Uncle Jerrold and the schwa

Yesterday as I was wandering out of the parking lot on campus, waiting for the caffeine to kick in before another 9am meeting, I stumbled by the same newspaper box I always do, when I saw a giant schwa staring back at me. A local alternative paper, the Metro Times, has an article on a Detroiter who goes by the name ‘Uncle Jerrold’ and his campaign to introduce the schwa as a new letter of the alphabet. The article here is a fascinating read, not because it’s likely to become a reality but because of the ways in which the logic of orthographic reform relates to beliefs about language and cognition.

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1 Comment

  1. To: Matthew Wolfe and (Detroit) Metro Times
    Re: Uncle Jerrold and the schwa

    What a beautifully written, sympathetic story about a “local character” with an impossible dream!
    You covered all the bases: His life history (as told by him); his obsesssion with the schwa, in plentiful detail — while avoiding the word ‘obsession’; one linguist’s [one is enough] skepticism; and much more.
    Masterful reporting! Congratulations to Mr. Wolfe and the Metro Times editors.

    Background: I reached your piece via the blog , which linked to https://glossographia.wordpress.com/ , to a poster whose e-mail address is now invalid. Thanks to them too.
    Note on schwa: Despite the IPA’s and Uncle Jerrold’s upside-down e, I use an upside-down v when trying to teach students of English that those unstressed vowels are NOT pronounced the way they’re written!

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