Henry Sweet

I would like to ask this “hobby” question about his Current shorthand. Many a times I have been reading his book and trying to systematize his teaching (in my head only) since I am attracted to idea of reformed English alphabet.

If there are people on this forum that have dropped an eye on his shorthand can you please tell me how one is suppose to differentiate when a hairlike connecting stroke is representing a vowel “e” and when it is used just to connect high and mid level consonants or vowels?

I am interpreting every stroke that I see and this short hairlike stroke is making me confused.
But as I said, this one is just a “hobby” question.

(by sasa for greggshorthand group)

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9 comments Add yours
  1. It may be one of those academic quirks that GB Shaw was complaining about. Maybe Sweet expected that those words would be recognized, at least by context, if not by outline. I have mostly been reading the orthographic part of the book. I will pay more attention on phonetic part in search for an answer.

  2. I have no idea why Sweet's Current Shorthand is not more popular. It is a brilliant system.
    I spent a year or two trying to learn Gregg mostly for my own note-taking and journal writing. I loved how it 'looked' but I was continually frustrated my own inability to read what I wrote, especially once I lost the immediate context of what I was thinking about at the time of writing. On top of that my longhand spelling and grammar grew worse due to the effort I put into mastering Gregg's phonetics. Gregg's memory load was just too much to justify it use to me as an everyday writing system.
    In contrast, I mastered the simple and consistent orthographic alphabet of Current Shorthand in a couple of days and within a week was writing it print-style and re-reading what I wrote as easily as I do longhand.
    Now a month into it, I write it almost exclusively for all of my own personal note-taking and journal writing. As my fluency has developed I am writing it in a more joined 'longhand' fashion and using the characters Sweet developed for vowel and consonant groups (ligatures) more consistently.
    We'll see if I ever bother with the phonetic patterns of Sweet's system. Speed has never been my concern. Mostly is the privacy to write my thoughts freely while at the same time being able to read it myself (without transcribing) regardless of time elapsed. It is a fine alternative to doodling in meetings!
    However, I am writing it much faster than I ever imagined I would. It is very compact at no cost to legibility as the 'ligature' characters Sweet developed for common vowel and consonant groups alleviate the necessity for most spelling abbreviations.

    1. I'm glad Sweet's shorthand worked out for you. Gregg and Sweet are based on entirely different foundations: Gregg is mostly phonetic, whereas Sweet basically replaces for the English alphabet. I'm not sure about the speed potential of Sweet's system, given that one has to write every single letter. However, I'm not aware if the system was ever used in court reporting, where the true test of speed and legibility comes.

    2. I loved the way Gregg looked when I wrote it. I just always had a lot of trouble deciphering what I wrote after some time.

      I think you may be correct in that Sweet's system was never used in court reporting. However, it has both orthographic and phonetic parts that can be written concurrently. Even in the orthographic style you rarely write every single letter as he included strokes for vowel and consonant groups. I am just beginning to gain an appreciation for the phonetic part of his system.

      Sweet's preface to his system in the single book he published describing his system is an interesting read in itself on the various merits of writing systems in use at the time.

      In particular, after reading it I went and read Callendar's method which, in Sweet's words, "is remarkably simple and regular in structure". It reminded me a lot of Gregg but with a more complete alphabet thus is less inclined to confusion when deciphering. I may come back to that after I have spent more time mastering Current.

      One thing Sweet says: "As I have no practical experience of reporting I am unable to express a decided opinion as to the fitness of Current for that purpose…One thing I know is, that of those who learn enough of any system to write and decipher it with tolerable ease–and how many fail even in this!–not five per cent ever do or can acquire the power of using it for reporting purposes."

      I'd say I am in that majority who wanted a system that can be written with moderate speed but is easily decipherable without prompt transcription.

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