Univerſall Alphabet
of Francis Lodwick

Ian James
© June 2012

the word 'universal'

In 1686, Dutch linguist Francis Lodwick proposed an alphabet which could write many languages with great efficiency. It was in essence a sophisticated phonetic script which, as it turns out, anticipates my own attempts closely. Indeed, the glyph structure is very much along the lines of scripts in my Phonological Cypher series. And making this as part of a greater plan for an a priori universal language, Lodwick also anticipates my SIGIL project and its scripts.


Lodwick had a very keen understanding of phoneme production. He may have been influenced by the study of Indian languages and the phonologically systematic Brahmi script (3rd century BC) or perhaps by the work of Thomas Harriot, but in any case he arranges the consonants in series, based on location and manner of articulation. In the consonant chart below, transposed and reset from Lodwick’s original, we see the following columns:

1 voiced plosive
2 unvoiced plosive
3 nasal
4 voiced fricative
5 unvoiced fricative

And then the rows are by location, with some manners deemed not applicable. Each manner adds a different base to the upper, locational sub-glyph. Spelling for the transliteration is here based on common European methods of the time.

Lodwickian consonants

Apart from the main series, and echoing the non-series consonants of Indic systems, are the glottals and semi-vowels. Hebrew aleph stands for the glottal plosive, or an initial vowel holder.

Lodwickian other consonants


The marks for vowels are added above their consonants, in a style similar to many Indic languages. Spelling for the transliteration is Lodwick’s own, which seems to be based on various values found in English.

Lodwickian vowels


This is from his book An Essay Towards an Universal Alphabet. The English is captured in a very phonetic manner, but with a slightly inconsistent choice of vowel-points. There is an economic omission of vowels before final /r/, /l/ and /n/, and accent is marked by a bar under the stressed syllable’s consonant. There is no capital case.

Lord's prayer in Lodwickian
Our fáther which art in héav’n ; hallow-ed be thy name . Thy kíng
=dom come . Thy will be done in yours as it is in héav’n . Give
us this day our daily bread . And forgíve us our tréspasses , as we
forgíve them that tréspass agáinst us . And lead us not in=
=to temptátion , but deliver us from ev’l : for thine is the kíng=
dom , and the pow-er , and the glory , for év’r and év’r . Ámen .


All material on this page © Ian James, unless otherwise stated.
Last modified Jun.16,2012