So many words in the English language have an “irregular” spelling, or so we are told. But no-one knows what the regular spelling would be. How could they? But let’s think about what English would look like if it were spelled regularly. This would mean a few things.
—If you know how to pronounce a word, you should be able to spell it.
—If you know how to spell a word, you should be able to pronounce it.
—Words that everyone agrees do not have an irregular spelling should be spelled exactly the same.
But of course it’s more complicated than that. The main obstacle is that people don’t pronounce words the same way. There are dialects. This itself wouldn’t be a problem, necessarily, as long as the same spelling always led to the same pronunciation for each dialect, but this isn’t true either: there’s the trap-bath split, there’s the cot-caught merger, there’s the wine-whine merger, there are rhotic and non-rhotic dialects, and more. Let’s take those 4 examples, and do what we can with them anyway.
So, what would “regular” English spelling look like?