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Rant #185
(published July 8, 2004)
Scheme for a New Alphabet and a Reformed Mode of Spelling
by Benjamin Franklin

(originally published in Gentleman's Magazine, April, 1768)


o, huhIt is endeavoured to give the Alphabet a more natural to Order, beginning first with the simple Sounds form'd by the Breath, with none or very little Help of Tongue, Teeth and Lips, and produc'd chiefly in the Windpipe.

ish, gi, ing, kiThen coming forward to those form'd by the Root of the Tongue next to the Windpipe;

r, n, t, dThen to those form'd more forward by the forepart of the Tongue against the Roof of the Mouth;

es, ez, elThen those form'd still more forward in the Mouth, by the Tip of the Tongue, apply'd first to the Roots of the upper Teeth,

eth, edh Then to the Ends or Edges of the same Teeth;

ef, evThen to those form'd still more forward by the under Lip apply'd to the upper Teeth;

bi, piThen to those form'd yet more forward by the upper and under Lip opening to let out the sounding Breath;

m And lastly ending with the Shutting up of the Mouth or closing the Lips, while any Vowel is sounding.

In this Alphabet c is omitted as unnecessary, k supplying its hard Sound and s the soft.

The Jod (j) is also omitted, its Sound being supplied by the new Letter ish (*), which serves other purposes, assisting in the formation of other Sounds; thus the * with a d before it gives the Sound of the Jod j and soft g, as in James, January, Giant, gentle, d*eems, d*anueri, d*yiant, d*entel; with a t before it, it gives the Sound of ch soft, as in cherry, chip, t*eri, t*ip; and with an z before it the French sound of the Jod j, as in jamais, z*ame.

Thus the g has no longer two different Sounds, which occasion'd Confusion, but is as every Letter ought to be, confin'd to one; the same is to be observ'd in all the Letters, Vowels and Consonants, that wherever they are met with, or in whatever Company, their Sound is always the same. It is also intended that there be no superfluous Letters used in Spelling, i.e. no Letter that is not sounded, and this Alphabet by Six new Letters provides that there be no distinct Sounds in the Language without Letters to express them. As to the Difference between short and long Vowels, it is naturally express'd by a single Vowel where short, a double one where long; as, for mend write mend, but for remain'd write rimeen'd; for did, write did, but for deed, write diid, &c.

This What in our common Alphabet is suppos'd the to third Vowel, i, as we sound it is not a Vowel but a be Diphthong, consisting of two of our Vowels join'd, altered viz. a as sounded in all or u as sounded in unto and e: any one will be sensible of this, who sounds those two Vowels ae or ue quick after each other; the Sound begins aw or y and ends ee. The true Sound of the i is that we now give to e in the words deed, keep, &c.



Names of the Letters express'd in the reform'd Characters. Sounded as now inSounds and Characters
ooldo the first Vowel naturally, and deepest sound; requires only to open the Mouth, and breathe thro' it.
John, Folly the next, requiring the Mouth open'd a little more or hollower.
aman, cana the next, a little more.
emane, lanee the next, requires the Tongue to be a little more elevated tho the Pipe alone will form them, but not so easily.
ieen, seeni the next, still a little more,
utool, foolu the next, requires the Lips to be gather'd up, leaving a small Opening.
um, un, as in umbrage, unto, &c. the next, a very short Vowel, the Sound of which we should express in our present Letters thus, uh, a short and not very strong Aspiration.
hhunter, happy, highhuh a stronger or more forcible Aspiration.
ggive, gathergi the first Consonant, being form'd by the Root of the Tongue, this is the present hard g.
kkeep, kickki a kindred Sound, a little more acute, to be us'd instead of the hard c.
sh, ship, wish a new Letter, wanted in our Language, our sh, separately taken, not being proper Elements of the Sound.
ng, ing, reaping, a new Letter, wanted for the among same Reason; these are form'd back in the Mouth.
nenden form'd more forward in the Mouth, the Tip of the Tongue to the Roof of the Mouth.
rartar the same, the Tip of the Tongue a little loose or separate from the Roof of the Mouth.
tteethti the Tip of the Tongue more forward, touching and then leaving the Roof.
ddeeddi the same, touching a little fuller.
lell, tellel the same touching just about the Gums of the upper Teeth.
th, think the Tongue under and a little behind the upper Teeth, touching them nearly but so as to let the Breath pass between.
dh, thy the same a little fuller.
sessencees this Sound is form'd by the Breath passing between the moist End of the Tongue and the upper Teeth.
zez, wagesez the same a little denser and duller.
feffectef form'd by the lower Lip against the upper Teeth.
veverev the same fuller and duller.
bbeesbi the lips put full together and open'd as the Air passes out.
ppeeppi the same but a thinner Sound.
memberem the closing of the Lips, while the e is sounding.

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