Monday, May 20, 2013

Benjamin Franklin's Phonetic Alphabet

From Smithsonian:
Franklin was confident that his new alphabet would be easier to learn and, once learned, would drastically reduce bad spelling. He believed any difficulty in implementing a new alphabet would ultimately be overcome by its logic and simplicity. However, biographer Walter Isaacson has written that the alphabet “took his passion for social improvement to radical extremes.” But in the heady days after the Revolution, a national language seemed like a natural development for a new country. Franklin’s proposal found little support, even with those to whom he was closest. He did, however, manage to convert Webster, the pioneer of spelling reform. Webster supported standardizing American spelling but, until meeting Franklin, had advocated against its simplification. After reading Franklin’s “A Reformed Mode of Spelling,” however, Webster was inspired to draft a more conservative proposal for reforming the alphabet, which didn’t depend on creating new characters. The two men supported one another’s pursuits but found little interest from others. Franklin eventually abandoned his plan, while Webster persisted, even publishing books using his new orthography. His efforts were met with resistance and ridiculed by critics as an unsightly corruption of language – critiques that were likely also applied to Franklin’s abandoned scheme. (Read entire article.)

1 comment:

julygirl said...

Too bad it did not come about. Anyone helping their elementary school age child study spelling words or reading assignments is faced with trying to explain the ridiculousness of the language.....and I applaude and am awed with foreigners efforts....