Thursday, 1 June 2017

the shavian alphabet

The elves at Quite Interesting—whose media properties include, funnily enough (after reading the below) the podcast There’s no Such Thing as a Fish—always present us with some very engrossing morsels of knowledge—not trivia—that we’d like to learn more about.
Often times it seems some serious scholarship—more than we are ready to commit—is required to go beyond and tease out a deeper explanation and one of their latest briefs looked to be the same sort of cul-de-sac with the fact that playwright and literary critic “George Bernard Shaw left a considerable portion of his estate to increase the [English] alphabet from twenty-six to forty letter; this was never achieved,” but happily a little research yields more answers and speculation.  Consistent in his disdain for the received rules of English orthography throughout his life (whereas Shaw was just a likely to reverse other intellectual tenants as he was to fight for their honour) and how the whole convention was fraught with confusion and indignities of spelling that no one ought to suffer for the sake of lucidity, Shaw urged spelling reforms and stipulated in his last will and testament that future royalties ought to be paid into a trust with his stated goals in mind. Truly with some forty-four phonemes commonly occurring in English and just a few letters being dual- and trice-hatted, English could admit more letters, and though his legacy did not result in widely accepted changes to traditional spelling his bequest did posthumously fund the creation of an eponymous Shavian alphabet in 1960 (a decade after his death), which represented the spoken language as phonetically as possible and had a distinct script from Latin characters (this shorthand was also used for Esperanto) so that the new spellings were not taken as misspellings.