Dutton Speedwords

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Dutton Speedwords
printed shorthand and auxiliary language
Creator Reginald J. G. Dutton
Created 1922
1935, 1946, 1951
Parent systems
  • Dutton Speedwords
ISO 639-3          dws

Dutton Speedwords, sometimes called rapmotz, is an international auxiliary language as well a shorthand writing system. It was invented by Reginald J. G. Dutton (1886–1970) in 1922. It was first published in 1935 under the title International Symbolic Script and a year later using the name Speedwords. Revisions were made and published in 1946 and 1951.

The dual function of being both an international language and a shorthand system was intended as a way of encouraging more people to see the value of the method. The original Dutton Speedwords manuals are now out of print, but the method has seen a revival since the start of the 21st century, as its applications on online work have become noted, such as the benefit of using a shorthand method for typing e-mail.

Unlike other shorthand methods, such as Pitman's shorthand, the Speedwords method uses ordinary Roman letters to represent the semantic qualities of words rather than using new symbols. This not only makes it easier to learn[citation needed], but means it can be typed using a normal keyboard. The vocabulary of Speedwords uses many international words and compressed forms of the writer's own language.

Dutton conceived Speedwords not only as a system of shorthand but as an auxiliary spoken language; thus, he also provided rules of pronunciation. As a written system only, it is interesting to compare Speedwords to the shorthands used in mobile phone text messages.

The principle behind the choice of word roots of Dutton Speedwords is the maxim that frequently used words should be shorter than seldom-used words in order to speed up communication (see information theory). Thus, there are 493 one-, two- and three-letter roots. For example, the top twelve most frequently used English words are listed below with their single-letter Dutton Speedword equivalents:

the -- l
of -- d
and -- &
to -- a
in -- i
a -- u
that -- k
is -- e
was -- y
he -- s
for -- f
it -- t

Some two- and three-letter words are

good -- gu
know -- sa
love -- am
beautiful -- bel
language -- lin
game, play -- lud

(Note that all but the first of these examples are taken from Latin roots —sapio, amo, bellus, lingua, ludus—as are "room" and "sleep" below—camera and dormio—while "good" and the root for "air" below come from German: gut, luft.)

The few hundred roots are combined through the use of affixes to expand vocabulary. For example: the affix -a indicates an unfavorable connotation to the root-word; thus, bixy = kill, bixya = murder. Some compounds appear fanciful, or at least not immediately transparent, such as ky + luf (eat + air) to mean "picnic". Grammatical features include the use of single letters (as opposed to verb conjugations) to indicate tense; the letter r indicates future tense and y indicates past. Thus, j sa = I know, j ysa = I knew, j r sa = I will know. Nouns and verbs have the same form (as do many English words: the light, I light, etc.) as do adverbs and adjectives (bel = "beautiful" and "beautifully"). Compounds follow a headnoun-modifier sequence, as in ca + dor (room + sleep) = bedroom.

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