sound with letter. Under these circumstances, Soundwrite would be difficult and there could be no Calwrite. For Calwrite to work, there must be an existing glossary. This glossary is enclosed, and is also available in computer form.

One might ask, why not invent an entirely new script, designed for greatest efficiency instead of historical continuity. This new script could, for example do away with the redundancy of capital letters and let a certain stroke of the pen, typewriter or laser printer signify capitalization of the next character or characters. If such a task were accomplished, it probably would be too great of a change for acceptance. Learning a new script is much more time consuming than learning new sounds for some of the characters. However, Calwrite is the ideal ground work if a new script should be contemplated. With a one-to-one correspondence between sound and character, it is very easy to write a computer program that transcribes Calwrite into any other phonetic script. Script inventing programs are already available for the Macintosh and Windows computers. Alternatively, one may invent fonts that are optimized for Calwrite.

Calwrite is environmentally beneficial. Calwrite uses about 8% less space than traditional English text. For example, taught is just tat. Calwrite reduces wood pulp requirements and paper waste. Calwrite also saves money, by reducing the size of printed matter. Conversely, it can increase the contents of magazine articles or books by 8% with no additional costs.

Soundwrite and Calwrite are in the public domain, like any mathematical formula, computer language or human language. There can be no patent or copyright. Anyone can freely use it.

Calwrite and the personal computer

There have been several impediments to a phonetic English in the past. Not enough key strokes on a typewriter was a contributing factor. A larger impediment was probably the transcribing effort. This is now solved by personal computers.

Any cheap personal computer can easily transcribe an entire book or article, if the text is already in the computer. If it's not, scanners and text recognition programs are readily available to place the text from paper into computer.

Very important for Calwrite is a computer program known as a "spell checker". Such programs are included with modern word processors. Use of the "spell check" gives Calwrite learners, especially from other English dialects or non-native speakers, prompt feedback to correct errors, so that they do not continue to make the same errors. For ESL students, it also serves as a pronunciation check.

Calwrite may be used by some word processor programs. The user dictionary, containing Calwrite, would be selected in the preferences part of the program. You can also use the dedicated programs below. All should be available for Macintosh and Windows as shareware. [Note: none has been written yet.]

Calwrite computer programs to aid its use:


conversion: from -> to


traditional English -> Formal Calwrite.
Optionally can include ESL marks.


Formal Calwrite -> traditional English.


a Formal Calwrite "spell checker".
Also useful to check pronunciation of ESL students.


checks for basic punctuation errors.


alternate Calwrite -> preferred Calwrite.
Converts from the "alternate" characters, which are faster to type on a keyboard, and converts it to the "preferred" characters.

Why now?

There are analogous systems among humans, where a "kick" (described below) is needed to bring about a change. This change can only occur where there is an obvious advantage for using the new system. Even with common agreement that there is such advantage, why does everybody (or most people) not change over? Obviously, there is no advantage to use the new system unless there are significant numbers of other people also using the new system. An example is using the metric system of measurement versus the old "English" system of measurements.

This phenomenon also occurs in mathematics and engineering. It is called positive feedback. With positive feedback present, you need a certain amount of energy or voltage or movement to make the system swing the other way. Sometimes, swinging one way means it won't swing back. In chemistry, reactions between two chemicals would occur if the result is at a lower energy level. You may place two chemicals in a beaker of water that, you know, should react. But nothing happens. It needs a kick. You can raise the temperature, which is more effort. But wait. If you can find the catalyst, that would easily kick the reaction into occurring.

For Calwrite there are two catalysts: ESL and the personal computer. One would probably have been enough. Both together makes the reaction go even faster.

How to read and write Soundwrite and Calwrite

For the remainder of this document, please type in the word details replacing the word index for the web address in the URL entry of your browser (on Netscape, the word is "location"). This is because I don't want the search engines to spider [index] the remainder of this document because they may get confused due to not using the old spelling,