The Shavian alphabet (also known as Shaw alphabet) is an alphabet conceived as a way to provide simple, phonetic orthography for the English language to replace the difficulties of the conventional spelling. It was posthumously funded by and named after Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. Shaw set two main criteria for the new alphabet: it should be (1) as phonetic as possible (that is, letters should have a to sounds); and (2) be distinct from the Latin alphabet to avoid the impression that the new spellings were simply "misspellings".
A contest for the design of the new alphabet was won by a Mr. Ronald Kingsley Read. Read later revised the alphabet to create Quikscript, with more ligatures intended for handwriting. His final alphabet was Latin-based.
Due to contestation of Shaw's will, the trust charged with developing the new alphabet could only afford to publish one book: a version of Shaw's play Androcles and the Lion, in bi-alphabetic edition with both conventional and Shavian spellings. (1962 Penguin Books, London)
|Tall and deep letters:|
|Shavian letter||| | | | | | | | |-||Unicode text||𐑐||𐑚||𐑑||𐑛||𐑒||𐑜||𐑓||𐑝||𐑔||𐑞|
| IPA English pronunciation key|
(may vary, see below)
|| | | | | | | | |-||𐑕||𐑟||𐑖||𐑠||𐑗||𐑡||𐑘||𐑢||𐑙||𐑣|
|| | | | | | | | |-||𐑤||𐑮||𐑥||𐑯||𐑦||𐑰||𐑧||𐑱||𐑨||𐑲|
|| | | | | | | | |-||𐑩||𐑳||𐑪||𐑴||𐑫||𐑵||𐑬||𐑶||𐑭||𐑷|
|| | | | | | |-||𐑸||𐑹||𐑺||𐑻||𐑼||𐑽||𐑾||𐑿|
There are no separate capital or lowercase letters as in the Roman alphabet; instead of using capitalization to mark proper names, a "naming dot" (·) is placed before a name. All other punctuation and word spacing is like in conventional orthography.
Spelling in Androcles follows the phonetic distinctions of British Received Pronunciation except for explicitly indicating vocalic "r" with the above ligatures. Most dialectical variations of English pronunciation can be regularly produced from this spelling, but those who do not make certain distinctions, particularly in the vowels, find it difficult to spontaneously produce the canonical spellings. For instance, most North American dialects merge 𐑭 /ɑː/ and 𐑪 /ɒ/. Canadian English, as well as many American dialects (particularly in the west and near the Canadian border), also merge these phonemes with 𐑷 /ɔː/, which is known as the cot-caught merger. In addition, many American dialects merge 𐑧 /ɛ/ and 𐑦 /ɪ/ before nasal consonants.
There is no ability to indicate word stress, however in most cases the reduction of unstressed vowels is sufficient to distinguish word pairs that are distinguished only by stress in the traditional orthography:
|1st syllable stressed||𐑒𐑪𐑯𐑝𐑦𐑒𐑑 /ˈkɒnˌvɪkt/|
|2nd syllable stressed||𐑒𐑩𐑯𐑝𐑦𐑒𐑑 /ˌkənˈvɪkt/|
Additionally, certain common words are abbreviated as single letters:
Proponents of traditional Shavian, however, have suggested that Kingsley Read may not have intended for this system to be all-encompassing, though it seems that vertical placement alone served this purpose in an earlier version of Shavian, before the rotations were introduced. Also, Read may have intentionally reversed these letters, perhaps to emphasize that these letters represent unrelated sounds, which happen to occur in complementary distribution.
Both sides have suggested other reasons, including associations with various styles of Roman letters and the effect of letter-height on the coastlines of words, but whether Read considered any of these is uncertain. Since the letter representing the same sound in Read's Quikscript appears identical to "Hung", it is doubtful that Read reversed the letter twice by mistake.
Air is a ligature of the letters Egg and Roar. Based on their appearance, one would expect the ligature of these letters to be joined at the bottom and free at the top, yet the opposite is true.
Err, is a ligature of the letters Up and Roar. Based on their appearance, one would expect the ligature of these letters to be joined at the top and free at the bottom, yet once again, the opposite is true.
Pronunciations that differ from their English values are marked in bold red.
|| | |-||la||kaj||aŭ||aj|