Benjamin Franklin's phonetic alphabet
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Benjamin Franklin's phonetic alphabet was Benjamin Franklin's proposal for a spelling reform of the English language. It used many of the same letters, but changed some of them and what sounds they represented. It was one of the earliest proposed spelling reforms to the English language.
While living in London in 1768 Franklin wrote A Scheme for a new Alphabet and a Reformed Mode of Spelling which laid out his spelling reform proposal. The alphabet was published in 1779 in Franklin's Political, Miscellaneous, and Philosophical Pieces.
His new phonetic alphabet consisted of all the lowercase letters of the Latin alphabet, minus c, j, q, w, x, and y, which he thought redundant, plus six new letters for sounds which he thought lacked unambiguous orthographic representation. The other letters all adhered to the principle of one symbol (or unique digraph) per one sound. Franklin commissioned a type foundry to prepare a suitable type including for the 6 new letters, but soon lost interest in his alphabet. The only other person to show an interest was Noah Webster, another advocate of spelling reform.
Long vowels were represented by double letters e.g. aa = [aː] and ii = [iː]. Only one accented letter appears in the alphabet: ê, which represents the a in mane and lane. Consonant combinations are used to represent such sounds as the ch in chew and the j in jaw.
Franklin also created an [oa] ligature, to represent the sound of [ɔ] in IPA, also known as an open-mid back rounded vowel.
The most influential of Franklin's six new characters appears to have been the letter for "ng". This shape was incorporated into IPA as ŋ.
- Page on Omniglot
- A history of Franklin's alphabet
- Franklin writing about his alphabet
- Six New Letters for a Renovated Alphabet, Nicola Twilley and Geoff Manaugh, a talk given at the Friends of St Bride conference, Temporary Type, London, 10–12 October 2005