The Deseret alphabet
is a phonemic English spelling reform
For hundreds of years, many groups and individuals have advocated spelling reform for English. Spelling reformers seek to make English spelling more consistent and more phonetic, so that spellings match pronunciations and follow the alphabetic principle....
developed in the mid-19th century by the board of regents of the University of Deseret (later the University of Utah
The University of Utah, also known as the U or the U of U, is a public, coeducational research university in Salt Lake City, Utah, United States. The university was established in 1850 as the University of Deseret by the General Assembly of the provisional State of Deseret, making it Utah's oldest...
) under the direction of Brigham Young
Brigham Young was an American leader in the Latter Day Saint movement and a settler of the Western United States. He was the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1847 until his death in 1877, he founded Salt Lake City, and he served as the first governor of the Utah...
, second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In public statements, Young claimed the alphabet was intended to replace the traditional Latin alphabet
The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most recognized alphabet used in the world today. It evolved from a western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, which was adopted and modified by the Etruscans who ruled early Rome...
with an alternative, more phonetically accurate alphabet for the English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...
. This would offer immigrants an opportunity to learn to read and write English, he said, the orthography of which is often less phonetically consistent than those of many other languages. Similar experiments were not uncommon during the period, and some of the better-known results include Pitman Shorthand
Pitman shorthand is a system of shorthand for the English language developed by Englishman Sir Isaac Pitman , who first presented it in 1837. Like most systems of shorthand, it is a phonetic system; the symbols do not represent letters, but rather sounds, and words are, for the most part, written...
and (much later) the Shavian alphabet
The Shavian alphabet is an alphabet conceived as a way to provide simple, phonetic orthography for the English language to replace the difficulties of the conventional spelling. It was posthumously funded by and named after Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw...
Young also prescribed the learning of Deseret to the school system, stating "It will be the means of introducing uniformity in our orthography
The orthography of a language specifies a standardized way of using a specific writing system to write the language. Where more than one writing system is used for a language, for example Kurdish, Uyghur, Serbian or Inuktitut, there can be more than one orthography...
, and the years that are now required to learn to read and spell can be devoted to other studies" .
Development and use
The Deseret alphabet was developed primarily by a committee made up of the university's board of regents and church leaders Parley P. Pratt
Parley Parker Pratt, Sr. was a leader in the Latter Day Saint movement and an original member of Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1835 until his murder in 1857. He served in the Quorum with his younger brother, Orson Pratt...
and Heber C. Kimball
Heber Chase Kimball was a leader in the early Latter Day Saint movement. He served as one of the original twelve apostles in the early Latter Day Saint church, and as first counselor to Brigham Young in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1847 until his...
. The two main contributors to the alphabet's character development were Pratt and George D. Watt
George Darling Watt was the first convert to Mormonism baptized in the British Isles. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , Watt was a secretary to Brigham Young, the primary editor of the Journal of Discourses and the primary inventor of the Deseret Alphabet.Watt was...
, a local expert on shorthand systems. In addition, a Frenchman visiting Utah at the time the alphabet was being developed reported that William W. Phelps "worked out the letters." (Jules Remy, A Journey to Salt Lake City
[London, 1861].185.) Assistant Church Historian, Andrew Jenson, also reported that the alphabet was produced by a committee composed of Orson Pratt, Parley P. Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, George D. Watt, Robert L. Campbell, and others.
The Deseret alphabet may have been inspired by Michael Hull Barton's phonetic "PerfectAalphabet" he published out of Boston and the Shaker community at Harvard, Massachusetts from 1830-1832. Originally a Quaker, Barton was baptized a Mormon in Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Portsmouth is a city in Rockingham County, New Hampshire in the United States. It is the largest city but only the fourth-largest community in the county, with a population of 21,233 at the 2010 census...
about October 1831 (during his phonetic alphabet experiment), but within a few months then converted to Shakerism, although he continued to meet with early Mormon leaders until at least 1844. The alphabet went through at least three major revisions during its first few years.
At least four books were published in the new alphabet: The First Deseret Alphabet Reader
, The Second Deseret Alphabet Reader
, The Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon is a sacred text of the Latter Day Saint movement that adherents believe contains writings of ancient prophets who lived on the American continent from approximately 2600 BC to AD 421. It was first published in March 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr...
, and a Book of Mormon excerpt called "First Nephi
The First Book of Nephi is the first book of the Book of Mormon. Its full title is The First Book of Nephi: His Reign and Ministry. The book is usually referred to as First Nephi and abbreviated as "1 Ne.". It is a first-person narrative, beginning around 600 BC, of a prophet named Nephi...
The Book of Omni is one of the books that make up the Book of Mormon. The book contains only one chapter although it covers more than two centuries of Nephite history ....
". Additionally published in the Deseret News
were various articles and passages from the New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....
, which were printed on a press obtained by Orson Pratt
Orson Pratt, Sr. was a leader in the Latter Day Saint movement and an original member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles...
Considerable non-printed material in the Deseret alphabet still exists, including one headstone in Cedar City, some coinage, letters, diaries, and meeting minutes. Pratt supervised the transcription of the complete Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...
and the Doctrine and Covenants
The Doctrine and Covenants is a part of the open scriptural canon of several denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement...
. One of the more curious items found in the Deseret alphabet is an English-Hopi
Hopi is a Uto-Aztecan language spoken by the Hopi people of northeastern Arizona, USA, although today some Hopi are monolingual English speakers.The use of the language has gradually declined over the course of the 20th century...
Despite heavy promotion, the Deseret alphabet was never widely adopted. This reluctance was partly due to prohibitive costs; Pratt estimated that the cost of printing a regular library would be over one million dollars. Interest nonetheless continues among hobbyists who generally produce material for private consumption. With modern computer systems lowering the costs associated with typesetting, new material in the Deseret alphabet occasionally appears. The alphabet continues to be used, however, by a micronation called the Republic of Molossia
The Republic of Molossia is an unrecognized micronation, founded by Kevin Baugh semi-humorously as a "dictatorial banana-republic" and headquartered solely from a tiny home near Dayton, Nevada....
found near Dayton, Nevada
Dayton is a census-designated place in Lyon County, Nevada, United States. The population was 5,907 at the 2000 census.-History:Dayton is at the western end of the Twenty-Six Mile Desert at a bend in the Carson River. Immigrants stopping there for water would consider whether to follow the river...
Table of glyphs
The only difference between the miniscule and majuscule forms is that one is slightly larger. The unicode values for each glyph can be found below.
| Glyph || Name || IPA || Glyph || Name || IPA || Glyph || Name || IPA || Glyph || Name || IPA
| 𐐀 𐐨
|| Long I
|| 𐐁 𐐩
|| Long E
|| 𐐂 𐐪
|| Long A
|| 𐐃 𐐫
|| Long Ah
| 𐐄 𐐬
|| Long O
|| 𐐅 𐐭
|| Long Oo
|| 𐐆 𐐮
|| Short I
|| 𐐇 𐐯
|| Short E
| 𐐈 𐐰
|| Short A
|| 𐐉 𐐱
|| Short Ah
|| 𐐊 𐐲
|| Short O
|| 𐐋 𐐳
|| Short Oo
| 𐐌 𐐴
|| 𐐍 𐐵
|| 𐐎 𐐶
|| 𐐏 𐐷
| 𐐐 𐐸
|| 𐐑 𐐹
|| 𐐒 𐐺
|| 𐐓 𐐻
| 𐐔 𐐼
|| 𐐕 𐐽
|| 𐐖 𐐾
|| 𐐗 𐐿
| 𐐘 𐑀
|| 𐐙 𐑁
|| 𐐚 𐑂
|| 𐐛 𐑃
| 𐐜 𐑄
|| 𐐝 𐑅
|| 𐐞 𐑆
|| 𐐟 𐑇
| 𐐠 𐑈
|| 𐐡 𐑉
|| 𐐢 𐑊
|| 𐐣 𐑋
| 𐐤 𐑌
|| 𐐥 𐑍
|| 𐐦 𐑎
|| 𐐧 𐑏
The Deseret alphabet (U+10400–U+1044F) was added to the Unicode
Unicode is a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems...
Standard in March, 2001 with the release of version 3.1.
The letters Oi and Ew were added to the Unicode Standard in April, 2003 with the release of version 4.0.