As we know, spelling and pronunciation change over time. However, it's hard to imagine any normal, common words having a shift in their spelling in our lifetimes.

The issue was brought to mind for me by the word "have," which it occurred to me is always pronounced with a v sound when used in reference to possessing something, e.g. "I have a car," but often pronounced with an f when in reference to obligation, e.g. "I have to go." (I haffta go.) And that's not even really "casual" pronunciation. When I pronounce it out fully with a v in that context, to my ear it actually almost sounds wrong.

When, if ever, would spelling start to reflect this? Can language still change that way now that the written language is so widely standardized and distributed? By this I mean that we're all largely reading the same things now via the internet and digital distribution of media, which reduces the effect of regional deviations in language.

Are there any examples of ongoing shifts in spelling despite the modern way of things?

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    The Washington Post’s copy-editor-in-chief put out a piece a few days back on some new revisions to the paper’s style, moving from e-mail to email, mike to mic (for microphone), Web site to website, etc. – Brian Donovan Dec 9 '15 at 22:32
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    Given that there is no "official" spelling, it's hard to see how such a change could occur. – Hot Licks Dec 9 '15 at 23:01

Certainly. For example, when I was in college and university in the 1970s, we were taught that "all right" was the only correct usage. However, note this interesting quotation:

Although the spelling alright is nearly as old as all right, some critics have insisted alright is all wrong. Nevertheless it has its defenders and its users, who perhaps have been influenced by analogy with altogether and already. It is less frequent than all right but remains common especially in informal writing. It is quite common in fictional dialogue and is sometimes found in more formal writing .


Other examples will surely be given. My opinion is that changes in spelling are more likely today than ever, for the reasons you cited, as well as an increase in the rate at which new words are coined and popularized.

  • Very good example!!! That sort of example is exactly what I was hoping for. – temporary_user_name Dec 9 '15 at 21:31
  • Did small edit. If you don't like it, change it back. Good answer. – ab2 MonicaNotForgotten Dec 9 '15 at 22:54

What does "official" spelling mean - that found in the majority of trustworthy dictionaries? I'd expect though words generally change spelling by means of a phase whereby at least two spellings have some recognised currency. One example might be "through/thru" - it's not hard to imagine that in 50 or so years' time, the 'through' spelling might become more or less archaic, just as, e.g. the spelling 'divers' for 'diverse' is largely archaic now, despite being common 100 years ago (Wodehouse used it). Within a decade we may well even see dictionaries recognising 'u' as a legitimate alternate spelling for "you" or "luv" for "love" etc.

  • 'Official' means 'licensed by office', and there ain't one dictating spelling. (Though some people seem to think they can.) You're probably as close as one can get with 'that [spelling] found in the majority of trustworthy dictionaries', but then we start arguing over which they are. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 9 '15 at 23:09
  • That's easy - any dictionary that isn't urbandictionary! – Dylan Nicholson Dec 9 '15 at 23:15

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