Sunday, 10 February 2013

How to Write the Minimal Alphabet

What is The Minimal Alphabet?
The Minimal Alphabet is a system of shorthand writing - or a secret code if you want to make it more exciting - that was devised by David Conant.
His original intention was really just to do it for the fun of it. It was later that he discovered that it can be a very useful tool for speed writing or encoding messages.
It is an alternative alphabet for the English language.
Secret Code. The Minimal Alphabet.
This is written in The Minimal Alphabet' a form of short hand or secret code invented by David Conant.
Source: Austin Hackney (author)
How Do You Use The Minimal Alphabet?
David Conant used the Minimum Alphabet to write all sorts of things from grocery lists, to study notes and secret letters between himself and his friends.
You can use it mostly for fun, as he did, or you can use it as a form of shorthand, quick note-taking or perhaps to keep your private journal...well, private!
People who enjoy the Minimal Alphabet are:
·         Kids who want to write in a secret language.
·         Students who want to take quick notes in class.
·         Lovers who want to send secret messages.
·         Busy professionals who need to take minutes, make memos or summarize talks.
Essentially, you can use the minimal alphabet in any way you want. Its main advantages are that it is easy to learn and can help you to write quickly - and secretly, of course.
What Is Shorthand Writing?
Shorthand writing is a standardized, abbreviated symbolic method of writing designed to increase speed and brevity when writing by hand. It is most commonly employed by people in secretarial positions, the police force and others who may find it useful.
There are readily available professional level courses in shorthand writing both at colleges and on line.
Below is an example of standard English shorthand writing.
Shorthand Writing Example
A sample of a standard shorthand writing text.
Why Use The Minimal Alphabet?
You may be wondering why you should use The Minimal Alphabet when there is traditional shorthand for almost every language?
What's with The Minimal Alphabet?
It's true that writing shorthand is very similar in that it is a series of abbreviated symbols. However, it is quite a complex phonetic system - almost a language in its own right, with its own peculiarities of grammar and syntax. If you want to take shorthand seriously - by which I mean you need a professional qualification in shorthand note-taking - then the accredited qualification in a recognized shorthand will be necessary.
However, if you don't need the qualification, just the capacity, then the Minimal Alphabet is easier to learn by far and of course - it is not so widely used so it is much better for secrecy!
Here is an example of The Minimal Alphabet, which you will see is much easier as it is simply a transliteration of the English alphabet:
An Example Of The Minimal Alphabet
An example of the minimal alphabet. Can you tell what it says?
Source: Austin Hackney (author)
The above text, written in The Minimal Alphabet simply says:
"Can you read this?"
Well, of course, unless you already know the alphabet, you won't have been able to read it. In a moment, I'll show you how to write The Minimal Alphabet but first let's just look at how it was created.
How Was The Minimal Alphabet Invented?
When David Conant set about creating this form of writing he wanted to render the English alphabet in a manner that was reduced to the simplest possible forms.
So, in creating The Minimal Alphabet, he sought to:
·         represent the letters as simply as possible
·         make each letter readily distinguishable from the others
·         create symbols that formed easy blocks of letters
·         create a form of writing that was attractive to the eye
In order to do this he decided, after some experimentation, to form the letters as
·         line segments (straight line sections)
·         slightly curved lines
·         a dot
·         diagonals
·         circles
Being a linguist, he also considered the relative frequency of occurrence of each of the letters in the English language. The rule is that the most frequently occurring are given the easiest symbols and those less frequently occurring, the slightly more complex. So, for example, the most common letter in English spelling - the letter 'E' - is represented in The Minimal Alphabet by a simple little dot. The letter 'X' which is hardly used at all, is given the symbol '0'
But he took it further than that. He also considered secondary letter distribution.This is one of the details that makes the alphabet so functional and attractive to use. Fundamentally, it means that he worked out for each letter, a compatible shape that could represent the four letters most likely to follow it. In this way, once the alphabet is committed to memory, it becomes a very intuitive form of writing - which means it is quick to learn and easy to use.
When writing with The Minimal Alphabet, the words are rendered in their simplest form without punctuation or capitalization. The only convention maintained is that of leaving a space between each word.
So, let's take a look at it. I've written it out for you below:
How To Write The Minimal Alphabet
The Minimal Alphabet is easier than the standard shorthand because it is based on the English alphabet rather than on a phonetic system.
Source: Austin Hackney (author)
The Stacking Minimal Alphabet
This is the only aspect of the Minimal Alphabet that might at first seem a bit more complicated. In fact, it makes the writing easier and the appearance more beautiful.
To keep it simple, David chose only a very few character shapes. For this reason similar shapes - say a dash or a curve or a line - are are distinguished by their relative vertical position.
The vertical segments are divided into three:
·         Upper Segment
·         Middle Segment
·         Lower Segment.
So, the positioning of the symbol in the lower, middle or upper segment changes the letter it represents.
For example, a short vertical line inscribed in the lower segment signifies the letter 'A'
However, the same mark inscribed in the upper segment means an 'I'.
Another example worth noting is that the horizontal line means 'D' if positioned in the upper segment and 'T' in the middle segment, and an 'R' if placed in the lower segment.
The most common letter in the English language, 'E' - is signified by a dot and can occur in any and all segments.
This is how the letters are divided between the segments:
·         Upper segment: C D E H I L M P U Y
·         Middle segment: ET
·         Lower segment: A E F G K N O R S V
Those letters used less commonly in English, which are B J Q W X Z have been designated larger shapes that occupy all three segments.
These letters are always written on their own.
Given the three different vertical segments used in this form of writing, there is the convention of 'stacking' certain letters, one on top of the other.
The stacking factor simply makes the writing more economical in terms of space. There are many and various possible stacking combinations that you might use when writing with The Minimal Alphabet. There are no rules especially and the 'E' dot can be placed wherever it seems to make most sense, or if sense is not an issue, wherever it is most aesthetically pleasing.
Minimal Number System
The numbers of the minimal system are designed to be intuitive and simple to use in combination with the letters of the minimal alphabet.
Source: Austin Hackney (author)
Using Minimal Numbers
Almost as an after thought, David Conant also created a number system based on the same principles as those that he used to determine The Minimal Alphabet.
It is pretty straight forward and is shown above.
The figures are designed to work well in conjunction with The Minimal Alphabet.
Translate the Minimal Alphabet
Now it's time for you to have a go at translating The Minimal Alphabet! Using the information provided in this article, see if you can translate the text below. As with normal written English, the text is laid out in lines and read from left to right.
CLUE: it is a very famous statement from The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Source: Austin Hackney (author)
Did you manage to translate it? Then scroll down and write your translation of the text from above in the comments box below and any other thoughts you might have!
Well done!

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