Say Now Shibboleth, or Maybe Cumorah

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Abstract: The Deseret Alphabet represents a bold but failed attempt by 19th century LDS Church leaders to revolutionize English language orthography. As 21st century members of the LDS Church, we can benefit from this less than successful experiment by studying the 1869 Deseret Alphabet Book of Mormon and learning how early church members most likely pronounced Book of Mormon names.

Geographic regions, cultural influences, family associations, and the passage of time are some of the many factors that affect our way of speaking, including the way we pronounce specific words and phrases. An outstanding example of differences in pronunciation, owing to its harsh conclusion, is found in the book of Judges. After Jephthah and the men of Gilead fought with and defeated the Ammonites, “the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and went northward, and said unto Jephthah, wherefore passedst thou over to fight against the children of Ammon, and didst not call us to go with thee? We will burn thine house upon thee with fire” (Judges 12:1). This insolent behavior by the men of Ephraim led to a war with the men of Gilead and resulted in heavy losses among the Ephraimites. After the battle, as the Ephraimite survivors tried to escape back to their own lands,

the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites: and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said, Let me go over; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said, Nay; Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: [Page 34]and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand (Judges 12:5–6).

The Ephraimites were unable to say the word shibboleth (שבולת) correctly, pronouncing it without the sh sound (stemming from the letter shin, ש) at the beginning of the word.1 This peculiarity of speech among the Ephramites led to many of them being slaughtered while trying to cross the Jordan River.

We do not know how Nephi, Alma, Mormon or other historical characters from the Book of Mormon pronounced names of people and places during their time, but we do have an achievable way of knowing how early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints likely pronounced them. However, for most contemporary readers of the Book of Mormon, this knowledge has been essentially locked away in an obscure, mid-nineteenth century script known as the Deseret Alphabet (DA). The objective of this article is to provide the reader with the key to unlock this heretofore ciphered knowledge.

Brief History of the Deseret Alphabet

The Deseret Alphabet (DA) was championed by Brigham Young as a way of helping immigrants learn how to read and properly pronounce words in the English language. Speaking of the DA, President Young boldly declared:

The advantages of this alphabet will soon be realized, especially by foreigners. Brethren who come here knowing nothing of the English language will find its acquisition greatly facilitated by means of this alphabet, by which all the sounds of the language can be represented and expressed with the greatest ease. As this is the grand difficulty foreigners experience in learning the English language, they will find a knowledge of this alphabet will greatly facilitate their efforts in acquiring at least a partial English education. It will also be very advantageous to our children. It will be the means of introducing uniformity in our orthography, and the years that are now required to learn to read and spell can be devoted to other studies.2

[Page 35]Unfortunately, Brigham Young’s hopes for the DA would not be realized, as its use died out with the passing of the prophet himself. Hubert H. Bancroft observed that “within a few years [of its introduction to the public] the alphabet fell into disuse, and is now remembered only as a curiosity.”3 Larry Wintersteen wrote that:

This new alphabet appears not to have met the needs of the people nor did it interest them. Its use and development was hindered by temple building, farming, settling, new doctrine, and possibly little faith in following their prophet, president and leader. The Deseret Alphabet died with Brigham Young in 1877, yet it appears to have been a noble experiment towards a spelling reform. Perhaps it would have worked under different situations and different environment.4

Although the idea of the DA was the brainchild of Brigham Young, its primary creator appears to have been George Darling Watt, an early convert to the Church in the British Isles. In October 1853, the Board of Regents of the Deseret University, now the University of Utah, appointed Parley P. Pratt, Heber C. Kimball, and George D. Watt to “a committee to prepare a small school-book in characters founded on some new system of orthography, whereby the spelling and pronunciation of the English language might be made uniform and easily acquired.”5 Fifteen months after the committee was formed, the Deseret News heralded the creation of the DA by announcing that “after many fruitless attempts to render the common alphabet of the day subservient to their purpose, they found it expedient to invent an entirely new and original set of characters.”6 This pronouncement marked the birth of the DA.

Figure 1. Deseret News Deseret Alphabet Pronunciation Guide

Figure 1. Deseret News Deseret Alphabet Pronunciation Guide

While not a language in itself, the Deseret Alphabet was created as an alternative method of phonetically spelling English words using a unique set of characters. Stanley B. Kimball, a descendent of Heber C. Kimball, observed that “no one knows the origin of [the Deseret Alphabet’s] strange characters, but certainly Watt’s knowledge of phonography was [Page 36]fundamental.”7 The first public appearance of the DA was on the front page of the Deseret News on Wednesday, February 16, 1859. Along with a brief introduction to the alphabet, the newspaper printed the first fifteen verses of the fifth chapter of Matthew in the DA, along with a pronunciation guide (Figure 1) that went through only minor modifications in later years. The opening paragraph in the 1859 Deseret News article gave a less than glowing endorsement of the new alphabet:

We present to the people the Deseret Alphabet, but have not adopted any rules to bind the taste, judgment or preference of any. Such as it is you have it, and we are sanguine that the more it is practised and the more intimately the people become acquainted with it, the more useful and beneficial it will appear.”8

According to Wintersteen, “the Deseret News carried brief articles in the Deseret Alphabet until May, 1860. At that time they were discontinued without comment. Four years later, May, 1864, they reappeared running for only six months.”9 Shortly after the 1859 introductory article appeared in the Deseret News, the New York Herald newspaper published an editorial entitled “The New Mormon Alphabet.” The article expressed that “the Mormons are a ‘very peculiar people’” and that the Deseret Alphabet “is calculated to make the faithful still more peculiar than anything that distinguishes them from other mortals.”10 The Quincy Daily Whig was even more disparaging of the new alphabet when it printed the following:

[Page 37]It seems to be the determination of the Mormons to alienate and, as far as possible, disconnect themselves from American language as well as society. Their social system is now the abhorrence of every civilized nation on the face of the globe, and unless the strongest measures are used, they will entirely divorce themselves from our laws, and their present intention is, to forget, if possible, the English language itself.11

It was not until 1868 that any books were printed in the DA. The first of these books was called The Deseret First Book by the Regents of the Deseret University (| D~sIr~t F_rst B+k b{ | RIg~nts *v | D~sIr~t Y#un#v_rs#t#). This was a brief, 36-page elementary school primer with forty-nine short “lessons” and some multiplication tables at the back. This was followed in the same year by The Deseret Second Book – a longer, seventy-two page primer with fifty-three lessons and additional multiplication tables at the back of the book. Ten thousand copies of each of these books were printed.12

The Deseret Alphabet and the Book of Mormon

During 1869, 8,000 copies of Part 1 (PART I) of the Book of Mormon in the DA were printed.13 Part 1 was composed of the books of 1 Nephi through the Words of Mormon — what we would call the small plates of Nephi today. In late 1869, 500 copies of the complete Book of Mormon were printed, making it one of the rarest editions ever published.14 Both Part 1 and the complete Book of Mormon were set from the 1852 Liverpool edition (the Third European Edition) and were published in New York by Russell Brothers for the Deseret University. As such, the DA Book of Mormon was one of three editions published in New York during the nineteenth century, including the 1830 Palmyra and 1858 Wright editions.

Although only four books in the DA were ever printed during the nineteenth century, it appears that the intent was to print additional books. The Improvement Era reported that:

Figure 2. Figure 3. Figure 4.

Figure 2. Figure 3. Figure 4.

[Page 38]From a storage area of the Church Historian’s Office in May 1967, a package of papers was unwrapped and found to be manuscript copies in the Deseret Alphabet of the Bible, the Doctrine and Covenants, Deseret Phonetic Speller, and the Catechism by John Jaques. The papers, ready for the printer, had lain undisturbed for so long that their very existence had been forgotten.15

Interestingly, with the completion of the Salt Lake Temple still more than two decades away, all four books published in the DA showed an etching of the temple with a weather vane rather than the iconic upright Angel Moroni, which was placed on the temple spire in 1892 (see Figures 2 and 3). The weather vane in the drawings appears to be visually similar to the one placed on top of the clock tower of the original Nauvoo temple (see Figure 4).16

Modifications to the Deseret Alphabet

Figure 5. Top of Deseret Alphabet Pronunciation Guide

Figure 5. Top of Deseret Alphabet Pronunciation Guide

By the late 1860s, the shape of the DA characters had gone through some minor modifications. The most significant change was that the character for the long a17 sound (3 in 1859) was flipped horizontally to be E in 1868. More than likely this change was made so that the long a character would not be confused with the number 3. All four published books displayed [Page 39]the same pronunciation guide, with one exception — the spelling, and thus pronunciation, of the word alphabet in the title. In the two 1858 primers the word was spelled &LFEB~T (ăl-fā-bĕt18 or /ælfæbɛt/ in International Phonetic Alphabet [IPA]), while in the two books printed in 1869 (Part 1 and the complete Book of Mormon) the spelling was &LF&B~T (ăl-fă-bĕt or /ælfæbɛt/ in IPA). Interestingly, in John Walker’s Critical Pronouncing Dictionary, the pronunciation of alphabet is also rendered ăl-fă-bĕt, in line with the 1869 DA method.19

A Modern Revival

Figure 6.

Figure 6.

In the last two decades, there has been a modest resurgence of interest in the DA. A new collection of books (Deseret Alphabet Classics) has been published. With nearly thirty books in the collection, including Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine, and Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, readers can enjoy many classic works in the DA script. Numerous blogs and discussion forums have also sprung up on the Internet for those interested in learning and discussing the Deseret Alphabet. In addition, a very useful website has been created that allows users to translate normal Latin text into the DA.20 Multiple free DA fonts can be downloaded from the Internet and used in Microsoft Word and Excel, including the DeseretBee, HoneyBee and ZarahemlaBee fonts.21 I have [Page 40]used the HoneyBee font to present DA characters in this article. The fictitious Republic of Molossia, “a sovereign, independent nation, located in and completely surrounded by territory of the United States,” has adopted “the Deseret Alphabet as an alternate English writing method” for its people.22 The website’s non-LDS creators present information in both Latin and DA script. John H. Jenkins, the publisher of the Deseret Alphabet Classics, has even published the LDS triple combination (Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price) in the DA and has made it freely available for download as a PDF file.23

With this renewed interest in the DA, changes have been made to the DA characters to make them somewhat easier to read and write. Below is a chart of DA characters from 1859 to the present. In the column labeled 2015 in Figure 7, five of the sounds are shown with two distinct characters, separated by a forward slash (/). The first character is the modern uppercase preference, while the second character is preferred for lowercase use. For lowercase use, the loop has been replaced by a dot above the character for the sounds au, ow and g. The use of the dot above the character makes it easier to read, especially when the font size is small.

The Deseret Alphabet and the Pronunciation Guide

Mary Jane Woodger, in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, wrote an informative article on how the Book of Mormon Pronunciation Guide (PG) was developed over the last century. Concerning the involvement of the DA in this process, she wrote:

One early attempt at harmonizing pronunciation may have taken place during the publication of the Book of Mormon in the Deseret Alphabet (1852–1869). When Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, and other pioneers developed the phonetic Deseret Alphabet they had the means available to represent how they were pronouncing the Nephite names. Their pronunciation would surely have differed little from that of Joseph Smith. This major undertaking of examining Book of Mormon proper names in mid-nineteenth-century pronunciation as recorded in the Deseret Alphabet has yet to be done. Though there is nothing concrete in this speculation, [Page 41]such an unfulfilled possibility is worthy of mention because the Deseret Alphabet edition of the Book of Mormon represents the only attempt made by church leaders in the 1800s at setting a consistent pronunciation for Nephite proper names. (emphasis added)24

Figure 7. A comparison of font styles for DA characters.

Figure 7. A comparison of font styles for DA characters.

Indeed, the first published guide to pronunciation of Book of Mormon names, the Pronouncing Vocabulary, was not accomplished until the 1920 LDS edition of the Book of Mormon. This Pronouncing Vocabulary contained 284 names, as compared to the 343 found in the current PG. This difference is due to the Pronouncing Vocabulary containing “mostly proper names of Book of Mormon origin, with [only] some Biblical names included.”25

While several histories of the DA have been written over the years, surprisingly little research has been conducted into the relationship between the DA and the pronunciation of Book of Mormon names, perhaps because of the difficulty in learning the DA script. In 2000, [Page 42]Frederick M. Huchel published a short article in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies in which eighteen names from the DA Book of Mormon were compared to PG names from the LDS edition of the Book of Mormon,.26 While the effort was commendable, the article was riddled with errors, most likely because neither the author nor the editors fully understood the DA script. The Journal reissued a corrected version of the article, but even then, errors persisted. For example, the word Deseret was correctly written D`sir`t in the DA script, but the pronunciation was incorrectly rendered as dēs-ē-rĕt (/disirɛt/ in IPA)by the author in both the original and corrected versions of the article. The correct pronunciation should have been written dĕs-ē-rĕt (/dɛsirɛt/ in IPA) based on the DA spelling. Even the pronunciation from the Book of Mormon PG was incorrectly written by the author as dēz′-a-rĕt (/dizərɛt/ in IPA) rather than dĕz-a-rĕt′ (/dɛzərɛt/ in IPA) as rendered in the PG. This article by Huchel was the only attempt at serious academic research that I was able to locate.

I compared the PG found in the current (2013) LDS edition of the Book of Mormon to the names in the 1869 DA version. During this process, I was able to identify and record the DA spelling, and thus the pronunciation of each proper noun. In addition, I found nineteen Book of Mormon names that are absent from the current PG. Most of these are biblical names, but some are unique Book of Mormon words. For example, among the many names that the Nephites used for their monetary values, as identified in Alma Chapter 11, the senine and limnah are both found in the PG, but the seon and leah are not. Egyptian is listed, but not Arabian. And strangely, Gomorrah is present, but not Sodom. A complete list of these missing names is given at the end of the Appendix.

I do not propose that the DA pronunciation is the ultimate standard by which Book of Mormon names should be judged. In fact, it is almost certain that those pronunciations do not accurately reflect how the names were originally spoken in their native dialects. As Woodger reasoned about the 1981 PG, the same can be said for the DA pronunciation:

We can concur with Daniel Ludlow, who served as the secretary to the Scripture Publication Committee, that we are “ninety-nine percent sure that we do not pronounce such names as Lehi and Nephi correctly” (that is, as they themselves did). … In following the [pronunciation] guide we can be assured that [Page 43]if we are wrong in pronouncing Book of Mormon names, we will at least all be wrong together.27

Woodger added that the committee that developed the 1981 PG was given four general guidelines to follow, with uniformity among the members as the principal objective:

  1. Do not try to relate Book of Mormon names with Hebrew or Egyptian names.
  2. Do not try to think of how the Nephites might have pronounced their own names.
  3. Simplify where possible.
  4. The main objective should be uniformity.28

Limitations and Peculiarities of the Deseret Alphabet

Although the creators of the DA dreamed of it as a perfect overhaul of the English spelling system, it was not without its flaws and peculiar aspects. One of these flaws is the absence of the mid-central vowel sound, or schwa, written as /ǝ/ in IPA. Although the short u sound (u in the PG, ʌ in IPA, and identified as a short o in Figure 1) was available in the DA (_), it was not the same as, and could not adequately replace the schwa sound. The second vowel in the word alphabet (/ælfəbet/ in IPA) is a schwa sound. As noted earlier, in the two 1868 DA primers the second vowel of the word alphabet was written as a long a (ā in the PG, /e/ in IPA, and E in the DA), while in 1869 it was changed and written as a short ah (ă in the PG, /æ/ in IPA, and & in the DA), possibly to agree with Walker or other pronouncing dictionaries of the time. This highlights the confusion caused by not having a character for the schwa sound in the DA.

The omission of the schwa character also poses problems for modern readers when trying to pronounce DA Book of Mormon words. The name Alma, for instance, is /ælmə/ in IPA and ăl′ma in the PG. Both methods display the word with an unstressed final schwa sound. However, the DA spelling of the word is &LM&, which when spelled phonetically would be /æl·mæ/ in IPA or ăl-mă using the PG method. Not only is this spelling [Page 44]awkward, but it is also probably not how the early members of the Church pronounced the name. More than likely they pronounced Alma the same way that we do today, with a schwa sound at the end of the word.

The absence of the schwa character in the DA script is understandable because it was not an officially recognized vowel sound in the English language at the time, and the word itself did not enter the English lexicon until 1895, well after the development of the DA.29 The word schwa came into the English language from German, but its root is “from Hebrew šəwā’, probably from Syriac (nuqzē) šwayyā.”30 Even though the word is a recent addition to the English language, the schwa sound itself has been a part of the spoken language for close to a thousand years:

Towards the end of the Old English period, i.e., after the beginning of the eleventh century, more and more graphemic differences begin to disappear, a fact suggesting progressive neutralization of phonemes occurring in this position. … Thus English sees the advent of the schwa, the reduced, mid, central, murmured, mixed, indeterminate, colorless vowel, whose “neutrality” has been branded, by one school of language historians, as a defect responsible for some of the most drastic grammatical changes in the history of the language, the decrease of the number of distinctive inflexions in Middle English.31

Another apparent oddity of the DA, at least for modern American English speakers, is the presence of these three separate DA characters: A as in art, % as in aught, and * as in not . Today, many Americans would pronounce the vowels in all three of the words — art, aught and not — the same way. Of the 363 names that appear in the DA Book of Mormon, ninety-one, or twenty-five percent of them, contain one of these three DA characters (A, % and *). Of those ninety-one occurrences, the DA character A is used sixty-nine percent of the time, * is used twenty percent of the time, and % is only used eleven percent of the time. Interestingly, though, A was used almost exclusively as the final sound in a word. Of its sixty-three occurrences, sixty-one of those are final sounds. For [Page 45]example, Aha, Elijah, Isaiah, Nephihah, Zarahemla and Zemnarihah are all words that end with A in the DA. Today, most Americans would end three of those names (Aha, Nephihah and Zemnarihah) with an ah sound (ä in the PG, /a/ in IPA, and described as a short au sound in the DA). The other three names (Elijah, Isaiah and Zarahemla) are usually pronounced with a schwa sound at the end of the word. So, did the early Church members say those words in the same way as we do today, or is the DA an accurate representation of how they actually spoke?

Figure 8

Figure 8

Figure 9

Figure 9

Unlike the character A, with only one exception * and % are never used as final sounds in DA Book of Mormon names. The use of the character * in DA names appears to be very straightforward. It is used in names such as Agosh, Com, John, Josh, Nimrod and Omni — all names that we would expect to have the DA short au sound.

%, on the other hand is more complicated. Although rarely used in DA names, it is found in the names Calno, Cohor (second o), Jordan, Korihor (second o), Mormon (first o) and Nehor. For convention, I will refer to the character % as an open o sound. In Tables 1 and 2 it is represented by the symbol ȯ (an O with a dot above it), which is the same symbol that is often used in the modern DA script. Very often this character appears together with the letter r, although not always. The pronunciation was neither a DA long o (as in open), nor a DA short au (as in not). The DA Pronunciation Guide (Figure 1) identifies it as a long au (as in aught).

John Walker, in his Critical Pronouncing Dictionary, identified four distinct sounds for the letter a (see Figure 8), and four for the letter o (see figure 9). Interestingly, Walker observed that “the long broad o, as in nor, for, or” was “like the broad a,” that is, “the broad German a, as in [Page 46]fall, wall, wa-ter.”32 This suggests that the o in nor, for and or would have been pronounced much like the a in fall, wall and water, which appears to agree with the DA pronunciation.

Kenneth R. Beesley explained that because many of the early members of the Church spoke British or New England dialects of English, these three sounds in the DA (A, * and %) would have been pronounced distinctly from each other. Beesley wrote:

The original name for the Deseret A letter, which is /ɑ/ in IPA, was “ah”, using a common convention in English romanization whereby “ah” represents an unrounded low-back vowel. Most English speakers use this vowel in the words father, bah and hah. In England, and in much of New England, this vowel is distinct from the first vowel in bother, represented in Deseret Alphabet as * or in IPA as /ɒ/, which is a rounded low-back vowel; thus for these speakers the words father and bother do not rhyme. But the rounded /ɒ/ has collapsed into unrounded /ɑ/ in General American English, so the words do rhyme for most Americans. Similarly, the Deseret % letter , IPA /ɔ/, represents a mid-low back rounded vowel that has also collapsed into /ɑ/ for many American speakers. It can still be heard quite distinctly in the speech of many New Yorkers, Philadelphians, and New Englanders in general.33

An interesting discussion among experts in the field of linguistics has been occurring for at least the last eighty years regarding a so-called “card-cord merger” in Utah. As linguist David Bowie explained it,

English speakers along the Wasatch Front of Utah exhibit a variable linguistic feature that can at least loosely be described as /ɔɹ/ merging into /ɑɹ/, so that the word cord is produced as card—thus, what is referred to as Utah’s CARD-CORD merger. It was first mentioned in any sort of scholarly writing by Pardoe (1935) and has been the subject of a slow but steady stream of study ever since. Even though there is evidence that the feature was extant in the mid- to late-nineteenth century [at the time that the DA was developed] among the initial generations of English-speaking natives of the region, it does [Page 47]not seem to have become a socially salient feature until the 1950s, possibly the 1940s, with stigmatization of the feature by locals following quickly after that.34

“Utah’s card-cord merger” helps explain why selected words — Mormon and ward, for example — spoken by some members of the LDS Church in Utah are pronounced differently than by members of the LDS Church in other areas of the United States. It might also explain how some words were assigned their phonetic spellings in the DA Book of Mormon.


Table 135

Current Book of Mormon PG DA Book of Mormon
Spelling Pronunciation Pronunciation Spelling
Chemish kĕm´ĭsh shēm-ĭsh Qim@q
Com kōm käm K/m
Corihor/Korihor kōr´ĭ-hōr kōr-ī-hȯr Kor[h$r
Cumeni kū´ma-nī kĭū-mē-nī K@umin[
Cumorah ka-mōr´a kĭū-mōr-ä K@umora
Deseret dĕz-a-rĕt´ dĕs-ē-rĕt D`sir`t
Hearthom hē-är´thum her-thum H-r;-m
Liahona lē´a-hō´na lī-ă-hō-nă L[^hon^
Melchizedek mĕl-kĭz´a-dĭk mĕl-chĭz-ē-dĕk M`lc@zid`k
Mormon mōr´mun mȯr-mun M$rm-n
Muloki myū´la-kī mul-ō-kī M-lok[
Zedekiah zĕd´a-kī´a zĕd-ē-kī-ä Z`dik[a

Book of Mormon Names

Table 1 contains a selection of twelve DA Book of Mormon names taken from the complete list of names found in the Appendix. The [Page 48]names in Table 1 were selected because their DA pronunciation differs markedly from the modern pronunciation as presented in the current Book of Mormon PG. The pronunciation key for these names in Table 1 is found in Table 2. I will discuss here only a few of the differences in pronunciation, but the reader is invited to study the names more thoroughly.

As noted in Table 1, the Cu in Cumorah in the DA script is pronounced like the first cu in cucumber. The same is true for the Cu in Cumeni. In contrast, in the current Book of Mormon PG, the Mu in Muloki is pronounced myū (as in music), while in the DA it is pronounced mu (as in mud). The PG pronunciation of Deseret is dĕz-a-rĕt, with a z sound in the first syllable, and a schwa sound in the middle syllable. In the DA it is dĕs-ē-rĕt, with an s sound in the first syllable, and a long e in the middle syllable. Finally, the first syllable in Mormon in the PG is mōr (as in more), while in the DA it is mȯr. In the prior section, we saw that this open o sound (ȯ) was pronounced like “the broad German a, as in fall, wall, wa-ter.” Pronounced this way, the phonetic spelling of the first syllable of Mormon could be written as mär rather than mōr (using the PG method).


Table 236

a about (schwa) ē eat, mete, me ou about
ă ask, pat, map er permit u jump
ā able, bake, way ĭ it, him, mirror ū rule, boot, two
ä alms, father, call ī idle, fine, deny book, look, put
ĕ ebb, met, second ō over, bone, know ȯ open o (unused)

On a final note, the DA script does not provide any hints on how to separate words into syllables. Therefore, to separate the DA names into syllables in Tables 1 and the table in the Appendix, I followed a set of standard syllabication rules.37


[Page 49]Although not successful as a revolution in English language orthography, the DA was a brave attempt to simplify our often-complicated English writing system. However, as modern readers of the Book of Mormon, we can benefit from the pronunciation information coded into DA script by its creators. Indeed, the DA Book of Mormon can help us open a window into how the early members of the Church most likely pronounced Book of Mormon names. This is, perhaps, the greatest benefit that can come from studying Brigham Young’s less than successful writing experiment.


The table below contains a complete list of Book of Mormon names. A pronunciation guide follows. The # column indicates the number of variances between standard English and Deseret Alphabet Pronunciation.


Book of Mormon Pronunication Guide Deseret Alphabet Book of Mormon
Spelling Pronunciation # Pronunciation Spelling
Aaron ĕr´an 1 ār-un Er-n
Abel ā´bul 1 ā-bĕl Eb`l
Abinadi a-bĭn´a-dī 2 ăb-ĭn-ăd-ī &b@n^d[
Abinadom a-bĭn´a-dum 2 ā-bĭn-ăd-um Eb@n^d-m
Abish ā´bĭsh 0 ā-bĭsh Eb@q
Ablom ăb´lum 1 ăb-lun &bl-n1
Abraham ā´bra-hăm 1 ā-bră-hăm Ebr^h^m
Adam ăd´um 0 ăd-um &d-m
Agosh ā´gäsh 0 ā-gäsh Eg/q
Aha ā´hä 0 ā-hä Eha
[Page 50]Ahah ā´hä 0 ā-hä Eha
Ahaz ā´hăz 0 ā-hăz Eh^z
Aiath ī´uth 1 ă-ī-uth &[-;
Akish ā´kĭsh 0 ā-kĭsh Ek@q
Alma ăl´ma 1 ăl-mă &lm^
Alpha ăl´fa 1 ăl-fä &lfa
Amaleki a-măl´a-kī 2 ăm-ăl-ē-kī &m^lik[
Amalekite a-măl´a-kīt 2 ăm-ăl-ĕ-kīt &m^l`k[t
Amalickiah a-măl´a-kī´a 2 ăm-ăl-ĭ-kī-ä &m^l@k[a
Amalickiahite a-măl´a-kī´a-īt 2 ăm-ăl-ĭ-kī-ä-īt &m^l@k[a[t
Amaron a-mā´rän 2 ăm-ă-run &m^r-n
Amgid ăm´gĭd 0 ăm-gĭd &mg@d
Aminadab a-mĭn´a-dăb 2 ā-mĭn-ă-dăb Em@n^d^b
Aminadi a-mĭn´a-dī 2 ăm-ĭn-ă-dī &m@n^d[
Amlici ăm´lĭ-sī 0 ăm-lĭ-sī &ml@s[
Amlicite ăm´lĭ-sīt 0 ăm-lĭ-sīt &ml@s[t
Ammah ăm´mä 0 ăm-ä &ma
Ammaron ăm´a-rän 2 ăm-ă-run &m^r-n
Ammon ăm´un 0 ăm-un &m-n
Ammonihah ăm-a-nī´hä 0 ăm-un-ī-hä &m-n[ha
Ammonihahite ăm-a-nī´hä-īt 0 ăm-un-ī-hä-īt &m-n[ha[t
Ammonite ăm´a-nīt 0 ăm-un-īt &m-n[t
Ammoron ăm´ōr-än 1 ăm-ōr-un &mor-n
Amnigaddah ăm-nĭ-găd´ä 0 ăm-nĭ-găd-ä &mn@g^da
Amnihu ăm-nī´hū 1 ăm-nī-hĭū &mn[h@u
Amnor ăm´nōr 1 ăm-nur &mn-r
Amoron a-mōr´än 2 ăm-ō-run &mor-n
Amos ā´mus 0 ā-mus Em-s
[Page 51]Amoz ā´muz 1 ā-mus Em-s
Amulek ăm´yū-lĕk 1 ăm-yĭū-lĕk &my@ul`k
Amulon ăm´yū-län 2 ăm-yĭū-lun &my@ul-n
Amulonites ăm´ya-län´īts 2 ăm-yĭū-lun-īts &my@ul-n [ts
Anathoth ăn´a-tōth 2 ăn-ă-thäth &n^;/;
Angola ăn-gō´la 1 ăn-gō-lä &ngola
Ani–Anti ăn´ī–ăn´tī 0 ăn-ī–ăn-tī &n[–&nt[
Anti–Nephi–Lehi ăn´tī–nē´fī–lē´hī 0 ăn-tī–nē-fī–lē-hī &nt[–Nif[–Lih[
Anti–Nephi–Lehies ăn´tī–nē´fī–lē´hīz 0 ăn-tī–nē-fī–lē-hīz &nt[–Nif[–Lih[z
Antiomno ăn-tē-äm´nō 1 ăn-tĭ-äm-nō &nt@/mno
Antion ăn´tē-än 2 ăn-tĭ-un &nt@-n
Antionah ăn-tē-än´a 2 ăn-tĭ-ō-nä &nt@ona
Antionum ăn-tē-ō´num 1 ăn-tĭ-ō-num &nt@on-m
Antiparah ăn-tĭ-pär´a 2 ăn-tĭ-pā-rä &nt@pera
Antipas ăn´tĭ-päs 1 ăn-tĭ-pus &nt@p-s
Antipus ăn´tĭ-pus 0 ăn-tĭ-pus &nt@p-s
Antum ăn´tum 0 ăn-tum &nt-m
Archeantus är-kē-ăn´tus 0 är-kē-ăn-tus Arki^nt-s
Arpad är´păd 0 är-păd Arp^d
Assyria a-sĭr´ē-a 2 ă-sĭr-ĭ-ä &s@r@a
Babylon băb´ĭ-län 1 băb-ĭ-lun B^b@l-n
Bashan bā´shän 1 bă-shun B^q-n
Benjamin bĕn´ja-mĭn 1 bĕn-jă-mĭn B`nj^m@n
Bethabara bĕth-ăb´a-ra 2 bĕth-ăb-ā-ră B`;^ber^
Boaz bō´ăz 0 bō-ăz Bo^z
Bountiful boun´tĭ-ful 1 boun-tĭ-fu̇l B]nt@f=l
Cain kān 0 kān Ken
[Page 52]Calno kăl´nō 1 kăl-nȯ K^ln$
Carchemish kär-kĕm´ĭsh 1 kär-shē-mĭsh Karqim@q
Cezoram sē-zōr´um 0 sē-zōr-um Sizor-m
Chaldeans kăl-dē´unz 0 kăl-dē-unz K^lde-nz
Chaldees kăl-dēz´ 0 kăl-dēz K^ldiz
Chemish kĕm´ĭsh 2 shēm-ĭsh Qim@q
Cherubim chĕr´a-bĭm 1 chĕr-ū-bĭm C`rub@m
Cohor kō´hōr 1 kō-hȯr Koh$r
Com kōm 1 käm K/m
Comnor kōm´nōr 2 käm-nur K/mn-r
Corianton kōr-ē-ăn´tun 1 kōr-ĭ-ăn-tun Kor@^nt-n
Coriantor kōr-ē-ăn´tōr 2 kōr-ĭ-ăn-tur Kor@^nt-r
Coriantum kōr-ē-ăn´tum 1 kōr-ĭ-ăn-tum Kor@^nt-m
Coriantumr kōr-ē-ăn´ta-mer 1 kȯr-ĭ-ăn-tum-er K$r@^nt-mr
Corihor kōr´ĭ-hōr 2 kōr-ī-hȯr Kor[h$r
Corom kōr´um 0 kōr-um Kor-m
Cumeni kū´ma-nī 2 kĭū-mē-nī K@umin[
Cumenihah kū-ma-nī´hä 2 kăm-ē-nī-hä K^min[ha2
Cumom kū´mum 2 kum-äm K-m/m
Cumorah ka-mōr´a 2 kĭū-mōr-ä K@umora
Curelom kū-rē´lum 2 kĭūr-läm K@url/m
Deseret dĕz-a-rĕt´ 2 dĕs-ē-rĕt D`sir`t
Desolation dĕs-ō-lā´shun 0 dĕs-ō-lā-shun D`soleq-n
Edom ē´dum 0 ē-dum Id-m
Egypt ē´jĭpt 0 ē-jĭpt Ij@pt
Egyptian ē-jĭp´shun 0 ē-jĭp-shun Ij@pq-n
Elam ē´lum 0 ē-lum Il-m
Elijah ē-lī´ja 1 ē-lī-jä Il[ja
[Page 53]Emer ē´mer 1 ē-mĕr Im`r
Emron ĕm´rän 1 ĕm-run ~mr-n
Enos ē´nus 0 ē-nus In-s
Ephah ē´fä 1 ĕf-ä ~fa
Ephraim ē´frĕm or ē´frum 2 ē-fră-ĭm Ifr^@m
Esrom ĕz´rum 1 ĕs-rum ~sr-m
Ethem ē´thum 1 ē-thĕm I;`m
Ether ē´ther 1 ē-thĕr I;`r
Eve ēv 0 ēv Iv
Ezias ē-zī´us 0 ē-zī-us Iz[-s
Ezrom ĕz´rum 0 ĕz-rum ~zr-m
Gad găd 0 găd G^d
Gadiandi găd-ē-ăn´dī 1 găd-ĭ-ăn-dī G^d@^nd[
Gadianton găd-ē-ăn´tun 1 găd-ĭ-ăn-tun G^d@^nt-n
Gadiomnah găd-ē-äm´na 2 găd-ĭ-äm-nä G^d@/mna
Gallim găl´ĭm 0 găl-ĭm G^l@m
Gazelem ga-zā´lĭm 2 găz-ē-lĕm G^zil`m
Geba gē´ba 1 gē-bä Giba
Gebim gē´bĭm 0 gē-bĭm Gib@m
Gibeah gĭb´ē-a 1 gĭb-ē-ä G@bia
Gid gĭd 0 gĭd G@d
Giddianhi gĭd-ē-ăn´hī 1 gĭd-ĭ-ăn-hī G@d@^nh[
Giddonah gĭd-dō´nä 0 gĭd-ō-nä G@dona
Gideon gĭd´ē-un 0 gĭd-ē-un G@di-n
Gidgiddonah gĭd-gĭd-dō´nä 1 gĭd-gĭd-ȯ-nä G@dg@d$na
Gidgiddoni gĭd-gĭd-dō´nī 0 gĭd-gĭd-ō-nī G@dg@don[
Gilead gĭl´ē-ud 0 gĭl-ē-ud G@li-d
[Page 54]Gilgah gĭl´gä 0 gĭl-gä G@lga
Gilgal gĭl´gäl 1 gĭl-gul andgĭl-găl G@lg-l andG@lg^l3
Gimgimno gĭm-gĭm´nō 2 jĭm-jĭm-nō J@mj@mno
Gomorrah ga-mōr´a 2 gō-mär-ä Gom/ra
Hagoth hā´gäth 0 hā-gäth Heg/;
Hamath hā´muth 1, 0 hā-măth andhā-muth Hem^; andHem-;4
Hearthom hē-är´thum 2 her-thum H-r;-m
Helam hē´lum 0 hē-lum Hil-m
Helaman hē´la-mun 1 hē-lā-mun Hilem-n
Helem hē´lĕm 0 hē-lĕm Hil`m
Helorum hē-lōr´um 1 hē-lȯr-um Hil$r-m
Hem hĕm 0 hĕm H`m
Hermounts her´mounts 0 her-mounts H-rm]nts
Heshlon hĕsh´län 1 hĕsh-lun H`ql-n
Heth hĕth 0 hĕth H`;
Himni hĭm´nī 0 hĭm-nī H@mn[
Horeb hōr´ĕb 0 hōr-ĕb Hor`b
Immanuel ĭm-măn´yū-ĕl 1 ĭm-ăn-yĭū-ĕl #m^ny@u`l
Irreantum ĭ-rē-ăn´tum 0 ĭr-ē-ăn-tum #ri^nt-m
Isaac ī´zĭk 1 ī-zuk {z-k
Isabel ĭz´a-bĕl 2 ĭs-ă-bĕl #s^b`l
Isaiah ī-zā´a 2 ī-zā-yä {zeya
Ishmael ĭsh´mul or ĭsh´mĕl 2 ĭsh-mă-ĕl #qm^`l
Ishmaelite ĭsh´mul-īt or ĭsh´mĕl-īt 2 ĭsh-mă-ĕl-īt #qm^`l[t
Israel ĭz´rĕl or ĭz´rul 2 ĭz-ră-ĕl #zr^`l
[Page 55]Israelite ĭz´rĕl-īt or ĭz´rul-īt 2 ĭz-ră-ĕl-īt #zr^`l[t
Jacob jā´kub 0 jā-kub Jek-b
Jacobite jā´kub-īt 0 jā-kub-īt Jek-b[t
Jacobugath jā´ka-bū´găth 1 jā-kub-ĭū-găth Jek-b@ug^;
Jacom jā´kum 0 jā-kum Jek-m
Jared jĕr´ud 2 jār-ĕd Jer`d
Jaredite jĕr´a-dīt 2 jār-ĕd-īt Jer`d[t
Jarom jĕr´um 1 jār-um Jer-m
Jashon jā´shän 1 jā-shun Jeq-n
Jeberechiah jĕb-a-ra-kī´a 2 jē-bĕr-ē-kī-ä Jib`rik[a
Jehovah jē-hō´va 1 jē-hō-vä Jihova
Jeneum jĕn´ē-um 1 jo-nē-um Joni-m5
Jeremiah jĕr-a-mī´a 2 jĕr-ē-mī-ä J`rim[a
Jershon jĕr´shän 2 jer-shun J-rq-n
Jerusalem ja-rū´sa-lĕm 2 jē-rū-să-lĕm Jirus^l`m
Jesse jĕs´ē 1 jĕ-sĭ J`s@
Jew 1 jĭū J@u
John jän 0 jän J/n
Jonas jō´nus 0 jō-nus Jon-s
Jordan jōr´dun 1 jȯr-dun J$rd-n
Joseph jō´zĕf 0 jō-zĕf Joz`f
Josephite jō´zĕf-īt 0 jō-zĕf-īt Joz`f[t
Josh jäsh 0 jäsh J/q
Joshua jäsh´ū-wa 2 jäsh-ĭū-ä J/q@ua
Jotham jō´thum 0 jō-thum Jo;-m
Judah jū´da 2 jĭū-dä J@uda
Judea jū-dē´a 2 jĭū-dē-ä J@udia
[Page 56]Kib kĭb 0 kĭb K@b
Kim kĭm 0 kĭm K@m
Kimnor kĭm´nōr 1 kĭm-nȯr K@mn$r
Kish kĭsh 0 kĭsh K@q
Kishkumen kĭsh-kū´mun 2 kĭsh-kĭū-mĕn K@qk@um`n
Korihor kō´rĭ-hōr 2 kōr-ī-hȯr Kor[h$r
Kumen kū´mun 2 kĭū-mĕn K@um`n
Kumenonhi kū´ma-nän´hī 2 kĭū-mēn-än-hī K@umin/n
Laban lā´bun 0 lā-bun Leb-n
Lachoneus la-kō´nē-us 1 lā-kō-nē-us Lekoni-s
Laish lā´ĭsh 0 lā-ĭsh Le@q
Lamah lā´mä 0 lā-mä Lema
Laman lā´mun 0 lā-mun Lem-n
Lamanite lā´mun-īt 0 lā-mun-īt Lem-n[t
Lamoni la-mō´nī 1 lā-mō-nī Lemon[
Lebanon lĕb´a-nän 2 lĕb-ă-nun L`b^n-n
Lehi lē´hī 0 lē-hī Lih[
Lehi–Nephi lē´hī–nē´fī 0 lē-hī–nē-fī Lih[–Nif[
Lehonti lē-hän´tī 0 lē-hän-tī Lih/nt[
Lemuel lĕm´yūl 2 lĕm-yĭū-ĕl L`my@u`l
Lemuelite lĕm´yūl-īt 2 lĕm-yĭū-ĕl-īt L`my@u`l[t
Levi lē´vī 0 lē-vī Liv[
Liahona lē´a-hō´na 2 lī-ă-hō-nă L[^hon^
Lib lĭb 0 lĭb L@b
Limhah lĭm´hä 0 lĭm-hä L@mha
Limher lĭm´her 1 lĭm-hĕr L@mh`r
Limhi lĭm´hī 0 lĭm-hī L@mh[
Limnah lĭm´nä 0 lĭm-nä L@mna
[Page 57]Luram lūr´um 1 lĭū-rum L@ur-m
Madmenah măd-mĕn´a 2 măd-mē-nä M^dmina
Mahah mā´hä 0 mā-hä Meha
Maher–shalal–hash–baz mā´her–shăl-ăl–hăsh´bäz 2 mā-hĕr–shăl-ul–hăsh–băz Meh`r–q^l -l–h^q–b^z
Malachi măl´a-kī 1 măl-ă-kī M^l^k[
Manasseh ma-năs´a 2 măn-ă-sĕ M^n^s`
Manti măn´tī 0 măn-tī M^nt[
Mary mĕ´rē 2 mār-ĭ Mer@
Mathoni ma-thō´nī 1 mă-thō-nī M^;on[
Mathonihah măth-ō-nī´hä 0 mă-thō-nī-hä M^;on[ha
Medes mēdz 0 mēdz Midz
Melchizedek mĕl-kĭz´a-dĭk 2 mĕl-chĭz-ē-dĕk M`lc@zid`k
Melek mē´lĕk 0 mē-lĕk Mil`k
Michmash mĭk´măsh 0 mĭk-măsh M@km^q
Middoni mĭd-dō´nī 0 mĭd-ō-nī M@don[
Midian mĭd´ē-un 1 mĭd-ĭ-un M@d@-n
Migron mī´grän 2 mĭg-run M@gr-n
Minon mī´nän 1 mī-nun M[n-n
Moab mō´ăb 0 mō-ăb Mo^b
Mocum mō´kum 0 mō-kum Mok-m
Moriancumer mōr-ē-ăn´ka-mer 2 mōr-ĭ-ăn-kĭū-mĕr Mor@^nk@u m`r
Morianton mōr-ē-ăn´tun 1 mōr-ĭ-ăn-tun Mor@^nt-n
Moriantum mōr-ē-ăn´tum 1 mōr-ĭ-ăn-tum Mor@^nt-m
Mormon mōr´mun 1 mȯr-mun M$rm-n
Moron mōr´un 0 mōr-un Mor-n
Moroni mō-rō´nī 0 mōr-ō-nī Moron[
Moronihah mō-rō-nī´hä 0 mōr-ō-nī-hä Moron[ha
[Page 58]Moses mō´zus 2 mō-zĕz Moz`z
Mosiah mō-sī´a ormō-zī´a 1, 2 mō-sī-ä Mos[a
Mulek myū´lĕk 2, 1 mĭū-luk and mĭū-lĕk M@ul-k andM@ul`k6
Muloki myū´la-kī 2 mul-ō-kī M-lok[
Nahom nā´hum 0 nā-hum Neh-m
Naphtali năf´ta-lī 1 năf-tā-lī N^ftel[
Nazareth năz´a-rĕth 1 năz-ă-rĕth N^z^r`;
Neas nē´äs 2 nē-ăz Ni^z
Nehor nē´hōr 1 nē-hȯr Nih$r
Nephi nē´fī 0 nē-fī Nif[
Nephihah nē-fī´hä 0 nē-fī-hä Nif[ha
Nephite nē´fīt 0 nē-fīt Nif[t
Neum nē´um 0 nē-um Ni-m
Nimrah nĭm´rä 0 nĭm-rä N@mra
Nimrod nĭm´räd 0 nĭm-räd N@mr/d
Noah nō´a 1 nō-ä Noa
Ogath ō´găth 0 ō-găth Og^;
Omega ō-mā´ga 1 ō-mā-gä Omega
Omer ō´mer 1 ō-mĕr Om`r
Omner äm´ner 1 äm-nĕr *mn`r
Omni äm´nī 0 äm-nī *mn[
Onidah ō-nī´da 1 ō-nī-dä On[da
Onihah ō-nī´hä 0 ō-nī-hä On[ha
Onti än´tī 0 än-tī *nt[
Ophir ō´fer 0 ō-fer Of-r
Oreb ōr´ĕb 0 ōr-ĕb Or`b
Orihah ō-rī´hä 0 ōr-ī-hä Or[ha
[Page 59]Paanchi pā-ăn´kī 0 pā-ăn-kī Pe^nk[
Pachus pā´kus 1 păk-us P^k-s
Pacumeni pā-kyū´mĕn-ī 2 păk-ĭū-mē-nī P^k@umin[
Pagag pā´gäg 1 pā-găg Peg^g
Pahoran pa-hōr´un 1 pā-hōr-un Pehor-n
Palestina păl-a-stī´na 2 păl-ĕ-stī-nä P^l`st[na
Pathros pā´thrōs 1 pă-thrus P^;r-s
Pekah pē´kä 0 pē-kä Pika
Pharaoh fā´rō or-fĕ´rō 0, 1 fā-rō Fero
Philistine fĭl´a-stēn 2 fĭl-ĭ-stĭn F@l@st@n
Rabbanah ra-băn´a 2 răb-ā-nä R^bena
Rahab rā´hăb 0 rā-hăb Reh^b
Ramah rä´mä 1 rā-mä Rema
Ramath rā´muth 0 rā-muth Rem-;
Rameumptom răm-ē-ump´tum 0 răm-ē-ump-tum R^mi-mpt-m
Remaliah rĕm-a-lī´a 2 rĕm-ā-lī-ä R`mel[a
Rezin rē´zĭn 0 rē-zĭn Riz@n
Riplah rĭp´lä 0 rĭp-lä R@pla
Riplakish rĭp-lā´kĭsh 1 rĭp-lă-kĭsh R@pl^k@q
Ripliancum rĭp-lē-ăn´kum 1 rĭp-lĭ-ăn-kum R@pl@^nk-m
Salem sā´lĕm 0 sā-lĕm Sel`m
Sam săm 0 săm S^m
Samaria sa-mĕr´ē-a 2 săm-ā-rĭ-ä S^mer@a
Samuel săm´yū-ĕl 1 săm-yĭū-ĕl S^my@u`l
Sarah sĕr´a 2 sār-ä Sera
Sariah sa-rī´a 2 sā-rī-ä Ser[a
Saul säl 1 sȯl S$l
Seantum sē-ăn´tum 0 sē-ăn-tum Si^nt-m
[Page 60]Sebus sē´bus 0 sē-bus Sib-s
Seezoram sē-zōr´um 0 sē-zōr-um Sizor-m
Senine sē´nīn 0 sē-nīn Sin[n
Senum sē´num 0 sē-num Sin-m
Seraphim sĕr´a-fĭm 1 sĕr-ă-fĭm S`r^f@m
Seth sĕth 0 sĕth S`;
Shared shā´rud 1 shār-ĕd Qer`d
Shazer shā´zer 1 shā-zĕr Qez`r
Shearjashub shĭr-jā´shub 2 shē-er-jā-shub Qi-rjeq-b
Shelem shē´lĕm 0 shē-lĕm Qil`m
Shem shĕm 0 shĕm Q`m
Shemlon shĕm´län 1 shĕm-lun Q`ml-n
Shemnon shĕm´nän 1 shĕm-nun Q`mn-n
Sherem shĕr´um 2 shēr-ĕm Qir`m
Sherrizah shĕr-ī´za 2 sher-ĭ-zä Q-r@za
Sheum shē´um 0 shē-um Qi-m
Shez shĕz 0 shĕz Q`z
Shiblom shĭb´lum 0 shĭb-lum Q@bl-m
Shiblon shĭb´lun 0 shĭb-lun Q@bl-n
Shiblum shĭb´lum 0 shĭb-lum Q@bl-m
Shiloah shī-lō´a 1 shī-lō-ä Q[loa
Shilom shī´lum 0 shī-lum Q[l-m
Shim shĭm 0 shĭm Q@m
Shimnilom shĭm-nī´läm 2 shĭm-nī-lun Q@mn[l-n7
Shinar shī´när 1 shī-nĕr Q[n`r
Shiz shĭz 0 shĭz Q@z
Shule shūl 1 shĭūl Q@ul
Shum shum 0 shum Q-m
[Page 61]Shurr sher 0 sher Q-r
Sidom sī´dum 0 sī-dum S[d-m
Sidon sī´dun 0 sī-dun S[d-n
Sinai sī´nī 2 sī-nā-ĭ S[ne@
Sinim sī´nĭm 0 sī-nĭm S[n@m
Siron sī´run 0 sī-run S[r-n
Syria sĭr´ē-a 2 sĭr-ĭ-ä S@r@a
Tarshish tär´shĭsh 0 tär-shĭsh Tarq@q
Teancum tē-ăn´kum 0 tē-ăn-kum Ti^nk-m
Teomner tē-äm´ner 1 tē-äm-nĕr Ti/mn`r
Thummim thum´ĭm Word not used in the body of the Book of Mormon
Timothy tĭm´a-thē 2 tĭm-ō-thĭ T@mo;@
Tubaloth tū´ba-läth 2 tĭū-bā-luth T@ubel-;
Uriah yū-rī´a 2 yĭū-rī-ä Y@ur[a
Urim yūr´ĭm Word not used in the body of the Book of Mormon
Uzziah yū-zī´a 2 u-zī-ä _z[a
Zarahemla zĕr-a-hĕm´la 2 zār-ă-hĕm-lă Zer^h`ml^
Zebulun zĕb´yū-lun 1 zĕb-yĭū-lun Z`by@ul-n
Zechariah zĕk´a-rī´a 2 zĕk-ă-rī-ä Z`k^r[a
Zedekiah zĕd´a-kī´a 2 zĕd-ē-kī-ä Z`dik[a
Zeezrom zē-ĕz´rum 0 zē-ĕz-rum Zi`zr-m
Zemnarihah zĕm-na-rī´hä 1 zĕm-nā-rī-hä Z`mner[ha
Zenephi zēn´a-fī 1 zē-nē-fī Zinif[
Zeniff zē´nĭf 0 zē-nĭf Zin@f
Zenock zē´nuk 0 zē-nuk Zin-k
Zenos zē´nus 0 zē-nus Zin-s
Zerahemnah zĕr-a-hĕm´nä 2 zēr-ă-hĕm-nä Zir^h`mna
[Page 62]Zeram zē´rum 0 zē-rum Zir-m
Zerin zē´rĭn 0 zē-rĭn Zir@n
Ziff zĭf 0 zĭf Z@f
Zion zī´un 0 zī-un Z[-n
Zoram zō´rum 0 zōr-um Zor-m
Zoramite zōr´um-īt 0 zōr-um-īt Zor-m[t


Names and terms in the Book of Mormon, but not in the current Pronunciation Guide:
Arabian ă-rā-bĭ-un &reb@-n
Assyrian ă-sĭr-ĭ-un &s@r@-n
Cush kush K-q
Damascus dă-mă-skus D^m^sk-s
David dā-vĭd Dev@d
Eden ē-dĕn Id`n
Galilee găl-ĭ-lē G^l@li
Gentile jĕn-tīl J`nt[l
Hebrew hē-brū Hibru
Jesus jē-zus Jiz-s
Leah lē-ä Lia
Lucifer lĭū-sĭ-fĕr L@us@f`r
Mammon măm-un M^m-n
Nob näb N/b
Seon sē-un Si-n
Shublons shub-lunz Q-bl-nz8
Sion9 zī-un Z[-n
Sodom säd-um S/d-m
Solomon säl-ō-mun S/lom-n
Tabeal tā-bē-ul Tebi-l

[Page 63]

Pronunciation Guide Key:
a about ī idle, fine, deny
ă ask, pat, map ō over, bone, know
ā able, bake, way ou about
ä alms, father, call u jump
ĕ ebb, met, second ū rule, boot, two
ē eat, mete, me book, look, put
er permit ȯ open O – little used today
ĭ it, him, mirror and ȯ are not in the current PG

Appendix Notes

  1. Ablom in the 1852 Book of Mormon. DA spelling is an apparent error.
  2. Camenihah in the 1852 Book of Mormon. This spelling was replicated in the DA Book of Mormon.
  3. Two variant spellings in the DA Book of Mormon.
  4. Two variant spellings in the DA Book of Mormon.
  5. Joneam in the 1852 Book of Mormon. Skousen (The Earliest Text) indicates that Joneum, rather than Jeneum, is the earliest spelling, agreeing with the DA pronunciation, but differing from the 1852 spelling.
  6. Two variant spellings in the DA BoM.
  7. Shimnilon in the 1852 Book of Mormon. This spelling was replicated in the DA Book of Mormon.
  8. A variant spelling of shiblons in the 1830 and 1852 Book of Mormon “Now an antion of gold is equal to three shublons.” Alma 11:18 (Alma 8:8 in 1952 and DA Book of Mormon). This spelling was replicated in the DA Book of Mormon.
  9. Sion is an error that first appeared in the 1852 Book of Mormon. It is Zion in all prior editions. This error was not corrected until the 1920 edition. I have included this word in the list since the DA Book of Mormon was set from the 1852 edition.

1. Stephen D. Ricks, “Lehi and Local Color,” FARMS Review of Books 21/2 (2009): 174.

2. Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 12:298 (8 October 1868).

3. Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of Utah, 1540–1886 (San Francisco: The History Company, 1889), 714.

4. Larry Ray Wintersteen, “A History of the Deseret Alphabet” (Master’s Thesis, Brigham Young University, 1970), abstract.

5. Bancroft, History of Utah, 1540–1886, 712.

6. “The New Alphabet,” Deseret News, 19 January 1854, 2.

7. Stanley B. Kimball, Heber C. Kimball: Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1981), 203.

8. No title, Deseret News, 16 February 1859, 1.

9. Wintersteen, “A History of the Deseret Alphabet,” 33.

10. “The New Mormon Alphabet,” New York Herald, 6 April 1859.

11. “Mormon Alphabet,” The Quincy Daily Whig, 25 August 1857, 2.

12. Kimball, Heber C. Kimball: Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer, 203.

13. Kenneth R. Beesley, “Typesetting the Deseret Alphabet with LATEX and METAFONT,” TeX, XML, and Digital Typography: International Conference on TEX, XML, and Digital Typography, Held Jointly with the 25th Annual Meeting of the TEX Users Group, TUG 2004 (Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2004), 109.

14. Beesley, “Typsetting the Deseret Alphabet,” 109.

15. Albert L. Zobell, Jr., “Deseret Alphabet Manuscript Found,” Improvement Era, July 1967, 11.

16. Figure 2 is from the cover of Part 1 of the DA Book of Mormon. Figure 3 is from the spine of the complete DA Book of Mormon. Figure 4 was taken from James E. Talmage, The House of the Lord: A Study of Holy Sanctuaries Ancient and Modern (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1912), Plate 2.

17. As identified by the Deseret News in Figure 1.

18. I show the pronunciation using the current Book of Mormon Pronunciation Guide method and IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet).

19. John Walker, A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary and Expositor of the English Language (New York: Alsop, Brannan and Alsop, 1808), s.v. “alphabet.”

20. Deseret Alphabet Translator,

22. Republic of Molossia,

24. Mary Jane Woodger, “How the Guide to English Pronunciation of Book of Mormon Names Came About,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 9/1 (2000), 54.

25. The Book of Mormon, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1920), 531.

26. Fredrick M. Huchel, “The Deseret Alphabet as an Aid in Pronouncing Book of Mormon Names,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 9/1 (2000), 58–59, 79.

27. Woodger, “How the Guide to English Pronunciation of Book of Mormon Names Came About,” 57.

28. Woodger, “How the Guide to English Pronunciation of Book of Mormon Names Came About,” 56.

29. Oxford English Dictionary, retrieved from: s.v. “schwa.”

30. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006), 1560, s.v. “schwa.”

31. Donka Minkova, The History of Final Vowels in English: The Sound of Muting (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1991), 89.

32. Walker, A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary, from an unnumbered introductory page entitled “A Table.”

33. Beesley, “Typesetting the Deseret Alphabet,” 98.

34. David Bowie, “Acoustic characteristics of Utah’s card-cord merger,” American Speech 83/1 (2008), 35.

35. I show the pronunciation using only the current Book of Mormon Pronunciation Guide method.

36. This is the same key provided with the current Book of Mormon PG, with the addition of the symbols u̇ and ȯ.

37. “Pasco County Schools Syllabication Rules,” Last Modified March 14, 2015,

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About Loren Blake Spendlove

Loren Spendlove (MBA, California State University, Fullerton and PhD, University of Wyoming) has worked in many fields over the last thirty years, including academics and corporate financial management. Currently, he and his wife design and manufacture consumer goods. A student of languages, his research interests center on linguistics and etymology.

9 thoughts on “Say Now Shibboleth, or Maybe Cumorah

  1. While it is true that Orson Pratt used the 1852 English Stereotype edition of the Book of Mormon to set type for the 1869 Deseret Alphabet edition, he actually used a circa 1854 or later corrected printing of that edition, and even added some corrections of his own here and there.

    Re Appendix I,
    In some cases, rather than the DA orthography from the 1869 Book of Mormon online at, the author may have followed Kenneth Jenkins’ automated printing of the DA Book of Mormon, in which many spellings are quite different. For example, rather than the correct 1869 DA spelling of Chemish (Omni 8-10), he has Jenkins’ version. In other cases, he simply has the wrong spelling, as for Gazelem (Alma 37:23), and for Melchizedek (Alma 13:14).

    He is also unaware of many variant spellings of names in the 1869 ed., e.g., Ether appears in two spellings (Ether 1:2, 15:34), while he has only one. For the two variants of Mormon, he again has only one. The author does list some variant spellings, but misses most of them.

    For a more correct listing of DA spellings, with IPA alongside, he should consult the full listing in the Name Index of the Book of Mormon Onomasticon, online at the .

    • Robert

      Thanks for your comments. I have responses and questions for you.

      1.You wrote, “While it is true that Orson Pratt used the 1852 English Stereotype edition of the Book of Mormon to set type for the 1869 Deseret Alphabet edition, he actually used a circa 1854 or later corrected printing of that edition, and even added some corrections of his own here and there.” That is a very interesting observation, and I do not doubt that you are right, but do you have a source for your information? Everything that I read only stated that the DA version was set from the 1852.

      2. I did not follow Kenneth Jenkins’ automated printing version for the transcription. I actually used my own original 1869 copy of the DA Book of Mormon. However, there were many times that poor quality printing and the small type in the hard copy made it difficult to read. In those cases I consulted the same online version that you referenced ( But, there were a few times that I consulted the online version and it appeared to differ from my own printed version. In those cases I used what appeared to me to be printed in the hard copy.

      I would like to consult my DA Book of Mormon (especially with regards to Gazelem and Melchizedek), but I am faced with a hindrance at the present. My wife and I started an LDS mission last Monday and I left my DA Book of Mormon at home. However, I will do my best to find a solution to this, and then get back to you. If indeed these names are misspelled in the article, then I can only claim scribal error. I knew going into this that my own scribal error was a definite possibility, although I was careful to avoid it.

      3. With regard to variant spellings, I have no doubt that I did not pick up on all of them. For example, after the article was typeset for publication I found a variant spelling of Amulek that I had not included in the list (Alma 8:3 in the DA version, Alma 10:12 in current version).

      I searched the Name Index of the Book of Mormon Onomasticon, as you suggested, but could not find a comprehensive listing of DA variant spellings. Perhaps I am looking in the wrong location. I did find that in the case of “Mormon,” the Onomasticon shows two DA spellings for the name, but it does not reference chapter or verse. In that case, it still comes down to visual observation of the text. In my reading I did not find any variant spelling of Mormon, but that does not mean that a variant spelling does not exist.

      • Loren,
        I will be happy to supply you with a systematic list of variants, as well as my summary on the 1852 edition readings. Just obtain my email address from Dan Peterson or Brant Gardner, or I can place those papers in the FAIRMORMON Dropbox. Whichever you prefer. I’m sure that I have some errors which need correcting also. Between us, we might just be able to generate a more accurate list.

        • Robert

          Thanks. I have requested your email address.

          I have spent my early mornings, meals and late nights for the last few days carefully reviewing all of the names in the appendix and comparing them to the online DA Book of Mormon.

          Here is the result. In addition to the 3 misspelled words that you found (Chemish, Gazelem and Melchizedek), I found three more (Curelom, Kumenonhi and Sherem). Each of the six words has one incorrect character in the word. I can understand how I made all of the mistakes but one – Melchizedek. I am still scratching my head over that one. I will make sure that all of these corrections are reflected in the article.

          I feel confident that all of the spelling errors have now been found. So, thanks for your effort in reviewing the list. Also, I have learned from this experience never to be critical of Oliver Cowdery.

          In addition, I found eight additional words with possible variant spellings – Amnigaddah, Amulek, Cumorah, Jeneum (in addition to the o), Jerusalem, Lamoni, Moroni and Moronihah. My daughter is going to photograph the relevant pages from the hard copy and email them to me. Some of the words are difficult to read clearly on the online text. Finally, I am interested to compare additional variant spellings that you may have identified.

  2. As a student of Hebrew I am often asked for the “correct” pronunciation of scriptural names. This question is always absurd since the people bearing the names are not present to ask and the names have been adapted to the more familiar sounds of language of the reader. For names that are biblical I often respond with a modern Hebrew pronunciation which is especially amusing with some names where accents, letters, and sometimes entire syllables are completely different that what is likely to be interpreted from the letters on the page (Yis-ra-el, Mo-she, Ye-sha-ya-hu, etc.) then on top of that there are linguistic shifts within the ancient languages (a to o in the famous Canaanite shift for Hebrew) spelling inconsistencies, short and long forms of names. Problems that would cross a rabbi’s eyes!
    I love Ludlow’s comment that “we will at least all be wrong together.” Ultimately the questions that are brought to me usually stem from a lack of confidence in reading foreign sounding names. The questioner is not really asking “How is this pronounced?” But is saying “I don’t want to sound foolish trying to read this.” Usually after having some fun with making difficult names even more difficult, I explain the pronunciation does not matter as long as we know who we are talking about and encourage people to use the pronunciation they like best and not rely on the PG. I think uniformity based on a lack of knowledge is a poor idea and no one should feel foolish (or superior) over their pronunciation when no correct answer is known.
    Great article though and wonderful research. I may have to order some DA books just for the coolness factor.

    • Some very good points. Pronunciation, no matter how early, is still arbitrary. I have read about eight of the DA Classics books so far, and it is a lot of fun. I probably never would have read Pride and Prejudice any other way. Now I am looking forward to reading Sense and Sensibility. Ironically, whenever people see me reading one (on a flight, etc.) they always ask if it is Hebrew.

  3. Study in Scarlet?! Someone’s got a twisted sense of humor there. If you don’t happen to be familiar with that first (and in my opinion worst) of Conan Doyle’s efforts, it’s nastily anti-Mormon; Brigham Young is one of the villains. There’s a number of geographical impossibilities in the narrative and many other absurdities in representing behavior of early church members. Quite an ugly joke to put it out in the Desert Alphabet. Sheesh.

    • John

      John Jenkins, the creator of the Deseret Alphabet Classics, chose A Study in Scarlet as his first book in the series precisely because of the mysterious nature of the Deseret Alphabet and the LDS connection. Actually, I thought that it was quite a good choice. I also believe that today almost everyone is aware of the hyperbolic claims in the book. Jenkins has recently published The Sign of the Four, also by Doyle, in the Deseret Alphabet.

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