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[h/t Stan Carey]

Screenshot, in case someone has a second thought:

Update — as pointed out in the comments, the context was this:

with other questions including this one:

and this:


  1. anne said,

    January 31, 2019 @ 7:32 am

    It seems to follow this tweet though:


  2. maidhc said,

    January 31, 2019 @ 5:18 pm

    I was a bit puzzled by exactly what this meant, but the following link has a more detailed explanation:

  3. David Marjanović said,

    January 31, 2019 @ 5:52 pm

    Meanwhile it's become clear that the last question is itself wrong – fungi aren't plants. They're actually very close to animals; only choanoflagellates and a few weird amoebae are closer.

    Redundant letters? C and Q most evidently. X at least makes some words a bit shorter…

  4. Eric Fahlgren said,

    January 31, 2019 @ 6:22 pm

    And isn't haytch merely and unpronounced placeholder?

  5. Chris C. said,

    January 31, 2019 @ 8:19 pm

    I was unaware of the existence of a distinctive English alphabet.

  6. Ken said,

    January 31, 2019 @ 10:50 pm

    @Chris C: Dutch uses the same alphabet as English, as do many other languages, although often because the alphabet was borrowed.

    That aside, the Latin alphabet has many offspring. Irish is written with 18 letters, Italian with 21, Spanish with 27 (30 if you count CH, LL, and RR), German with 30. Some languages count letters with diacritics separately, others don't. Collating orders differ.

  7. John Walden said,

    February 1, 2019 @ 1:59 am

    Another thing is that while c seems replaceable in English it is a distinct sound from k and s in at least Castilian pronunciation of Spanish. That might be what was meant by 'The English Alphabet'.

  8. Philip Taylor said,

    February 1, 2019 @ 3:13 am

    Ken — Doesn't nederlands ("Dutch") have an additional letter "ij" (U+0133) ?

  9. J.W. Brewer said,

    February 1, 2019 @ 7:45 am

    The alphabet question has a certain tension in it. As noted above, there are maybe 3 letters of the current alphabet for English that are redundant as used in current orthographic conventions. But since most notions of a "perfect alphabet" would include a separate glyph for every phoneme, and English has a lot more than 26 phonemes (exactly how many varies with dialect, which is always a lurking problem with trying to come up with a more phonemic orthography), which is why we need a lot of digraphs and other workarounds. So you want to be adding rather than losing glyphs on net. The question is whether for a modified Latin alphabet you would somewhat randomly redeploy Q and X etc. to other phonemes in need of their own glyphs, as is done by eg hanyu pinyin, or dump those altogether as confusing and create brand new ones via diacritics and/or by reviving thorn and yogh and things like that. Or do you abandon Latin-style glyphs altogether and go directly to tengwar (which from a cursory look handles English's consonant inventory better than its vowel inventory)?

  10. Benjamin Orsatti said,

    February 1, 2019 @ 11:56 am

    Bring back þorn and eð!

  11. MikeA said,

    February 1, 2019 @ 11:59 am

    Philip Taylor – Like the "Y umlaut" popularized by the character set of the IBM PC? :-)

  12. dfphil said,

    February 1, 2019 @ 2:57 pm

    For the optimal alphabet, we can only go with Dan Aykryod's Decabet

  13. Tom Dawkes said,

    February 1, 2019 @ 2:59 pm

    On the Dutch ij, I recommend the Wikipedia article, which is very detailed. Note that Dutch ij corresponds to Afrikaans y, and that in Dutch crosswords ij is often a single square.

  14. Alex said,

    February 1, 2019 @ 3:17 pm

    @David Marjanović In 1869, fungi were plants.

  15. Philip Taylor said,

    February 2, 2019 @ 5:31 am

    Fungi have evolved from being plants to being animals in 150 years ? That is truly remarkable !

  16. Peter Taylor said,

    February 2, 2019 @ 5:56 am

    @John Walden: in "standard" Spanish (i.e. without seseo) nearly all instances of the letter c could be replaced by k or z depending on the letter which comes after it. With seseo it would be k or s. The only exception I can think of is ch, which was considered a letter in its own right until recently.

    If I've misunderstood your point and you were actually arguing that c can't be replaced by k because they sound different, appendix 4 of the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española disagrees. I can't think of many words which could serve as minimal pairs to show a difference, because k is quite rare; the only pair of words I can think of are ocupa and okupa, and I don't hear a difference between them.

  17. Rodger C said,

    February 2, 2019 @ 11:51 am

    My own English tengwar handles English vowels well enough for me. Six letters plus schwa dot and diacritics for diphthongs, six vowel letters in the phonemic spelling I learned in grad school. (Long after I devised it, I saw some texts by Tolkien himself that were on the same principle and which I could read easily.)

  18. Allan from Iowa said,

    February 2, 2019 @ 4:49 pm

    Yes, Tengwar handles English consonants better than English vowels. You need workarounds for all the diphthongs and tense/lax distinctions, like Rodger C. mentions.

    Or as someone once said of a different script, "You can tell it's of Semitic origin because there aren't enough vowel signs."

  19. Mark said,

    February 4, 2019 @ 7:12 am

    Well the Korean alphabet was designed from scratch and has a ton of diphthongs.

  20. Topherclay said,

    February 4, 2019 @ 8:02 am

    14 minutes and 7 seconds?

  21. DWalker07 said,

    February 5, 2019 @ 12:16 pm

    @Eric Fahlgren said,

    "And isn't haytch merely and unpronounced placeholder?"

    I pronounce the H in Placeholder. It's not "placeolder".

  22. 351: A Perfect Alphabet (or, The Royal Tweet) – Talk the Talk said,

    February 12, 2019 @ 12:59 am

    […] Language Log | We are bemusedhttp://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=41645 […]

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