Monday, May 20, 2013

From the man who brought us Daylight Savings Time...

The has a story posted on Benjamin Franklin's efforts to reform the American alphabet during the late colonial and early American Republic periods:  Benjamin Franklin's Phonetic Alphabet.  (Hat tip to Tea at Trianon.) As the piece explains,
Franklin developed his phonetic alphabet in 1768 but it wasn’t published until 1789, when Noah Webster, intrigued by Franklin’s proposal, included its description in his book Dissertations on the English Language. However, because, Webster lacked the type blocks to illustrate Franklin’s changes, the alphabet wouldn’t be seen until Franklin had new blocks cast to print the alphabet for his 1779 collection of writings, Political, Miscellaneous, and Philosophical Pieces. It was the ultimate test of Franklin’s scholarship and polymathy, a phonetic alphabet designed to have a “more natural Order,” than the existing system. His proposal, “A Reformed Mode of Spelling,” opens with an analysis of spoken English in the form of a table prioritizing the alphabet by sound and vocal effort. Franklin gave preference to “Sounds formed by the Breath, with none or very little help of Tongue, Teeth, and Lips; and produced chiefly in the Windpipe.”
Some of the letters look, well, more than a wee-bit strange. More important than Franklin's own work may have been his inspiration to Noah Webster in his efforts to improve and revise American English during the early Republic.


elena maria vidal said...

Thank you for the link!!

Mark in Spokane said...

You are more than welcome!