Reordering the Alphabet

February 15, 2021

Categories: Random , Tags: Words, Alphabet, Order

I read a simple, obvious, but strange thought on the internet the other day, that the order of letters in the alphabet is, to some extent at least, arbitrary. I'm sure there are historical reasons why the alphabet is currently organised like it is, but it got me wondering if there might be a better way to organise things to make it easier to learn and use.

# Vowels

Starting with the vowels, I can't think of a good reason to have them spread out the way they are. Maybe they'd be better off all being moved to the start of the alphabet? Let's see how that looks:

AEIOU BCDFGHJKLMNPQRSTVWXYZ

Next we can rearrange the vowels to organise them in a way that your mouth shape moves fluidly from one to the next. I've chosen to go from the most closed to the most open mouth shape, it it seems more natural to slowly open your mouth as you make the sounds rather than close it.

OUIEA BCDFGHJKLMNPQRSTVWXYZ

Bear in mind with the letters above that this order comes from sounding out the sounds the letters make, rather than the names of the letters themselves. So, the wrong way to say this would be:

~~ohh-you-eye-ee-ay~~

The correct way is:

oh-uh-ih-eh-ah

# Sounds

Is there a way of grouping sounds together that might make things a little more logical? For example, B and D sound similar, as do F and V. Maybe there's a way of organising the letters so that they start with sounds made at the back of the throat (like H), and move forwards to sounds made at the front of the mouth (like T). Let's sort the sounds roughly from the back of the throat to the front, starting with the vowels, and keeping the groups in alphabetical order here:

OUIEA CGH JMQ DKLNRW FVY BP STX

We can do the same rearrangement of these groups of letters based on the mouth shape we make when sounding them, but interestingly this doesn't seem to affect their arrangement that much:

OUIEA HCG JQM DKLNRW FVY BP STX

# Frequency

Could frequency be used as a way to organise the letters? Maybe moving less frequently used letters to the far end of the alphabet (like X and Z are currently), and the most frequently used letters (such as E, S and T) to the start of the alphabet? Maybe letters that are frequently used together could be placed adjacent to each other, like E and D or I, N and G. Simply sorting the letters by their frequency of use gives us this alphabet:

ETAOINSHRDLCUMWFGYPBVKJXQZ

# Letter Names

Surely we can improve on the names of some of the letters - Double U, for example, feels really unweildy. Could we invent a set of nouns that are consistent, related to the sound the letter makes, simple and distinct? That last requirement would obviate the need for a phonetic alphabet (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc), which would be a bonus.

# Letter Shapes

Again, it would be good to have letters where the shape of each letter relates to the sound it makes, but also where the letters are distinct enough that there's no confusion - including for direct brain wave reading:

# Alphabet Name

Once we've managed to find our perfect alphabet, will we need to change its name? After all, it seems highly unlikely that it's going to start with A and B (AlphaBeta) once we've optimised it!