Why is English spelling exceptionally irregular?

It is well known that English words derive mainly from old German and Norman French, and that its alphabet of 26 letters makes it impossible to represent its 43 ½ speech sounds with just one symbol. But that is not why many English spellings, such as 'daughter', 'brought' and 'people', are now irregular, while their German and French relatives have much better spellings (Tochter, brachte, peuple).

The pronunciations of all three languages have changed since 1066. But only in English have numerous spellings become highly unreliable guides to pronunciation (sound, southern, soup), and spellings for identical sounds have ended up exceptionally varied (blue, shoe, flew, through, to, you, two, too, gnu).

The consistency of English spelling was first seriously corrupted during the reinstatement of English as the official language of England in 15th century. It suffered even more at the hands of foreign printers during the bible wars of the 16th century. Sadly, there has never been a serious, co-ordinated attempt to remedy the various accidental and deliberate corruptions of the alphabetic principle (of representing speech sounds in a regular manner) in English.

THE ENGLISH SPELLING SYSTEM