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Deseret alphabet

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Deseret alphabet
Deseret Alphabet.svg
TypeAlphabet
Spoken languagesEnglish, Native American languages (Hopi language)
Created byGeorge D. Watt, under the direction of the Board of Regents led by Brigham Young
Time periodMainly 1854–1869; some use in modern era
Parent systems
Isaac Pitman phonotypy
Unicode rangeU+10400–U+1044F
ISO 15924Dsrt
Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode.

The Deseret alphabet (/dɛzəˈrɛt/ (About this soundlisten)[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.
An 1860 $5 gold piece, with the writing, "Holiness to the Lord" ("𐐐𐐄𐐢𐐆𐐤𐐝 𐐓𐐅 𐐜 𐐢𐐃𐐡𐐔") in the Deseret 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 Deseret capital long I.svgDeseret small long I.svg Long I // 𐐁 𐐩 Deseret capital long E.svgDeseret small long E.svg Long E // 𐐂 𐐪 Deseret capital long A.svgDeseret small long A.svg Long A /ɑː/ 𐐃 𐐫 Deseret capital long Ah.svgDeseret small long Ah.svg Long Ah /ɔː/
𐐄 𐐬 Deseret capital long O.svgDeseret small long O.svg Long O // 𐐅 𐐭 Deseret capital long Oo.svgDeseret small long Oo.svg Long Oo // 𐐆 𐐮 Deseret capital short I.svgDeseret small short I.svg Short I /ɪ/ 𐐇 𐐯 Deseret capital short E.svgDeseret small short E.svg Short E /ɛ/
𐐈 𐐰 Deseret capital short A.svgDeseret small short A.svg Short A /æ/ 𐐉 𐐱 Deseret capital short Ah.svgDeseret small short Ah.svg Short Ah /ɒ/ 𐐊 𐐲 Deseret capital short O.svgDeseret small short O.svg Short O /ʌ/ 𐐋 𐐳 Deseret capital short Oo.svgDeseret small short Oo.svg Short Oo /ʊ/
𐐌 𐐴 Deseret capital Ay.svgDeseret small Ay.svg Ay // 𐐍 𐐵 Deseret capital Ow.svgDeseret small Ow.svg Ow // 𐐎 𐐶 Deseret capital Wu.svgDeseret small Wu.svg Wu /w/ 𐐏 𐐷 Deseret capital Yee.svgDeseret small Yee.svg Yee /j/
𐐐 𐐸 Deseret capital H.svgDeseret small H.svg H /h/ 𐐑 𐐹 Deseret capital Pee.svgDeseret small Pee.svg Pee /p/ 𐐒 𐐺 Deseret capital Bee.svgDeseret small Bee.svg Bee /b/ 𐐓 𐐻 Deseret capital Tee.svgDeseret small Tee.svg Tee /t/
𐐔 𐐼 Deseret capital Dee.svgDeseret small Dee.svg Dee /d/ 𐐕 𐐽 Deseret capital Chee.svgDeseret small Chee.svg Chee // 𐐖 𐐾 Deseret capital Jee.svgDeseret small Jee.svg Jee // 𐐗 𐐿 Deseret capital Kay.svgDeseret small Kay.svg Kay /k/
𐐘 𐑀 Deseret capital Gay.svgDeseret small Gay.svg Gay /ɡ/ 𐐙 𐑁 Deseret capital Ef.svgDeseret small Ef.svg Ef /f/ 𐐚 𐑂 Deseret capital Vee.svgDeseret small Vee.svg Vee /v/ 𐐛 𐑃 Deseret capital Eth.svgDeseret small Eth.svg Eth /θ/
𐐜 𐑄 Deseret capital Thee.svgDeseret small Thee.svg Thee /ð/ 𐐝 𐑅 Deseret capital Es.svgDeseret small Es.svg Es /s/ 𐐞 𐑆 Deseret capital Zee.svgDeseret small Zee.svg Zee /z/ 𐐟 𐑇 Deseret capital Esh.svgDeseret small Esh.svg Esh /ʃ/
𐐠 𐑈 Deseret capital Zhee.svgDeseret small Zhee.svg Zhee /ʒ/ 𐐡 𐑉 Deseret capital Er.svgDeseret small Er.svg Er /r/ 𐐢 𐑊 Deseret capital El.svgDeseret small El.svg El /l/ 𐐣 𐑋 Deseret capital Em.svgDeseret small Em.svg Em /m/
𐐤 𐑌 Deseret capital En.svgDeseret small En.svg En /n/ 𐐥 𐑍 Deseret capital Eng.svgDeseret small Eng.svg Eng /ŋ/ 𐐦 𐑎 Deseret capital Oi.svgDeseret small Oi.svg Oi* /ɔɪ/ 𐐧 𐑏 Deseret capital Ew.svgDeseret small Ew.svg Ew* /juː/
*Not part of original alphabet; see § Versions below

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. LDS.org: "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. 12. delivered in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, UT. p. 289.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Beesley, Kenneth R. (2004). "Typesetting the Deseret Alphabet with LATEX and METAFONT". Presented at the 25th Annual Meeting and Conference of TeX Users Group (Berlin: Springer-Verlag GmbH). http://copper.chem.ucla.edu/~jericks/Historical%20or%20Technical/History%20Looking%20Backwards/Ken%20Beesley/Typesetting%20the%20Deseret%20Alphabet%20with%20LATEX%20and%20METAFONT.pdf. 
  5. Zobell, Jr., Albert L. (1967). The Improvement Era. 70 no. 7. 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" (in en-US). Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 15. http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/say-now-shibboleth-or-maybe-cumorah/. 
  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, 12, Liverpool: Albert Carrington, pp. 297–301.

Other websites[change | change source]