- Alphabet

Search / Calendar

The Deseret alphabet (/ˌdɛzəˈrɛt/ (listen);[1] Deseret: 𐐔𐐯𐑅𐐨𐑉𐐯𐐻 or 𐐔𐐯𐑆𐐲𐑉𐐯𐐻) is a phonemic English-language spelling reform developed between 1847 and 1854 by the board of regents of the University of Deseret under the leadership of Brigham Young, the second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).[2] George D. Watt is reported to have been the most actively involved in the development of the script,[2][3][4]:159 as well as being its first serious user.[5]:12

Deseret alphabet
Script type
CreatorGeorge D. Watt, under the direction of the Board of Regents, led by Brigham Young
Time period
Mainly 1854–1869; some use in modern era
LanguagesEnglish, Native American languages (Hopi language)
Related scripts
Parent systems
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Dsrt (250), Deseret (Mormon)
Unicode alias
Unicode range
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and  , see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (𐐎𐐮𐐿𐐨𐐹𐐨𐐼𐐨𐐲, 𐑄 𐑁𐑉𐐨 𐐯𐑌𐑅𐐴𐐿𐑊𐐲𐐹𐐨𐐼𐐨𐐲) in the Deseret alphabet
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (𐐎𐐮𐐿𐐨𐐹𐐨𐐼𐐨𐐲, 𐑄 𐑁𐑉𐐨 𐐯𐑌𐑅𐐴𐐿𐑊𐐲𐐹𐐨𐐼𐐨𐐲) in the Deseret alphabet
Early Deseret alphabet chart found in Jules Remy and Julius Brenchley's A Journey to Great-Salt-Lake City (1855)
Early Deseret alphabet chart found in Jules Remy and Julius Brenchley's A Journey to Great-Salt-Lake City (1855)

In public statements, Young claimed the alphabet was intended to replace the traditional Latin alphabet with an alternative, more phonetically accurate alphabet for the English language. 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.[2]:65–66 Similar neographies have not been uncommon, the most well-known of which for English is the Shavian alphabet.

The Deseret alphabet was an outgrowth of Young's, and the early LDS Church's, idealism and utopianism. Young and the Mormon pioneers believed "all aspects of life" were in need of reform, and the Deseret alphabet was just one of many ways they sought to bring about a complete "transformation in society".[4]:142

Young also prescribed the learning of Deseret to the school system, stating "It will be the means of introducing uniformity in our orthography, and the years that are now required to learn to read and spell can be devoted to other studies."[6]

During the alphabet's heyday between 1854 and 1869, books, newspapers, street signs and correspondence used the new letters, but despite heavy and costly promotion by the early LDS Church, the alphabet never enjoyed prolonged widespread use and has been regarded by historians as a failure.[2][5][7][8][9]


Creation (1847–1854)

The Deseret alphabet was a project of the Mormon pioneers, a group of early followers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) which set about building a new society in the Utah desert after the death of the church's founder, Joseph Smith. The Deseret alphabet was just one of many ways that the Mormon pioneers tried to bring about a complete "transformation in society", as an outgrowth of their idealism and utopianism.[4]:142

The Deseret alphabet was developed primarily by a committee made up of the board of regents of the University of Deseret, members of which included church leaders Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt and Heber C. Kimball. According to Brigham Young University professor Richard G. Moore, most scholars believe that George D. Watt's contribution to the actual form the alphabet took was the greatest;[2] he furthermore "plant[ed] the idea of spelling reform in Brigham Young's mind" through a phonography class he gave after the death of Joseph Smith which Young attended.[5]:6[4]:143 William W. Phelps helped "work out the letters"[10] along with Pratt.[4]:147

The Deseret alphabet was based on Isaac Pitman's English Phonotypic Alphabet, and in fact, Pitman's alphabet was nearly chosen by the Board of Regents as their preferred spelling reform.
The Deseret alphabet was based on Isaac Pitman's English Phonotypic Alphabet, and in fact, Pitman's alphabet was nearly chosen by the Board of Regents as their preferred spelling reform.

Before they decided on the Deseret alphabet, the attention of the board of regents was mostly focused on Pitman style alphabets, and in April 1847 Brigham Young nearly purchased 200 pounds (91 kg) of lead type to print books using Pitman's orthography.[2][5]:7 The University of Deseret was incorporated on 28 February 1850; less than three weeks later, on 20 March, the new board of regents began to discuss spelling reform.[2]

On 29 November 1853, the committee was ready to approve a slightly modified version of the Pitman orthography, when Willard Richards, who had been deathly ill and missed the debate before the vote, saw the proposed alphabet, which spelled the word "phonetic" as "fɷnetic".[5]:10 Richards was quick to condemn it, saying to the committee that in his view "those characters...seem like putting old wine into new bottles...I am inclined to think...we shall...throw away all characters that bear much resemblance to the English characters, and introduce an alphabet that is original."[5]:10

These words persuaded Brigham Young and the rest of the committee, and Watt then endeavored to create an original alphabet. Less than two months later, on 19 January 1854, the board of regents finally approved the first 38-letter Deseret alphabet.[5]:11 One legacy of Pitman's orthography survived, though: the idea that one letter should equal one sound.[4]:150–152

Use by the Mormon pioneers (1854–1869)

Upon the alphabet's acceptance, its first user was its principal architect, George D. Watt, who began writing the meeting minutes of the early Bishops in a cursive form of it in 1854.[5]:12 Almost immediately after its publication, church members began experimenting with it, and by 1855 travel writers Jules Remy and Julius Brenchley published a chart of the new alphabet which differed heavily from the 1854 version. Some early Mormons, such as Thales Hastings Haskell, began writing their personal journals in the new alphabet.[5]:16 Remy further reported that during his time in Salt Lake City, he saw signs on the street and above shops using the new alphabet.[3]

After its approval by the board of regents, Brigham Young testified before the Utah territorial legislature that the new alphabet should "be thoroughly and extensively taught in all the schools." Some teaching in Utah schools did take place: John B. Milner taught the alphabet in Provo, Lehi, American Fork, and Pleasant Grove, while evening classes were taught in Salt Lake City and Farmington.[2][11]

After several months' practice writing with the new alphabet, Watt wrote to Brigham Young that he was unhappy with it, and proposed a complete overhaul, which was never followed up on.[12]:22

Word of the new alphabet soon spread outside Utah, and most press reports in non-Mormon papers were critical.[13][14][15] Other writers, however, acquainted with other phonotypic and stenographic alphabets, ranged from neutral descriptions of the new alphabet[16] to praise.[11]

Until this point, all the printed material (mostly just charts of the alphabet and its standard orthography equivalents) had been produced with large wooden type, which was not suitable for printing at small sizes. Because the alphabet was wholly unique, no font existed, so in 1857 the board of regents appointed Erastus Snow to procure metal type from St. Louis-based font foundry Ladew & Peer. However, in May 1857 the Utah War began, and Snow left St. Louis to support the Mormon pioneers. During the war, Ladew & Peer kept working on the type, and the punches and matrices were delivered in the winter of 1858. The first use of the new type was to make a business card for George A. Smith, an early Mormon historian.[5]:15

The Sermon on the Mount as it appears in the 16 February 1859 edition of the Deseret News.
The Sermon on the Mount as it appears in the 16 February 1859 edition of the Deseret News.

In 1859, with the new type in hand, the Deseret News began printing with it. It would print one piece per issue in the new alphabet, usually a quotation from The Book of Mormon or the New Testament. However, this only lasted for one year, after which the practice stopped; it would start again in May 1864 and stop permanently at the end of that year.[5]:20

The covers of two primers published in the Deseret alphabet during the life of Brigham Young, the Deseret First Book and the Deseret Second Book.

Their inscriptions read:



Benn Pitman, the brother of Isaac Pitman, was also interested in spelling reform, and by 1864 had published his own orthography, which the board of regents considered adopting. However, they ultimately decided not to and used the opportunity to re-affirm their commitment to the Deseret alphabet.[5]:20

Brigham Young blamed the failure of this first attempt at reform on the ugliness of the type developed by Ladew & Peer, and so he commissioned Russell's American Steam Printing House, a New York City based font foundry, to design more pleasing type. The result was the Bodoni-esque font (at right) that was used to print all of the books in this period.[5]:20 In an 1868 article, the Deseret News wrote that "the characters, to a person unaccustomed to them, may look strange, [but] to the eye to which they are familiar they are beautiful."[2]:69

At least four books were published in the new alphabet, all transcribed by Orson Pratt and all using the Russell's House font: The First Deseret Alphabet Reader (1868), The Second Deseret Alphabet Reader (1868), The Book of Mormon (1869), and a Book of Mormon excerpt called First Nephi–Omni (1869).[2]:69–70

Considerable non-printed material in the Deseret alphabet was made, including a replica headstone in Cedar City, Utah,[17][18] some coinage, letters, diaries, and meeting minutes. One of the more curious items found in the Deseret alphabet is an English-Hopi dictionary prepared by two Mormon missionaries. It sat unappreciated in handwritten form at the LDS Church Archives until 2014, when Kenneth R. Beesley, a writing system researcher and computer scientist, noticed its significance and transcribed it into standard written English.[19]

Decline (1869–1877)

The final book the Mormon pioneers printed in the Deseret alphabet: a three part Book of Mormon. On left, the cover of volume one; on right, the Deseret alphabet chart in the book.

Despite years of heavy promotion, the Deseret alphabet was never widely adopted. This reluctance was partly due to prohibitive costs; the project had already cost the early church $20,000,[2]:76 with $6,000 going to Pratt as remuneration for his transcription effort[8] and most of the rest going to cutting metal type featuring the new alphabet and printing costs.[5]:6 In 1859, Orson Pratt estimated that the cost of supplying all Utah Territory schoolchildren with suitable textbooks would be over $5,000,000.[2]:76

An 1876 campaign ticket for the People's Party of Utah. The Deseret type is recycled to make a border. The words in the border are gibberish.
An 1876 campaign ticket for the People's Party of Utah. The Deseret type is recycled to make a border. The "words" in the border are gibberish.

According to Beesley, many have written that interest in the Deseret alphabet died with Brigham Young. This, however, is not true; the alphabet was already regarded as a failure during Young's time.[5]:29 Only 500 copies of the full Book of Mormon translated into the Deseret alphabet sold for $2 each, and even Young realized that the venture was too expensive and even the most devout Mormons could not be convinced to purchase and study the Deseret edition books over the books in the traditional orthography.[3][5]:27 In the winter of 1870, just one year after their publication, advertisements for the Deseret alphabet books were quietly removed from the Deseret News.[8]

Contemporary writers noted that thousands of copies of the 15¢ and 20¢ Deseret primers went unsold,[5]:6 and historian Roby Wentz speculated that the LDS Church at that time had a "cache" of the primers in mint condition, which it was slowly selling off; according to him, one such primer sold for $250 in 1978.[3]

The Mormons had planned to use the profits from sale of the earlier books to fund printing of more books, and in anticipation Orson Pratt had already transcribed the complete Bible, Doctrine and Covenants, and John Jaques's Catechism for Children.[7] Pratt had also prepared an apparent sequel to the primers, the Deseret Phonetic Speller. After the sales failure, however, none of these books were ever published and were thought lost until being rediscovered in a storage area of the LDS Church Archives in Salt Lake City in May 1967.[8][7]

Ralph Vigoda, a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer, has speculated that the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad may have contributed to the alphabet's downfall: non-Mormons, not loyal to Brigham Young, became a large part of the city, and without the religious motivation it would be difficult indeed to get them to learn a new alphabet.[20] In a retrospective piece, historian A. J. Simmonds claims that the new railroad doomed the alphabet. According to him, easy access to "the whole literature of the English speaking world" rendered the alphabet useless.[8]

In July 1877, Young tried one more time at a spelling reform, ordering lead type designed for the orthography of Benn Pitman (Isaac's brother) with the intention of printing an edition of the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants using it. Most of the type had arrived by August, but with Young's death, the translation was never undertaken and the type never used. Young's death thus marked the end of the Mormon experimentation with English spelling reforms.[2][5]:29

Rediscovery in the computer era

A transcription of xkcd #739 in the Deseret alphabet.

Modern digital typography has reduced the costs of typesetting substantially, especially for small print runs.[21] As long as a freely licensed Deseret alphabet font and a font of the standard orthography have similar inked surface areas, printing a book in the Deseret alphabet using modern technology would have a similar cost as printing a book in the standard orthography.[22]

Film director Trent Harris used the Deseret alphabet in his 1994 satire of Mormon theology, Plan 10 from Outer Space, where it features as an alien language used on a mysterious "Plaque of Kolob".[12]:37

During the 1996 Utah Centennial celebration, an activity book for children was distributed, within which one of the activities was for a child to write their own name in the alphabet. The book says that a child who does this will be "the first kid in 100 years to write [their] name in the Deseret alphabet!"[23]

Also in 1996, Buffalo River Press published a reprint of the Deseret First Book, of which only 10,000 were originally printed.[23][24] The entire Book of Mormon in the Deseret alphabet has been likewise reprinted,[25] as only 500 copies from the original print run exist, and they can sell on eBay for ≈$7,500 (as of 2004).[12]:47 In 1997, John Jenkins uploaded a free three part PDF of the so-called "triple combination", that is, a combined Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.[26]

John Jenkins has gone on to publish many classic pieces of English literature in the Deseret alphabet, such as Alice in Wonderland,[27] Pride and Prejudice,[28] and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.[29]

Owing to the character set's inclusion in Unicode, most of the original books and many of the original manuscripts have been transcribed into plain text,[12]:32–34 and, when this is not possible due to discrepancies between the Unicode reference glyphs and the documents, LaTeX.[5]:42


The phrase 𐐆𐑌𐑁𐐲𐑉𐑋𐐩𐑇𐐲𐑌 𐐶𐐪𐑌𐐻𐑅 𐐻𐐭 𐐺 𐑁𐑉𐐨 (Information wants to be free) in five Deseret fonts. From top, Noto Sans Deseret, QueenBee Star, TuBeeRound, Times Bee and Analecta.
The phrase "𐐆𐑌𐑁𐐲𐑉𐑋𐐩𐑇𐐲𐑌 𐐶𐐪𐑌𐐻𐑅 𐐻𐐭 𐐺 𐑁𐑉𐐨" (Information wants to be free) in five Deseret fonts. From top, Noto Sans Deseret, QueenBee Star, TuBeeRound, Times Bee and Analecta.

The first digital font for the Deseret alphabet, called "Deseret", was designed by Greg Kearney as part of work he was doing for the LDS Church History Department in 1991; the font was used in an exhibit that year.[5]:32 In August 1995, a cleaned up, digitized version of the font in use in the Deseret Second Book was created by Salt Lake City graphic designer Edward Bateman, who made the font in Fontographer while working on Plan 10 from Outer Space.[5]:32–33

Kenneth R. Beesley created a Metafont (and thus, LaTeX-compatible) font called desalph in 2002.[5]:37–38[30]

All computers running Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system or newer can display the entire Deseret alphabet Unicode range as the glyphs are included in the Segoe UI Symbol font.[31]

Besides maintaining a Deseret input method for Windows, Joshua Erickson, a UCLA alumnus, also maintains a large collection of freeware Unicode fonts for the alphabet, which he collectively terms the "Bee Fonts."[32]

There also exist free software fonts for the Deseret alphabet. Google, through its Noto Sans project, the aim of which is "to support all languages with a harmonious look and feel", has also released a Deseret font under the name "Noto Sans Deseret".[33] George Douros maintains a public domain font called "Analecta" as part of his Unicode Fonts for Ancient Scripts project, which supports the Coptic, Gothic, and Deseret scripts.[34] Deseret glyphs are also available in the popular pan-Unicode fonts Code2001[35] and Everson Mono (as of version 5.1.5).[36]


Although the Deseret alphabet has letter case, usually the only difference between the minuscule and majuscule forms is that the majuscule forms are larger.

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

A degree of free spelling is allowed to accommodate dialectal differences in English. For example, in the Deseret edition of The Book of Mormon, the word "wherefore" is written as 𐐸𐐶𐐯𐑉𐑁𐐬𐑉 (/hwɛrfr/),[37] which means that the translator of the book did not exhibit the wine–whine merger. Those who do exhibit the merger might instead prefer the spelling 𐐶𐐯𐑉𐑁𐐬𐑉 to match the pronunciation (/wɛrfr/), or, depending on dialect, perhaps 𐐶𐐯𐑉𐑁𐐫𐑉 (/wɛrfɔːr/).[38]:38

The alphabet was designed to be able to write all of the vowels used in the dialect spoken in 19th century Utah. The vowel inventory has also been attributed to the fact that, unlike other American pioneers, the Mormon pioneers were from New England as opposed to the American South.[5] As such, many of the vowels in the Deseret alphabet have since merged in the modern era: they are no longer distinguished in many dialects of English.

Speakers who exhibit the father–bother merger no longer distinguish /ɑː/ (𐐪) and /ɒ/ (𐐱), and so both "father" and "bother" would be written with 𐐪: as 𐑁𐐪𐑄𐐲𐑉 and 𐐺𐐪𐑄𐐲𐑉 as opposed to 𐑁𐐪𐑄𐐲𐑉 and 𐐺𐐱𐑄𐐲𐑉. For those with the cot–caught merger, /ɔː/ (𐐫) and /ɒ/ (𐐱) are no longer distinguished: both "cot" and "caught" are thus written by them as 𐐿𐐱𐐻 (/kɒt/) in the case of North American English, and as 𐐿𐐫𐐻 (/kɔːt/) in the case of Scottish English. For those exhibiting both mergers, both would be written 𐐿𐐪𐐻 (/kɑːt/).[38][self-published source?]:28


There have been several published versions of the alphabet. Most versions (including the versions used in The Deseret First Book, The Deseret Second Book, The Deseret News and The Book of Mormon) had only 38 letters, but some versions contained two ligatures, 𐐧 (ew) and 𐐦 (oi).[39] In place of 𐐮𐐭[40] or 𐐷𐐭,[41] 𐑏 was to be used; in place of 𐐱𐐮, 𐑎.[41]

In the 23 February 1859 edition of the Deseret News, the editors announced their approval of the two new letters and eventual intention to use them in the newsletter. However, due to the hot metal typesetting technology in use at the time, casting the new letters for use would have been a considerable expense, so it was never realized.[39]

Representation of [ə]

The Deseret alphabet does not have a distinct symbol for the mid central vowel ([ə], "schwa"). The lack of a schwa has been cited as the biggest "phonological flaw" in the alphabet.[9][12]:3

Shelton using his schwa to handwrite the word broken (𐐺𐑉𐐬𐐿ı𐑌) (/ˈbroʊkən/). The standard way to render this word is as 𐐺𐑉𐐬𐐿𐑌 (/ˈbroʊkən/).
Shelton using his schwa to handwrite the word "broken" (𐐺𐑉𐐬𐐿ı𐑌) (/ˈbrkən/). The standard way to render this word is as 𐐺𐑉𐐬𐐿𐑌 (/ˈbrkən/).

Because of the lack of a schwa, the author must write the sound that would be used if the word was stressed. For example, the word enough is commonly pronounced /əˈnʌf/, but when it is stressed (as in a declaration of irritation) it is pronounced /iˈnʌf/. The Deseret spelling of the word, 𐐨𐑌𐐲𐑁, reflects that stressed pronunciation. If [ə] does not have an inherent stressed value in a word, as is often the case before /r/, then it is written as 𐐲.[38]:32–33

Marion J. Shelton, an early Mormon missionary, proposed the addition of a new glyph to represent the schwa, a simple vertical line of the same height as other Deseret characters with a similar appearance to the Turkish dotless i (ı). The addition of this glyph did not catch on among his contemporaries, however, and no document outside of ones penned by Shelton makes use of it.[5]:19–20 Shelton used the new glyph in an 1860 letter to Brigham Young reporting on a recently completed mission to the Paiute people.[42]

Syllabic values

Each letter in the Deseret alphabet has a name, and when a letter is written on its own it has the value of that name. This allows some short words to be written with a single letter, and is called a letter's "syllabic value". The most common word in English, the, is written simply 𐑄, as the letter's name is /ð/ and that is the stressed pronunciation of the word. The consonants with syllabic values are 𐐶 (woo), 𐐷 (yee), 𐐸 (ha), 𐐹 (pee), 𐐺 (be/bee), 𐐻 (tee/tea), 𐐽 (qi), 𐐾 (gee), 𐑀 (gay), and 𐑄 (the/thee).[38]:25

Syllabic values do not apply within words, although this was formerly the case. In early documents, Watt writes "people" as 𐐹𐐹𐑊 with the expectation that readers will interpret the first 𐐹 as /p/, but the second 𐐹 as /p/.[5]:13 This contextual value switching was soon done away with, so in later documents, while "bee" is written 𐐺, "bees" is written 𐐺𐐨𐑆.

In 40-letter versions of the alphabet which include the letter 𐐧 (ew) which represents /j/, the letter 𐐧 when standing alone can be used to represent the word "you".[38]:25,51


The first lesson in the Deseret First Book reads simply:[40]

In the Deseret Second Book, there is a version of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star on page 19:[41]


There were two main handwritten forms of the Deseret alphabet: a cursive version and a printed version. Over the lifetime of the alphabet, the cursive form fell out of favor among most users of the alphabet and by 1856 no more cursive documents exist.[12]:21 Its impact on the glyphs can however still be plainly seen in the loops of certain characters such as 𐑅, 𐑀 and 𐐼.[5]:13 The earliest surviving versions of the Deseret alphabet, from 1853 (one year before its January 1854 approval), have printed and cursive forms side-by-side, suggesting that a cursive form was part of the plan from the very beginning.[43]


Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit𐐎𐐮𐐿𐐨𐐹𐐨𐐼𐐨𐐲, 𐑄 𐑁𐑉𐐨 𐐯𐑌𐑅𐐴𐐿𐑊𐐬𐐹𐐨𐐼𐐨𐐲 𐑄𐐰𐐻 𐐯𐑌𐐨𐐶𐐲𐑌 𐐿𐐰𐑌 𐐯𐐼𐐮𐐻
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit
𐐎𐐮𐐿𐐨𐐹𐐨𐐼𐐨𐐲, 𐑄 𐑁𐑉𐐨 𐐯𐑌𐑅𐐴𐐿𐑊𐐬𐐹𐐨𐐼𐐨𐐲 𐑄𐐰𐐻 𐐯𐑌𐐨𐐶𐐲𐑌 𐐿𐐰𐑌 𐐯𐐼𐐮𐐻

The cursive form of the Deseret alphabet was mainly used by two people: George D. Watt, and James Henry Martineau.[12]:21 Watt, a stenographer, recorded several bishops meetings and wrote other personal documents in this cursive style.[5]:13 A chart of the cursive form appears below. The blue glyphs represent how to write each character, while the top row of printed glyphs shows the corresponding Unicode reference glyph.

The cursive style has many unorthodox characteristics uncommon to alphabetic writing systems. Vowels can be dropped if the writer is in a hurry and feels the word is obvious as in an abjad, letters can be written above or below the base line depending on what precedes them, and 𐐮 is placed on letters after they are already written as in an abugida. Furthermore, unlike the typeset alphabet, the cursive alphabet has no letter case. These characteristics could have arisen because Watt was a local expert in Pitman shorthand, which is written in a similar way.[5]:13

The table below shows some examples of how the cursive form is written. Dropped vowels are marked in parenthesis.

Block letters

George D. Watt found his own alphabet cumbersome to write and abandoned it. As he wrote to Brigham Young on 21 August 1854:[44][45]

Dear Bro. I herein submit for your examination the result of much thought and extensive practice on the new alphabet since the Board of Regents last met. I candidly confess that I never did like the present construction of the alphabet. I was not left as free as I could have wished to be in the construction of it. [...] I am now thoroughly convinced that it is not the most expeditious method of writing and printing, but on the contrary it retards the hand in its onward course.

His new alphabet closely resembled an 1853 publication of Isaac Pitman, containing only 33 letters. However, at this point, Young was still enamored with the original Deseret alphabet, and so he rejected the proposal and Watt continued to publicly promote the alphabet as part of his job despite his reservations.[44]

A fragment of Marion Shelton's Hopi dictionary, the source of his handwriting. This section shows translations into the Hopi language (Orayvi dialect) for words that start with the English phoneme /oʊ/.
A fragment of Marion Shelton's Hopi dictionary, the source of his handwriting. This section shows translations into the Hopi language (Orayvi dialect) for words that start with the English phoneme //.

After 1855, no more cursive documents appear, and all surviving journals are written in block letters.[12]:21 Marion J. Shelton, an early Mormon missionary who wrote a dictionary of the Hopi language in the alphabet, was a "typical" 40-letter Deseret writer,[5]:19 and his style of writing is shown below.

Design criticism

Text from the Book of Alma
Old Turkic inscription

The Deseret alphabet was purposely designed so as to not have ascenders and descenders.[5]:14 This was envisioned as a practical benefit for the alphabet in an era of metal type: after many uses, the edges of type sorts become dull, and narrow ascenders and descenders are most prone to this effect.[5]

While well intentioned, this lack has been described as a "catastrophic" mistake[46] that makes type look "monotonous"[3] and makes all words look alike.[8] Some have drawn comparisons between the alphabet and the Old Turkic script, saying that writing in the new alphabet could be mistaken from afar as a Turkish tax list.[8][7]

The Mormon pioneers were apparently aware of the problems caused by its monotony:[2]:76

President Young has decided that [the letters] are not so well adapted for the purpose designed as it was hoped they would be. There being no shanks (ascenders or descenders) to the letters, all being very even, they are trying to the eye, because of their uniformity.

article in the Juvenile Instructor, 2 October 1875

Other criticism of the design was harsher still. In an 18 December 1857 editorial in the Boston Globe, the alphabet was described as being "so arranged and named as to cause the greatest possible annoyance to outsiders" and the design of the letters as "incomprehensible as [...] the hieroglyphics of the [...] Egyptians."[15] On 4 March 1872, The New York Times called the alphabet "rude, awkward and cumbersome."[14]

Some modern computer fonts and printed books have attempted to correct this perceived fault: in the books in John Jenkins' Deseret Alphabet Classics series, the font used adds a descender to 𐑉 and 𐐻 and an ascender to 𐐼 and 𐑇 among other tweaks.[47]

Other motives

Officially, the Deseret alphabet was created to simplify the spelling of English words for the benefit of children and English as a second language learners. Some of the alphabet's contemporaries, however, posited an alternative motivation for its development: increasing the isolation of the early Mormons.

To keep outsiders from reading Mormon secrets (largely dismissed)

The charge that the Deseret alphabet's main purpose was to keep outsiders ("gentiles" in LDS terminology) in the dark was brought almost immediately, as evidenced by the following 1858 Lyttelton Times reprint of an unnamed "New York newspaper":[13]

Mormon Secretiveness.—The new "Deseret Alphabet" is completed, and a fount of pica type has been cast in St. Louis. Specimens of the type are published in the St. Louis papers, but they are unproducible in types that common people use [...] The ukases of Brother Brigham will hereafter be a sealed letter, literally, to Gentile eyes.

Having obtained a copy of the Deseret News in 1859, the Richmond Dispatch disparaged it on April 25, writing "The Deseret News is filled with a lot of hieroglyphs. It seems to be [an alphabet] which the Mormons alone are to be taught."[48]

Modern historians, however, doubt the veracity of this theory.[2][3] For one thing, notes Kenneth R. Beesley, the Deseret News and every book published in the alphabet prominently features the key to the alphabet,[12]:36 and anyone without a key could have gotten a copy of A Journey to Great-Salt-Lake City, or traveled to Salt Lake City themselves and bought one.[2] Contemporary scholars Richard F. Burton and Jules Remy also dismissed the secrecy argument, in 1860 and 1855 respectively.[12]:36

To keep Mormons from reading outside literature

With the impending completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, the Mormon pioneers would have easy, cheap access to publications from the east, including yellowbacks, penny dreadfuls, pulp magazines, and other often scandalous or dirty publications that were rising to prominence in the 19th century. Indeed, in an article about the benefits of the alphabet, the Deseret News proudly wrote:[49]

If our community were situated as others are, it might be Quixotic to attempt the introduction of this reform among us with the hope of carrying it into practical operation. But our position is unique, we are united. [...] Some have an idea that if a child be educated in the system of spelling and writing by sound it will be a detriment to it in learning the present system. [...] If they could find no better reading than much of the miserable trash that now obtains extensive circulation, it would be better if they never learned to read the present orthography. In such a case ignorance would be blissful. [...] The greatest evils which now flourish and under which Christendom groans are directly traceable to the licentiousness of the press.

"The Deseret Alphabet—Its Advantages", 19 August 1868, Deseret News

In another article, the Deseret News cited an example of the kind of literature Mormons would benefit from not being able to read: The Police Gazette.[12]:35 Historians A. J. Simmonds and Roby Wentz contend that while this may have been a tertiary goal of the alphabet, a sort of "happy accident", the main purpose of it was simple orthographic reform.[8][9] Simmonds notes that the teaching of English to foreigners was not a mere hypothetical to mask isolationist tendencies: 35% of the Utah Territory's population at the time was Scandinavian, with German, Italian and Welsh speaking people also making up a considerable percentage of inhabitants; therefore, communication between the recently baptized and the community was a real problem.[8]


Between 1855 and 1859, the way most people wrote the glyphs 𐑏 and 𐑎 changed, causing encoding problems when attempting to transcribe documents using the latter glyphs with Unicode.[5]
Between 1855 and 1859, the way most people wrote the glyphs 𐑏 and 𐑎 changed, causing encoding problems when attempting to transcribe documents using the latter glyphs with Unicode.[5]

The Deseret alphabet (U+10400–U+1044F) was added to the Unicode Standard in March 2001 with the release of version 3.1, after a request by John H. Jenkins of Apple, making it one of the first scripts to be added outside of the Basic Multilingual Plane.[12]:6 The letters 𐐧 (ew) and 𐐦 (oi) were added to the Unicode Standard in April 2003 with the release of version 4.0.[50]

According to Kenneth R. Beesley, who submitted the proposal to expand the encoding,[39] "Unicode fonts based on the current heterogeneous collection of glyphs will be useless for any practical typesetting of 40-letter Deseret Alphabet documents."[5]:29 This is because the Unicode Consortium chose to use glyphs from 1855 as the reference glyphs, while by 1859 those glyphs were already outmoded and replaced with newer glyphs. Beesley thus recommends using LaTeX along with his Metafont desalph font to typeset Deseret text,[5] but fonts which use the alternate glyphs for the two codepoints in question would also work for transcription of 40-letter Deseret texts written during and after 1859.

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
U+1040x 𐐀 𐐁 𐐂 𐐃 𐐄 𐐅 𐐆 𐐇 𐐈 𐐉 𐐊 𐐋 𐐌 𐐍 𐐎 𐐏
U+1041x 𐐐 𐐑 𐐒 𐐓 𐐔 𐐕 𐐖 𐐗 𐐘 𐐙 𐐚 𐐛 𐐜 𐐝 𐐞 𐐟
U+1042x 𐐠 𐐡 𐐢 𐐣 𐐤 𐐥 𐐦 𐐧 𐐨 𐐩 𐐪 𐐫 𐐬 𐐭 𐐮 𐐯
U+1043x 𐐰 𐐱 𐐲 𐐳 𐐴 𐐵 𐐶 𐐷 𐐸 𐐹 𐐺 𐐻 𐐼 𐐽 𐐾 𐐿
U+1044x 𐑀 𐑁 𐑂 𐑃 𐑄 𐑅 𐑆 𐑇 𐑈 𐑉 𐑊 𐑋 𐑌 𐑍 𐑎 𐑏
1.^ As of Unicode version 15.0

On 25 February 2016, the Library of Congress approved an ALA-LC romanization for the Deseret alphabet.[51] The table can be used to display approximations of titles in non-Latin scripts using the Latin alphabet for use in library catalogs that do not support non-Latin alphabets.

See also


  1. "Pronunciation Guide". Book of Mormon (PDF). Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, Inc. for Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 2013. p. 533. Archived (PDF) from the original on 28 October 2020. Retrieved 21 June 2020. (Converted to IPA from dĕz-a-rĕt')
  2. Moore, Richard G. (2006). "The Deseret Alphabet Experiment" (PDF). Religious Studies Center. Brigham Young University. Archived (PDF) from the original on 31 January 2017. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  3. Wentz, Roby (1978). 38 Mormon Characters: A Forgotten Chapter in Western Typographic History (PDF). Los Angeles, California. Archived (PDF) from the original on 7 January 2017. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
  4. Watt, Ronald G. (2009). The Mormon Passage of George D. Watt: First British Convert, Scribe for Zion. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press. ISBN 9780874217582. Retrieved 25 January 2022.
  5. Beesley, Kenneth R. (2004). "Typesetting the Deseret Alphabet with LaTeX and METAFONT" (PDF). TUGboat. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. TeX Users Group. 25 (0): 68–111. doi:10.1007/978-3-540-27773-6_7. ISBN 978-3-540-22801-1. Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 May 2017. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  6. Young, Brigham (8 October 1868). Journal of Discourses. Vol. 12. delivered in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, UT. p. 289.
  7. Zobell, Jr., Albert L. (1967). The Improvement Era. Vol. 70. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. pp. 10–11.
  8. Simmonds, A. J. (1968). "Utah's Strange Alphabet" (PDF). Sparta, Illinois: Major Magazines, Inc. Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  9. Spendlove, Loren Blake (1 January 2015). "Say Now Shibboleth, or Maybe Cumorah". Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture. 15. Archived from the original on 9 July 2015. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
  10. Jules Remy, A Journey to Salt Lake City (London, 1861) 185.
  11. "The Deseret Alphabet". Evening Star. Washington D.C. 11 June 1855. Archived from the original on 18 January 2017. Retrieved 16 January 2017 via
  12. Beesley, Kenneth R. (14 August 2002). "The Deseret Alphabet in Unicode" (PDF). 22nd International Unicode Conference. Archived (PDF) from the original on 10 June 2014. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  13. "Mormon Secretiveness". Lyttelton Times. 23 January 1858. Archived from the original on 29 July 2020. Retrieved 16 January 2017 via National Library of New Zealand.
  14. "Affairs in Utah". The New York Times. 4 March 1872. p. 1. Archived from the original on 18 January 2017. Retrieved 16 January 2017 via
  15. Schindler, Harold (1998). In Another Time: Sketches of Utah History. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press. pp. 125–127. ISBN 9780874212426.
  16. "Mormon Items—From Salt Lake". The Chicago Tribune. 10 May 1856. Archived from the original on 29 July 2020. Retrieved 16 January 2017 via
  17. "Iron County", I Love History: Place: Counties, Utah Division of State History, archived from the original on 20 November 2011, retrieved 20 October 2011
  18. "John Thomas Morris (1828-1855) - Find A Grave..."
  19. Beesley, Kenneth R. and Dirk Elzinga. 2014. An 1860 English-Hopi Vocabulary Written in the Deseret Alphabet. University of Utah Press.
  20. Vigoda, Ralph (3 June 1990). "A churchman's failed mission: Language logic". The Philadelphia Inquirer. p. 2C. Archived from the original on 16 January 2017. Retrieved 14 January 2017 via
  21. Krantz, Steven G. (31 August 2000). Handbook of Typography for the Mathematical Sciences. CRC Press. p. 149. ISBN 9781420036015. Archived from the original on 1 August 2020. Retrieved 26 August 2017. Print-on-demand digital technology allows the printing of a small number of copies of a document, at the moment of demand. In traditional typesetting, the cost of setting up the printer made it too impractical and costly to do small print runs. With digital technology this is now feasible and affordable.
  22. Austin, Patrick (7 March 2016). "5 Ways to Save on Printer Ink". Consumer Reports. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 25 January 2017. Your choice of typeface can make a difference in ink consumption. [...] We got 27 percent more mileage when using Times New Roman rather than Arial, a default font in many browsers. Calibri and Century Gothic both outperformed Arial, as well. An option called Ecofont is designed specifically for frugality—it removes enough printer ink from its characters to stay legible while saving money.
  23. Zion, Brion (1996). "Brion Zion's DESERET ALPHABET BOOK". Wanderer Press, L.C. Archived from the original on 3 July 2015. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  24. Deseret First Book (Deseret Alphabet) Historic Reprint (Later printing ed.). Salt Lake City: Buffalo River Press. 1 January 1996. ISBN 9781887727020.
  25. Smith, Joseph (31 January 2015). The Book of Mormon (2015 Deseret Alphabet edition): Another Testament of Jesus Christ. ISBN 9781507628232.
  26. "Triple Combination: Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price in the Deseret Alphabet" (PDF). Deseret Alphabet Portal. Translated by John Jenkins. Cupertino, California. 1997. Archived (PDF) from the original on 30 August 2018. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  27. Carroll, Lewis (21 September 2014). Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (𐐈𐑊𐐮𐑅'𐑆 𐐈𐐼𐑂𐐯𐑌𐐽𐐲𐑉𐑆 𐐮𐑌 𐐎𐐲𐑌𐐼𐐲𐑉𐑊𐐰𐑌𐐼): An edition printed in the Deseret Alphabet. Foreword by: John H. Jenkins. Evertype. ISBN 9781782010647. Archived from the original on 10 February 2017. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
  28. Austen, Jane (1 April 2013). 𐐑𐑉𐐴𐐼 𐐰𐑌𐐼 𐐑𐑉𐐯𐐾𐐲𐐼𐐮𐑅 [Pride and Prejudice]. Adapter: John H. Jenkins (1 ed.). ISBN 9781482672015.
  29. Baum, L. Frank (30 December 2016). The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. ISBN 9781541134720.
  30. Beesley, Kenneth R. (23 February 2002). " source code". Archived from the original on 25 January 2022. Retrieved 12 May 2021 via GitHub.
  31. "What's New for International Customers in Windows 7". Microsoft Developer Network. Microsoft. Archived from the original on 31 January 2017. Retrieved 19 January 2017. In Windows 7, support for 10 new scripts is added: Braille, Deseret, New Tai Lue, Ogham, Osmanya, Phags-pa, Runic, Symbols, Tai Le, and Tifinagh.
  32. Erickson, Joshua. "Deseret Bee Fonts". Joshua Erickson's Deseret Alphabet Pages. University of California Los Angeles Chemistry & Biochemistry Department. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  33. "Google Noto Fonts". Archived from the original on 8 January 2017. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  34. Douros, George (1 October 2015). "Unicode Fonts for Ancient Scripts". Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
  35. Wood, Alan (27 October 2001). "Deseret – Test for Unicode support in Web browsers". Alan Wood's Unicode Resources. Archived from the original on 4 February 2017. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  36. Everson, Michael (28 December 2008). "Everson Mono". Evertype. Evertype. Archived from the original on 5 July 2017. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  37. Smith, Joseph (1869). Book of Mormon in the Deseret Alphabet (1990 ed.). Corporation of the Presiding Bishop, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. pp. 2.
  38. Walker, Neil Alexander (2005). A Complete Guide to Reading and Writing the Deseret Alphabet (PDF). Joshua Erickson's Deseret Alphabet Pages. p. 26. ISBN 978-1411648654. Archived (PDF) from the original on 3 August 2016. Retrieved 5 March 2014.[self-published source]
  39. Beesley, Kenneth R. (25 April 2002). "Proposal to Modify the Encoding of Deseret Alphabet in Unicode" (PDF). Unicode Consortium. Xerox Research Center Europe. Archived (PDF) from the original on 14 June 2019. Retrieved 4 January 2017.
  40. 𐐜 𐐔𐐯𐑅𐐨𐑉𐐯𐐻 𐐙𐐲𐑉𐑅𐐻 𐐒𐐳𐐿 [The Deseret First Book]. Deseret University. 1868. pp. 18 via Internet Archive. For 𐐮𐐭: "𐐜 𐐶𐐩𐑂𐑆 𐑉𐐬𐑊 𐐱𐑌 𐑄 𐐼𐐨𐐹 𐐺𐑊𐐮𐐭 𐑅𐐨." (The waves roll on the deep blue sea.)
  41. 𐐜 𐐔𐐯𐑅𐐨𐑉𐐯𐐻 𐐝𐐯𐐿𐐲𐑌𐐼 𐐒𐐳𐐿 [The Deseret Second Book]. Deseret University. 1868. p. 7 via Internet Archive. For 𐐷𐐭: "𐐐𐐨𐑉 𐐮𐑆 𐐪 𐐸𐐩𐑉. 𐐔𐐮𐐼 𐐷𐐭 𐐯𐑂𐐯𐑉 𐑅𐐨 𐐶𐐲𐑌?" (Here is a hare. Did you ever see one?), For 𐐱𐐮: "𐐌 𐐸𐐨𐑉 𐐪 𐑌𐐱𐐮𐑆!" (I hear a noise!)
  42. Shelton, Marion J. (3 April 1860). "Beloved brother, it is with heartfelt gratitude to my Heavenly Father..." Letter to Brigham Young.[permanent dead link]
  43. University of Deseret papers: New alphabet file, circa 1853. Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah (Call number MS 4223 – you can see the digital object on Archived 22 May 2019 at the Wayback Machine )
  44. Watt, Ronald G. (1 January 1977). "Sailing "The Old Ship Zion": The Life of George D. Watt". Brigham Young University Studies. 18 (1): 48–65. JSTOR 43042710.
  45. Brigham Young office files, 1832-1878 (bulk 1844-1877); General Correspondence, Incoming, 1840–1877; General Letters, 1840–1877; T-W, 1854; George D. Watt letter (Identifier CR 1234 1). Archived 11 May 2021 at the Wayback Machine Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah
  46. Nash, William V. (1957) The Deseret Alphabet. Master's thesis, University of Illinois Library School: Urbana, Illinois
  47. Wells, H. G. (14 June 2013). 𐐜 𐐓𐐴𐑋 𐐣𐐲𐑇𐐨𐑌 [The Time Machine]. adapted by John Jenkins. pp. iii–iv. ISBN 9781482742404.
  48. "Later from Utah". Richmond Dispatch. 25 April 1859. p. 1. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 24 January 2017 via
  49. "The Deseret Alphabet—Its Advantages". Deseret News. 18 August 1868. p. 2. Archived from the original on 29 July 2020. Retrieved 16 January 2017 via University of Utah: Utah Digital Newspapers.
  50. "The Unicode Standard, version 4.0: UnicodeData-4.0.0.txt". The Unicode Consortium. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  51. "ALA-LC Deseret Romanization table" (PDF). Library of Congress. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 26 February 2016.

Further reading

На других языках

- [en] Deseret alphabet

[ru] Дезеретский алфавит

Дезеретский алфавит (англ. The Deseret alphabet, 𐐔𐐯𐑅𐐨𐑉𐐯𐐻/𐐔𐐯𐑆𐐲𐑉𐐯𐐻) — фонетический алфавит, разработанный в середине XIX века правлением Дезеретского университета (ныне Университет Юты) под руководством Бригама Янга, второго президента мормонской церкви. Название дано в честь нереализованного мормонского проекта по созданию штата Дезерет.

Текст в блоке "Читать" взят с сайта "Википедия" и доступен по лицензии Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike; в отдельных случаях могут действовать дополнительные условия.

Другой контент может иметь иную лицензию. Перед использованием материалов сайта внимательно изучите правила лицензирования конкретных элементов наполнения сайта.

2019-2024 - проект по пересортировке и дополнению контента Википедии