Deseret alphabet

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Deseret alphabet
Script type
CreatorGeorge D. Watt, under the direction of the Board of Regents led by Brigham Young
Time period
Mainly 1854–1869; some use in modern era
Directionleft-to-right Edit this on Wikidata
LanguagesEnglish, Native American languages (Hopi language)
Related scripts
Parent systems
Isaac Pitman phonotypy
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Dsrt (250), ​Deseret (Mormon)
Unicode alias
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and ⟨ ⟩, see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.

The Deseret alphabet (/dɛzəˈrɛt/ (audio speaker iconlisten)[1]) is a writing system invented in the 19th Century in America by the Mormon Church. A group of leaders called the Board of Regents created it. They were from Brigham Young University.[2]

Brigham Young wanted all letters to match sounds, to make reading and writing easier for immigrants. Teachers taught the alphabet in the school system at the time.[2]: 65–66  [3]

Between 1854 and 1869, books, newspapers, street signs and mail used the new alphabet. Even though the LDS church tried very hard to support the alphabet, it wasn't continued for very long.[2][4][5][6][7]

History[change | change source]

Early Deseret alphabet chart found in Jules Remy and Julius Brenchley's A Journey to Great-Salt-Lake City (1855)

Creation (1847–1854)[change | change source]

Church leaders Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt and Heber C. Kimball were part of the Board of Regents that made the Deseret alphabet.[2] Other important creators were George D. Watt and William W. Phelps.[4][8]

Before they decided to use the Deseret alphabet, the Board of Regents thought they would use Pitman style alphabets. On 29 November 1853, they came together to vote. Then, Willard Richards, who was sick when the Board of Regents had talked about which alphabet to use, saw the Pitman style alphabet. He said it looked too much like the English alphabet, and he wanted to start over with something new.[4] His words convinced Brigham Young and the rest of the Board of Regents to make the Deseret alphabet. Less than two months later, the Board of Regents approved the first 38-letter Deseret alphabet.[4]

The Deseret alphabet was based on Isaac Pitman's English Phonotypic Alphabet, and in fact, the Board of Regents almost chose Pitman's alphabet as the new alphabet.

Alphabet[change | change source]

In the Deseret alphabet, capital letters ("majuscule" or upper case) look the same as the lower case ("minuscule") letters, except the capital letters are larger. In the chart below, the "Glyph" is the letter shape, and next to it is the letter's name, which is how it sounds.

Glyph Name   Glyph Name   Glyph Name   Glyph Name
𐐀 𐐨 Long I // 𐐁 𐐩 Long E // 𐐂 𐐪 Long A /ɑː/ 𐐃 𐐫 Long Ah /ɔː/
𐐄 𐐬 Long O // 𐐅 𐐭 Long Oo // 𐐆 𐐮 Short I /ɪ/ 𐐇 𐐯 Short E /ɛ/
𐐈 𐐰 Short A /æ/ 𐐉 𐐱 Short Ah /ɒ/ 𐐊 𐐲 Short O /ʌ/ 𐐋 𐐳 Short Oo /ʊ/
𐐌 𐐴 Ay // 𐐍 𐐵 Ow // 𐐎 𐐶 Wu /w/ 𐐏 𐐷 Yee /j/
𐐐 𐐸 H /h/ 𐐑 𐐹 Pee /p/ 𐐒 𐐺 Bee /b/ 𐐓 𐐻 Tee /t/
𐐔 𐐼 Dee /d/ 𐐕 𐐽 Chee // 𐐖 𐐾 Jee // 𐐗 𐐿 Kay /k/
𐐘 𐑀 Gay /ɡ/ 𐐙 𐑁 Ef /f/ 𐐚 𐑂 Vee /v/ 𐐛 𐑃 Eth /θ/
𐐜 𐑄 Thee /ð/ 𐐝 𐑅 Es /s/ 𐐞 𐑆 Zee /z/ 𐐟 𐑇 Esh /ʃ/
𐐠 𐑈 Zhee /ʒ/ 𐐡 𐑉 Er /r/ 𐐢 𐑊 El /l/ 𐐣 𐑋 Em /m/
𐐤 𐑌 En /n/ 𐐥 𐑍 Eng /ŋ/ 𐐦 𐑎 Oi* /ɔɪ/ 𐐧 𐑏 Ew* /juː/
*Not part of original alphabet

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. "Book of Mormon Pronunciation Guide" (retrieved 2012-02-25), IPA-ified from "dĕz-a-rĕt'"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Moore, Richard G. (2006). "The Deseret Alphabet Experiment" (PDF). Religious Studies Center. Brigham Young University. Retrieved 2017-01-06.
  3. Young, Brigham (8 October 1868). Journal of Discourses. Vol. 12. delivered in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, UT. p. 289.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Beesley, Kenneth R. (2004). "Typesetting the Deseret Alphabet with LATEX and METAFONT" (PDF). Presented at the 25th Annual Meeting and Conference of TeX Users Group. Berlin: Springer-Verlag GmbH – via CiteSeerX.
  5. Zobell, Jr., Albert L. (1967). The Improvement Era. Vol. 70. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. pp. 10–11.
  6. Simmonds, A. J. (1968). "Utah's Strange Alphabet" (PDF). Sparta, Illinois: Major Magazines, Inc. Retrieved 2017-01-10.
  7. Spendlove, Loren Blake (2015-01-01). "Say Now Shibboleth, or Maybe Cumorah". Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture. 15. Archived from the original on 2015-07-09. Retrieved 2018-01-24.
  8. Jules Remy, A Journey to Salt Lake City (London, 1861) 185.

Further reading[change | change source]

  • Bigler, David. 1998. Forgotten kingdom: the Mormon theocracy in the American West, 1847–1896. Spokane: Arthur Clark
  • Ivins, Stanley S. 1947. The Deseret Alphabet. Utah Humanities Review 1:223-39.
  • Lynott, Patricia A. 1999. "Communicating Insularity: The Deseret Alphabet of Nineteenth-Century Mormon Education." American Educational History Journal 26 (1):20–26.
  • Thompson, Roger. 1982. Language planning in frontier America: The case of the Deseret Alphabet. Language Problems and Language Planning 6:45–62.
  • Wintersteen, Larry Ray. 1970. A History of the Deseret Alphabet. MA thesis, Brigham Young University.
  • Young, Brigham (October 8, 1868), "Southern Missions—Deseret Alphabet—Relief Societies—Home Manufactures", Journal of Discourses Volume 12 By President Brigham Young, his two Counsellors, and the Twelve Apostles, vol. 12, Liverpool: Albert Carrington, pp. 297–301.

Other websites[change | change source]