Deseret Alphabet Tables


Of course the Deseret Alphabet will look foreign to the new comer. The shape and ordering of the letters are previously unknown. All of the books and newspaper articles printed in the 1800's had a table included with them that gave a key to the pronunciation of the Deseret letters. I have included those tables as well as some other tables from the time - some of which have slightly different versions of the alphabet. These old tables have the letters arranged in a phonetic order with voiced and unvoiced pairs together.

In some of the new tables I have arranged the alphabet according to letter shape. This is intended to make reading the alphabet easier. When you are reading, and the need arises, you simply lookup the shape of the letter to find its corresponding sound. In another new table I have the letters arranged according to their sounds, and they are arranged according to the familiar Roman alphabetic order. I have listed vowel sounds first followed by the consonant sounds. As I said, they are arranged alphabetically, so the table has 'a' sounds, then 'e' sounds, then 'i', then 'o', and 'u' sounds. Next come the consonants starting with the 'b' sound, then the 'ch' sound, the 'd' sound, the 'f' sound, etc. This table is designed to make writing in the new alphabet easier for the beginner. If you canít remember which letter makes the next sound you need you simply look it up in the sound-ordered table.

In the old tables you will be notice some alternate forms of Deseret letters. It is interesting to see the changes made. In the new tables you may also notice that I have taken the liberty of completely spelling-out, and clarifying the names of the Deseret letters.

Old Tables

Early Version 1. I don't know much about this old table. I found it at the Bancroft Library.

Early Version 2. These tables appeared in an article by Juanita Brooks. The spellings are really quite fascinating. They show the following spelling convention: If the name of a letter was part of a word then you could simply write the letter to stand for its name rather than its sound (you can see other examples of this convention on the $5 gold coin and in some of the Deseret News articles). This convention was experimented with, but was dropped in the most recent printed material. Except in the special case where the name of the letter is the same as the entire word

Life in Utah. This table came from an anti-Mormon book published in 1870. Despite printing this table I could not find any further mention of the alphabet in the book.

City of The Saints. This table was reproduced in 1861 by Richard F. Burton in his book City of The Saints.

Deseret News. This table appeared in the Deseret News. There were scores of articles written in Deseret that were published in the Deseret News. The table is rather concise, and I think it could have been difficult to learn the alphabet with such an abbreviated guide.

Deseret Readers. These are the tables given at the front of the readers. You will notice some slight differences between them.

Journey to GSLC. This table was reproduced in 1861 by Jules Remy and Julius Brenchley in their book A Journey to Great-Salt-Lake City.

New York Times. This table appeared in the New York Times on October 2, 1857. It does not give any key to the pronunciation of the letters, and further makes the claim that the pronunciation was kept secret from all but the faithful. This however is false. Quite the contrary, no effort at all was made to keep the alphabet secret, and a key giving the pronunciations was printed along with nearly every item ever published in it.

German Book. This table appeared in The Book of Writing, a book, printed in German, by Carl Faulmann. This table is interesting in that it shows a cursive version of the alphabet! I do not read or write German but, with the help of some online translation sites, I have produced, in my estimation, a reasonable translation. Faulmann's description of the alphabet (and of the Mormon Church) is certainly not flattering (nothing new there). The first lines of the Title Page read "The Book of Writing containing the characters and alphabets of all times and all peoples of the entire earth arranged and explained by Carl Faulmann".

New Tables

1868 Shape-Ordered. This table is designed to make it easier to read the Deseret Alphabet books printed in 1868-69. The letter names and example sounds are just as they appear in the Deseret readers.

Cannonicaly-Ordered. This table has the alphabet ordered in the traditional with some letters not used in the 1868-69 alphabet.

New Shape-Ordered. This table has the alphabet with the additional letters, and the clarified names.

New Sound-Ordered. This table has the alphabet with the additional letters, and the clarified names. It will help you write more easily.