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In a future where a large company is launching a series of interstellar colony fleets to nearby star systems, would it be feasible if they modified the English writing system and Earth kept to the original English forms?

The basic idea is that the owner of this company has always had an issue with English and wanted to modify it to make more sense phonetically. To do this, he created a writing system that was more reminiscent to older English languages that incorporate letters such as Thorn, Esh, and so on. As well, he incorporated some Greek and Cyrillic letters as to create the necessary sounds. The end result is a language that is identical to English when spoken, but visually looks foreign.

One idea is that he required the passengers to learn and use this language in order to be admitted on to the colony ships. Using the power of story telling, I can easily create the reason for why the language will be used and enforced. But my question pertains to the fact that there will still be steady communications with Earth even once the ships reach their destinations. Does this difference in language present an unnecessary problem, or would the fact that the language was also used on Earth allow it to become something of an "American English: England English" relationship?

I know there are several posts with similar ideas but I think my question is a little more direct and focused.

Note: I did make the alphabet for it and it looks pretty neat when written out. For the most part it is very simple and easy to learn.

Edit: during this era, there is kind of a cultural reneisance going on. Some of the old standard systems have already been updated or changed. There may have even been push to create a new universal language and writing system. This is just to clarify that the lone creator here is not necessarily crazy or power craving, he is just someone who wants to make things easier for everyone.... Somewhat like a future Elon Musk.

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    $\begingroup$ The phrase "a language which makes more sense phonetically" is completely meaningless. (1) What on Earth do you mean by a languages making more sense phonetically? (2) Are you by any chance confusing a language with a writing system used for writing that language? That is, do you want to modify the English language, or any of the spelling systems currently used for writing the English language? #fər ˈɪnstəns, ðɪs ˈsɛntəns iz stɪl ˈɪŋglɪʃ, bʌt ˈrɪtn wɪð ðə ɪntəˈnæʃənəl fəʊˈnɛtɪk ˈælfəbɪt. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 21 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ P.S. Languages do not "incorporate letters". Some (not all) writing systems do. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 21 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP yes, that is correct. It is not for a new language, just a new writing system. I have looked at the IPA and felt it was a little more complex than what I wanted. $\endgroup$
    – Markitect
    Jan 21 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ But there are numerous proposals of reforming the spelling of English; the one which I like most is SoundSpel. One of the major problems with proposals of writing English phonemically is that this would immediately surface the differences between the English, American, Australian and Indian dialects, differences which the current spelling keeps out of sight. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 21 at 14:13
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    $\begingroup$ "would it be feasible if they modified the English language and Earth didn't?" no, that's not feasible. Why would Earth not modify English? Linguistic drift happens all the time and we already have many regional dialects. If the language didn't change for a century or so, we wouldn't have the word "internet" or "phone", for example. So, the unbelievable part is language not changing. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Jan 21 at 15:53
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In a future where a large company is launching a series of interstellar colony fleets to nearby star systems, would it be feasible if they modified the English language and Earth didn't?

Yes, but...

It is more feasible for the language of the colony fleets to remain more stable, and that of Earth to change, at least in the short term. The high-population "homeland" of a language tends to be where the most change happens, driven by sociological factors. It's why Britain has so many different accents and dialects in such a small space, compared to America.

In your specific situation, however, where a single individual is trying to consciously engineer a change to the language, that does work better with a smaller, isolated population. Cf. Noah Webster's outsized influence on American spelling (possible due to relative isolation from England), vs. the attempted introduction of the Deseret Alphabet (which failed when the mass of mainstream American culture caught up to Utah in the westward expansion).

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To answer the question "In a future where a large company is launching a series of interstellar colony fleets to nearby star systems, would it be feasible if they modified the English language and Earth didn't?", it is not just feasible, it will happen. Unless society changes by then, e.g. by widespread assistive linguistic technologies or direct neural interface or whatever. The language will drift in some generations, now the English is rather exceptional in its frozen orthography (and yet not being quite in diglossia), so the written language might remain stable-ish for some time.

The rest of the question seems to be about orthography only and the acceptance of an orthography reform. Possible, if done in small doses (no radical phonemic redesign, no extra letters!), or if forced upon people (see Moldavian).

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Machine translation will solve almost all issues.

Communication between the two versions of English becomes problematic when the communication is written (when spoken, the languages are identical). So, any written communication will need to be translated. Fortunately, this is an incredibly simple translation task, since there is a perfect 1:1 correspondence between words in both languages - all you need to do is write the exact same word with different letters.

Machine translation is normally a difficult task, because it requires subtle understanding of context to map concepts between different languages, but in this case, it's embarrassingly simple. A very simple program could translate every message sent between the colony and Earth - it's just a simple dictionary lookup. Due to the time delay in communicating over stellar distances, I'd expect most communication will be written anyway, and the additional processing time for translation will not be a significant part of the transmission time.

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  • $\begingroup$ One thing to add is that the journey the colonists are on lasts over 180 years. So there may be language mutations going on during that time. But maybe not too many since they will still be in contact with Earth; just with a few years of light/communication lag. $\endgroup$
    – Markitect
    Jan 23 at 15:39
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George Bernard Shaw sponsored a completely different alphabet for the English language in the mid twentieth century when he devise the Shavian/Shaw alphabet. See here also.

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Sample text

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Which translates as:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. That's more or less what I am thinking of too. Except I wanted to try to keep as much of the existing alphabet(s) as possible. $\endgroup$
    – Markitect
    Jan 23 at 15:37
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It's already happened, on earth, starting in the late 1800s. A variant of English became widely used in Asia during the later stages of the British Empire. This kind of English was generally known as "Business English" although many users of it tended to pronounce it like "Pigeon English". It had many of the words of English but the grammar was considerably reduced. And that's on top of the fact that English sysntax is far looser than, say, Latin syntax.

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It sounds like you have yourself a 1 for 1 substitution cipher for the Latin Alphabet, which is not uncommon in fiction. Depictions of the language used by Superman's people, Kryptonian, have 26 letters that will corespond to a Latin Alphabet, as well as Interlac which is a different set of 26 letters that correspond (It's important to note that this is only written Kryptonian and Interlac and used in comic panel's speech balloons. Spoken Kryptonian and Interlac do not sound like English or remotely close to the written word (Kryptonian was once mistaken for something "Swedish" by dock workers and Interlac hasn't been given a "sounds like" construct in comics, but is one of a few fictional langauages used in the Young Justice series so you can find a sound of it.

Another example is "Aurebesh" which is the written language used in Star Wars and has 36 unique characers (26 letters and 10 numerical digits (0-9)). English is Transliterated into the 26 characters but the common spoken language in the film is "Basic" in all language translations, which sounds like the localized translation (i.e. For Americans, Basic is Englsih while for Japanese audience "Basic" is spoken Japanese.). This also has some familiarty to real life modern Japanese which has both Kanji, Hiragana, Katakana, and Romanji writing systems due to the languages heavy reliance on loan words (the latter two are explicitly used to deal with Latin Alphabet Language Loan Words, mostly derrived from Portuguese, Dutch, or English due to Historical Relations between Western Powers using those languages. The reason for this is the Latin Alphabet covers 26 sounds while the Japanese Language has only 22 native sounds).

Other languages also adopted foreign alphabets to cover the gap in their own culture never developing it's own writing system. For example, Hawaiian, Maori, and Quechua are extant languages use the Latin Language as their language was documented in written form only after contact with languages that used the Latin Alphabet (Hawaiian only uses a part of Latin as the language has only 12 native sounds. Quechua tends to use letters and combinations that aren't commonly used in Spanish Latin Alphabet use. In case your wonder, Quechua is the language of the Inca civilization and an official language used in several South American Nations that include former territories of the Inca Empire. Maori is another polinesian language similar to Hawaiian and is an official second language in New Zealand.

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  • $\begingroup$ It's not quite a 1 to 1 as there are around 32 letters. I'm still deciding on whether to go full phonetic or have some letters that work with one another. $\endgroup$
    – Markitect
    Jan 23 at 15:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Markitect: For the record, I did make my own cipher and used additional "letters" to cover the sounds that are always combined letters (such as an "Sh", a "Th", and a "Wh") and had two letters for "Q" (the original was a single Q and was meant to cover rare words like "Iraq" while the second addition would be the sound of "Qu". So the word Quit would use the second Q letter over the original Q). I know other languages within the Latin Alphabet which use other symbols like this such as German which covers the "ss" sound with a Heiss Symbol (Looks almost like a B). $\endgroup$
    – hszmv
    Jan 25 at 12:17
  • $\begingroup$ After going through my alphabet, I am at 37 letters. I included ones for th as in theft and also a th for the. It's amazing how many sounds we use in words. I didn't want to make a crazy 44 letter alphabet though so I had to draw the line somewhere. That line is the hard part. $\endgroup$
    – Markitect
    Jan 26 at 17:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Markitect: Maybe it's a regional accent, but I proncounce Theft and The with the same th sound. $\endgroup$
    – hszmv
    Jan 26 at 18:02
  • $\begingroup$ That is most likely the case. I was looking into old letters such as thorn and eth which (depending on where you look) have been known to differentiate between the two "th" sounds. The sounds do become more pronounced when you compare father, that, there, verses thin, thing, thought and so on. Truthfully the eth is one of the letters I've been on the fence about. I could just use the the "thin" th. The in-universe reason could be that the "th" of thin is more elegant than the harder The sound. $\endgroup$
    – Markitect
    Jan 26 at 18:26

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