Thursday, 22 June 2017

the confusion of the tongues

We enjoyed this history lesson in the syllabry called Deseret devised at the same time as the Mormons began their exodus to the arid territories of the American southwest.
Meaning “honeybee” in the Jaredite language (one of the four ancient tribes of Babylon that the Church of Latter Day Saints believes spread to the New World after that enterprise with the Tower failed) and also the name of the settlement before it was incorporated as the state of Utah, the thirty-eight character alphabet that represented all phonemes in the language was an attempt at spelling-reform, like the Shavian alphabet, to make learning and reading English less inscrutable for non-native speakers and immigrants. Public reception within the community was less enthusiastic than expected—though adopted by the Hopi tribe for their writing system—and combined with conspiratorial indictments that the point of the script was either to keep Mormon communication secret from outsiders or control what Mormon readership had access to, the Deseret experiment didn’t quite catch on at the time but is presently enjoying somewhat of a resurgence in interest that’s surveyed pretty thoroughly by Atlas Obscura at the link up top.