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Read Lexicon

Welcome to the Read Lexicon, the Shavian alphabet spelling dictionary.

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About the Read Lexicon

Everyone has an accent. Yes, even you! And nobody has a ‘neutral’ accent. What’s a reformer to do?

The Read Lexicon, named after the principal designer of the Shavian alphabet Kingsley Read, is neither prescriptive nor descriptive; it is selective.

A prescriptive Shavian spelling dictionary is both impossible and undesirable. There is no ‘correct’ spelling in Shavian and no way to enforce it for an orthography that is essentially the preserve and delight of hobbyists and dreamers. Shavianists are free to spell as they wish and should always remain free to do so.

A descriptive Shavian spelling dictionary would have to account for the countless variations in accent that can be heard between countries, regions, towns, and even individuals in any spoken language, especially a global language like English. Descriptions like ‘Received Pronunciation’, ‘General American’, ‘General Australian’ etc. cover the innumerable cracks in which the blossoms of individuality grow.

And yet, a standard spelling provides a measure of stability. Even an optional standard orthography can provide a ‘theme’ around which Shavianists can compose their own ‘variations’. Such an approach requires letting go of ‘Latin alphabet thinking’ and embracing a sort of informed orthographic freedom.

A standard spelling does, however, require that choices be made. Ideally the Shavian lexicographer will set out more-or-less objective principles by which they choose which spellings to include, to avoid simply representing their own accent by choice or unconscious bias.

The spelling principles adopted for the Read Lexicon are inspired by those used by Kingsley Read himself. Read’s spelling, in turn, builds on the work of Peter MacCarthy of the University of Leeds Department of Phonetics who transliterated the Shavian alphabet Ur-text, the bi-alphabetic Androcles and the Lion published in 1962.